Metairie, La. - As head coach of the Saints, Sean Payton is 11-2 against the Falcons but that doesn't mean the games haven't been close.
The following are Brees' comments to the media Tuesday, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
Opening Statement: "The schedule is obviously a little different (today) just with regards to a Thursday game. You are combining a couple of elements of practice where we have a lot of our base done today and also our nickel and third down. We stayed out of pads and the key is just that balance of meeting room and film study and getting stuff on the field. It will be a very similar schedule tomorrow and we will travel tomorrow (in the) p.m."
Do you feel like the first time you played Atlanta it set the tone for the rest of the season?
"I think a couple of things. Certainly you want to play well in your opening game and it just so happened to be a divisional opponent. With regards to this series and I mentioned this in the team meeting. You could really go back through the last six, seven, (or) eight years and every one of these games seems to come down to a one possession type of game. Regardless of how one team is doing or how the other team is doing, it has been really consistent and I expect this to be the same. It is a tough place to play. They have been very good at home. Going back to the first game of the year I think that everyone comes out of training camp looking forward to the start of the season. That game was no different than what I just said. It came down to the last possession and it just seems like and it is hard to hear it from me, seven seasons, year eight, to reference every one of the games like a lot of times I normally can because they seem to be played in a lot of ways very similarly in that they end up in a fourth down. They end up with a field goal late and that is what makes it exciting."
Are you pretty shocked to see the Falcons at 2-8?
"I think in our league there is such a fine line that you deal with, especially when it comes to injuries. We could point to a number of seasons where you play in a number of games and you are able to win close games maybe as opposed to not. I don't know if that that would be the correct word because I know how difficult it is to win in our league and I know how often these games come down to the final plays, making a play in the end and having a chance to win a game. I think when you add the injury element to it, it obviously is that much more difficult."
This past week you elected to defer, what goes into that decision when weather is not a factor such as at a domed stadium?
"I receive a lot of letters in the offseason, during the season, and one letter I had was this guy (who) made an argument, you had this crowd in a frenzy and then you take the ball and ask them to be quiet. Then I think more importantly than that, I think how you might want to start the game, it becomes easier to do that with the kickoff rule and with a strong leg where you might say you feel pretty good about field position starting on the 20. Defensively we have played well and we were able to get a three and out. Now, if you really study that first quarter, they too, San Francisco, did a good job on punt coverage and that field position began to slide really in their favor. I think if you look closely at the opponent and I think in that case we wanted to start that game with field position and hopefully have a chance to force a three and out and we were able to do that. It can vary by opponent. I thought that one, and I'm not saying that was the reason, a suggestion, but it makes a lot of sense."
Did you reply and let them know it had an impact on you?
"No, it was just a school of thought playing at home. We kind of for years just said hey, win the toss, we take the ball. There is more that goes into it when we are playing outside. I think it was just something that we looked at and felt like that was the way we wanted to start the game."
You had introduced the defense prior to that game, is that coincidence?
"That's just on a rotation basis and I messed up that rotation a few weeks back. It is typically us rotating back and forth so that was coincidence."
At the end of the season you talked about the priority you have one takeaways and winning the turnover battle. It has slowed down here lately, has that raised a flag?
"It is something that we talked about today. With regards to this series you can pull up the numbers from 2006. You can begin in 2008. You can begin whenever you want to (in regards to) date. And I know that is a telling statistic league wide but it seems to be more telling in this series. That is something we are continuing to work on and ball security on offense. Last week technically there were three turnovers with a punt return, an interception and then an interception returned with a touchback. So there were three times where the ball was turned over. I said after the game, I thought we played well enough to credit our players to be able to overcome that. In this series it has been a very important statistic."
When Drew (Brees) throws to 11 different receivers, how much is that dictated by the defense, and how much of that is you and your scheme?
"I think it is dictated by the defense. I think the very first, one of the very first principles is in the passing game for this offense is everyone painting the right picture for the quarterback. There are certain coverages that will dictate maybe a direction the ball goes. Now that being said, there are plays still when we put plays together, a primary in mind, but times that gets taken away. Drew is very good at recognizing that and then getting to his second or third receiver based on the look he is getting. It might be a deeper throw to Jimmy (Graham) where the coverage really gets underneath it and deep and forces a throw to Pierre (Thomas). That type of thing so I would say it probably is a result of just the structure of how we put together plays and defensively what they do to cover."
The good news is, you have 11 different guys that can make plays.
"I think this, I think the players understand that as well that if there is not always five eligible there are times where there are just two receivers in a route, or two or three or four depending on the protection. I think they understand every one of them has a chance to get the ball."
Do you have any thoughts about the media making a big deal about the hit on Drew Brees?
"No, I think there are a lot of games in that game going back through it. The pass interference on Corey White in the second quarter was a big play that went against us that ended up resulting in a field goal for them. The intentional grounding call on Drew was incorrect and that ended up being a significant play. I think you saw a game last night that ended in a real unique way and I think one of the things we've tried to do is really be able to move on from calls like that. I think I don't really dwell on it or really quite honestly with the week we have, (have time to) pay attention to (it). Monday was right into Atlanta and that is the nature of our game I think."
Do you ever wish the rules would change that you could challenge a penalty as a coach?
"I personally favor the college system. In other words, you play the game and then someone else anytime they feel like something happened beeps in and stops it. The idea that we have a red flag stuffed with sand and we can toss it two times, but maybe a third time. You lose a timeout. There is an element to it now. I am in favor of how we've taken scoring plays and turnovers (to review them). I think I have had one challenge this year. I'm probably more in favor of that being handled by someone with better vantage point. You are on the road. You are trying to get feedback. You didn't get it upstairs. Now you are just throwing a flag. I know it is difficult at times. I am probably more conservative with that flag than maybe my early years. We have been better with our challenges. There was a time, early 2006, 2007, where I was struggling. I would throw that flag and my son would just be like ugh."
I think Jim Harbaugh admitted after the game that both of his challenges were erroneous?
"It's tough on the road especially. There's a lot of elements that go into it, not only from stadium to stadium, but where a national TV game has X number of cameras, a 12 noon game has X number of cameras. A lot of elements go into it. I like some of that some of these additional big plays are in the hands of someone else, only because they have better vantage point, such as scoring plays and turnovers. I think the one challenge I had this year I had right in front of me in regards to a spot. That came easier, rather than being on another sideline."
Other than the turnover, how did Corey White handle himself on Sunday?
"I thought he played well filling in. I think he's been consistent this season. When he's been inside, he's been a very good tackler. He has good size and length. He's strong and very quickly got adjusted to a lot of the snaps that he had outside. I think he has good football instincts as well and I think that serves him well on gameday."
If you call a timeout one second before the two minute warning, you then are able to run a five second play, can you explain to fans why you do it?
"We called a timeout before we attempted the field goal (to tie the game at 2:11). So we call the timeout once before the field goal with the idea that you are just trying to lengthen this game because we knew the field goal was tying it. So we called a timeout at 2:11 and then the next timeout prior to the twos-minute warning and then you have a play that lasts a little longer than that and you have one in your pocked (for the defensive drive) and fortunately for us we didn't have to use it. I went down and told the official next to me that if this ball is in play I want to use this next one. It ended up being out of bounds, which gave us that timeout to use later in the game on the two minute drill. We've always tried to lengthen halves and lengthen games. You see it in the NBA all the time because everyone's trying to play for that last possession. It's a little different because you have to hurry up to try to get a shot to get the next possession. We do that, a little bit of it's confidence and how we're playing offensively and then there are times when we play a little bit more conservative, but we handled that pretty well."
Has anybody helped you with that?
"Yes, there might be some dialogue that might be taking place, in that situation we were kicking the field goal and just running the handoff to Darren (Sproles prior to the 2:11 timeout) for third and forever (21). It's a dangerous down that's tough to convert. The thought there was let's get as much as we can to put us in good field goal position. Right after that is the timeout. Garrett (Hartley) hits the kick which was a big kick for us. There's dialogue when the defense might be on the field. It's fairly easy for me to look at how many timeouts (we have) and stay in touch with the official during the defensive drive when they're on offense and if it's incomplete or out of bounds we're waiting, but if it's inbounds we're using it. The question for me is when to begin that process when you're north of two minutes, because I've done that before. There's 3:58, first down was no gain, you use a timeout, all of a sudden they get a first down and you know you burned one. At the end of the half or games when you are in four minute (mode) where you're trying to stop somebody to get the ball back, you're really paying attention to those situations. They vary, there are so many variables."
Who does the dialogue take place with?
"It's the offensive staff because typically the same dialogue would be whether we are going for two. Upstairs Joe Lombardi, Terry Malone, Terry (Malone) as soon as we get south of four minutes will give me 30 second updates, 3:30, three minutes, 2:30. Joe Lombardi will be involved in hash marks, Pete (Carmichael) is downs. We're all on a conference call with not a lot being said unless something needs to be said, especially if we have the ball, because if we have the ball we're calling plays or we're in the two minute (offense), so we kind of establish that. It flows pretty good. Those guys have been doing it a long time."
What was your decision on Jabari Greer?
"We're putting him on injured reserve. We signed cornerback Trevin Wade, he will be in jersey number 30. Victor Butler remains on PUP, but returns to practice. Basically we have 21 days with Victor towards making a decision of activating him or not. Jabari's injury is an ACL and we'll wait for the surgery. I know he met with the doctors yesterday. It's obviously a setback, tough for our team and tough for him. He's been playing very well."
Do you think there's any chance Butler plays this season or would you do it anyway to take advantage of the opportunity to evaluate his progress?
"It just allows us to begin to practice him and we'll kind of see each week practice by practice how he's doing. It was good to see him out there. This was a little different today in just what we were doing was different than a normal Wednesday."
How much do you coach the target area to tackle?
"The torso is the target area. The challenges for defensive players is there are target areas, yet those target areas are moving. Malcolm's (Jenkins) hit in New England was an example and fortunately for him the fine got rescinded and taken away after closely looking at it. That's the challenge for hitting the quarterback. That's the challenge for hitting receivers, we talk about those areas and the technique. It's moving and all of a sudden it becomes the neck area. Initially you're aiming point might have been the shoulder pads. It's come up a number of times and I think it's a challenge that defenders are faced with."
What did you like about Wade in the evaluation process?
"He's had some experience playing inside in the nickel for Cleveland. I thought he handled the drills yesterday (at his workout) very well. He's someone that has decent speed but very good feet. We'll see how he gets up to speed with what we're doing. That will take a little bit, but we felt pretty good. We brought a handful of guys in, but he's doing a very good job."
Did you guys automatically rule out Kenny Vaccaro for the Dallas game?
"No. We would typically go through evaluation the next day and the next day after that. It was a tweet, maybe a conversation between him and a doctor and then it was going to be hard for me to come in here and tell you guys we'll see (laughter)."
Do you have anything to say about last night's Monday Night Football game?