Metairie, La. - Amidst a week that has seen Sean Payton waive his Super Bowl-winning kicker and bench his starting left tackle, the coach is preparing for a high stakes game at Carolina.
The following are Payton's comments to the media, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
What problem do (Charles) Johnson and (Greg) Hardy specifically present?
"They have very good bursts and quickness and then when you combine that with power the elite rushers have that edge speed, but they also can convert at the power, then you find yourself setting for speed and then having to deal with the transitional rush. Both of those guys do that extremely well. When you look at their hurry and sack totals, they come from both of those elements as well as the inside rush. It is different when you have a guy that does one of those two things, but when they do both of them well like these guys do, then it becomes problematic."
Do they stay on the same side?
What about Captain Munnerlyn?
"He is a small instinctive player who has been with them for a while. He does a lot. He comes inside and plays the nickel. He doesn't leave the field. He has very good ball skills, very good awareness and when you look at his role within the framework of the defense, he obviously knows the game well and studies well because you can see that on film."
How much have these last few weeks tested you as a coach?
"I think each week you are challenged with a different set of circumstances. You are constantly adjusting and looking at the next game and trying to do everything you can to give yourself the best chance to win. Obviously the Monday following losses are much more difficult than the losses following wins. I think it is important though that the mindset after a win is still very critical looking for ways that we can improve or that we didn't do as well. And then the Monday after a loss is making sure that you highlight some of the things you think you were pleased with and so trying to keep that even keel. I think it is part of the NFL season and it's pretty consistent year to year and you hope when it winds down that you are in a position like we are to play for something, something significant and you have that opportunity. You start off the year with your first goal being to win the division and it is exciting to be playing for something like that right here and for both of these teams."
Does a week like this start to take on characteristics of the playoffs?
"Yes I think that atmosphere there will be much like that, a crowd that is really loud and recognizes the significance of the game and I think both teams approaching it in a lot of ways without some of the other distractions that might come up in the postseason. I think it is that important of a game and so I think the players understand that."
You talked about not getting the expected results on the road; do you think that has at all affected confidence?
"I don't think so. I think there are games where we can point to where we didn't play very well. I think it is more than anything else; it forces you as coaches, as players to look closely at hey, what can I do to improve how we play when we travel. We look at every element. It appears the weather is going to be pretty good there with a chance a rain with the temperatures maybe a little like it was here today, maybe not quite as warm. It is going in handling the noise, handling the challenges playing in a tough environment and having that where with all to understand that there is going to be an even flow to games and that momentum swings like a pendulum often time."
Have you seen the leadership step up this week?
"Absolutely. It has been encouraging. I've said this, this is a young team and yet there is a great veteran presence that has been here through a lot of winning. I definitely think that is the case."
Do you get frustrated by questions about the road games?