NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Saints have lost three straight games this season and two straight to the Carolina Panthers, dating back to last December. Drew Brees recognizes the quality of competition the teams have shared in recent years and is eager to get back to winning in Week 13.
Brees spoke Wednesday with reporters and the following are his quotes from the session, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
Did you ever think after you played the Carolina Panthers earlier this season that they would be 11-0 and the last undefeated team?
"I mean there is no doubt they're a really good football team. I mean, really, from top to bottom, every position, both sides of the ball, they're as good of a team as there is and they are playing extremely well right now. It's one thing to have talent and it's another thing to put it together from week to week, just be that consistent. It's hard to do, and we've had a run like that. It's never easy. They have won games in a lot of different ways. It's not like they are blowing everybody out. They've had to come from behind, they've had some close games and make plays on both sides of the ball and they know that they can do that."
What is the pressure like since you can relate to your undefeated run in 2009?
"I'd say this, you are getting everybody's best shot no matter who you play. No matter what their record, you are getting everybody's best shot.
What jumps out when you see Josh Norman?
"He is a very complete player at the corner position. There are some guys that you're like 'he's a really good cover guy, but man he doesn't want to tackle' or 'man he is really good in zone, but not in man' and this guy is really the total package. He is really good in zone and man. (He has) Great instincts and anticipation, and he will come up and make tackles and he has made all kinds of plays on the ball carrier getting the ball out, doing things that most corners don't like to do and he has no problem doing them."
What does it say about Brandin Cooks looking forward to playing him?
"Cooks loves the competition, not that it was a surprise that Norman matched him last time we played him, but it was early in the season and so there is still a lot of things that had yet to be established yet, and so now obviously he is their guy that matches (top) receivers no matter who they are playing. Dez (Bryant) last time, in their last game, and you know that he loves that opportunity as well. I remember before we played him, the first time we watched him and they played the Texans the week before us and he matched up with DeAndre Hopkins and did a phenomenal job so that's just his mindset and Cook's mindset. Should be a good matchup."
Did you see yourself playing with less confidence in the last game?
"No. No, I mean, we knew the game plan, we just didn't execute it well. That's the bottom line."
What do you guys need to fix overall to give Carolina your best shot?
"It puts our execution at a premium, and coming off last game there is no bigger emphasis this week than that. No matter what the play call, is run or pass, knowing what to do and then going to execute it. Listen, you're going to get beat on a play here and there because, yeah, they are a really good football team with good players, but you don't give yourself a chance if you're not putting yourself in the best position to block the right guy or throw it to the right guy or going through your progressions with the right timing and just all those things that I would equate to good execution."
Have you put your finger on why the offense is struggling?
"(We) Just put ourselves in situations that are uncommon or maybe just not winning football. For example, if you just took the third and long situations that we have been in the last three weeks - it's been far too many - and you point to first and second down efficiency, you point to penalties and other things that were negative plays that were drive killers and those are the things that need to get fixed and will get fixed."
From your perspective, does their record give you guys extra motivation?
"Listen, regardless of if they were 11-0 or 10-1 or have our record, it's a division opponent and a home game against an opponent that we have had tough matchups ever since we have been here, but especially in the last few years in the Ron Rivera era there. We know the type of game it's going to be, and it's a four quarter game regardless of what their record is."
How does the team look at this game?
"It's not like you get extra points for knocking off the undefeated team. We are going to prepare the same way. The motivation is the same regardless of the record."
How much have you followed the Peyton Manning situation?
"I mean I haven't given it a lot of thought other than obviously it's rare to see Peyton hurt enough that it is keeping him from playing, but I'm not super aware as to what that injury is or what he is going through other than I know, for me, missing that one game this year was tough. You're not used to that, or wired that way, and I know he's not wired that way, so it's difficult."
You said you would play until you are 45, is that still possible?
"I'm taking it one year at a time."
Does it ever sink in that this could potentially be your last run with some of the guys that have been here for a long time, such as Zach Strief or Marques Colston?
"We've got a lot of football left. We really do. We have five games left in the regular season and we'll see what happens. I am just enjoying every moment with those guys and enjoying every moment with the team. Every year, no team is ever the same. There is a lot of turnover in this league. I'd say that we're one of the teams the last 10 years that has been the most consistent, as far as the least amount of turnover, where you've got core guys coming back year after year. It is kind of inevitable. I had that long run with guys like Devery (Henderson), Lance (Moore) and (Robert) Meachem. Gradually, time moves on. (There were also) some offensive linemen who had been here for a long time. I am just kind of living in the moment right now."
How have you felt about your season so far? What have you liked or disliked?
"You guys are asking me questions like you want me to reminisce like the season is over. The season is not over. These are things that we can talk about after the season. I am disappointed with our record. But we can't go back and do anything about it. All that we can control is what is in front of us. I think the only thing that will make us feel better is winning. You can go out and you can play well, and if you lose, it still stinks. Unfortunately, you can call it what you will, but there have been some games along the way that we certainly felt like we could have won, or maybe improve our situation a little bit. Again, we can't go back and change it. I know this, every game that we play feels like it's one of those where you have a small margin for error. We have to go out and play really well and we have to execute really well to give ourselves a chance. Unfortunately, we just haven't done that enough. We have guys that can turn that around."
I think the focus is on you because the storyline is that the focus is on Cam (Newton) because they are 11-0 and they're winning. Saints fans naturally are saying well, where is our quarterback and how does he feel about his season?
"There is so much football left to be played. I am not one who is going to sit here and evaluate my season at this point. I just want to win and that is my job. I obviously need to do a better job of that."
Back to the offense's struggles that you were talking about earlier; is pass protection one of those keys? It feels like the teams that have given you trouble are the teams with the better pass rushers.
"I think we have fared well against some good pass rush teams. Obviously, that is always a big part of the game because it can (disrupt) the timing element in the passing game. A sack goes down as a negative play and those are kind of drive killers. Obviously, you say that the penalties and negative plays are drive killers. It is part of this game too. There are times where you're going to get pressured, and maybe they're just bringing more than you can protect and then you have to know when to get rid of the ball. There are times where we are just going to get beat and you just have to know when to get rid of the ball. There are times when they are just going to get you. You just have to be able to move on and overcome it. I feel like we have done a good job of that in the past. That is part of the game."
What is it like playing against (Luke) Kuechly?
"First of all, he is one of the best players in this league. The guy's intensity and his competitiveness are something that you really respect. He is extremely intelligent. You see him getting guys lined up all over the place, (at) his position (or) in the secondary (and along) the front. He is so active. Any time you are talking about a middle linebacker, he is the quarterback of the defense. He is the one who is making all of the calls and checks. It's different than maybe a dominant defensive lineman who is just pinning his ears back and it's just a hit the quarterback or hit the running back type of thing. There is no doubt that Kuechly is a huge part of that defense."
Do you alter your approach if you get to the fourth quarter and you're trailing? Do you take more chances down the field?
"Oh yeah, you have to. At the end of the day, you're trying to win. If you're down by a couple of scores, you're kind of battling the clock at that point. You have to take chances and you have to be more aggressive. That is part of the game too."
When things are not going well, do you feel more of a mental burden? Are you able to just turn the page and get ready for the next game?
"Part of just exercising some mental toughness is that you try not to harbor that burden. For 24 hours you feel terrible. You replay the game over and over and think what could I have done differently? (Go through) a play here or a play there type of thing. That is pretty normal and pretty natural. Then, you have to be able to put that to bed and move on to the next opponent. You certainly don't want something to linger around from the week before that it is going to affect you in a negative way moving on. If anything, you try to use those things as motivation. Maybe there is something that becomes glaring and you can work on it, and you can get better at that and that ends up actually helping you down the line. You want those scenarios. You don't want the ones where you are harboring something that is going to affect you negatively later on."
J.J. Watt was mic'd up last week and said that he liked you so much that he didn't like hitting you so much, and that you needed a new right tackle. If you were mic'd up, what would you have said back?
"I could hear a lot of chatter on the field. It sounds like he is a pretty animated guy on game day. There is no doubt that he is a phenomenal player. I don't think anybody can block him in this league. Keep in mind that our right tackle didn't give up any sacks in this game. Maybe the term right tackle was used but our right tackle didn't give up any sacks last game. Now, is J.J. Watt going to get some hits on you? Yes (but) I'd like to think that I am going to be able to get the ball out before he gets me. That is part of me being a savvy veteran. He's a great player and he obviously had a big game against us."