Conference Call: Saints Coach Sean Payton

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SAINTS HEAD COACH SEAN PAYTON

(on what the key to their hot streak has been)

When we approached the third quarter of this season, we knew that we were getting ready to play some good football teams at that time in Tampa Bay, Atlanta, the Giants, and Detroit. We are doing a better job of protecting the football, and we have gotten some takeaways. I think we are protecting Drew (Brees) better than we did in our loss to St. Louis. I think the balance that we have been able to have in the run and the pass has helped us certainly. It complements what we are trying to do defensively so generally when you are playing winning football you look at the turnovers, you look closely at the third downs and some of those specific areas. I think that in this stretch of the season, in this third quarter that we just completed, we were able to do those things well.

(on the season that Drew Brees is having)

Well he has been consistent and I think we have done a good job of protecting him. I think each game, when you look at quarterback's role and what they do; it starts with the guys up front and your ability to give him time to make decisions. Certainly he is playing at a very high level, his numbers on third down are the same way, exceptionally high and there is that confidence in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage that his teammates have and that has been demonstrated over a long period of time.

(on if this is Drew Brees' best season)

We try not to really label seasons. I think generally when the season is over you have a chance to evaluate the things that you did well or didn't do well. I think the first thing that Drew (Brees) would tell you is that it would be wins and losses and I think that the first objective for the quarterback is to get his team in the end zone and he is doing that exceptionally well right now. I think it starts with winning football games and he is playing at a very high level. It is our job each week to look to continue to do that and give him those opportunities where he can excel.

(on the relationship between Drew Brees and Darren Sproles on third down)

Well we signed Darren (Sproles) shortly after the beginning of free agency this year and it was a lot more unique than in years past in that training camp had begun and normally what would be a player visiting with his wife and a couple of days at an organization and maybe seeing one or two places and making a decision, this year it was done by phone. It wasn't until we had traded Reggie (Bush) that there would be an opportunity possibly with Darren. Drew has had a relationship with him having been former teammates and the sell for us in the recruitment of Darren was that he could see what currently existed on film. I will say this, he is a better runner maybe than we even thought when we signed him. He is a guy that is versatile and makes very good decisions during the course of a play. He has been a quick study, he has picked things up and he is a great teammate. Certainly his versatility as a runner and as a receiver has helped our offense.

(on the biggest difference between year one and year two for Jimmy Graham)

When you scout a player like our league does each year during the draft, Jimmy (Graham) was a player that had limited college experience so there is a little bit of projection when you look at a guy who only played one year at Miami and originally went there to play basketball and then played his fifth year in football. He was at the combine, the individual workouts and when we tried to gather all of that information our scouting department did a real good job of pointing out the strengths and weaknesses. I think coaches, all of us by nature are somewhat skeptical when you hear of a player who hasn't played a lot and you are considering drafting him. I think the more we evaluated him the more we saw his work ethic, his intelligence and certainly his physical attributes and certainly his upside and to Jimmy's credit, he is a great worker, he is very smart and I think we saw him really come on at the end of last season. The last third of the season, not only on game days but in practice you saw him consistently making plays in your red zone periods and in your third-down periods and his willingness to work and improve each week. The players around him and his relationship with (Drew) Brees, it would be very common for them to stay after practice for them to work on two or three things. We have seen a player with success gain that confidence, gain that success and grow right in front of us.

(on his health and the hassle of dealing with crutches)

Well I'm doing better, this is the first week where we have gotten rid of the crutches and I am able to walk without them. It has been seven weeks and we are ahead of schedule by about a month. I have been fortunate because when you really look at the injury, you don't take for granted that the training room itself is right where our office is located. Normally, a person with an injury like this has to go out of his way and drive to his rehab, and set up an appointment. By having the training room right here, it has allowed me a lot more time and it has been a lot easier with regards to the process. The main thing is just the fracture site where there is a plate and the seven screws that are in and those will stay in. I'm finally up and walking and without the crutches so it's a kind of a nice break for what would have been basically crutches for the last seven weeks.

(on if he is surprised that more coaches are not hurt on the sideline)

Yeah to some degree, I think the speed of the game is certainly faster than we have ever seen and we try to keep our players back as best we can. This is kind of one of those injuries like that wireless dog shocker that you have, you won't have to worry about me being back. If you get hit once, you are going to stay back. I would say yes.

(on the Saints' defense)

Well I think you bring up one point that I think is important, I think that we all see sometimes at the end of games, offenses put up big numbers in a losing effort and when you play with a lead you are going to see a little more aggressive offensive attack in regards to throwing the football, trying to catch up. I think we pay attention to the specific areas, trying to improve red zone defensive efficiency, third-down defensive efficiency. I think that turnovers are a statistic that we are constantly harping on and what is most important is that you are playing a complimentary game and that defensively, offensively and in the kicking game you understand what you need to do that week to win. I think as we continue to play and begin the last quarter of the season, those are some specifics that you notice and that you hope to improve on.

(on Matt Hasselbeck's play from the playoff loss last year in Seattle)

Well I will say this about Matt (Hasselbeck), number one, one of his great strengths is his ability to get the ball out of his hands. He is someone that is very difficult to sack. He is very smart, he brings a level of confidence with him. I think he has been a great addition for Tennessee and even going back to when he was signed, people in our industry that know what he does well knew that would be a big plus for Mike (Munchak) and his staff and that organization and he has demonstrated that. He is a guy that has a lot of skins on the wall, he is very confident and the other things that you notice with him are the tempo that he plays with in and out of the huddle and up to the line of scrimmage. He is able to press the defense and I think that confidence carries over to the rest of the team.

(on the job that Dowell Loggains has done with Matt Hasselbeck)

I think that Dowell is one of those guys that is really a sharp coach. I knew him briefly in Dallas but was always impressed with the way he worked, his interest level in the game, and as a coach you have seen him grow and his career take off. I'm certain that is one of those coaches that spends a lot of time researching and grinding in the film room to really give his players the best chance to have success and that's all you can ask for from a coach. He has always had that thirst to learn more so when I would see him at the Combine or at the Senior Bowl he always had good questions and was always looking to learn.

(on what he remembers about his time with Dave McGinnis)

I have never had a chance to work with Dave (McGinnis). Over the years he is someone that you have always respected and he has had a lot of success in this league. I think he is a very detail-oriented coach, his teams and his defenses have always played well and the other thing is he is a guy that is very respected among our coaching industry and a guy that works well with others I'm sure. That staff starting with Mike (Munchak) and that group he has put together there, Jerry (Gray) on defense and all of those guys have done a really good job in what is a difficult year to be a first staff when you look at losing your offseason, your OTAs, your mini-camps. We felt this past year was going to really hinder the new staffs and I don't know that has proven to be true. You see the success that Jim Harbaugh is having in San Francisco and that Mike is having there and few others. It's been interesting to see how quickly these programs have come together and began to win.

(on what his biggest concerns are about the Titans)

Well I think the confidence that they are playing with. When you look at their ability to run the football and the way Chris (Johnson) has played the last two or three weeks, I think they are playing very well on the offensive line. Their tight ends are exceptional and defensively they are first in the league in regard to big plays given up in the passing game. Playing a team like that on the road and us getting outside of the indoor areas that we played just with the schedule the way it has shaken out that the last game we played outdoors was in Tampa seven weeks ago. Then it was Indianapolis at home inside, St. Louis on the road inside, back for three more home games inside, at Atlanta inside. We are going to have to quickly get acclimated to the weather, the footing, the conditions and be able to handle that challenge on the road against a good team.

(on if he has seen a different Chris Johnson on film the last few weeks and if it makes him nervous)

Absolutely, and it doesn't make me sleep any easier. I think in order to defend a good back, he is one of those backs that has the ability from anywhere on the field to score a touchdown and there really aren't many of those players in the NFL, Adrian Peterson being another. They have that long speed, that vision, that balance and you have certainly more recently seen him playing to the level that everyone has grown accustomed to. He is an elite player and clearly one of the best backs in our league.

(on if Jonathan Vilma has regained his form)

He is getting there, it's good to have him back in the starting lineup. Anytime you miss four or five games like he did there is that transitional period, and you hope it's quick. He is certainly one of our leaders and it's great to have him back on the field.

(on the play of the Titans' defense and Colin McCarthy)

Well one thing you see is they are very intelligent, you don't see a lot of mental errors on tape. They are very disciplined in what they do, they know exactly where to be. They have done a great job of keeping the ball in front of them. You see that on tape and you see the confidence that they are playing with. I think that playing these guys and playing them in Tennessee is going to be a big challenge for our offense. They have done a great job of rushing the passer and applying pressure with their four-man rush. They will mix in the pressures and the zone pressures but they are a very disciplined defense and I would also say that the thing you see is they are very good tacklers on film.

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