"The secret is getting turnovers," said the Bucs coach, though of course that's not really a secret and he knows it. "You have to get those. Anytime we've gotten even close to winning or had a competitive game, we've had a couple of turnovers. But when Brees is rolling, and when he's hot, he's going to throw for 300 yards
"The Rams did a great job last week of stopping him. I don't know how. You can look at tape all you want and try to mimic that, but that'll be hard to do against Drew Brees. He's a great player, and it's less likely that he'll throw for 2000 or 3000 yards. When you throw that many times, as many times as he does, you're going to have some picks, but he's certainly less afraid of throwing picks, and he's concerned more with getting wins because that's the kind of guy he is."
Saints offensive tackle Charles Bown suffered a hip flexor that will require surgery and was placed on the injured reserve list, which means he's out the rest of the reason.
Ray Willis was signed to replace him. Zach Strief is healthy and will start on Sunday.
Coach Sean Payton, Drew Brees and Jon Vilma spoke at Wednesday's new conference.
Payton's opening statements:
“Two players that didn’t practice were Mark Ingram (heel) and Jon Vilma (left knee). Junior Galette (right knee) was full, Sedrick Ellis (ankle) was full, Jonathan Casillas (knee) was full, and Dave Thomas (concussion) was full. From a transaction standpoint on the roster, we placed T Charles Brown on Injured Reserve and we signed T Ray Willis in jersey number 67. We signed WR Andy Tanner to the practice squad and released QB Sean Canfield.”
What was Charles Brown’s injury?
“Charles ended up with this hip flexor. He’s going to have surgery. His rehab is going to be pretty extensive. We had it examined and kind of held off until we got the doctor’s notes. I don’t have the date of the surgery. I’ll get that to you or Greg will get that to you on when it’s going to be done, but the amount of rehab and the time he would have been out would have gone actually past the end of the season and further than that. Based on those findings, we made that decision to move him to IR and signed Ray Willis.”
At the midpoint of the season, can you give a snapshot of where you think things stand?
“Number one, we’re 5-3. That’s an obvious statement. I think what’s important is there are a number of areas we think we can improve on that we’re going to need to improve on. We have an important stretch of our schedule right here before the bye with divisional games coming up beginning this weekend and the following week. That’s basically what I’d say. Let’s make sure we’re getting better in a few areas specifically and get more consistent and understand the significance of this divisional game coming up this week.”
Do you think the journey of the offensive line since training camp with transactions and injuries has contributed to their play recently?
“No, I think two weeks ago we had one of our better games. This past week we didn’t play very well in a number of areas, not just in the offensive line area. There are some new players getting more playing time and I think that it’s a group that’s been a strong-suit of ours and will continue to be.”
Zach Strief wasn’t on the injury report. Are things looking up for him?
“He’ll start at right tackle.”
In the last five weeks, your run defense has given up 5.8 yards per carry. How concerning is that going into this two week stretch?
“We’re playing two good teams that run the football. That’s one of the areas that we’ll pay close attention to and one of the areas we feel will be very important as we hit this stretch of division games.”
How disappointing is it after bringing in Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin to stop the run?
“Each game takes on a little bit different shape in regards to what the point of emphasis is and what you want to do defensively. It’s easy to look at certain numbers. You look at last week’s game and there were three runs that took place on third and 15 or more that were runs where we were in a prevent defense and basically we’re more than happy to let them run it and tackle them and force a punt. But all that being said, it’s an area we’re spending time on and an area we feel like we can improve on both offensively and defensively. We feel like we can run the ball more consistently and better and the same thing goes for defending the run.”
How far along do you feel like Chris Ivory is at this point?
“It’s really just his second full week now. Hopefully we see the continued improvement as he’s more and more comfortable with playing with full pads and playing in live action.”
As far as coming off a game like Sunday, what is your message to your team the following week?
“Today is Wednesday. The message has been delivered. We’ve talked about it already. Now the focus is on Tampa Bay and really this game. If your question is going back to Monday, it would be, ‘Hey, here are the things that show up on film. Let’s make sure we understand what we didn’t do that regardless of whom the opponent is and where you’re playing them that you have to do in order to win football games. Where we’re at today is all Tampa Bay in regards to what we’re looking at and the focal point of our preparation.”
Looking at the first game against the Bucs this season, what stands out to you on film?
“It was a game we fought back in and had some opportunities. I think the turnovers stand out really. There were four of them. Tampa played well. At times, we did some decent things and we sputtered at times as well. I think the turnovers were the one thing. If you study closely and you look at this series, that statistic is each week but it’s been vitally important in this type of game and it has been for the winner of the Tampa-Saints games. Two week ago we played so that’s an important film study.”
You said the message has been delivered. How do you think it’s been received?
“We come in on Mondays and we go through the game tape closely. We talk about that film and the players see it and we make the corrections. You hope that each week you’re able to learn from certain things and yet obviously it was a step backwards but it certainly wasn’t a step that’s going to affect how we play moving forward. We’re not going to allow it to.”
Where is your offensive line and where do you need them to be with the return of Gerald McCoy for the Bucs?
“I think this is going to be a great challenge for us this week because Gerald’s gotten off to a great start this year. He had the injury. He’s a very physical player and is playing very well. I think their defensive line presents a lot of challenges. (Adrian) Clayborn is rushing the passer very well. Both ends have really produced. I think those early downs for us are going to be critical and our ability to have balance. I think it’s going to be a game that I don’t want to say is going to be won or lost in the trenches, but it’s going to be an important game for both fronts, both our offensive and defensive lines with the battle against Tampa Bay’s offensive and defensive lines.”
Can you talk about the challenges LeGarrette Blount brings?
“He’s a physical downhill runner. He has some traits that I would describe as similar to Chris Ivory. He runs with power or a good pad level and has been a player that has really come on for them. We didn’t see him in the first game. He’s a guy that you have to get a lot of people to the ball to tackle. He’s a tough tackle by yourself.”
The Saints have always seemed to play well in big games coming off a loss. Does that give you a sense of comfort going into this game?
“I don’t think during the course of the week we deal with a sense of comfort. We deal with a challenge and we deal with recognizing the importance of a divisional game and getting really ready to play a real good team at home. I do think it’s important that you’re able to bounce back and fight through the adversity of a tough loss and there’s a lot that goes into that. I think we’re mentally pretty tough. We’ll be rested for this game. We’ll have a good week of preparation and each day really focus on what we need to do that day as it pertains to Tampa.”
How much has Jonathan Vilma’s injury slowed him down in games?
“You’d like to be one hundred percent healthy. So much of our game there are a number of players that line up to play that are fighting through an injury, and Jon’s one of those players right now. He’s making progress. I’m anxious tomorrow to see what he’s able to do and I think he’s further along on this Wednesday than he was on last Wednesday or the Wednesday prior. I think it is something that’s fairly common in our league with players that have to balance what they do during the week in order to play at one hundred percent or close to one hundred percent on game day.”
Is he playing at one hundred percent on game day?
“No, we just finished discussing the fact that he’s dealing with this injury. I think it’s as close to one hundred percent as you can be, but I think you have to balance that during the week.”
It’s kind of a quirky schedule that they only played one other team before playing you again. Does that make it easier?
“Every once in a while, I think within the division you’ll play a division game fairly close. I think this happened to us before. I think both teams know each other fairly well from a personnel standpoint and a scheme standpoint. I do think that the last game study is important. At this point in the season, we’re halfway through and we have enough film to where you begin to recognize certain things that you can expect to see and yet you begin your game planning off that. I do think the prior game being that it wasn’t too far back will be something that both teams look at closely and study closely.”
Is there anything logistically different that you’ll be doing in the second game from the press box?
“Obviously when you’re at home you have a better feel for the transport as far as getting up to your spot, but overall it was pretty smooth.”
How do you think the offensive line has played up to this point looking at their stats?
“They’re a big part of really any team’s success. We’re currently 5-3. They’ve played very well at times, no different than our team at times having played up to the standard we have. It’s a group that’s very close-knit. It’s a tough group. They have a lot of snaps behind them, some more than others. I think they’ll be ready for the challenge this week.”
Do you think there’s any additional challenge for them than they’ve faced in the past with the change in personnel?
“I think we talked about this two weeks ago. You don’t take for granted but we had some consistency in regards to starting lineups for a while, but I think in our league over a period of time you’re going to have some changes at every position. We have some on the offensive line. Zach Strief is a guy that has a lot of experience and has played for us. If you just go through the lineup, really Brian de la Puente at center is the younger player from a rep standpoint and the rest of those guys have a lot of experience.”
Saints QB Drew Bree
If you had to give a snapshot of where you are at midseason what would you say?
“The numbers don’t’ always tell the story. You can look at third down and say we’ve been very good on third down. Although I’d say that we’ve gotten in too many third and long situations. That was evident last week. While we’ve been good at converting those thus far, those are the things long-term that can get you beat. So what does that say? We have to be better on first and second down. That’s the intermediate passing game. That’s the run game. There’s improvement’s that we can make there. Red zone efficiency is something we started off slow in. Percentages were low, which we made an emphasis on and I believe we’re nine of our last ten, so we understand the importance of that. That’s getting back to winning football. Certainly we have some ground to make up from where we were and where we started the season at.”
How about yourself personally?
“I feel like I’m as in-tune as I’ve ever been as far as my comfort level in this offense and with the guys around me, the guys up front, skill position players. (We have) faced some things this year that we’ve never had to go through before, one of those being Sean (Payton) going down and the adjustments being made. From that point on, for which I feel like I have a great comfort level in with Peter Carmichael (Jr.), as I’ve talked about that before, but albeit something that’s just different. You’re talking to me at a moment when we’re coming off a loss, against St. Louis on the road, which I think we all felt like was a game going into it where we feel like we need to win those games and so here we are at 5-3, sitting atop the division with others and understanding our future and destiny, we control that, that’s right in front of us and it starts this week with Tampa coming here. Obviously we have that sour taste in our mouths from a few weeks back and we just understand the importance of this week and how it pertains to the rest of the season.”
When you look back at that first meeting with Tampa and the film, what stands out for you from that game?
“They executed very well. They did a great job of not allowing us to get anything going in the run game. They forced some turnovers which ended up being a big factor in that game. We ended up having four. When you look at what any defense preaches, take the ball away, stop the run and minimize the big plays in the passing game. They play a lot of man coverage. When you play man coverage that’s tight throwing lanes. They’re going to bring pressure and try to get after the quarterback. You’re going to make some plays and potentially give up some, so we were able to get some big plays in the game but we weren’t able to overcome the turnovers and some of the situations we put ourselves in.”
Do you think some teams looked at that Tampa game and are playing you guys a little bit differently?
“Yes. I’ll be honest though, I’m not sure if we got much man last week against St. Louis, which is if you look at our game against Tampa, the percentages were man, zone pressure, some zone, but it was a lot of man. The Colts didn’t play that. Neither did the St. Louis Rams. Every defense you play has a certain scheme. They kind of work off of that scheme. Yes, they’re going to look at previous film and maybe look at something that is their strength. Yes. In a lot of cases, this is the type of team they are, this is what they do, they have a lot of new wrinkles and we have to be ready for it.”
Do you see Jimmy Graham getting played differently after the little run he had?
“No, I think last week was just one of those games. The Colts game was one where everything seemed to go right. The Rams game was one where everything seemed to go wrong. We couldn’t get any kind of a rhythm going offensively and it was the run game, pass game, lack of big plays. It was the negative plays, a lot of things that culminated into being a rough afternoon for all of us.”
Not to take anything away from Charles Brown but does having a guy like Zach Strief, a guy with a lot of experience and a lot of size, do you think that makes life a little easier for you?“Yes. I’m excited about Zach being back in the lineup just for him. I know he’s worked so hard to earn that spot. Obviously he suffered that injury week three. I think Charlie Brown came in and did a great job, not a good job, a great job. It’s tough to lose him now, but I’m excited about Zach coming back and having
this opportunity. I know he’s chomping at the bit to get back. There’s a big confidence I have in those guys. I’m excited for Zach.”
At that position you have with Zach going out, Charles Brown going on IR, in this calendar year you’ve played with four different centers. How much does that affect the offensive line and even though you don’t look for excuses but could that explain why they’re really good one week and maybe not as good the next?
“I think that all those guys no matter who’s plugged in, they’re never going to make excuses for themselves. Like I said, I truly have confidence in all those guys. I don’t think twice. I don’t think twice about the guy that’s in there. I know the guy that’s in there despite maybe being in there because of an injury, what have you; he knows what he’s doing. They’re well-coached. We have a great scheme. They know what’s expected of them. They spend a lot of time together and at it. So, I’m never going to make an excuse for myself. I know they’re never going to make excuses for themselves. There’s just times where we’ve all played well and there are times when we haven’t executed as we should have.
After dropping that game in Tampa, how important is this game now?
“This game couldn’t get any bigger for being a midseason game where we’re coming off a loss; they’re coming off a loss, albeit they had a bye week as well. It was the not too distant past that we went up there and were defeated. We understand the importance of this game not only for this point in the season, coming off a loss, divisional game, the second one against this team. Yes, it’s a big team.”
In the FOX broadcast against St. Louis, Chris Myers was saying that both you and Sean were worried about a possible letdown and said that one of you said that elite teams don’t have breakdowns. Do you think you guys are an elite team right now?
“Not right now. We haven’t proven it. I believe we have the ability to be, but we haven’t proven it yet.”
What do you need to do?
“We have to win games like the one last week. We have to be able to put together good performances consistently and show that we can win in a lot of different ways that we can win when maybe we don’t have our best stuff for whatever reason. We can win when maybe we’re a little banged up. We can win with offense. We can win with defense. We can win with special teams, that no matter the situation and whatever we encounter just find a way. When I look at us over the last three years, I feel we’ve been very good at that. I can’t definitely point to games where you say you shouldn’t have lost that one and we did, but I can also point to a lot of games where we found a way and as you look at this season and this moment and this opportunity, what kind of team are we going to be this year, because I feel like we have all the pieces in place and when we do play well, we play extremely well. We just need that to be on a more consistent basis.”
While 5-3 is a good record, are you disappointed in that?
“We’ve won most of the close games we’ve been involved in. It’s been 50-50. We fought our way back in the Green Bay game and had a chance to tie it in the end despite everything that happened and then beat a very good Chicago team, came back and beat a Texans team, scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, got the big turnover, went on the road and almost got three in a row but got two of three, one of those a hard-fought victory in Carolina, a tough defeat in Tampa. A huge Sunday night win against the Colts and a disappointing loss at St. Louis, so it’s been a little bit of back and forth. We know the standard. That’s the important thing. We know the standard and we know how good we can be and so now it’s a matter of there are no excuses, no feeling sorry for ourselves, no time for that. It’s time to go out and prove that you belong and you’re one of the elite teams and you’re going to show up each week.”
Do you find it puzzling that with some of those games you mention like when you play on a Sunday night you play terrific or against really good opponents and publicized games, but sometimes not much in others. Can you explain?
“Now we’re talking human nature. Human nature is that when you have a Sunday, Monday night game, a divisional game, a game on primetime, that’s easy for guys to get up for, get excited for, get focused for and everything else, but it’s the three games on the road. It’s getting a huge win and the next week you have to play what everybody says to be “this team you should beat”. You kind of have everything to lose in that instance and not anything to gain and so that’s kind of the picture everyone paints for you and you have to fight through that and see that’s not the case. Because if you look at these guys on film and know that if you don’t play your best, they will beat you. That’s the way it is in this league. A lot of this is fighting human nature, fighting through the letdown. The tendency is to relax after a big accomplishment. In this league it’s magnified. You have to put it together every week. You have to be consistent, because that’s the nature of this business.”
On the offensive line, you’ve been sacked 19 times in eight games which seems unusual for them. You’ve said in the past that’s a unit where chemistry’s extremely important. I appreciate that you have confidence in them and they’ve played well in some games, but it seems like they have some work. Do you agree?
“I’d say we all have work to do. If you ask me what I know that we equaled our sack total right now as to maybe what we’ve had in years past at the midseason. It doesn’t feel like that to me. I don’t feel like I’ve been sacked an inordinate amount of times or more than usual, except for this last game. I think that was evident to all of us. I think that there’s better things we can all do. Me getting the ball out. From a scheme standpoint helping those guys at times. You can’t expect and we never do for a guy to go out there and block a guy 40 times in a row. There’s going to be a time or two when he gets beat. You just have to know that let’s try to avoid the negative play as much as we can by throwing the ball away. Sometimes taking a sack is better than the alternative which might be forcing one in somewhere and turning the ball over. To answer your question I don’t feel like it’s been more, but when you look at the statistics yes, it has been and I think that we have ways to help fix that issue.”
Saints middle linebacker JonVilma:
How much does it help you that you have played Tampa Bay already?
“That helps a lot. On top of that they’re in our division so we see them twice a year each year. We’re familiar with them, their coaching staff, what they like to do, and obviously their personnel. For us it’s about executing the game plan, understanding their personnel, even more detailed than last time they played.”
What do you remember from their offense in the first game? Did they throw a lot more than they normally do?
“I don’t know if they did more than what they normally do. You look at Josh Freeman and his growth this season, they’ve been throwing the ball since game one against Detroit. I think that he’s really starting to come into his own as a quarterback. He’s doing some things out there. It’s a progression of what he’s been doing since game one.”
Can you talk about the return of LeGarrette Blount?
“Blount is obviously a very good running back. Everyone knows he rushed for a 1,000 yards last year in not a lot of games. He has the size and speed, athletic ability. That always presents a challenge.”
In a search for consistency, what kind of team do you think you are right now?
“You’re as good as your last game. Right now, we lost to a team that was winless. That obviously put a damper in our spirits. We didn’t execute well in that game, so that’s who we are right now. That can certainly change after this Sunday.”
What’s nagging at your team the most?
“You get those things fixed with a W. You want to win the game first and then worry about corrections. Losing is what burns the most right now.”
Do you feel like you guys have forced more turnovers in spurts or it’s something more to work on?
“We always put a high emphasis, but at the end of the day we want to win the game first. Let’s do what it takes to win next Sunday and not worry about what we’re doing well or not doing well.”
What’s different in your team's preparation this week?
“I don’t think much is different. I think that obviously when you lose a game, you try to analyze and be more critical of your play, I’m talking players, coaches, the like. That may be a little thing. That’s natural. That happens every time a team loses. You want to be more critical of the things you’re not doing well and harp on those things. Asides from that, there are not going to be any drastic changes right now.
After watching the videotape of the Saints' loss to the Rams, he said he expects to see a team ready to redeem itself. "The Saints have a great offense, are well-coached, and present a lot of problems on defense because of their blitzing defense."
Saints play-by-play announcer Jim Henderson: "In St. Louis, the Saints came out flatter than a fried ravioli after being as high as a souffle the week before."...Saints RD Mark Ingram Tweet: "Man, I wish I could be in Tuscaloosa for the game on Saturday!!!My boys gonna ball!!! #ROLLTIDEROLL"...Heath Evans Tweet: "U so called Saints fans on hating Reggie Bush is pathetic!.He was a key part 2 that SB ring u all claim!"...
Bub Smith, the former NFL DE turned actor, died of acute drug intoxication and other conditions, the Los Angles County coroner's office said on Wednesday. The Saints traded in No. 1 over-all draft pick in 1967 to the Colts for quarterback Gary Cuozzo, Baltimore used the selection to draft Smith. A caretaker at the 66-year-old Smith's home in Baldwin Hills found his body on Aug. 3 Autopsy results showed Smith had high levels of the weight loss drug phentermine in his system. He also had heart disease, an enlarged heart and up to 75 per cent blockage of some blood vessels...
by Ed Staton