"I don't care if the photos have gotten some notoriety," said Vilma. "The only thing I'm surprised about is that the media was so quick to put a negative spin on it.
"For us, it was just a group of guys who had just won a playoff berth, and that was huge. Those are memories we'll have for years down the road."
Vilma's comments from his meeting with the media:
Vilma recaps MNF win, talks about being named team's "Man of the Year"
In terms of ranking these goal line stands, which has been better and which has been more impressive?“We really haven’t thought about it. We just feel like you’re going to have to earn it. It’s a matter of pride for us, especially from last year to this year improving on the goal line defense. We feel like this year we’re way ahead of where we were last year. We take pride in what we do. It’s not going to be easy to score against us, especially down at the goal line”
Did everything seem to go to form for you guys defensively yesterday? “Defensively, I did think we executed well. I thought that we did a better job of handling the game plan this time around than the first time around and it showed up. You see the third down stats. You see the rushing stats. You see their two biggest players, (Tony) Gonzalez and Roddy White in the passing game really didn’t do too much. I feel like we did a good job of executing this time around.”
Coming off of Ray Rice’s game last week and containing Michael Turner this week, did you pat yourselves on the back after making improvement? “We’re definitely not patting ourselves on the back. It’s expected of us. It’s what we do. When you don’t get the job done, it’s a problem and we have to watch the film and correct it. When we get the job done, everyone’s happy, but we’re definitely not going to pat ourselves on the back and say great job. This is what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to tackle and stop the running game.”
What are your thoughts on being the club’s Man of the Year? “My initial thoughts are that I’m honored and flattered. Asides from that I haven’t had too much time to think about it the way the season’s been going, but to be put in that category I’m definitely flattered.”
Does it mean a lot given that a lot of players in the Saints locker room are active in the community? “Yes. To get it out of this locker room you’re exactly right. Charity events and foundations upon charity events that we attend and run, not only in the offseason but in-season, it’s definitely an honor.”
Sean Payton made a pretty big point about acquiring you and the cultural change you were able to put on the defense. Can you remember the day you were acquired and your initial thoughts about turning the page on your career? “I actually remember the very first dinner I had over in Indianapolis with Gary Gibbs, Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton and Joe Vitt, myself and my agent. The first thing they said was we want to bring you in not just to be a player, but a leader and a captain, to lead the defense. Since then, I’ve come here and told them I’ve been grateful to come here. I’ve been very thankful every time, not only myself, but the guys around here. When I got here, they had a group of guys that were talented, wanted to work and it was just a matter of the right direction, understanding what wins, what loses and never compromising that.”
What kind of message did you think you sent out on a national stage last night? “We didn’t really think about that, sending a message. The biggest thing was getting a playoff berth, clinching that. I think if you look at the game, how it played out and went down, going against one of the best teams in the NFC at their home, all the chips stacked against us, for us to go out there and put on a performance like we did, at the very least, it lets the other teams in the NFC know that if we have to travel, it’s going to be a tough win for you. You’re going to have to bring your game and play hard against us.”
Do you think you may see this team down the road in January? “I think so. They’re in the playoffs. They’re fighting with us this week coming up for that NFC (South) title, so you have teams like that, you understand they might have a setback just like we had a setback against Baltimore. They’ll get things corrected. They’re well-coached, a talented group. Once they get it corrected and get on their groove again, who knows? We’ll see what happens.”
Are you surprised they punted after their last offensive possession? “Yes, I was surprised. You could see the rationale behind it. Their defense had been playing well all game, really gave up that one long drive. He’s (Mike Smith) figuring we stop them, punt the ball and they’ll get the ball at around the 50 with some time left. It didn’t work out that way. It worked out in our favor.”
As a player, is it more gratifying to win and get the playoff berth rather than watch Tampa lose the day before and clinch? “Yes. This way, getting in, always winning to get in is always the best feeling. You lose and you’re in, but you’re kind of happy because you’re in, but you feel like you’ve backed your way in. You never want that feeling, especially going into the dance. For us to win and win against a good opponent, that’s huge.”
What were your thoughts on Jo-Lonn Dunbar’s play after he hadn’t played much on defense for a stretch? “Jo-Lonn is what I expected to answer your question. They guy comes in, works, watches film. Whether he’s playing or not playing he doesn’t change his attitude, demeanor, preparation. Once he knew he was getting the starting nod, it wasn’t like he had all of a sudden upped his energy level or preparation and crammed right before the game. He was ready to go and it showed on the field.”
This is the first time you’ve gone into week 17 with something at stake. How do you approach this? “Just win and see what happens. Nothing will play itself out if we lose. If we lose, everything is what it would be. For us, let’s win first, figure out what happens after this; let the mathematicians and NFL figure out who has the one seed and all that good stuff.”
Have you been in a situation, where other games being played at the same time have something to do with where you would be seeded in the playoffs and do you find yourself peeking at the scoreboard during the game when you’re not on the field? “One, I have been in that situation. My rookie year, I was in St. Louis. We had to win or a couple teams had to lose for us to get in the playoffs and we had saw on the jumbotron that somebody lost and we ended up going into the playoffs. The second part of your question, I don’t want to look at other people’s scores and figure out what’s going on. That’s going to take away from the game. We have a very good team. Let’s not forget Tampa Bay is a nine-win team right now, very talented. Their quarterback is playing well. We definitely don’t want to look at other scores and not concentrate on our game.”
I know you guys are a confident team. If you are a Wild Card, does this performance give you an edge knowing you can play like that on the road? “We always had that edge. We always had that confidence. Like I said, we had a setback in Baltimore, beside that we had been pretty good on the road. We never really worried about that, playing well on the road. This game never really gave us that added confidence. We already had that. It was almost expected that if we go out there, play hard and execute and do what we have to do that we’ll win.”
What about specifically how you matched up against a team that you could be facing in their place in the postseason? “It can help us, but at the same time, they beat us in our place. Let’s say something happens, they lose to Carolina and we do get the one seed and play them at home, it’s going to be the same questions, just in reverse saying we already beat them there. At the end of the day, it’s a division opponent. We face them and see them a lot. We know them inside out. They know us inside out”
Marvin Mitchell had a big play and gets overshadowed. Can you talk about the play he’s had this year? “Marvin Mitchell has had a tremendous season, in my opinion his best season by far. Every time he steps onto the field, you give him four or five plays, he’s going to make something happen, whether it’s a caused fumble, a key tackle, rushing the quarterback. Marvin Mitchell might not get the attention because he doesn’t have as many reps, but his impact during the game has been huge for us defensively throughout the season.”
Are you surprised that these photos you’ve taken on fields has gotten some notoriety? “I don’t care. The only thing I’m surprised about is that they were so quick to put a negative spin on it. For us, it was a group of guys, we clinched a playoff berth. That’s huge. Those are memories to have for years down the road. We wanted to take the picture. It had nothing to do with Atlanta, nothing to do with showing them up in their home stadium. It had nothing to do with that. It was us being happy, being in the playoffs. We wanted a picture, the same thing that we did in Dallas. We won the Thanksgiving game. I’ve never done that before. We took a picture of that. We won the Super Bowl, you take a picture. You have milestones in your career and you want to take pictures regardless of the stadium. I was just surprised of the negative spin they put on it. Other than that, I don’t care.”
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