Poor execution on the game's final play may have cost the Saints a victory over the Packers on Thursday night.
They brought in two tight ends, one receiver and two running backs on the field on a basic power play. It is the first play you install jn camp. Was it a good call? Yes, because it's a basic scheme you must be able to run inside of the 5-yard line and score points. All night, the Packers' defensive line was beating the Saints' offensive line. Rookie Mark Ingram didn't stand a chance on the play because the Packers penetrated the line of scrimmage.
The Saints, playing without suspended Will Smith, will have to generate a pass rush to be a playoff contender.
Darren Sproles gave up a critical sack late in the game, but the over-all skills that he brings to the Saints on offense and special teams are obvious. You won't find a linebacker that can cover him.
The Packers controlled both sides of the ball in the interior of the offensive and defensive lines. That's where you win in the NFL.
It was a crazy game-- a ton of offense from Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, poor technique on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and plenty of big plays.
Saints coach Sean Payton discussed the loss to the Packers, protecting Drew Brees, Darren Sproles' versatility and his struggling defensive line on Friday.
Opening comments: “From a scheduling standpoint, today is much like a day after for our players in that we’re watching tape, lifting weights, and going through the game tape and getting it graded and critiqued, said the coach. "They’ll be off the next two days. Monday we’ll have a light practice that will be closed. Tuesday will be their normal day off and then Wednesday will be the first day we’re back with the normal routine of a work week. Like I said afterwards yesterday, it’s disappointing any time you lose a game, even that much more so when you get close there in the end and you have an opportunity to get back in it. A handful of things statistically going into that game we felt were going to be important. The turnover ratio we thought was going to be important. We talked about that all week.
"Those red zone trips with the way that game unfolded, obviously it was a high-scoring game. We weren’t as efficient in those situations having to settle for field goals and then coming up short on a fourth-and-one. Lastly, protecting the quarterback. Both teams threw the ball and had success throwing it. I thought we were under more duress throughout the night than Green Bay was. There are a lot of little things that we’re going to get busy working on that we have to clean up and we’re going to have to make a lot of improvement from the first game to the next game. We’ll have some time to do that.”
How do you and Gregg Williams plan to address some of the struggles on defense?
“You really get back to the details and fundamentals. There are a lot of things to work on and I mentioned at the onset here – alignments, the proper fits, those things are no different than offensively where we didn’t have success or we came up short. The kicking game as well, we had a big return last night which really gave us a good boost and kind of got us back in it, and then we gave up a return on kick coverage later in the game. There’s a lot we have to do and certainly defensively that’s part of it. We saw one of the better offenses and when we needed the stops late in the game we got them. That’s kind of the way last night’s game unfolded. You have ideas of what you’d like to have happened, and yet you have to be flexible enough to understand what’s actually taking place. We’ll get back to working on all the fundamentals and the little things.”
On the last handoff to Mark Ingram, what did the film show you?
“It’s a goal line play. It’s a pretty standard play. It’s a slant, 32 blast. They were in their goal line defense and we didn’t execute like we had hoped. There were a lot of things that were done well there and yet we came up short. Green Bay made the play and we didn’t.”
It appeared that Green Bay may have not necessarily known the play, but anticipated it coming. Is there a pattern that teams are seeing in red zone situations?
“No, I don’t think so. I think we look very closely at it. When you get into a goal line situation on the one yard line, there are two or three runs that you’re going to run. So to answer your question, no.”
Earlier in the game you went with pass plays on fourth and short. How much did that affect your decision to go with the run at the end?
“There are two different situations. When you’re on the one yard line in goal line offense, there are a handful of run versus the front that they play, two or three runs, and then it’s play action pass. We felt pretty good about our matchups inside. Looking back at the tape, those guys inside did a really good job for us. The penetration came from outside which really ended up stopping the play. The fourth-and-one, you have a lot more flexibility as to a number of different plays you’d want to call. We felt like at the one-yard line, this was a chance for us to punch it in, we felt good about the play and I think collectively our group felt pretty good about it.”
What do you tell your team after a game like that besides, “Hey, it’s a tough loss, but it’s just game one?”
“I think the most important thing we have to do is certainly pay close attention to the film and make that improvement from week one to two and really find ourselves pretty critical of what we do. That’s not just the defense or offense or kicking game, it’s us as coaches looking closely at the tape and really evaluating that loss as hard as that is and getting ready to play next week.”
Defensively, the broadcast showed how far of the cornerbacks were playing the wide receivers. What were your thoughts on that alignment?
“It varies whether we play off or whether we play bump-and-run or whether we play a cloud with safety help over the top. A lot of it varies with the defense we have called and a lot of it varies depending on the situation in the game. Oftentimes, there’s going to be an underneath throw. Sometimes you’re going to have safety help, other times you’re not going to. They did a good job of executing some of those back shoulder throws especially in the red area on third down. I think the key component is just having a mix and making sure that we continue to do that and Gregg (Williams) and those guys do a good job with that.”
Can you talk about Devery Henderson’s performance last night with Lance Moore out?
“He came up big. The touchdown pass was a little slow go route. He caught the corner flat-footed. He did a good job with his release and Drew (Brees) did a real good job with locating the throw. It ended up being a big play for us and he had some other big catches in that game. It’s kind of the nature with our business. You’re rarely going to be fully healthy and you’re going to have to count on other players to step up and play big. Darren Sproles obviously played very big in a lot of areas last night. Those are good things to look at and it’s good to see when you have that depth.”
What were some positives you saw from the defensive front?
“We had some young guys get some playing time for the first time and getting a lot of reps. Cameron Jordan got a lot of snaps in his debut and Turk McBride, a lot of those younger guys were in there and playing with real good energy and effort. Jeff Charleston coming off the injury he had a couple weeks prior. Junior Galette, those are guys without a lot of playing experience that received a lot of snaps and I think that’s going to benefit them as we go down the road in the schedule. As a coach, you’re always anxious to see how your young guys are going to play and perform. Those guys did some real good things last night.”
Do you think Charles Woodson should have been tossed for his personal foul?
“We don’t get the same looks that you guys do in regards to the visuals. I’ve only heard it. In hindsight, there is a protocol that’s supposedly followed and obviously it wasn’t last night.”
Do you have a main concern about the defense?
“I wouldn’t point to one area. We played what we feel like is a really good football team last night. We feel like we’re a really good football team. I think the most important concern that I have as a head coach is just in the things that we can control between now and next week in that improvement, our work, week, and when we get back together on Monday putting a good practice together, having a plan in place to get ready for the Chicago Bears. Obviously we have some younger players playing on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game there’s a learning curve that goes with that, but I think just the improvement – making sure that from week to week we’re getting better not just as a defense but as an offense and as a team.”
On Randall Cobb’s kickoff return, were your guys surprised that he returned it from eight yards deep in the end zone?
“Looking at it, that really wasn’t the culprit. He made a great play and there were some missed tackles in there and some mistakes by us in coverage, not fitting the right lane, and then giving him what should have been a decent gain to a touchdown. I do know that there wasn’t any letup because the ball went into the end zone.”
Did you use Darren Sproles the way you expected to?
“We felt like we were going to get a returner and certainly we saw that last night, but we also felt like we were going to get someone who would help us out in the passing game and the running game. He has great versatility, he’s smart, and he’s awfully competitive. He’s been a great addition to what we do as a team and he helps us out not just offensively, but he helps us out in the kicking game and I think he’s someone that’s very well-respected in the locker room. It’s great to see him play well early.”
With the changes on the interior defensive line, is it matching up to what you expected?
“I wouldn’t want to, after week one, start evaluating or making grades or measuring up grades on what guys are doing. We have a lot of football ahead of us and we feel really good about the players we’ve acquired. Obviously it’s always disappointing the day after a tough loss, but that’s kind of where we are at. We’re paying close attention to the film, we’re going to make the corrections and work hard to make today productive and then Monday get ourselves ready to start with the Chicago Bears week.”
Was it an easy decision to sit Lance Moore?
“We kind of knew before the plane was going to leave. The nature of his injury was one that we felt collectively that a setback would be one that you almost start all over again with the type of injury he has. I don’t know if he was close. We listed him out at the end. He practiced the first day of last week and then it was just a matter of trying to day-to-day see where he was at but I think in the end all of us felt pretty comfortable with it.”
Did Marques Colston get hurt on that last play?
“It was the second to last play. All of these guys were in here today getting treatment. We had two or three guys with specific injuries. Wednesday we will give you the first injury report in the afternoon.”
Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins will meet with fans at an autograph session signing at Raising Cane Chicken Fingers in Kenner on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. til 12:30 p.m. Raising Cane, 3344 Williams Blvd., shows support of the Saints with a commemorative Saints cup and a VIP prize package giveaway for each home game that includes two tickets, pre-game field passes, autographed Saints merchandise and more...
by Ed Staton
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