Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins and Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson have been named NFC players of the week.
The question is whether he will be limited against the Baltimore Ravens. He was limited in a injury report on Wednesday.
Jenkins' 96-yard interception return for a touchdown just before the half against the Rams on Sunday earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week. He also had another interception. Jenkins now has two Defensive Player of the Week awards in the past three weeks.
Jackson caught four passes for 210 yards against the Cowboys on Sunday, including a 91-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles a lead they wouldn't relinguish. Although Jackson faced some criticism after the game for the way he celebrated that touchdown, the electrifying catch-and-run was one of the best plays of Week 14 in the NFL.
Here is a Q and A with coach Sean Payton from Wedneday as he and his team prepars for the Baltimore Ravens
“We’ll hit on the injury list first: cornerback
When two good teams get together that don’t play that often, does that bring anything extra to the game?
“It’s a cross-conference game and we just happen to be playing that division this season. You’re not as familiar because you don’t play them but every four years so it’s important to do the film study and pay attention to the uniquenesses of what they do defensively, offensively and in the kicking game. At this point in the year you have plenty of tape and the key is getting to the important games that you think are similar or will be similar in regards to how this game is played.”
Are you planning at this point to not have Courtney Roby and are you working toward filling that gap?
“We are. Our kick return emphasis will be in tomorrow’s practice and we’ll look at a few guys to replace him if he’s not available.”
According to the game announcers, at the end of their game against the Steelers and then again against Houston, the Ravens went away from their identity. Do you buy into the idea that teams have an identity? What would you say the Saints’ identity is?
“I think teams year to year have an identity and that would be what they do offensively and defensively. I think this is a team in Baltimore that plays very physical. It’s one of the elite teams in the AFC and their record indicates that. When you see them play, whether it’s Pittsburgh or New England, this is one of the top teams in the league and John (Harbaugh) has done a great job. They have great tradition there and they’ve won a lot of football games and they’re doing that again this year.
“In regards to the Saints, you hope that you create an identity in regards to how you play the game. You hope that it’s physical; you hope that you’re doing things the right way. A lot of it is around your own personnel and tailored towards your personnel. I would say that any team – winning or losing – will have some type of an identity and typically it starts with the personnel on the team.”
Other than physical, what would be some of the words that you would want to describe your team’s identity?
“You want to perceived number one as a winning organization, as an organization that is in contention each year to have success. Those would be the important things.”
What has pleased you most to this point about your team?
“Number one, we still have a lot of football left; three important games left, starting with this week. I think we’ve been resilient; I think our guys have handled some adversity early on in the season, be it injuries or losses and bounced back and played well. I like that aspect of it. I think we have good leadership in the locker room.”
At this stage of the season, do you educate yourself as to what your team needs to do to lock up playoff positioning?
“We don’t. We talk about the importance of this game. I think everyone understands how competitive both the NFC and the AFC are right now, when you look at the teams atop the divisions in both conferences, and we really turn the page to the opponent that we’re playing that week.”
It’s not uncommon for professional coaches to not have foundations. What motivated you to establish yours?
“Ours was an easy decision in that it came at a time where there was such a need and a demand post-Katrina. I think from our players and our organization there was just so much in demand – whether it was businesses, people, different groups needing help. With the position that we were in and the timing, it made a lot of sense and shortly after that first season is when we established Payton’s Play it Forward. I think a lot led to that. Would we have had a foundation had we been somewhere else, maybe where there wasn’t as much of a need? I don’t know. The answer is probably yes, but the timing here made the decision to that very simple. You’re also wanting to instill those lessons in your children and it gives us a chance to do that. Personally you get something from that. With the money raised, we’re close to a million-and-a-half dollars back to this community in the last three years so it just made a lot of sense.”
Is there anything in the past year that stands out and lets you know it’s really worthwhile the work that you do with the foundation?
“You get a chance to see hands on – whether it’s someone having a Christmas they wouldn’t normally have, whether it’s the fire and police departments here in the city… We just a month ago had the post-gala party for those people that helped contribute time and energy to the Black & Gold Gala and then we hand out the checks at that time of the money that has been raised and that’s always good because there are a lot of people that put a lot of time into this and volunteer their time and resources to help with this foundation. It doesn’t seem like you have time enough to thank them all but when you’re able to disperse the checks to the different groups, it makes it all worthwhile.”
How does that sense of fulfillment differ from when you have success on the field?
“You’re just trying to be complete. It’s a different feeling and it’s one that you just feel right about.”
As one of the more well-known people in this city, do you feel a sense of obligation to do things for those who may have less?
“I think so. I think all of us felt that a little more post-Katrina. When you’re in a position such as the head coach or when you’re in the position that I’m in, I think that you do feel that obligation and then with everything that had gone on it was clear that it was the right thing to do. It was an avenue for us and a way for us to also instill some of those things in our children.”
What were your thoughts after being able to watch the Ravens game on Monday night?
“I wouldn’t say it was a tale of two halves but certainly momentum swung back into Houston’s favor in the middle of the second half. It was back-and-forth; both teams played extremely hard and all of a sudden it was into overtime and Baltimore made the plays when they needed to to finish. Early in that game, they played very well and very efficiently and then Houston offensively got some momentum and made some plays in the passing game. You credit Baltimore for coming up with the plays down the stretch when they needed them. It was a big interception that ended the game.”
The Ravens defense was on the field for a long time in the second half of that game. Did that play a part in the comeback Houston had?
“No question. Compared to the first half, they were two different types of games and that can put a lot of stress on your defense when you’re playing that many snaps, just in regards to rushing the passer and defending the run. That’s a lot in a half.”
Does that take a lot out of the defense as they head towards the next game or would an experienced defense like they have make that a moot point?
“They are experienced and knowing John, they’ll be plenty rested. I’m sure they’ll adjust the schedule – like we have – on a short week playing after a Monday night. You just have to be mindful of your snaps and how long you’re on the field. We’re at a stage in the season where we’re cutting snaps back and spending more time in the meetings.”
What impresses you about Joe Flacco?
“He has poise; he has a very strong arm; he can make all the throws. I think most importantly, he’s a winner. Since he’s been a starting quarterback for that team, he’s won an awful lot of games. That combination of the athleticism, his accuracy, he has a great grasp of what they’re doing offensively…he’s one of those young, talented quarterbacks that our league is seeing. When you look at Flacco and Matt Ryan and (Aaron) Rodgers up in Green Bay, there are a lot of young, talented quarterbacks that have come into their own, and he transitioned into that role very quickly and has had success and taken his team to the playoffs. You see that poise; you see the arm strength and the stature and the size. He’s very impressive when you watch him on tape because he’s not an easy sack; he’s a guy that can keep a play alive and get the ball down the field.”
You had whittled your injury list down to a small number last week and today there were again a bunch of names on it. Was that an unpleasant surprise?
“I think later in the week we’ll get a better grasp but we’re listing all the nicks from the game we just played. Sometimes that list is bigger and sometimes it’s smaller. I think that as the week progresses we’ll get a better understanding as to where these four guys sit that weren’t able to practice today. Hopefully we get them up to speed as soon as we can.”
Those guys all got hurt during the game?
“Hargrove’s knee, Ayodele’s ankle, Roby’s head, David Thomas’ knee; those were all game-related. A lot of these are a result of the game we just played.”
Are any of them significant enough to where you would rule them out for the week?
“No. Courtney we’re paying attention to.”
Chris Ivory talked to us about his hamstring injury and gave us the impression it might be an electrolyte imbalance and he didn’t hydrate properly on Saturday night. Is that a common thing?
“The one common cause to pulls is dehydration so you’re always trying to make sure that these guys do a good job hydrating during the week leading up to the game, not just in the 24-hour period prior to the game. With him, we’re trying to make sure that we’re paying attention to all those specifics. This is a long season; it’s longer than any of these young players are used to so getting the rest and getting the nutrition, being properly hydrated, training – all those things that go into being available each week as opposed to just some weeks and then off some weeks.”
So it’s a good sign that Ivory was able to get some work today?
“Yes. I was encouraged and yet we’ll see how it feels tomorrow and monitor where he’s at, just like some of these other guys.”
So Roby got out of the hospital Monday?
“Yes. He’s been out and has been here. Now it’s the testing they do post-concussion. There’s a process that we’ve gone through before and we’re going through again with him before he’s cleared. An outside expert will make that determination.”
So it was just a head injury, no neck?
“He has a sore neck, but the injury really was the head.”
And you’re optimistic that it’s not something that could be season-ending?
Going back to Chris Ivory, is his case a muscle issue or just the fact that he didn’t hydrate properly?
“It’s probably a combination without knowing for certain. It’s probably a combination of a number of things. Number one, he’s wound pretty tight. When you see his stature, he’s put together. He’s extremely strong. So from a stretching aspect, from a hydration aspect – I’m not as familiar with the electrolytes as it pertains to muscle pulls – but you would say his body type is such that he’s going to have to manage something like this throughout his career, of making sure that he takes all the precautionary steps.”
How much confidence do you have going forward that
“I feel pretty good. Coming off the game and looking at the tape and having a chance to visit with him afterwards, fortunately there weren’t any setbacks. He has that type of injury that could potentially have a setback, so that was good news. It was encouraging that he handled the snaps that he did; I thought he functioned within that role and that role expanded a little bit with Ivory going down. As we get into his second week, we just keep looking at that and looking at the combination as to this week’s game and what his role is.”
Then general identity of these teams to most fans would be Baltimore’s defense and yours being the offense, although you’re ranked ahead of Baltimore defensively in a lot of categories. What sort of pride does that give you in having built a complete team?
“I think it’s important to play good defense to win championships. A year ago we were able to do that; we were very opportunistic. I think that whether it’s the New Orleans Saints defense and clearly we’re playing at a higher level than even a year ago, but when you look at the Ravens’ offense, those are two aspects that are much improved. Just because the attention shifts towards the Ravens defense or our offense, I think the importance of how Baltimore plays offensively is critical to them winning and losing football games, just as our defense is vital to that. To play in the postseason and have success, you’re going to have to play well in all of those areas. It’s hard to have that success if you’re not.”
What are your thoughts on Malcolm Jenkins winning the NFC Defensive Player of the Week?
“I’m biased but clearly it was a big game that he had. The game-changer happened late in the second quarter and then later on in the game he had another big play and then when you grade him out and watch the film, he did a fantastic job. He just keeps getting better each week and that’s a credit to him and the dedication he has to being a real good player.”
Do you still see him as both a safety and a cornerback?
“If you ask right now, the role he’s playing is safety and playing the nickel. But that versatility exists. More of his snaps are coming at safety. You don’t want to say that’s his primary role but that positional flexibility is a good thing. When you have that, you can do a lot of things. When you can bring a safety down and cover a slot – and he can do that effectively – that’s a valuable asset. That’s like the tight end that can play in space and can also be efficient in run-blocking. Malcolm has that flexibility.”
Is this a far more violent game than when you played?
“I don’t know if it’s far more, but the speed of the collisions seem to have increased and the speed of the game certainly has increased. Over a period of time, the players gradually get bigger, they gradually get a little stronger and you see the speed, which was different 10 years going back and it will be different 10 years going forward. I think that’s a natural progression. Because the speed of the game has changed and the size of players that are in the game, some of the collisions can be more violent. Yet I think there’s a balance; I think the league is doing a good job of paying attention to that and really putting a point of emphasis on areas where they thing they can help properly protect the players.”
Do you have an opinion on two extra games being added to the schedule?
“Not really. I haven’t really given it much thought. The discussion really is not just those two games, but really the schedule and the calendar. Do those games come at the end of the season? Do those games come in lieu of preseason three and four? In other words, when they fall is a big discussion and then how that affects the offseason calendar. All of those things are things that the league and the players’ union will iron out. It seems forever down the road right now with where we’re at. I think more than anything else, those are the questions.”
Do you feel that with the offense’s recent success that you’re in a good rhythm as a play-caller or is the team coming together?
“I don’t think it’s because the play-caller’s in a good rhythm. I think we’re doing things more efficiently on third down. I think we’re running the ball better with more efficiency and staying ahead of the chains. When a game is over, the one box that you don’t want to have looked at a lot are the third-and-10 or plus calls; you always have three or four passes and maybe a draw. If you’re not looking down at that box a lot, then you’re probably staying on schedule and chances are that if you’re not playing well offensively in a particular game that you find yourself staring down at that third-and-long section of your call sheet. I think it’s back to the players and our ability to be efficient in those early downs.”
You’re 13-2 away from home in the last two seasons. Does this team seem to focus more and get mentally tougher on the road?
“If you’re playing well on the road, you’re probably playing well. In other words, if you go back and chart the teams that have played well on the road in the last five years you’re probably looking at teams that have been playing good football, period. There are some pluses when you go on the road. There are less distractions, believe it or not. You have less ticket requests; typically you don’t have the family traveling in to see the game like you would for home games. Yet the challenges on the road are the noise, getting accustomed to someone else’s stadium and handling those distractions. I think with the leadership that we have and the veteran presence on this team, I think it still comes down to being able to doing those things that help you win football games and that transcends whether you’re away or at home. We’ve had a lot of experience – whether it’s being relocated during Gustav for a week to Indianapolis or a week in London, England, certainly the week down in Miami prior to the Super Bowl – we don’t look at those as negatives because it puts you in environments where you’re in meetings, you’re eating together and then you’re getting ready to play a game. That’s what happens when you travel and that logistic is something that we’ve been able to handle well and handle better of late.”
“He is healthy.”
Has he just not been in your packages recently?
“Last week he was inactive and we got
It seems that Baltimore’s defense is being questioned about getting older and slower. You’ve mentioned their experience. What is your perspective on it?
“We watch the tape and whether it’s their defense versus the Steelers, versus the Patriots – this will be a big test for us. This will be one of the top defenses – if not the top defense – we’ve seen all season. So I don’t see that. I know how the game finished the other night and that can happen to any team. But this is a team that has won nine games. They’re very physical; they have talent in the front when you look at their pass-rush ability with Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata is a guy that is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Ray Lewis of course is a guy that is going to be a Hall of Fame middle linebacker with the career that he’s had. On the back end, you see Ed Reed and their takeaways have almost doubled since he’s been back in the lineup. It’s a very opportunistic defense that has a ton of tradition and pride behind it. But they also have a lot of production behind it and that’s what we look at. We really try to pay attention to the film study as to what they do and what they do very well, and they do a lot of things very well.”
Terrell Owens blames the Bengals' 10-game losing streak on the owner and coaches. "You start with the owner and the coaches in assessing blame," said T.O. "Players are only doing what the coaches are allowing them to do." It's safe to say the Bengals owner will allow T.O. to look elsewhere for employment next season...Peyton Manning, who has started 205 straight games for the Colts, will need to play six more seasons to break Brett Favre's NFL record of starts...R.I. P: Former Warren Easton and Southern Mississippi guard Joe Battaglia, and Vincent Timphony, a New Orleans native whose long career as a horse trainer was highlighted by a victory with Wild Again in the the first Breeder's Cup Classic...Saints players gave away 200 bicycles to underprivileged children at the Saints training complex in Metairie on Tuesday....Why does sour cream have an expiration date on it? What's is it going to do, go good?
SOME hither, others yon: Ravens safety Ed Reed grew up in Destrehan and was a Saints fan. The former University of Miami player said this year's Saints team is the champs this season. "Last year's Super Bowl doesn't mean anything this year," said Reed. ""I'm sure the Saints would tell you right now, there's no Super Bowl champion right now. It's a whole new year. That Super Bowl is gone and done, and we're in December of a whole new season. So right now, we're playing the Saints of 2010. They’re not the Super Bowl team from last year. They are a great team -- they still are and the defending champions, but it's a new season. We're just trying to get another win. We're trying to get to 10-4. That's all that matters. Playing against that home team, it's like a dream come true -- either being on that team or playing against them."...
The Ravens could get help from Mother Nature when they play on Sunday. The projected high at M&T Stadium is 35 degrees. Although the Saints are 3-3 under Sean Payton when they have to play in cold-weather cities in December -- including a 34-30 win over the Bengals at Cincinnati on Dec. 5 -- the Saints are accustomed to playing inside in the Superdome. "I think everybody prefers a warm climate," said Drew Brees. "It is what it is. We know it's going to be cold and probably windy and maybe snowy. Whatever the conditions are, we'll just have to adapt and adjust." Payton said wind up to 15 miles per hour could play a role in the game. "The wind can definitely affect the passing game," said Payton. "The wind is probably more of a factor than possibly rain and/or cold temperatures. You know the elements are always something you have to pay attention to, and we had to in Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago, and we'll have to again on Sunday in Baltimore."...
Special teams may be a weapon that could give the Ravens an advantage on Sunday. The improved return game and the consistent play of punter Sam Koch and kicker Billy Cundiff (former Saint) can take some pressure off the field position battle. David Reed returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown against Houston and punt returner Lardarius Webb came close to breaking one free, too. Cundiff's kickoffs usually travel into the end zone for touchbacks.
Reggie Bush, on if the Saints are a "soft" team: "People around the league now understand the Saint aren't a soft team. We can play physical, we can fast, we can play finesse, we can do it all. We're a very talented team that can hurt you in a lot of different ways."...At a recent Browns home game, an inebriated adult Cleveland fan tackled an eight-year-old boy wearing a Jets jersey. That is simply inexcusable! Why on earth would anyone wear a Jets jersey?...The plot of a recent "Law& Order: Los Angeles" revolved around a philandering golf star and his club-wielding wife. Where on earth do those crazy TV writers come up with such outlandish ideas?!...Also, too, never, ever, use repetitive redundancies...
Here is the Saints schedule and that of Atlanta:
New Orleans Saints Football Schedule
New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens Dec. 19
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dec. 27
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints January 2
Atlanta Falcons Football Schedule
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks Dec. 19
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dec. 27
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons January 2
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