New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton Conference Call with Local Media Monday, December 23, 2013
Overall, what’s the team’s mentality with so much on the line once again this week?
“I think pretty good. I think we had and are finishing up pretty good meetings in regards to the game we played. I think that the main thing is – and we talked about it at the very beginning – that there will be a lot of different, not distractions, but scenarios and we’re approaching this like a playoff game itself. There’s a handful of things we can’t control, but we can control this week. I think that, by and large, aside from Kenny (Vaccaro), we came out of the game fairly healthy. (We got) nicked up a little bit, it was a pretty physical game the way it unfolded, and we knew it would be. I think that the key for us is to handle the holiday week with Christmas being on a Wednesday, put together a good plan and good set of practices and put our focus into playing our best football Sunday. I think the players were fairly upbeat today. Like I said after the game yesterday, there were a lot of things – looking at the tape (and) looking at all three areas – that we felt pretty good about. Certainly it wasn’t perfect, but I thought the energy…I thought everything in regards to playing that game yesterday and giving ourselves a chance to win was something that…I think the difficult part is that it was so close, yet in the end we weren’t able to finish.”
Can you give an update on Kenny Vaccaro’s status?
“He’s going to have surgery tomorrow for the same injury Bryce (Harris) had a year ago. It’s a fracture in the ankle. It’s fairly clean. I think immediately, if any of you had the chance to see just how the foot was sitting, you could tell something was wrong. He had the x-rays, all the tests done, and he’s basically going back to Charlotte today and Dr. Anderson will perform that surgery tomorrow.”
Not that you’re expecting this from the team, but is what you want to guard against is being deflated or let down this week?
“I don’t think that’s the challenge this week. I think the challenge this week is trying to guard against if this happens or if this happens. In other words, we control one thing. We know if we’re able to go out and play well and win, we’re guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. Our game was flexed to 3:25 and so I don’t want to spend those two hours prior to the game with the television sets going and all of the other potential distractions that can take place with a game that’s being played prior to ours. I think it’s a pretty clear scenario for a lot of teams this weekend. I can’t recall a weekend unfolding the way this one has with regards to the NFC East and NFC North and then with regards to our division and the different scenarios that involve other teams. I think that’s the main thing. I think overall the attitude has been upbeat.”
You’ve mentioned being upbeat a couple of times. Is there any frustration about being in this situation after controlling the division all season long?
“No. Not at all. I think they saw and felt they had a great week last week coming off of obviously a tough loss. I don’t sense that (frustration) at all. I think that, look, we’ve won some of these games in Tampa Bay earlier in the season, the Atlanta game came down – the first one – to the last possession. Those are some of the challenges and that’s the challenge of our league. I don’t sense that at all. I think the players, obviously all of us, hurt from that loss. It stung, but I think they felt pretty good about the preparation and the plan going in, and they did a great job of executing it. Obviously things changed in the second half with the conditions, but overall the attitude has been outstanding.”
Looking at your offense right now, how would you describe how you guys are playing right now?
“I thought yesterday we did the things necessary, the way that game was unfolding. You are playing against a very good defense on the road in fairly sloppy conditions. Obviously they present a lot of challenges with their rush. I thought we were able to run the ball effectively and probably could have run it even more, but I think that game unfolded a certain way. We talk about this all the time, you don’t just go in every game with the idea that it’s going to be X, Y, and Z. You pay attention to how it’s being played out. I thought defensively we were doing a great job against their offense, specifically when you look at the third downs, you look at the three and outs and then you begin to pay close attention to that. I think they will be ready to play; offensively we will be ready to play and put a good week of work in. Like I said, each game can kind of unfold a certain way.”
Was there something that you saw that kind of made you get away from the run?
“No, I think we began to make that a point of emphasis in the second half certainly. Early in the game we wanted to spread it out a little bit and again, manage the third downs. I think that kind of getting the beat of what they were doing and trying to get a feel. We got a little bit more pressure like we expected from them and then just getting a handle on the personnel groupings.”
Will Terron Armstead get a second straight start at left tackle?
“Absolutely. Grading him out, I think, and I’ve read a handful of different articles about his performance. Certainly there are growing pains, but there are a lot of things that he did very well. I think as a staff going through the tape now twice, I was extremely encouraged by the way he played.”
Any thoughts on how relevant it is to have this crucial game at home?
“We feel it is a big advantage for us, just like it is for a team when we play on the road. I think that finishing up the regular season with a 3:25 start time is a big plus for us. It is up to us to take advantage of it.”
Is having such a big game occur during Christmas week a concern? How do you work around that?
“That was one of the two topics today was just the week schedule with regards to the holidays and then the second, all the different scenarios that we just have to focus on our scenario, our one game (that we need to win). What we will do, each year it falls on a different day. In some years it ends up being a plus. Some years, it ends up being a work day. Wednesday is a work day for us, so we will move everything back to about 12 noon to where we will start our team meeting. We will get the majority of our work done in the pm and then get the guys back home. Every Thanksgiving, every Christmas (there are varying schedules to accommodate the specific holidays), the difference is every Thanksgiving you know it’s going to be on a Thursday, but those are always challenges with our schedule. There are some families that, I mentioned this in the staff meeting, there are a lot of people depending on family traditions that are (celebrating Christmas in the) a.m and some are p.m. We just try and look closely at what we think would work best for the group. We’ve done this before. We’ve had work days on Christmas before and you just don’t know how they are going to pan out.”
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