Press Pass: Sean Payton

In this edition of "Press Pass," see what New Orleans head coach Sean Payton had to say about his team's loss to Indianapolis, his tandem backfield and how the NFC South always seems to have a new champion.

Q: Coach, you got a few extra days to prepare for this game. How do things look?

SP: It's a big challenge for us. We're going on the road for the second week and we're playing a game in our division. When we played these guys last year we played two hard-fought games and we were lucky to come out of here (New Orleans) with a win after (Reggie) Bush's return. I think both teams understand the importance of getting on the winning track. We'll have to deal with the weather. I'm sure it will be hot."

Q: What's the mindset of your team after last week's loss?

SP: We have a lot of respect for Indianapolis. As quick as you can get on to your next opponent and make the corrections you need to make, the better off you are. That's after a win or a loss. We had a chance to come in on Friday and watch the game tape, make the corrections, address the things we felt hurt us in that game and then move on to Tampa Bay. But by and large we're anxious to play again. The general feelings of players after a tough loss like that is that they're happy to get to play again the next week and get that taste out of your mouth. I'm sure Tampa Bay feels the same way.

Q: You've had success with your two backs, (Reggie) Bush and (Deuce) McAllister. What advantages are there to having a tandem backfield?

SP: It gives you some flexibility. It aids from a repetition standpoint. I think it can help in their health, in terms of how many carries they're getting. I think those two are different players, so we use them in ways that are specific to what their strengths are. I think Reggie gives us a threat as a receiver as well. Deuce does a god job obviously in our normal down and distance packages and he's someone that can catch the ball well underneath coverages. But the two players are different, and when we drafted Reggie a year ago the key was finding the philosophy on offense that we thought we were going to be about and building it around guys like Drew Brees and Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. I think the trick in it, and I don't know if there's a magic formula, but you have to find that balance in where you have enough flexibility when one or both are in there so your tendencies aren't strong.

Q: Coach, do the personalities of those players make it work too?

SP: Deuce is someone who was fantastic. He's a guy that came back here as a starter a year ago and all of a sudden there's a great anticipation for Reggie Bush's arrival. I do think it takes players to put that together, guys that are unselfish and want to win. Obviously I think it's their nature, skill players in general — running backs, wide receivers — they want the football. I think that's a good thing.

Q: I'm sure the first thing you looked at was that you needed to move the ball better than last week. How much pressure was Drew under?

SP: He had some pressure. We saw a lot of coverage and when you can pressure with a four-man front that creates problems for the passing game. Now that defense, I think, did a real good job. We would have liked to have done things better offensively, but they bought some pressure in the first half (and) we were able to do a decent job on third down. I would have liked to have come away with touchdowns instead of a field goal and a field goal attempt. But in the second half things got away from us. I think the last position you want to be in against that team is behind, on the road, like we were facing the end of the third quarter, early in the fourth quarter. They did a great job of rushing the passer and there's a great amount of things we're going to need to improve on. We have to be better on third down, do a better job of running the ball and our protection, you look at it and say, ‘We have to clean this up.' When we're getting their Cover 2 and they're keeping the ball in front of them, they do a great job and that's something we struggled with.

Q: Are there things that keep surprising you about your quarterback?

SP: He's highly motivated and extremely hard working. He's someone that prepares relentlessly for the next opponent. He's able to carry that to his peers. There are a lot of his leadership qualities that rub off on the other players. He's been everything we've looked for at that position and that signing for us was obviously an important one.

Q: Sean, you see guys going down left and right in this league right now. Is there anything the league can do to curtail these injuries?

SP: Each year it seems like it's a subject that comes up. It's a tackle game. It's physical. It's rough. Guys are obviously strong and fast and there are certain weekends that become more problematic, and there are other weekends where you get through without as many injuries. Last weekend it seemed throughout the league that there were a number of players that first weekend that went down with some type of injury. Hopefully it's something that won't creep up and bite us. We've been, knock on wod, pretty fortunate right now starting at training camp. We only have one player at we're talking about in Mark Campbell that didn't practice today. That's one of the challenges each year in winning is staying healthy. It happened to us a year ago. We lost players. The ability to have that secondary player ready to play, his development, it seems like more and more the offseason is so critical in developing younger players. They end up playing sometimes earlier than you would like.

Q: Since the NFC South started in 2002, a different team has won the division. While no one has defended the title, all of them have reached a conference title game. Can you talk about the parity in this division?

SP: I think you're finding in general throughout the league and you look at games, it's tough to pick how teams are going to finish. I think it's also competitive, the way it's set up in regards to how teams draft and acquire free agents you can change your misfortune in(to) a positive note quickly, and vice versa. You can be a real good team and become an average team real quickly. So what's important is you really treat each season separately and nothing is promised to you. Any success we had a year ago doesn't matter at all now that we've started the '07 season. It's a challenge each week. Part of that is getting good quarterback play, part of that is playing good defense and doing all the things that the real good teams at the end of the year have in common. One of the things we have to improve on from a year ago are the turnovers. We didn't get many takeaways and we were one of the few teams in the playoffs to finish in the minus when it came to turnover ratio.

Q: How do you convince a team like you did last year that they can be a great team all of a sudden?

SP: I think you raise expectations. I think players need to see themselves as a team that wants to compete for a championship. That starts with finding the right players to do that. When you look at character and try to find the guys that fit what you're looking for, you're going to hit a stretch where things don't go well. Take Indianapolis last year. They hit a stretch where they couldn't stop anything defensively, and it seemed they were doomed but they ended up winning the Super Bowl. I think Pittsburgh was a wild card team that struggled during part of that season (when they won the Super Bowl). It's a 16-game season and there are going to be some tough times. It's important that you have the right chemistry in the locker room to weather those storms.

Q: Last year when Drew Brees came in he had a phenomenal season. How did you tailor the offense to Drew's strengths so he could have that kind of year?

SP: He was someone that had some real good seasons in San Diego. So we studied closely what they did there in San Diego. There's a little irony or coincidence in that we hired Pete Carmichael, who was an assistant coach with the Chargers throughout Drew's years there. Pete came here before we signed Drew. It was more of a coincidence. But if we're putting something in the offense and there's a terminology that he's used to in regard to a pass pattern and it's something we like, then at the very beginning we put it in that way. We look at what we feel like he does well, no different than Reggie Bush or Deuce McAllister or our wide receivers, in trying to put them in a position in which they're comfortable. But he's worked real hard to get where he is right now. The path hasn't always been easy.

Q: His accuracy is certainly a strength. But assess his strengths on the field from your perspective?

SP: He has a real good presence in the huddle. He can clean formations up quickly if guys are misaligned. His tempo is outstanding up to the line of scrimmage and out of the huddle. He's a quick thinker and decision maker. His personality is contagious. I think that's important.

Q: Coach, talk about your pass rush last week? You didn't get a sack last week. Talk about how important that is going to be this week, especially with a mobile quarterback like Jeff Garcia?

SP: I think in the case of this game, and it's not unlike any other, you're working to try to unsettle the quarterback. When the quarterback has time to read and allow routes to develop, and I'm talking about Jeff or Drew, the chances of them being successful on a given pass play go way up. So part of that starts with first and second down and how effective you are in creating the third and long scenario. Both offenses want to have balance but those early downs are important in creating that. When you look at games at some point the success of the defensive line or the offensive line contribute greatly to the outcome of each game.

Q: Talk about Will Smith and Charles Grant. Obviously they had fine years last year. What are you expecting from them this year?

SP: They're both guys who do a good job rushing the passer in the nickel. We think they both do a good job in the base (defense). They're guys who work extremely hard. I think if you ask them that question they would tell you it's about the team first, about winning, and when you have that taste in your mouth and you don't get to that final game, you realize how hard it is just to get there. You want to have the opportunity to get back there. So that means practicing well during the week and carrying that to the game. Those are two important players for what we do defensively. Charles we were able to re-sign in the offseason. Will had a Pro Bowl season for us a year ago. They're important cogs in our defense.

Q: Joey Galloway has had some big games against you in the past. What's the game plan against him this week? Last week he had a couple of big catches down the field.

SP: I think knowing where he's at on every play is important. A guy like that, each week you know he can run, you know he's fast and you know they're going to take some shots with him. It seems like every week he gets behind the secondary regardless of coverage. So you try to have an awareness of where he's located and the type of routes he wants to run from various formations. I was with Joey in Dallas and he's explosive and he's someone we have a ton of respect for. He's someone that can change the game around real quick.

Q: Sean how different is the Buccaneers offense without Cadillac Williams in the backfield?

SP: I don't know if anything changes from a scheme standpoint. They're going to get into a number of formations, they're going to utilize personnel groupings. They do a good job with shift and motion packages and getting into a best play possible. You prepare for the scheme and the formation. It's hard to change your approach if one player is playing and another player isn't playing. (Michael) Pittman is a guy we've seen before. He's someone that is explosive and physical. So you don't want your second running back in the game, but from an opponent standpoint defending the team probably doesn't change. If you lose your starting running back you certainly miss things. I wouldn't want to lose Deuce or Reggie. Those are things you hope don't happen. That being said, you count on other players to step up and carry the load.

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