What Saints’ Sean Payton had to say about the Falcons

The Falcons (4-7) are set to host the Saints (9-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Here’s what New Orleans coach Sean Payton had to say on a conference call with Atlanta media members Wednesday:

Q: How has Taysom Hill played in his two starts?

A: “He did enough good things in that game. Made good decisions. Made some plays with his feet. Last week was uniquely different just relative to the type of game we played. More than anything else, I ran it more. Played it much more closer to the vest because of the situation with Denver’s offense. So, two entirely different types of games, but nonetheless we’ve been able to win both of those.”

Q: Can you critique his overall play in those two games?

A: “I think he’s done well. His first job is to win. Move the team. Like I said, he probably had more opportunities in the first game than last week.”

Q: What’s been the key the last two times to get the pressure dialed up on Matt Ryan and get the 17 sacks?

A: “Well, I think it’s been a (combination) of things for us defensively. I think we’ve gotten gradually better this season. Early in the season we were giving up some big plays. Our numbers and in the situations, red zone and third down weren’t as good. But beginning with the Chicago game on the road and then Tampa Bay, each week I feel like we’ve made some improvement. We are really preaching the importance of the work week. Playing up some of the things that we weren’t doing so well and then really working hard during the week on those situations.”

Q: What worked for the Falcons’ defense against the Raiders last week?

A: “Man, they flew around. They took the ball away exceptionally well. Just (from) watching that tape a couple of times already now, there were a number of guys that stepped up big. They had pressure on the quarterback. The ball was out. You name it. I think everyone was involved. Overall, it was a real good team effort and a real good defensive effort to get the takeaways.”

Q: How do you keep your team focused on trying to get the top seed in the NFC and winning your fourth straight NFC South title?

A: “We’ve tried to preach all season long, the next game, the next game and it’s the only game that you really can focus on. Especially, this season in light of all of the different distractions. All of the teams are having to deal with COVID-19, the protocols, the changes in protocols. We’ve really tried to focus on the opponent that week and really internally ourselves that week, our improvement and our execution.”

Q: The commissioner said today there would not be a playoff bubble. How are the Saints fighting through the coronavirus pandemic?

A: “We are doing our best. Each club is really, trying to pay attention to the meeting set up, the practice set up. The proper protective gear. I think as you get closer to the those games and closer toward the end of the season, possibly into the post-season, you’ll see (the protocols) getting stricter and stricter. We’ll operate accordingly.”

Q: How have you seen Atlanta defenders Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones develop over their careers?

A: “You are talking about two of their better players. Two outstanding players in the league. We’ve got great respect for those guys. I thought, obviously, there were a number of plays they were disruptive on this past Sunday. You had impact from a number of other players. When you end up with five takeaways, I don’t know what the percentages are odds are, but they are very much in your favor. That’s a credit to the way they played. The way they tackled. They had a couple of strip fumbles, an interception. You name it. All of those guys were flying around.”

Q: How high did you all evaluate Falcons rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell in the past draft?

A: “We paid close attention to it. He had very high grades. Obviously, we play close attention to our division and he’s someone who had great production, great skill-set in college. He comes from a winning program. It’s not a surprise at all to see the success that he’s having as a rookie.”

Q: How has C.J. Gardner-Johnson played for the Saints?

A: “He’s given us great snaps in the nickel position. We move him around some. He’s very smart. He’s got extremely good football IQ. Whether if its in coverage, whether if its against the run or even in the pressure looks, he’s just gotten better and better.”

Q: How have the Saints gone 7-0 without Drew Brees in the lineup over the past two seasons?

A: “I mentioned it a few weeks back, obviously when it’s the quarterback it draws more attention, but our jobs as coaches, we’re teaching, we’re coaching the whole roster and the practice squad. We’re developing these players. You hope that you can go long periods of time without injuries especially at that position and yet you want to be able to function, still win, compete to win and I think it’s an approach that it’s not just the coaches here, but the players as well. We are working hard to develop all of them.”

Falcons’ next four games

Saints at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6

Falcons at Chargers at 4:25 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 13

Buccaneers at Falcons at 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 20

Falcons at Chiefs at 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 27

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