New Orleans coach Sean Payton, who’s in his 13th season as head coach of the Saints, held a conference call with the Atlanta media on Wednesday.
The Falcons (1-7) play the Saints (7-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Falcons have dropped six straight games, while the Saints have won their last six games.
Payton is 18-8 against the Falcons, while Falcons coach Dan Quinn is 3-5 against the Saints.
Here’s what Payton had to say about the Falcons:
Q: How was the Saints’ bye week and what are some of the issues going into the Falcons game?
A: “We tried to get the players out of here for awhile and the coaches, too. We had a bonus prep day on Monday. We were just trying to get some of the guys who were (injured) healthy. You don’t have any control as to when the bye is. I think it was the first time for us or for me that it’s been right at the halfway point. Now, it’s kind of shifting back here to playing again. We just got off the practice field.”
Q: How did QB Drew Brees look in his first game back?
A: “There was a lot of discussion relative to would he play in that game or would we rest him and have the additional week with the bye. We really just paid attention to his rehab. He was on or ahead of schedule the whole way. That last Monday, he threw and felt really good. We went into the week with him being the starter and felt real confident. He had a real good week of practice. It carried over to what we saw in the game.”
Q: What do you see from the Falcons?
A: “Well, like any team right now, they are dealing with some injuries. Then I think, in our league, the giveaway and takeaway numbers are so important. With only 11 or 12 possessions a game, I’m sure that’s the one thing that Dan and those guys will be working on and trying to create more and protect the ball more. Like all of us, it’s something that is an ongoing weekly battle that you are working on with the players. Ball security and then the takeaways to give your team field position.”
Q: What do you see on film from Matt Ryan and the offense?
A: “They are explosive. We feel like we know this team just like they know us well. The receivers obviously have done a great job. Matt is an outstanding player. I think just from watching the film, they are leading the league in pass offense. At times, they’ve been behind so they are throwing more, but I think anytime, if you just go back through the history, regardless of records, it’s always been a one-possession game, or a one-score game, overtime or a field goal. I’m expecting the same thing this weekend.”
Q: How have the Saints built their big time of possession advantage?
A: “I think it’s a little bit of a byproduct, defensively over the last month and half, we’ve been real good on third downs getting off the field and we’ve improved offensively. If your team offense and defense on third down is playing well, you generally are going to have a time of possession lead. That is something that we’ve paid attention to and a lot of it has to do with our third-down numbers.”
Q: How is running back Alvin Kamara’s health and please discuss the play of Latavius Murray?
A: “Latavius has stepped in and he’s done a really good job. Up in Chicago, he had a lot of carries. While Alvin has been out, he’s obviously gotten more touches. Alvin practiced today and we expect him to be ready. Then it’s back to just creating the opportunities for both of those players.”