Here’s what Saints coach Sean Payton had to say in a conference call with the Atlanta media Wednesday:
On the two different games the Saints played against the Bucs and Browns: “I think the best word would be ‘inconsistent.’ I think early in the season defensively, Week 1, we struggled with Tampa Bay. We struggled on third down getting off the field, the explosive plays, and of course, we had the two turnovers in a high-scoring game. When you go minus-2 in that statistic, it’s hard to win. This past weekend was different in the type of game that we’ve played. We were real inconsistent offensively. Missed opportunities early in the game defensively. For the most part, we played much improved and yet towards the end we gave up an explosive play, another opportunity for them to tie the game and send it into overtime. ‘Inconsistent’ would be one word. Like every team after two weeks we’re all in a race to improve this early in the season.”
On the production of Alvin Kamara and Mike Thomas: “Some of those numbers in Week 1, based on what we were seeing, the type of game that unfolded, it became a little high. It’s hard to plan sometimes where the ball is going. Certainly, Alvin and Mike are guys that we want to get the football to and yet we recognize the importance of having that balance. So, we didn’t run the ball as much as we would have liked in the first game. Last week, toward the second half we started to make some hay running the ball. So, but after two weeks, those numbers are pretty high for both of those players.”
On the Falcons’ two games: “Those are two good opponents to open the year. You are playing a Super Bowl champion and then another playoff team in the division. I think situationally, both teams, in the history of this game, your third downs, your red zone and your takeaway numbers always seem to be what decides the contest. That’s not a unique formula, but certainly it’s one that exists in this game.”
On the Falcons’ defensive-line alignments, which including standing up Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley at times: “You’re constantly trying to give different looks, and anytime you can create a level of confusion or even just slow down the process a good quarterback has to see what you are doing and how you are protecting. Those are things that come a lot of times on third down. We got hit with a couple pressures last week against Cleveland where we were one man short. It’s part of the deal I guess.”
On rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport: “He’s doing well. He’s getting more and more playing time. He’s strong. I like the way that he pursues and runs. Obviously, he’ll be an important part of what we are going to do defensively throughout the year.”
On facing Falcons center Alex Mack: “That’s a great question especially with the way they run the ball and where they like to target the runs. He’s clearly one of the better centers in the (NFL). He can target certain blocks that maybe some guys normally can’t. He’s very smart. He’s strong in pass (protection) with anchor. It’s such a vital part of the offensive line. You see that weekly when you are watching the Atlanta cutoffs. We study their offense not just when we play them, but we’ll always kind of peek week to week at their numbers and look at certain runs and passes. You see that consistently from him. He’s certainly a huge part of what they do.”
On the Falcons’ rushing attack: “They landmark their runs so well. They’ve got a great play-action passing game off of those same runs. It forces you defensively to set an edge properly. There is a lot of stress involved when that ball either hits the outside or also cuts up. When you have the talented running backs and you have a line that’s been together now, I think it becomes problematic. You have to look closely at how you want to defend that. All the while, you’re thinking of the receiving corps and what they can do coming off of those run looks.”
On Falcons middle linebacker Duke Riley: “We get an in-depth scouting report. We take a look at all of the film that we can. I know this, there are, just like very defense there are some key principles that Dan (Quinn) and his staff hold close to and value. Obviously, we are in the business where the next man is up. He’s having that opportunity now. It’s a limited exposure relative to the snaps that we’ve seen him play. We understand where he’s playing in the base and in the (nickel). We saw a little bit more last week of maybe some more nickel to some personnel groupings they might have played base to. I don’t know if that was a result of the depth at linebacker of by choice. We’ve got to look at that when we get into the game. How much base? How much nickel? He’s someone that is smart and clearly knows their defense well. I can’t speak on behalf of (linebackers coach) Mike (Nolan’s) workout, but I’m familiar with the players.”
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