Greetings from New Orleans, where we will previewing the opponents’ portion of the Saints-Seahawks playoff pairing this week.
First thing to notice: It’s cold. Colder than Seattle, I hear. Here’s a local note on that from Trey Lles of NOLA.com and the Times-Picayune.
The Saints don’t return to the practice field until Tuesday, so news from here might be at a minimum today. However, some Saints spoke yesterday, and below is a transcript with some of what they had to say:
Coach Sean Payton
Benjamin Watson just told us he was working on two hours sleep. How are you doing this morning?
“Pretty good. I probably slept in a little more. (It’s) just getting adjusted to the travel or the adrenaline. I think everybody was getting tired by the time we landed.”
Did the adrenaline kick in again seeing all those fans on the airport access road at 4:30 in the morning?
“A couple of us were talking about it. I don’t know that I was surprised. It’s rare that we come home on a Saturday night, which makes it easier for people (to come out), but certainly we have a great, faithful fan base. It’s amazing. You kind of clear the one group, you make a turn and then you have five times as many down the homestretch. It’s a pretty cool thing that’s unfolded over the years here. We never take it for granted.”
How does it feel to never have to be asked again about the franchise not having won a road playoff game?“I mentioned this yesterday. I’m not interested in the franchise’s history. I said it to our players that if that were the case, we would be carrying a lot of baggage with us. Our job is to win and our job is to be consistent and be successful whether we play at home or on the road. We played well enough yesterday to get that win. Certainly when you watch the tape, the score could have been a lot bigger. When you look at the time of possession, third down snaps, the rushing totals, total yardage, I thought defensively we did a great job considering some of the injuries we had. The running game really helped us and in the kicking game we came up with the plays we needed. It was a great team game.”
LeSean McCoy didn’t get much going in the game. How impressed were you with how the defense played?“I think getting off the field on third down (was) number one. I think number two, we tackled well, pursued to the ball. We really felt that was going to be important. He’s such an exceptional player and had the ability to cutback. Your angles and gap integrity have to be really good, because it might start out going right, then all of a sudden, it ends up all the way around the left end. I thought our guys did a real good job of that.”
In terms of going back to Seattle, does the fact that you were there a month ago help in terms of your familiarity with the stadium and the team?
“Yes. Each stadium presents a different environment to some degree. For our team we have a lot of young players on this team. Going to Philadelphia is one thing. Going to Seattle is another. Each can be challenging in their own ways. Certainly noise is an issue on the road with the challenges to communication it can create. Those are all things you experience, you have to work thought and that we try to replicate here.”
Do you anticipate Keenan Lewis being available for this game?
“We’ll keep you guys posted on any of our players.”
With the 34-7 loss to Seattle, do you look at this is a totally different game?
“That was a game we played not too long ago. This is a team that has been dominant all season. They’re the number one seed. They’re unbelievably talented defensively. Offensively they’re coached very well. They’re on a roll. They’ve had one of those magical seasons and we have our work cut out for this one.”
You mentioned last night’s score could have been more lopsided. It’s especially true statistically in the postseason that a team loses the turnover battle and wins a game. Is that an example of having survived that?
“I think so. I think at halftime, the whole team felt we were 7-6 and to some degree we were fortunate to be down just a point after the turnovers. We felt like if we put our best football together and executed and did the things we had to do then the result would take care of itself.”
How impressed were you with how the team was able to run the ball from start to finish?“It was important. I thought we controlled both lines of scrimmage. When you do that, you have a good chance of winning.”
Tight End Benjamin Watson
How nice is it to get the whole questioning about never winning a road playoff game off your backs?
“I honestly didn’t even know about that stat until maybe last week. It is great for the city. It is great for the franchise to get a road win and it is great for our team, just momentum as we move through the playoffs. To win on the road in this league is tough as we saw throughout the regular season. To win a road game in a hostile environment, the cold, in Philadelphia, in the playoffs, it brings great confidence for our team. We know moving forward that it is all road games from here on end. We are going to have to keep winning road games if we want to keep progressing through the playoffs.”
When you win a game on the last play does that sometimes give a team an extra bounce?“I don’t know if it takes more out of you because you are so stressed out the whole time or what, but I know it is kind of up and down game and to win on a field goal like that with a guy that just got on this team, it just shows what this league is about and you never know when your number is going to be called. You have to be ready at all times. I think Shayne (Graham) did a great job coming in and he probably doesn’t know half the guys’ names on the team yet, but he kicked the winning field goal. It is exciting for all of us, but we have to move on to next week. We are going to have to play even better to get a win in Seattle.”
How much of the experience of the first game in Seattle you think will help you?
“I think that helps us. I think there are parts of it that will help us and parts of it that we want to forget. Obviously the feeling of fighting off and being in the hole like we were and really never being in the game. We can look at that and say that won’t happen again and it can also give us motivation to not let it happen again. We can go back and look at the film and see why things happened. I think it is important when you play a team twice to go back and look at the film to see what you did well and things that you didn’t do so well and kind of take in that to formulate what you need for a game plan when you can be successful the next time. When it comes down to it it is all about execution. Definitely with these two teams and I’ve only been in one game, but obviously with these two teams there is a history over the last few years with games and us not being able to win up there, just how hard-fought battles. There is a lot of and extra emotion when it comes down to going up there. This is a new game. It’s in the postseason and we have to face that as a game we have to win and move on.”
How many hours of sleep are you working on right now?
“I’m working on about two. Do I sound like it? Well I got home about 5:30 a.m. and with kids and them not seeing me for the last couple of days I just got up and kept it moving. I’ll get some sleep tonight.”
How did it feel when you guys came in and you saw all the fans at the airport waiting for you guys?
“That was tremendous. In my 10 years in the NFL I have never witnessed anything like that. I’ve never witnessed anything like when we lose a game there are still people out there welcoming us back. I knew coming to New Orleans being that I have my wife and family down here, this is a special place. They love their team and the team is a part of the community. You are talking about a couple thousand people out there at 4:30 in the morning welcoming a football team back. You just don’t see that at a lot of other places. It is a credit to the fans and it is a credit to our team that the guys on this team connect with the community even though most of us aren’t from here when we play here, and I have only been here for a year, you start to feel somewhat of a connection with your neighborhood and the people that come to support you every Sunday.”
Is it an advantage to you guys that you just played in Seattle a few weeks ago?
“That is what I am saying, there are some good things that you want to remember from that game and some things we want to forget. We were there not too long ago. Nothing would be a surprise to any of us. We know how hostile it is. We know how good their offense and defense are. It is almost like playing a divisional opponent at this point because we are playing them twice in a matter of weeks. The familiarity there with both teams it is either going to come down to execution like it always does. We have to out execute them. We are going to have a great plan going in, but when it comes down to playoff games, it comes down to two teams that are well-coached and talented teams and who can execute the best.”
Nose Tackle Brodrick Bunkley
The defense did a great job of containing LeSean McCoy last night. How can you translate that into going into Seattle against a guy like Marshawn Lynch?“We did a great job of preparation. Rob Ryan and the coaching staff, they have us – with the way the practice regiment is during the week – they keep us well prepared. Having played these guys five weeks ago or so, I think it will be easy to – well, not easy – we have some things we have to look at and have some things we need to focus on in our upcoming matchup with the Seahawks.”
How much of a relief is it now to not have to hear the national media or us ask you about not winning a playoff game on the road?“It never really was an issue. I know guys wanted to make it a big deal, but our team and the guys in this locker room know what we’re capable of. We have to just focus, leave those things aside, and just focus on the job at hand. That’s our main goal. Things turn out the way they do on the road or even at home sometimes, but it’s just the nature of the game. The best thing that we can do is prepare, practice hard like we’ve been doing these last few weeks, and go in with a good mind of what’s going on and a good sense of what’s happening during game time situations.”
Many predicted this game to be a shootout, but you guys were the fourth ranked defense in the league this year. Did you and the guys on defense take that personally?
“The guys on this defense, we don’t go about it thinking about rankings and stats or things of that nature. We have a job and everybody has a piece to this puzzle that fits in every game. We focus on those things during the week. The numbers fall in where they may, but our job is to go out there and focus on our duties as a player (and) as a part of this team to go in and focus on our duties and bring them to life in the game.”
Having already been to Seattle and experiencing that atmosphere, do you think that will help this time around?“Definitely. It was loud out there, we expected that coming in. When you face an opponent previously in the season, you kind of have a better idea of what you’re going against and it helps you prepare for it a little bit better.”
Do you think you guys can take an advantage in that you are fresh coming off of a victory, meanwhile this Seattle team may have been kicking back and just watching and may have a bit of a rust factor to them?“You never know. You never know in those situations. I was just having that conversation with somebody else, but like I said, I can’t call it. That factor rolls both ways. You can easily say that if we get the win, these guys didn’t let the rust settle in. If we lost, you could easily say these guys are rusty. We try not to think about stuff like that. I know guys came in today ready to work. Guys are working out hard, working hard, getting a run in like they’re supposed to. Guys are coming in today as well on the day that they’re off, coming in and getting the work in like they’re supposed to because everyone’s excited. It’s a one game season right now. Everybody is amped up and we’re definitely fortunate to have a second chance to get at these guys, so everybody is looking forward to it.”
You guys had played poorly on the road at the end of the season. How did you know that that wasn’t going to affect your team once the playoffs started?“Just knowing what we have as a unit. Knowing the guys that have been here, knowing the guys that have been working hard, busting our tails in camp. Just knowing what we have as a unit and what we can accomplish as a team, that ultimately drove us to do what we can in kind of harsh conditions.”
I noticed on Rob Ryan’s play-call sheet that he had a picture of his dad on there. Did he talk to any of you guys about that?“No sir he did not.”