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Saints Head Coach Sean Payton Interview

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Q: When you face the Giants is it different compared to when you face another team?

A: I don't know. I think probably early on when I was an assistant with Dallas it was closer to that time in regards to the Super Bowl. Having been an assistant in Dallas and playing New York twice each year, it seems like 20 years ago right now. We are going into our 6th year here with the Saints and certainly there are a lot of great memories that I had there and working for that organization. I think it was a huge help for me early in my career to have been with a team and in a place like that. It was something that helped me further on down the road as a candidate to become a head coach. It is a great place and the fans are passionate about their team but again like I said, it seems like an eternity since I was there last.

Q: Can you talk about Jimmy Graham's development and the trend now of tight ends?

A: I think his development happened very quickly and at the end of last year, his rookie season, I think the last four or five weeks of that season, each week you saw him improve and improve. Even in practice on Fridays when we get into our red zone work, he has really caught on to what we are doing. He is a quick learner and an extremely dedicated worker. I think, to his credit, it is year two and without the offseason that we normally would have he worked very hard down in Miami. He is in great shape and he can run. Aside from all the physical elements and the skills that he has, I think all those other intangibles that make a player special are present with Jimmy and it really helps him. He is playing with a ton of confidence right now.  

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Q: Are you using him in different ways than people would have 5-10 years ago?

A: I would say this, I think that offenses have begun to develop formations and utilize not just the tight end position but take for instance the tight end position, in other ways not just the end line left-right formation offense. Certainly we consider ourselves a two back formation team, like New York. We value a fullback and a tight end that can bring a dimension not only in the running game but the passing game. I will say this, five or ten years ago, I don't think you would have seen some of the oddball formations that you are seeing today from these teams. That has evolved over time and when you have a player that can play in space and feels very comfortable lining up outside the numbers, it allows you offensively to really get some coverages. If Jimmy Graham is by himself aligned where a split end is and the receivers are aligned to the other side of the formation, generally you can get an indicator of whether it is man or zone based on how the defense covers down. I think you have seen more and more of that from teams who possess that type of player and I think you have to be careful if you don't have a player like that because it will not be as effective. 

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Q: What has changed in the NFL that had allowed for more passing offense?

A: I think we are getting more players out of college who are more ready to protect the passer in the offensive line position because of what they are doing. I think that as we hit the last six weeks of the season, we certainly value the idea of having balance. Running the football has been a point of emphasis coming into this season. We did it very well in 09 and certainly we didn't do it as well last season. There are times when those passing numbers do get high and hopefully it is not because you are behind but that does happen when you are playing from behind. There are times when it is just the way you want to attack a team regardless of the score. It is hard for us to go into a game and say we want to be in the 30's doing this and in the 20's doing this. A lot of times games take on a different shape. Last week against Atlanta, we didn't have the same amount of snaps in the first half that we may normally have. I do think we pay attention to the strength of our team and certainly we have a lot of confidence in Drew Brees in the pocket and outside of the pocket. I also know and recognize the ally that a running attack provides the quarterback and the importance of that.

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Q:  Has the defenseless receiver had an impact on offenses?

A: I don't know if the defenseless receiver has changed our thoughts in regards to throwing the football, certainly not as much as when we go way back to illegal contact within five yards. That had a significant impact on NFL football in regards to throwing it. I think it has been, for us at least, what we are trying to do each week and what our strengths are. When you have a player like Jimmy Graham or Darren Sproles and the depth at wide receiver, I think each week it is a matter of how we see best attacking a certain team. That all being said, the improvement in our wanting to continue to work to improve rushing the football exists. We think and value that especially when we get into the later weeks and potentially into the postseason.   

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Q: What do you see out of the Giants pass rush this season?

A: Statistically speaking, from just their front, without pressure or without any dogs or blitzes, they do about as good of a job than anyone. We talked in our team meeting today about the type of front we are getting ready to face. They are very active and very talented at rushing the passer. I think you have to pay attention to that and whether that is changing the type of protection or moving the pocket or asking the running backs to help chip on their way out, it brings many things that you have to consider when you are putting together your game plan because of what you see on tape. Our media just had the same question, so our players certainly see on film the talents of these guys and we understand the challenge at hand. It is going to be an important part of this game. We are going to have to make sure that we give the quarterback enough time. We go into each week and we always talk about no turnovers and ball security so more importantly let's look to what causes turnovers. Each week, whether it is the opponent's quarterback or our quarterback, one or the other is getting pressured a little more than the other one. We think it is such an important part of winning and losing because the hurried throws, the pressure, the longer down and distance leads to what we are trying to avoid.

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Q: Do you see a change in progression in Eli this year?

A: I would definitely say that I have seen a progression in his play. Clearly, he is one of the leaders of that team and I think that he is having an outstanding season especially because statistically that haven't had the success running the football that they have had. I said this earlier, two big allies to the quarterback are good defense and the ability to run the football. What has been impressive about his season to date is despite them not having the same numbers that they would like (running the ball), he has been very consistent and very productive and a big reason why they are having success this year. He is having a fantastic season.

Q: How is the Superdome environment different from any other place in the NFL?

A: I think you start with the dome team and it can be loud because it is closed. If it is a dome team that is playing good football and you have a fan base that is excited about their team like we do, there are 52,000 people on a waiting list for season tickets. It is something that has taken a shape of its own. We have a region, following Katrina, that has embraced this team and we certainly appreciate those times that we have a chance to play at home not only because of the crowd noise, but it is a chance to play in front of our fans. Our fan base has changed dramatically over the years. It has expanded a little bit to not only Louisiana and northern Louisiana but Mississippi, Alabama, and for all the SEC football being played in the Gulf south area, there is really not a lot of professional football. You go over to Atlanta and over to Houston but this is a team that has a great fan base and it has improved and improved each year. I think that helps the element on game day and the crowd noise and excitement. 

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Q: Do you feel like it is important to help Drew Brees achieve some of the records he is chasing?

A: He answered it best when it was brought up last week, the thing that makes Drew special in the same way as Eli, what is most important is winning football games and so if that means 7-3 or 37-33, that element is most important. Any other accomplishments that come individually become icing on the cake. The thing about Drew is that he recognizes week by week that it does not have to be aesthetically pleasing to be effective and that is when you have something. The records end up being a product of hopefully winning football and not just throwing the football.

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Q: Why do you think the Giants have not been able to run the football?

A: There is nothing specific. Generally there are a number of things that can contribute to a drop off in production. I know this and I talked to our players about it, knowing Tom Coughlin and philosophically what they value there in winning football games, although maybe statistically the numbers aren't there or aren't the same, I know that their commitment to running  the football has not wavered at all. It is the same way with us. Earlier in the year our numbers weren't good but each week we recognize that is something that we have to improve on. It is a point of emphasis each week and I don't know if it is just one thing. Generally, when we looked at ourselves, we have done a little better job upfront and we finished runs. We have had a block on the edge by receivers, there are just so many things that go into a seven-yard carry that all those things need to be clicking and I know from our standpoint, it is something that we spend a ton of time talking about formational with everyone. The way we block certain fronts so that we are all on the same page and it starts inside and works its way to the tight ends, wide receivers, fullbacks and everyone that is involved in a productive run. There is a lot that goes into it.

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