Following Saints conquest of Bears, Payton expects stiffer test from Bucs
A day after the New Orleans Saints downed the Chicago Bears 21-9 in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs, Saints coach Sean Payton reflected Monday on what he saw in the game and in the video review following the victory.
“There’s an added sense of urgency because you have to win to continue playing,” Payton said. “I thought defensively, we played very well throughout the game. In the second half, we were able to put three drives together that really took up most of the second half. We get still photos of each drive. I can tell when we’ve had a long drive when the booklet we receive is pretty thick.
The first two scoring drives were important, the third drive that resulted in a play down at the 1-yard line that really swayed the time of possession defensively, we did a real good job with third down, there were a number of things we’re going to clean up or have to clean up and yet, the third down numbers weren’t poor.”
Michael Thomas returned for the first time in four weeks, and the threat of the star wide receiver affected the ways Chicago defended the Saints.
“You get a lot of cloud coverage, shell coverage,” Payton said. “There were some tough looks relative to his alignments. I thought he played well. I saw it in the week of practice. I saw his preparation. You felt his presence and it was different. The first touchdown was big so I was encouraged.”
New Orleans has endured a ton of injuries this year to put themselves among the final eight teams still standing in the league.
“There’s a long history with these guys,” Payton said. “You don’t know how the injury bug’s going to hit your team at times. Guys have missed some big games through no fault of their own. You’re trying to be as healthy as possible this time of the season.”
The Saints beat the Buccaneers 34-23 at home to open the season on Sept. 13 before demolishing Tampa Bay on the road 38-3 on Nov. 8 in a shocker to all observers. Payton doesn’t think the past two matchups affect the level of challenge his team faces Sunday.
“I think that happens in this league occasionally,” Payton said. “Look, you’re typically playing hard-fought division games. Certainly, we understand how good they’re playing right now looking at the film and the way they’ve played in the last month to month and a half. When the playoffs come and you’re playing a division opponent like this, it’s a whole new season, it’s entirely different.”
Part of the Bucs surge on offense has been wideout Antonio Brown, who has emerged as a big play threat in recent weeks for Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.
“There’s an explosive element you see each week in the last four weeks, three weeks as I study his touchdown reels and look at these big plays, he’s really begun to find his rhythm in that offense,” Payton said. “They’ve done a good job of getting him the ball.”
The Saints host the Bucs at 5:40 p.m. Sunday.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…