Q&A: Sean Payton on playoff matchup with Eagles
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, January 7, 2019
What stands out about this run that the Eagles are on right now?
“I think there’s a handful of things. Situationally, they’re playing well. They’re playing well in the red zone, defensively and offensively. I think they’re obviously a different team than we faced earlier in the year. A different quarterback is playing right now. I think there is a confidence you see. The one on the road was a big one for them in L.A. You just go through the games and you go through the win streak and you have Houston next, at Washington, at Chicago. They’ve kind of been in a playoff role really going back to those games needing to win to get in. So it’s impressive.”
You’ve seen Nick Foles earlier in his career and now later. Do you sense an evolution with him and his play and his maturity?
“Absolutely. I think he has done a great job within the framework of what they’re doing. They have very good weapons outside, a lot of different targets, (among) the tight ends (and) the receivers. There is a confidence level he has in operating in rhythm spreading the ball around. I think he does a great job of beating pressure with a throw. Yesterday you saw him a handful of times with a free rusher coming in his face make some throws outside the numbers that were real impressive. I think he’s one of those players that’s playing with great rhythm and there’s a calmness obviously when you watch him play that we all see.”
How much do you think Golden Tate has found his groove within that offense?
“I know that fourth down play. He’s a fantastic run after the catch player. He’s very savvy (and) smart. He’s competitive. He has great feet. What else can you say. We’ve seen him over the years and we have such respect for his ability to create third down, tight quarters and play he made yesterday was one of the plays a game.”
What are the keys to stopping Darren Sproles out of the backfield?
“He’s doing so much for them. You see him punt returning. You see him getting handoffs, releasing into routes. He’s a very, very smart player. That’s one of his great traits along with his ability. Rarely does he do something to surprise you (makes a mental mistake) and I think he makes for a clean target for the quarterback. He is able to release in zone or man (and) react accordingly. He has very good elusiveness and quickness. He’s done a good job with their draws and their one-back run schemes and then obviously he’s a dangerous punt returner, but someone who’s a special player.”
Is there any particular area with the Eagles, especially their defense, that you think will present a big challenge this time around that they’ve been doing better than the last time you played them?
“Our league is game to game and one of the things that you know going in is going to be pass rush, (and the importance of) pass protection. They have a dynamic rush front. Jim (Schwartz) and those guys do a great job getting after the passer. Malcolm (Jenkins), (the) secondary, they’re very, very smart players. This is the Super Bowl champions. You have a game and it’s over with and now you’re on to the next game and obviously this is the most important one. But, I would say their ability to get after the quarterback and make him throw it earlier than you want to is something they’ve done very well.”
How does getting (Timmy) Jernigan back change that front?
“It’s significant when you have healthy guys back in your lineup.”
Stylistically, how different are (Nick) Foles and (Carson) Wentz. Does the offense change based on who’s in there?
“It is hard to say. I am sure there are certain things that each do well and certain things that I am sure Doug (Pederson) and those guys on their staff try to feature. Both have good arms. Both have great vision and real good location. Then when you start dealing with (Alshon) Jeffery and you start dealing with (Zach) Ertz and you start dealing with (Golden) Tate. You look at (it and) here are the things that you have to defend. You have to be able to handle (Nelson) Agholor. You have to be able to hang and handle these targets and it is more than just one. I think that is one of the things that makes their offense go is their ability. You saw it in the final drive yesterday. One play it is Jeffery, the next play it is down to (Darren) Sproles, and then there is Ertz. You have to defend a lot of good targets.”
You said that the Eagles are a different team since when you played them, but how different is your team right now from maybe you know when you when you have that big blowout against them?
“I think that hopefully we’re further down the road, more experienced relative to the games we’ve played in since then. I think that we’re looking forward to having a good week of practice, studying the film, paying close attention to all the things that have taken place between that last game and now and yet even back further. That’s the great thing about this tournament. You get a chance to play in advance and certainly understand the sense of urgency.”
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