Make the jump for all of your post-game quotes and links. There's a lot there for you this morning. On another note, there will be an open game thread tonight for the MNF matchup between the Bucs and the Panthers. I figured a lot of us would be watching this one since its critical to the Saints future. Grab a cold one and be here tonight at kickoff for all of your in-game chatter! Also, props to MtnExile for always keeping our "Who Dat Say" graphic current and fresh.
Head Coach Sean Payton
"From an injury standpoint, Randall Gay had a concussion. To what extent, we’ll know a little bit more tomorrow. He came out of the game and then felt a little bit better and went back in but the symptoms began to re-occur so we held him out. Courtney Roby should be fine. Other than those two players we didn’t have much. I told the players afterwards that this was one of the more complete team wins that we’ve had around here in a while. What I mean by that is that when we needed a stop at the end of the game we got it; the defense – to a man – is playing well, and we were able to get that stop. When we needed to cover a kick we were able to do that. And then of course offensively we needed a first down and we were able to do that. I was pleased with the effort. That’s a good team we played today, and it’s a team obviously that is greatly improved from years past. I thought all week that we handled the distractions and in the end we ended up making our plays and not hurting ourselves with turnovers and played one of our better games of the season."
What was your thought process on the fourth-and-one call?
"I was a little frustrated with the third down play; they baited us into a pass. I felt like we were going to need more than just a field goal and it was really an opportunity to put it on the guys up front to get a little less than a yard. Mike Karney did a good job; he got a lot of push inside. We need to continue to work on that down-and-distance and be a little bit more consistent there, but at least we were able to get it."
Was there something you saw that you thought you might be able to run better against this team?
"They’re a cover-two team and the last time we played them they did a real good job of playing zone and they were able to do that and still get pressure with their four-man rush because of guys like (John) Abraham and (Jonathan) Babineaux who are playing really well. Also I thought the draws were going to be effective and they were. I thought our guys up front did a good job to neutralize some of the pass rush and Pierre (Thomas) and Reggie (Bush) did a real good job, especially on first down. I think we ran about three or four draw plays and got positive yards. Obviously we had good balance. The red area was a little bit of a concern and what concerned me a little at halftime was that we didn’t too well on third down, compared to Atlanta. But we were able to start fast. The two-minute drive at the end of the first half was important to get some points on the board and re-take the lead. Again, I thought it was a good team win."
Can you elaborate more on Pierre Thomas’ performance?
"He was significant. We just finished giving him a game ball. He did so much in that game – both in the running game and obviously in the return game. The kick return there is a play that ends up really winning the game for you. He has just worked extremely hard. Even when it comes to that third-and-four call at the end of the game that let us take a knee, those are big plays for us and he’s worked real hard to earn that. I was real pleased for him."
What did you see from the Falcons and specifically Matt Ryan?
"They’re a good team. They have a lot of different weapons. I thought the receiver play for them has really improved. The feeling of confidence in the position of quarterback that they have right now of getting them the ball when they’re open, you can see that. You talk about Michael Jenkins and Roddy White and then in the backfield with (Michael) Turner and (Jerious) Norwood, but I think the quarterback has given that team a stable player that can spread the ball around, can operate in the two-minute offense very well. We tried to give him a lot of looks defensively and he was smart enough to get into the right plays, so that’s a much-improved team. I think Mike (Smith) has done a great job of really turning the face of that organization around. They have done a great job of evaluating talent and bringing the right players in. They’re dangerous offensively. They can run it well and throw it well, and they have a quarterback – most importantly – that gives them stability and something that they’ve missed for quite a while."
On the fourth down call, do you have a lot of plays for that situation?
"We have a list. We have a short-yardage list of about four runs and maybe two or three throws. We ran to the right on the first drive of the game and we missed a block and they were able to hold us short. We ran another short-yardage call earlier in the game that wound up being an audible to Reggie and they covered it pretty well. We systematically look at that list and that sub-category of plays for that situation and we felt like running right at them with a quick-hitter – and Mike (Karney) has done a really good job of handling that belly play. You’re just looking to get hats on hats and be ready to do that. We ran that play in the first half and they were able to hold us from getting the first down when a linebacker slipped off one of our guys up front and made the play. We came out and ran it on the second sound with a real quick cadence. That was a big play; obviously that was a real big play in the game."
Was the challenge on the Finneran touchdown more about possession?
"We pushed the guy out and the question was if the ball was secure when the second foot dragged. Looking at it two or three times later, obviously he had possession. The first challenge we had on the interception ended up being a good one, and obviously that one was not."
How big of a gamble do you think that fourth down was?
"It’s a gamble because if you don’t get it, you’re down three. The only upside to it if you don’t get it is field position, you have them pinned back and can hopefully get the ball back. I thought that with the time left in the game there were still going to be a couple of possessions for both sides."
What were you able to do on defense, especially on the final stop?
"I felt like the base that we were getting to was a little more zone. They have guys where they’re able to take an inside receiver and wiggle across the formation and they do that with about 20 seconds left on the play clock and Matt (Ryan) gathers some information of what you’re in coverage-wise. I thought we did more of a good job later with our zone coverage and really kind of forcing them to run the ball and not give up the big play in the passing game. One of the things that we were able to do in this game – and they converted a couple of third down passes and a third-and-long – but by and large we didn’t give up the sorts of plays that we did in the first game in Atlanta when you saw Norwood with the big gain and you saw Roddy White with the big touchdown pass. It was a little bit more patient game plan and I thought we did a good job of executing it. It just comes down to a third down play there and we felt like they were going to punt because of the time left, and I credit our guys with coming up with that stop because we needed it. I do think that that’s one of the better offenses that we’ve seen this year, and certainly in our division."
What does it mean for the defense to come up with that big stop after giving up some other big third downs?
"This was a good team win. Whether it was the kicking game, or the big return, but that was huge at that point of the game. We came up with a big stop. It’s a team effort. When you look at these guys – talking about Atlanta – they’ve won every game this year when they have a first quarter lead and have had losses when they’ve gotten behind and we were able to get ahead. I thought it was as good a team win as we’ve had in a while. Jason David got us the one turnover which turned out to be a significant play. There were a lot of good things and they’re an opponent that we think is pretty good."
What are your thoughts on having to play in Chicago on Thursday night?
"I’ve gone through this before in Dallas where we played the Thursday game and I think we just have to be mindful of finishing the game. We had a number of different schedules when I was in Dallas and I think it can be a little too much. It becomes a little more mental this week. Tomorrow they’ll come in and lift and run. We kind of have to put two days into Tuesday and two days into Wednesday and fly out Wednesday at 5:00. It’s going to be a little more walkthroughs and a little less practice and we’ll get ready to play the game Thursday night."
How much does the fact that Garrett Hartley having not missed a kick affect your play-calling and how much of a boost has he been?
"First, it’s a credit to our guys in personnel. Obviously we would’ve liked to have drafted this player because he’s playing with a lot of confidence. I’m just excited that we have him. From the first day that he worked out, you could see a little bit of pop off his foot and he’s a guy that our players have a lot of confidence in. To have a young kicker in the program that has that confidence and the leg-strength – he’s handling the kickoffs equally as well – that’s significant, because you guys know that games come down to the last possession and we’ve been able to lean on him and he’s another one of the players that we gave a game ball to. He’s done a good job."
How have the injuries in the secondary affected you?
"It hurt us in some of our sub packages. It limited us to nickel and not dime and I thought Gary (Gibbs) and those guys handled it pretty well because this is a team that gets into a lot of personnel groupings. It just removed some of the packages that we had. We played a lot of guys and our staff defensively did a good job making the adjustments. You look at corner one Mike McKenzie, who was out, one or two – Tracy Porter, Randall Gay, Aaron Glenn, we really tried to get the right guys in with the right defensive calls and in the end we did a good job that way.
Running Back Reggie Bush
You were talking about improving the running game on Monday. Can you talk about this probably being the first day this season the offense relied on the rushing attack?
"Yes and we won the game. I’ve always been in favor of running the ball. The run sets up the pass. That’s kind of football 101. We ran the ball well today. Pierre (Thomas) ran the ball well. We were able to force them to respect the running game. That opened things up for Drew (Brees) and it took some time off the clock too. I think that’s (time of possession) a key reason why we won the game."
Can you talk about the rushing performance of you and Pierre?
"We ran the ball well. When you run the ball like we did today, it forces defenses to respect you and the run game. He ran the ball well. He ran hard. He made plays. The kickoff return was huge. He hasn’t returned kicks in a while. To go in there and return a kick like that was huge on that last drive."
Can you discuss if your injury derailed what was shaping up to be a Pro Bowl season, scoring nine touchdowns in nine games?
"I try not to think about that. I was having a really good season up to a point. I honestly thought I could score 20 touchdowns. It didn’t happen. You can’t focus on the past. You focus on what we have. We still have three games left. We’re still not out of the playoffs yet. We have three tough games ahead of us starting in Chicago where we haven’t won yet. It’s going to be cold there with bad weather conditions and Detroit, a team that we obviously can’t sleep on and Carolina, a team that already beat us once. We have to think about what’s ahead of us and not think about the past and the injury. I felt like myself today."
Did you think that the running today proved that it can work with you and Pierre?
"In the first year, my rookie year, when me and Deuce (McAllister) were running the ball, we showed we could run the ball pretty well. Last year we got away from it a little bit. I always felt like we could run the ball. We just had to do it. We just had to make it happen. I never thought we couldn’t run the ball."
Can you talk about the how the running game can support Drew Brees?
"Drew is a great player. I think he’s the best in the NFL, but even then, he needs a supporting cast. We don’t want him to do it all by ourselves. We want to be out there helping him run the ball. As running backs, we want to open up holes, run the ball well and that in turn helps him out a lot. We felt like we had a balanced game today and that was a key reason why we won."
Cornerback Jason David
On the defense playing a complete game today:
"It wasn’t a perfect game. We played well as a team. I think special teams play was the difference between this week and last week. Pierre (Thomas) had a big return late in the game to get the offense in scoring position. It was definitely a team win. It was just like the Monday Night game. Everyone played their hearts out."
On the defense’s mindset going in to the final Atlanta drive:
"All we thought about was who was going to make a play. Who was going to be the hero? We all just stepped up and did our job. That’s what happens when you execute on defense. We executed as a team and as a defense and got the win."
Wide Receiver Marques Colston
On what was going through his mind on the fourth and one fourth quarter call:
"That set the tone for the rest of the game. We definitely needed this win and coach knew that too. It was a huge play and we were able to convert."
Linebacker Scott Shanle
On the play of the defense:
"There were times during the game that we needed to step up. They drove the ball on us, but later in the game we stepped up and got them off the field."
On the impact of the win:
"It was very important. We have been looking at it as a four game season. We kept telling ourselves that we need to go 4-0 to give us a chance to do something. We have a tough game this week with a short turnaround, but this is as focused the team has been a ll year and I think we are ready to make a run."
Defensive End Will Smith
On how it felt to play after this past week:
"It was a roller coaster ride, but it felt good to run out of that tunnel. It felt weird not being with the guys the whole week and then just showing up on Saturday. It felt really good to be back with the team. I just wanted to get back out there and play football."
On the Falcons final drive of the game:
"We knew that it was going to be up to us to stop them. We had been going back and forth all game. We knew we had to come up with a big stop in order for our offense to win the game."
Linebacker Scott Fujita
On the Falcons 9-minute plus drive in the third quarter and only giving up a field goal:
"That gassed us a little bit. It was a heck of a drive that they put together. That was a big turning point in the game and it helped us solidify that win."
On the Falcons final drive:
"Third down defense has been one of our strong points this season. We are one of the better third down defensive teams in the league, but we didn’t do real well today. They completed some third and real longs, but when it mattered most guys stepped up."
Running Back Pierre Thomas
On today’s win:
"This win was very big for us. From here on out every game is like a playoff game for us. We wanted to come out here and take it to these guys. Last time we played them they came out and took it to us. Our main focus was to try to run the ball. We wanted to make that a point. We did a great job. The offensive line did a heck of a job for Reggie and myself."
On the 88-yard kick return:
"Honestly, I was joking around with Billy Miller before I went out there. I told him that it was tough that (Courtney) Roby went down because he was doing a good job. It would be crazy if I went out there and returned it. He said that I was going to do it. So, I went out there and the guys did a great job of blocking. I saw the hole and then cut back. I took it all the way down. Roby would have taken it back for a touchdown. I’m a little to slow. I have to take what I can get. Coach talked about field position. We needed it and it was big."
Quarterback Drew Brees
On the importance of the running game:
"That was big. Obviously, we wanted to come into this game and be balanced. Certainly, the run game setting up the play action and our ability to throw the ball effectively sets up the run again. I just felt like we played a very complimentary game of football on offense today. It was pretty even in terms of yardage. That’s when you know you are putting together a complete game."
On the fourth and one call:
"I wasn’t surprised by it. You just kind of have to have a feeling. There is no manual that tells you whether you are supposed to go for it or not in those situations. You just have to evaluate the situation, evaluate the psyche and the energy. I think there was no doubt in our minds that we all wanted to go for that and we would indeed get the first down. I think that it definitely took some courage on Coach Payton’s part to keep us out there. Obviously, after that, there was no doubt we were going to score a touchdown. We do. Defense holds them. We keep it for two first downs and the game is over. It is crazy how much that changes a game when something like that goes your way."
On balancing the run with the pass:
"From the get go I think that you can see that we were running the ball very effectively. If that’s what’s working, then we are going to keep doing it. We always go into every game with the thought that we want to mix the run and the pass. We will see what’s working and who has the hot hand. Today that guy seemed to be Pierre Thomas."
On having a full compliment of healthy players on the field:
"It was great. We have the ability to spread it around and give guys opportunities. The more guys we are able to have out there, the more the defense has to be able to key on certain guys in certain situations. It gives you more opportunities for better matchups. We were able to exploit some of those matchups today."
"It was definitely a tough loss to a very good division opponent today. As you know, as the record indicates, playing on the road is very, very tough here in the NFC South. We weren’t hitting on all cylinders. We weren’t able to do the things we wanted to do offensively, defensively, and on special teams. Give credit to Coach Payton and his staff. I thought they did a great job in their preparation and execution. We’ll go back right now and get back to Atlanta, watch the tape, and make the corrections. It’s a 16 game season. It’s a process that this football team is going through."
On giving up an 88 yard kickoff return late in the game:
"We went down the field and were able to get the lead and change momentum. It’s very disappointing that we weren’t able to cover that kick more efficiently and make them at least go a long way. We put ourselves on a short field and actually got into a situation where they had to go for
it on fourth and one. That part of it was very disappointing."
On the Falcons run defense:
"Not good. Not up to our standards at all. I thought that they did a nice job running the football. We’ll definitely have to take a good hard look at that….There will have to be a lot of things corrected."
On the strength of the NFC South:
"I think that this division, without a doubt, is the toughest division in the NFL. I think that all four teams are outstanding teams. They do a number of things good, offensively, defensively, and special teams. When you play within the division, you’ve got to have your big boy pants on. You’ve got to be ready to go."
On if the Falcons came out flat today:
"I don’t know if we came out flat. I know that our execution was not like we have had in the past. It’s something that we have prided ourselves on fast starts. We did not start as fast as we’ve had throughout the season."
On the growth and production of Matt Ryan this season:
"The maturation every game, you see it in what he does. We get to see it every day in practice. I thought that Matt threw the ball extremely well. I thought that Roddy (White) had an outstanding game with his ten catches for 164 yards. We made some very key third down conversions offensively that allowed us to stay in the game."
Quarterback Matt Ryan
"I think we did a lot of great things offensively. Of course we would have loved to get the ball back to have a chance to win the game, but they (Saints) executed to run the clock out. I thought they played harder this time than the last time we saw them. You have to give them credit in that they came to play and beat us today."
"This team (Falcons) has bounced back all year long. As Coach Smitty (Smith) told us after the game, the NFL is a 16-game season and not a one game tournament. I am confident we can come back. We’ve had a great year and there’s so much football ahead of us. We have a lot of games left to play... I’m not worried at all."
Wide Receiver Brian Finneran
"This loss hurt. I thought we moved the ball well and did what we had to do. We’ve been on a roll, getting victories, playing well. We did have that one turnover and that also hurt us. We just need to regroup, watch film and get ready for Tampa next week. That’s also a big division game for us."
Linebacker Keith Brooking
"I thought our defense let the team down today. Our offense did its job and scored enough points for us to win. You have to hand it to the Saints – they came out fired up and never gave up. They took it to us. At the end there, we tried to get the offense back on the field. But they (saints) had those two long runs on first down and that was basically it."
Cornerback Chris Houston
"I thought we prepared for Brees today and for the most part we did not give up the big play. I haven’t seen the stats yet but it seemed like they mixed it up even with the pass and the run. They took it to us and played a lot better here than in our place. They won this time and we don’t have many days to dwell on this one – we prepare for Tampa starting tomorrow."
"We know that if we can get the stop there, we knew that (Ryan) was going to take us down and get some points on the board," said Falcons center Todd McClure, a native of Baton Rouge. "So it was tough not to be able to get an opportunity to do that."
"I'm not second-guessing Coach Smith," McClure said. "It's his call. We just go out and play whatever is called. He thought we were going to get a chance to get the ball back, but it didn't happen."
"It's tough," said Ryan, the third overall pick in the April draft. "You definitely want to have a chance at the end of the game. They made the plays at the end of the game and we didn't. So in that sense, it's frustrating. But you have to get over it; you have to get past it and you have to get ready for next week.
"Everybody is frustrated with the loss at this point. But, at the same time, we're still in position to get done what we want to get done."
"On the draw, they did a good job," Ryan said. "They stunted and brought a guy around (Saints defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy). I've got be able to see that and make somebody miss. Then, I missed the in-cut (to Finneran); I threw it too far inside.
"If you take advantage of those situations you don't have to worry about it on fourth down. I put it on myself for the second- and third-down plays. You have to do a better job of that."
"Like Smitty says, it's a 16-game season. It's not one game, it's a process," Ryan said. "One game isn't going to make or break the outcome.
"We still have everything that we want in front of us. We're capable of getting into the playoffs. Now, it's about getting ready for next week and putting this one behind us and learning from it."
"You'd like more consistency, in terms of third down," linebacker Scott Fujita said, after the Falcons converted seven of 12. "With (Atlanta's) offense, there are a lot of different threats.
"But it's kind of how big the play is when you step up."
"That's kind of how this season has been, just guys stepping up and making plays," David said. "We lost some DBs early on in the season, we lost some last week, but we have good enough players that we are going to battle back."
"We knew that Atlanta likes to start fast," David said. "But our plan was to get off to a fast start as well, whether it was offense or defense.
"The D-line did a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback. I think he kind of spit the ball out a little faster than he wanted to. Coach (defensive coordinator Gary) Gibbs made a great call, and I used a little different technique than they are used to seeing on film. I think that's what allowed me to make the jump on the ball like I did."
"It felt good," Smith said of his return. "It kind of felt weird not being with the guys the whole week, then Saturday just showing up and doing the walkthrough and all that other stuff.
"All the guys came up and said they were happy for me to be back. All the coaches were excited. I just felt great to be back with the team. They were fired up to have me back."
"It's not difficult (preparing each week)," Smith said." As long as I'm there practicing every week, it's not really a big deal. It is what it is for now, and then we go from there to see what happens."
"As a safety I haven’t seen those holes in a long time," Milloy said. "It was tough. And very effective."
"It was definitely a curveball for us that we didn’t adjust to,"
-Lawyer Milloy, on the Saints run game
"We played against a really good offense," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "Bottom line is we left a lot of plays out there. I feel like we let our offense down."
"They ran a couple different run plays at us they hadn’t really shown a lot in our breakdown of the film; that’s no excuse," he said. "You let your technique take care of that. As long as you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, taking care of your responsibility, it doesn’t matter what they line up and run. We should be able to stop them."
"We definitely took a step back as a team today,"
"It’s all about controlling your own destiny," Milloy said. "At the end you never want to be looking at who’s winning and who’s losing. … Most of the times that I’ve been in that situation it has never turned out. To be able to control your own destiny is the way you go about it."
"Every game is crucial from here on out,"
"We felt like we could beat this team," White said. "We started out good. It was nothing they did. We just did little things to stop our selves today."
"We can’t let this linger, because if we do it’s all downhill from there,"
"Yeah, I had a shot at him," Weems said. "I just missed the tackle. I had a clear opening toward him. … It’s tough, letting one out at the end."
-Eric Weems, on PT's kick return
"I came from the left side," DeCoud said. "He tried to bounce it and then he cut back inside through the middle. Then I just had to go run him down."
-Thomas DeCoud, on PT's kick return
Here is some audio. Some of this is a repeat of above. Some of it is fresh. It is all from WWL's Sports Talk. In order it is Sean Payton, Will Smith, Pierre Thomas, Jason David, Bobby Hebert and Hokie Gajan.
GRADING THE SAINTS - Times-Pic
BLACK & GOLD RUSH - Times-Pic
Saints defeat Falcons, 29-25 - The Advocate
RB Pierre Thomas Racks up 197 All-Purpose Yards in Saints' Win - New Orleans Saints official website
Saints win. I am the Man of 1,000 Dances. - Hakim Drops the Ball
New Orleans Saints Run the Ball to Victory: Satan's Sinners Bundle Up - Bleacher Report