Excerpts from Coach Payton's Monday Press Conference:
After watching the film and meeting with the players, it was obviously a disappointing loss for us. There are some positive things on the tape when you watch it, unfortunately we didn't do enough - especially in the second half - to take advantage of the field position we had in this game to put ourselves in a position to win this game. They hung around and hung around and in the end beat us late. Some of the miscues and some of the problems were in the red zone. We had a penalty that took points off the board. We had some drops that probably kept us from getting more points. But in the end we didn't make enough plays.
We have to keep working and harping on those details and the little things and get back to work as soon as we can on this next opponent. This one was hard because I think that the players specifically, when they watch the tape, see a game that slipped through their hands. That's different than the earlier games that we lost. You come away from those earlier games and you're frustrated and then you go about correcting the mistakes. But this was one where I think every man in the room felt like we were in a position to win and yet we still didn't. We're going to have to bounce back. We're going to have to regroup after this. It's tough, but that's part of the business and it starts with me and the coaches and us getting ready to play a Seattle team on the road which will be a big challenge. It wasn't much, but the one upside was that we came out of the game relatively healthy.
- How frustrating is it to review a loss in the film room for the fourth straight game and see the same mistakes?
Some of the times they're similar, but yesterday was different. I thought we kept the ball in front of us defensively. I thought by and large we tackled well. We contained the running game. One of the things that's a challenge is defending Steve Smith and trying to defend the run as well because if you're going to roll your coverage towards him, chances are you're going to be in a seven-man front. I thought the upfront people on the defensive line played real well. We held them in check for the most part. The final drive was disappointing; we had them in a 3 rd-and-10 situation and they were able to convert and hit the game-winning field goal. There's a lot of work spent during the week to prepare as best you can to play a game, but it's the little things. It's not a cliche; it's a game that comes down maybe half-a-dozen plays and for us specifically you guys saw those plays, be it on offense, special teams, or in the end on defense. Those are the things that you try to point out. I think it's important that you highlight some of the things that you feel like you did pretty well. I feel like both fronts played pretty well. I thought our offensive line did a pretty good job of protecting the quarterback. I thought we blocked them pretty well in the running game. Defensively, I thought we were active up front. You need to be able to see that and then take that and move forward with it.
- Can you discuss the lack of big plays on offense and Devery Henderson's struggles?
We had times last year where we would make a big effort to get the ball down the field to Devery, and he made quite a few plays for us. At times, maybe every once in a while he would struggle with a catch; he wants to do everything he can to help this team, that's something he will continue to work on. Just like me working on our red zone, or the kicker working on his takeoff, that's something he is going to have to battle and that's something he will have to fight through. He made a big play for us yesterday that looked like it scored and we ended up scoring the next play and we just have to know that, that is an area we need to help him as best we can. Maybe he catches fifty more balls after practice. I know Curtis (Johnson) has really spent a lot of time with him, and part of it is confidence and him getting comfortable. He made some big plays for us yesterday. Fortunately we have some depth at that position, so we are not restricted. Last year he played but he played in a rotation, and we have enough depth at that position that he can play in a rotation. Yesterday we got more of those guys involved. Terrance Copper played the last half of the season as the starter in some of our best offensive games. So we have to keep rotating those guys in., and making sure they are not getting too many snaps, especially if we are trying to get the ball down the field. Yesterday we had a number of attempts down the field or for long yardage and we hit a few, but not enough.
- When it comes to Reggie Bush running sideways, are those plays designed for him to do so?
ome of those off-tackle runs are designed for him to cut back; he did a pretty good job at times of going north and south. When you watch the film, about three or four runs he would say he would do differently. I thought as you watched that game, in the passing game and the running game he was very much into it and some of the little mistakes we will be able to clean up and correct.
- Can you estimate how many times you blitzed in that game?
Maybe five times with some type of pressure or zone pressure. I thought the plan was a good one. When you start looking at neutralizing the receiver - the one guy that you feel can hurt you - and trying to... Really when you look at how their points came, their first field goal comes off the interception that we threw on the first drive that they ran back to midfield. We felt like that if we put them back on a long field that we were going to do pretty well defensively, and for the most part we did. They had the long drive after our blocked field goal which was the one drive that was frustrating. The thing that was tough was having the ball for 24 plays and however many minutes that was, and coming away empty-handed and then all of a sudden giving up that long drive to where they came away with the touchdown and tied the game. The momentum shifted a little there and then after the interception, we were lucky enough to get it back with McKenzie's play. We didn't pressure a lot though, and that was part of the plan.
- Jammal Brown didn't appear to be lined up any further off the ball than the right tackle on the play where he was flagged for illegal formation. Was he? Will you make a point of that with the league office?
I think that's accurate. I had the sideline pictures coming out of the locker room at halftime and my question was just what you asked. In other words, if it was an illegal alignment on the left tackle why wasn't it on the right tackle? The only thing I can say about it is that it's one of those things where you have to cover up the line of scrimmage, you have to get up and they warn you some. Chances are if they call that penalty that they've talked to you a few times about it and they told me that they had specifically already warned both he and Jon (Stinchcomb). That's a tough call.
When I watched it...and the (tackle's) helmet has to break the (plane of the) center's butt...it's tough when you take points off the board like that. But I don't want to make an excuse at all. There were a number of other opportunities in this game, but I understand where you're going with that question.
- You removed Jammal Brown from the game after the penalty. Did you put him back in because the penalty wasn't necessarily an egregious mistake? Has Jammal Brown been inconsistent?
He had had a penalty earlier as well. You talk to the assistant coaches and they see the clips and I got a chance to see the picture. At halftime, I wanted to put him back in. It was really a matter of just an immediate message by me and some frustration by me. We put him back in to start the second half. Strief really just played those three plays.
[Brown] played better yesterday. I thought that we did a pretty good job with the tempo with which we threw it. I thought we blocked them pretty well. He wouldn't be the only one that you would say up until that point has been somewhat inconsistent. There would be a long line.
[ED. NOTE: Yes, he has been inconsistent.]
- Has any positional unit been grading below average on a consistent basis?
To play well on offense, you're counting on a lot of things happening right. When we've played well and functioned well - and that means scoring - you have to play well up front, and I think we did yesterday. I think if you're going to have a good running game, you have to block on the perimeter as well as on the offensive line. I thought we played better in the front yesterday than we had all season. We had some - and I don't want to just call them miscues - but we did some things that stubbed our toes in some areas that wound up hurting us. Whether it was a dropped pass, whether it was a penalty that was frustrating, there were a handful of things that we weren't able to overcome. We had the ball with time of possession and all those things. But we have to do a better job of scoring when we get inside the red zone of the opponent. If we're settling for field goals, you get that feeling that even though the game might be one-sided, you haven't distanced yourself. What was frustrating was that we had a chance to distance ourselves two scores with a relatively short field goal and we weren't able to do that. That's frustrating.
[ED. NOTE: He dodged that question like Reggie Bush playing dodgeball.]
- Do you anticipate any personnel changes or lineup changes?
None that I'd announce now. More than just new starters, I have to find a way to get Lance Moore more touches for example. He's played well - not just in the preseason, but every time we've put him in the game he's done a good job. So I have to find a way to get him more involved. I have to find a way to get Patten more involved. That's just to name a few on offense in regards to guys that have a chance to help us. I said yesterday that I thought Reggie handled the running back duties fairly well. I thought that with (Aaron) Stecker and Pierre (Thomas), maybe I can be a little more balanced in regards to getting them some more touches. But we had 60-something snaps. This week we brought Marvin Mitchell up and played him on special teams and he did some good things. That's what we have to look closely at as a staff - how we're playing the nickel; how we're playing the base. There isn't going to be any new guy coming in the building to save the day here. We have to be able to do it in-house. We have to be able to correct these mistakes. If that means playing some other guys a little bit more on either side of the ball or on special teams, then so be it.
- Does the play of the players from last year play into your personnel decisions this year?
"Obviously when you have a history with a player or players, you have an idea of what they can do. That being said, the players on the team are counting on the leadership and your decisions, not just everyone else. They're counting on you to put them in the best positions to be successful. That's part of this job and paying attention to that every day and each week is important too. That's something that I wrestle with all the time - making sure that we feel confident that we are playing the right combination of players each week and on each given series and in each game."