From the New Orleans Saints official website.
“On the injury front, there are just the two guys we talked about yesterday after the game. There is some swelling in Jeremy Shockey’s right ankle; we’ll see where he’s at Wednesday – he’ll get treatment today and tomorrow. The same thing with Jammal Brown’s left ankle. Both are classic ankle sprains and we’ll know more Wednesday when we get back on the field and practice to how far along they are. Much was said yesterday after the game but the focus now for us is on Carolina, certainly in a meaningful game for both teams. We have an opportunity to get to 9-7 and win six of our last eight, and we think that’s significant. Certainly in Carolina’s case, after their game last night, it’s an important game for them.”
Is Usama Young a little banged up?
“He should be fine.”
With this being a meaningful game, does that change the way you approach it as opposed if it didn’t mean anything to either team?
“Two years ago it didn’t have as much significance, but I think with everything that has unfolded, it’s an important game for both teams.”
Does that influence the way you will use players in the game?
“At the end of the day, we’re playing it to win. We’re not going to take a look at new players, the same way with the Detroit game. Our objective is to win the game.”
How fine a line was it yesterday to where it could be perceived that you were running up the score?
“I think the way we handled the game – especially in the fourth quarter – was not at all out of the ordinary. They possessed the ball for a good portion of the middle to latter part of the fourth quarter and maybe that took some of the burden off of me in regards to the decision I had to make with keeping Drew (Brees) in there and all that other stuff. I thought our guys played well. They executed well and I don’t think in any way, shape or form would anyone watching the game say that the Saints ran up the score. Certainly we scored a lot of points, but that’s the objective offensively.”
Did the NFL passing record have anything to do with keeping Drew in the game so late?
“No. You saw Drew in the game late two years ago at Dallas and that’s his job. What would be good would be to go back and look at the scores from the last two-and-a-half years with Drew Brees in the game.”
How important is getting him the record?
“What’s important is winning. Certainly a milestone like the record we’re talking about is significant, but nonetheless what’s most important to our team, to Drew Brees, to the organization is winning this football game and finishing 9-7. That said, something like that is significant. But I think it’s only rewarding if something like that happens when you play well and you win rather than just if you hang around and throw it around just for the sake of the record. Our job as coaches this week and as players is to get ready to put our best gameplan together to beat the Carolina Panthers, not to throw for 408 yards.”
If you have four or five minutes left in the game and Brees is 70 yards away, would it become more important then?
“I’ll try to rely on my common sense and try to rely on good judgment. There are 100 different scenarios that could take place, but the main focus really has to be our team getting ready to play a real good football team in Carolina – a team that played a real good game last night with a lot of meaning and a lot riding on it. There will be a lot riding on this game for Carolina as well and we look forward to that challenge. But I understand the question and why it’s being asked, but I think the main thing is just being mindful of it. The challenge is that it’s over 400 yards. We’re not talking about 211 yards or 186 yards; we’re talking about 400-some yards and it just makes it a little more different than maybe Deuce’s run here against Green Bay when he needed one more touchdown to become the all-time leading scorer. It’s like going into a game and saying Strahan needs six more sacks to set the record. It’s significant. 400-some yards is a lot and we just have to be mindful of why we’re playing the game.”
Did that influence your decision to keep Brees in the game yesterday?
“No. Just go back through our history since we’ve been here for the past two-and-a-half years. Our job here is to win, to score, and to play our players. If you go back and trace any game that we’ve been in where we’ve gotten ahead, generally I think we’ve done that. We just did that recently against Green Bay, we did it at Dallas a few years ago. At times at the very end of a game we might make a change. Honestly, there was a period where we had the ball early in the fourth quarter where we didn’t really have it and I really felt like I wasn’t faced with that dilemma that I might have been faced with.”
Did you go to Drew and ask him if wanted to stay in?
“No. ‘Let’s go – offense is up, we’re going. Here’s what we’re doing.’ We’re going to use the clock here. We’re in a four-minute mode or we’re not in a four-minute mode. If we’re not in a four-minute mode, we’re trying to move the ball in any way, shape or form – run, pass, play-action pass. If we’re in four-minute mode, now we’re milking the clock, we’re taking it down to two seconds when we snap the football, we’re doing all the things that we’re supposed to do in a four-minute offense. I thought we handled that well yesterday; I thought we handled it real well.”
Did you find yourself pulling back on them?
“I was just trying to be conscientious of a lead and trying to do the right thing of where we were at in a game.”
Why don’t you remove Drew Brees when you have a game in hand?
“I think there’s a place to do that. A lot of it is just how much time you feel is left. There are times we will do that. I think by and large, we get in there, we’re finishing the game, at this point in the season especially trying to finish strong. I was pleased with how we were able to run the ball late in the game. We did a good job of that. Those are things as coaches that we think about and talk about, time left in the game, four-minute offense, are we running, are we operating with our normal offense. Those are all things that I have to think about, which I thought about yesterday. I said this after the game, based on the way the game unfolded in the fourth quarter, they had the ball for a series there that all of a sudden came to a point where we were going to run the ball out. Prior to that, we were moving the football. You’re talking about the end of the third quarter, beginning of the fourth quarter and we’re not going into a four-minute mode at that time in the game.”
If you were on the short end of the stick of a blowout like Detroit was, would you rather the opponent play their starters or start putting some reserves in and letting up?
“As coaches we’ve all been on the other end of a game like that. The furthest thing on your mind is what the opposition is doing with their personnel when you’re losing a game by a lot of points and all of us have been on the other side of that. What’s on your mind is what you can do to move the football and score and stop the opposition.”
Doesn’t playing an 11-win team make it tough to rack up that kind of passing yardage, not to mention Carolina’s proficiency on defense?
“It’s as if we make the decision to go after the record, we would just get it. Our job is to win and that’s what we’re going to work hard today, tomorrow and beginning practice on Wednesday doing – putting together the best plan that gives that opportunity. I have a ton of respect for the team we’re playing. John Fox and I have worked together for a long time. I’ve worked with six or seven of the coaches on that staff. They’ve had a great season. It’s a tremendous challenge for us in that they do so many things well. They run the ball very well. Obviously they have the ability to hurt you with throws down the field. On defense, they are much improved and playing with a high level of confidence. They have probably one of the better linebacking corps we’ll see. (Julius) Peppers is having a great season. The secondary is playing very well. It’s a good team and all of us watched the game last night and saw two good teams play in what ended up being one of the better games of the season. New York came out on top. Our mindset coming off of this game has to be to focus on one more game here, getting ourselves mentally and physically ready to play a good team at home here and that’s really where the focus has to be, no different than last week in what was a challenging week to some degree in regards to going on the road to play a team that hasn’t won. There’s some extra distraction that can potentially go with that. I thought that they handled that pretty well and went in there and did the job that they’re supposed to do and paid to do and eliminated a lot of the distractions. Now the focus shifts this week to Carolina. The focus shifts to having a chance to get to 9-7. Those are things that we can do with a win like this. It’s going to be a tough game. Everything else is secondary.”
What has been the key to the improvement in the running game these last few weeks?
“Probably you’d say we’re blocking well. I thought we blocked well yesterday in looking at the tape. I think Pierre (Thomas) has done a good job. I thought Mike Bell did a good job yesterday with his touches. I think overall, as a group, it starts with the guys up front, certainly me giving them that patience, sticking with it more and doing a little better job of paying attention to it. But overall, I thought we saw a lot more coverage yesterday, a lot more cover-two and a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy defensively. We understand what they’re trying to do. We could see that. Right away, usually after the first drive, you have an idea of how a team wants to defend you and you talk about it on the sidelines. I think the guys up front are doing a pretty good job of coming of f the ball and Mike Karney has done a good job as well.”
Was there a point in time this season where you felt like you had to run the ball more?
“I don’t know that there was a specific point in time. Obviously when we get to this point in the year with Chicago and some of those games. We have a lot of confidence in how our quarterback is playing as well. I think that balance overall can help. I don’t know if there was one specific point in time.”
Did the game at Tampa influence your decision?
“I certainly look back on a game and the numbers got higher, but I don’t think there was one specific point.”
How important is it to finish the season with two straight wins at 9-7 rather than at 8-8?
“I think each week there is a challenge for our players. I think going into the offseason with some momentum exists in our league. You see that carry over from year to year. We have a chance to finish 9-7. Obviously it’s better than finishing 8-8. The disappointing part is that 9-7, if you can get to that mark, doesn’t get you to the playoffs. We can look back on three or four games to kick ourselves over. We can’t control those games now. The only thing we can really focus on is the Carolina game this week.”
In your discussions with Drew Brees about the passing yardage record, how important do you think it is to him?
“We really haven’t had many discussions about it. The only thing was that I said something to him on the bus about how I think we handled it the right way and he said absolutely. We didn’t ignore it and we didn’t go out of our way. Anybody would say we played a normal game. But, I think something like that would be second to winning the game, something that would be very important to him, because it’s pretty significant.”
Are you conscious about how you would get to the record?
“We haven’t given much thought or talked about it much. I think you guys have, and deservedly so. It’s your job and it’s a significant record. It’s a milestone that’s fairly uncommon. Honestly, it hasn’t been a point of discussion with him or me at all or with the offense at all. If you asked anyone in that room starting with Drew or the running backs or the offensive linemen if coach has talked at all (about the record), I really haven’t even discussed it with him. With two weeks left in the season and a number that’s nebulous or sitting out there at whatever it was. If that number was 318 yards in the next two weeks, it would be fairly attainable or there would be a good chance we could reach that goal. The number is what it is. I think our players expect me – the head coach – and our staff to give them a plan to win the game and they would all probably be supportive of Drew being able to get that within the confines of nothing changing scheme-wise or gameplan-wise. It hasn’t been a big topic at all. I don’t think there’s any point, the latter part of the third quarter yesterday where all of a sudden you get to a point where you think this game is getting close to being where we’re going to win, which in our league is not very common. Those games are hard to come by. Now we’re getting into the final week of the season and we’re at this number of 408 or 409. What’s most important though? What’s most important is winning the game and Drew would tell you that, our players would tell you that and our staff would tell you that. That being said, I’m in a pickle here, because let’s just say the gameplan calls for us to come out and throw the football against Carolina. Let’s just say that that’s the gameplan. Is that going to be perceived as the gameplan by you guys or is it going to be perceived as here he goes? Honestly, I think it’s too important of a business; it’s our job as coaches and players to win. I believe that with all my heart. That’s why I think it’s our job to win and not to take a look at other players. Our job is to win and the credibility that we have in our locker room as coaches and as leaders of our team; they know who should be on the field, guys who give us the best chance. We’re playing first and foremost to try to win. Anything outside of that would be significant because it is significant, but it is a little unique in that it’s a number that… A lot of times that number is accompanied with a game that you got behind and threw it late and lost.”
Are you mindful of the possibility that this will be Deuce McAllister’s final home game as a Saint? Would that come into your planning around the goal line?
“Sure. All of those things maybe later than earlier, but certainly I have an appreciation for what he’s gone through, especially this season with just dealing with the injury and the rehab and all of those things as they relate specifically to his health.”