Saints quotebook: Sean Payton (December 21, 2018)

Head coach talks about a playoff environment for the game against Pittsburgh

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

Post-Practice Media Availability

Friday, December 21, 2018

A month away from home before you play a home game Sunday, have ever been through anything like that?

“I’m sure we have. It doesn’t see like that, yet it’s one of those things you don’t focus on and that you can’t control. We’ve played well on the road this year and that’s one of the reasons we are in the position that we are in right now and (now we’re) able to come back home for the final two games. “

With two offensive linemen in the Pro Bowl, how do you think the group is blocking and if that is deserving?

“They’re playing well. They’re protecting. The thing that you see on tape is not just the on schedule throws, but the off schedule throws where he (Drew Brees) buys some time, steps up (in the pocket). I think they’re playing extremely well. You can see it on film week to week.”

What did you think of the performance last week by Jaylen Samuels, the Steelers running back?

“It was good. His tape was good. Those guys ran the ball well last week. New England was doing certain things to take some of the throws away. It was a relatively low-scoring game, but he certainly looked comfortable in his role.”

Do you see a playoff atmosphere in this game?

“I think so. This is an important game for both teams obviously. It’s a real good football team we’re playing. It will be a good environment.”

What’s been the difference in your screen game from last year to this year?

“That’s a good question. Some of it’s the main coverage we’re getting. It’s an area that we have to improve on. Some of it happens with a certain defense, but it’s something we have to work on.”

Do you think Alvin Kamara is very durable and resilient with some of the hits he takes in games?

“He’s a strong runner. He runs with real good pad level and power. Both he and Mark (Ingram) have that ability to get their pad level down and move forward. It’s a good skillset that he has.”

When he’s airborne and comes down, have you seen many players pop back up as quickly as he has?

“I notice when he gets airborne at times. He’s an explosive player.”

You mentioned on the teleconference this week about the active roster numbers as a league issue that should be addressed. Have you addressed that with Mrs. Benson at all?

“Not necessarily. The question to me (that was answered is that) it’s a management council/players union/CBA discussion. I think that’ll change. All the parties are interested in player health and safety. With more players on gameday that’s one way to enhance player health and safety. Fewer snaps on special teams for some players. We were an injury from playing a tight end at tackle last week. I know it’s been fine, (but) I think you will see that change.”

Is there a number that you find more ideal than 53?

“53’s the active and I’d just be throwing out numbers, but I think you’ll see that bump. I think you’ll see the gameday number jump.”

In the move to waive Derek Newton and sign Cornelius Lucas, do you see the need for someone to be available more immediately?

“No, just taking a look at a few different options.”

What did you like about Lucas?

“He’s played more recently, yet Newton was someone I was real impressed with. They’re different type players.”

How do you guys look at the opportunity to be the number one see in the NFC on the playoffs?

“It’s just the next step. The first one is trying to win a division. The next one is trying to give yourself the best options, opportunities going into the tournament. That’s what we’re playing for. That’s significant. Obviously what Pittsburgh’s playing for is significant. That’s why I think it will be a playoff-type atmosphere.”

Does the rest factor cross your mind at all?

“Not right now, I’m concentrated on this game.”

Eli Apple made a big play last week and seems to be settling down and playing good football the last couple of weeks, can you talk about that?

“He’s gaining confidence. I think that it’s encouraging. It will be a good test this week.”

Has the scheme changed where you don’t need guys around him to help as much now that he’s been here a while?

“No, it was really getting him up to speed with what we’re doing, the technique we’re playing with, how we want him to play relative to the technique. I think you’re seeing more of that.”

From the games you’ve seen him play in New York up to now in the game against Carolina, what type of progress have you seen?

“He’s a young player in year three. Through the draft process, the evaluation process, even in New York, our exposure to him with the Ohio State ties. We liked his length, ball skills, those are traits that are hard to find in a corner.”

There are terms in special teams of four core guy or special teams ace? Do you have anyone truly like that?

“Without using that term, I think we have some really valuable core special teams players that I’m glad we have.”