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New Orleans Saints: Sean Payton’s Monday conference (transcript)

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Opening Statement:

“We came out of the game fairly healthy without anything significant. In the meantime, we’ll just continue to work on the guys that have been injured.

I said yesterday there were a lot of things that were encouraging in a game like that where we kind of had to come back in the fourth quarter. I thought we did a lot of things well in all areas. There are still some things when you go back through the tape and you look at what we have to continue to work to clean up and get better at. Nonetheless, though, our focus will shift pretty soon here to Tampa if it hasn’t already done so. The players have been in lifting and watching the tape and kind of already going through what we normally do on a Monday.”

This is the first time you’ve coached against a Carolina team without John Fox on the sideline. It seems like they’ve changed some things with their approach, but has the rivalry moved up as well?

“It’s a divisional game. I don’t know that the rivalry thing exists as much. I think it tends to in our league periodically with a couple of games and a couple of teams of the 32 every once in a while. But typically the division games are just hard-fought games, but it is a different team. Defensively and offensively what you see from them is a lot different and the quarterback. There are just a lot of things that philosophically are different so it’s playing a different type of game that we’ve been accustomed to compared to the old teams that we’ve known. It is different and I think we saw that in the four-game study and the preseason study and all the breakdowns. It’s a lot different team and I think Ron (Rivera) has done a real good job just starting off considering the challenges of a new staff without the offseason that normally you would have.”

What do you make of both of the personal foul penalties in the end zones?

“Roman’s (Harper) they’re going to call so there’s nothing to make of that. The thing we wanted to make sure we did was to not lose this game because of a foul and come in the next day and say it’s alright. It’s not okay. It’s one thing to be on the quarterback with a hit that’s close and interpret it as you might, but we have to be smart. I think there’s a difference.”

Can you talk about the play of your offensive line so far this season?

“Someone brought this up a few weeks ago about how you can become comfortable or take for granted a steady group that’s been consistent and been the same starters for a period of time. And this year there were two changes in regards to the starting lineup at center and at right tackle. And then during the middle of a game, all of a sudden there are two other players that are playing and now they’ve played here for two weeks and part of that last game in Houston. I think that we’re certainly encouraged with the ability of some younger players stepping in and without it affecting the overall production. You would always say that you expect the next guy up to come in and do his job and I think that’s true. At those positions where there’s a lot that goes on with cohesiveness and there’s a lot that goes on with line calls and there’s a lot that goes on with the run schemes, especially the center and even the right tackle, we’ve been pleased with those guys. They’ve been thrown into the fire and they’ve been able to function and execute. You also begin to establish some depth when that happens. In other words, that’s some playing time that a guy will have under his belt and will be able to build on so that’s been encouraging.”

How often to you play back-to-back division games on the road in a row? Do you see it as a light at the end of the tunnel after these three away games and you can come out with a commanding position?

“No, I don’t. I would disagree with that. I don’t think there’s anything commanding at week five of the regular season because you have 11 games left. But I think it would be probably more common than you think in regards to playing two games in the division on the road. At least it doesn’t stand out to me as something that’s uniquely different. I think the challenge each year as the schedule comes out and you evaluate it and you look at it, there are all sorts of things that you pay attention to. But I think we certainly try to place a value and understand the importance of games in the NFC and more importantly games in your own division. There’s still no light at the end of the tunnel. There really can’t be. I think that begins to take shape at the latter part of the season for the whole league. But we’re so early in this and each week you just have to work to see if you can put together your best effort, make progress, don’t sugarcoat the things that you aren’t doing well, try to clean those things up so that you can make those corrections so those things don’t come back to haunt you the next week or weeks following and just keep going. It was good to get that win yesterday. Certainly anybody in this league would tell you this, is they didn’t then they’re lying, anytime you can win and the rest of your division loses, it’s a good thing. But then all of a sudden you’re on to the next one. It’s just that and it is real early. We just started the second quarter of the season.”