Saints quarterback Drew Brees
On what makes Panthers' defense stand out:"I think that every position has very talented players; D-line, linebackers and the secondary and then on top of that, they play a really good scheme and they're extremely disciplined and they just play very well together. They are playing with a ton of confidence. They're very sound. Great execution with everything that they do and it shows. From week to week, you cut on the tape and you know there are guys that are making plays, guys that are creating turnovers, guys that are just playing really good football."
On being held without an offensive touchdown last week: "Well, I mean we got down there three times. We just didn't score any touchdowns, you know, so I think lack of execution a little bit. I think there were a couple completions we could've had to have gotten us either first downs or gotten us into more certain, manageable situations that would've you know, helped facilitate scoring touchdowns as opposed to field goals. Obviously, at the end of the game, we were down by a little bit so we ended up going for a lot of those. But just, I mean I really point to execution. It was very poor in that regard. You know, there's things that were kind of out of character for a lot of us, so that part was disappointing."
On if there was extra pressure in during unbeaten run in 2009 season:"I mean, we won a lot of close games during that period, during that 13-game run where we were 13-0. We had to mount some big comebacks at times to win games. We just found a way. We knew each week especially as we got to 6-0, 7-0, 8-0 that every team that we played, regardless of their record we were going to get their best shot. So, I think it just became, you know what, this is something that we can do. It became kind of an extra challenge, but obviously it's difficult because you know you are going to get everybody's best shot."
Will he give the Panthers his best shot this week:"What do you think? I mean, this is a divisional game and it's between two teams that have really had some great battles here over the last five years. I feel like majority of the time we've been at the top, both the Panthers and the Saints, in regards to aspirations for the division and division titles and that kind of thing, we've played some pretty meaningful games here over the last five years. That being said, who cares what the records are, there's just that rivalry, there's that just kind of understanding that both teams know each other pretty well. There's that level of familiarity and yet it's just an extremely competitive game, you know it's going to be a four-quarter game and that's just the way these have gone."
On if he noticed a change in the Panthers during last year's game at New Orleans:"Yeah, they had made some changes that week. That was kind of the start of their run, I remember because I believe they had gotten beaten by Minnesota the week before and hadn't looked very good and changed some defensive personnel and just started doing some new things and started playing really, really well. So, listen here, a lot of those guys are the same guys that they had last year that are there this year so, again, it's crazy in this league. Everybody's talented in this league, everybody can play on any given Sunday. They can put together their best and it's good enough to beat you, so that's why each and every week is about execution and just doing your job, so that's what we've got to worry about."
On Josh Norman:"It's funny, because I remember him going back to 2011, maybe 2012 and I know that his start there in Carolina was kind of in and out of the lineup, but I always felt there was something about him and that he was going to be a really good player. I remember when they came here last year and in that game, I just saw a confidence in him that was different and obviously he's played at an extremely high level from that point until now. In my opinion he deserves to be in consideration for defensive MVP along with some pretty other big names out there. He's had a great year. He's, in my opinion, as complete of a corner as there is. When you think of a corner you think ok, man coverage and that kind of thing, well he's as good as zone as he is in man and he's as good at making tackles and doing things in the run game as he is at covering. So, I think that's rare to see in a top-flight corner, but he's got all those traits."
Saints head coach Sean Payton
On what he saw from defensive coordinator Dennis Allen's unit last week:"I think this; I think one of the challenges last week in the game, offensively, we really struggled and we weren't on the field and all of a sudden our defense is out there. The early time of possession was really tilted and so we put a lot of stress on them. I thought the tempo and personnel groupings and all of that were clean. Obviously, we've still got to do a better job against the run and that will be a big challenge this week."
On what he sees from Panthers' defense:"Well, it's contagious and you can tell that obviously Sean (McDermott), Ron (Rivera) and those guys have done a great job of making it a point of emphasis. Anyone who is on the field, whether it is in their base or nickel, their speed to the ball is fantastic. They're getting punch-outs, they're getting the interceptions. You know, we kind of went through a PowerPoint this morning and just talked about here's how they're coming. That turnover ratio, when you look at it, has a lot to do with and is a big part of why your team is unbeaten. I mean, we went through and saw that in '09 ourselves. And their offense has done an outstanding job then converting those turnovers, those short fields into points."
On if he believes Luke Kuechly is the best inside linebacker in the league right now:"I would say so. You know, every once in a while, you watch enough tape and certainly as coaches we get a chance to see the teams on our schedule and then obviously the teams in our division and then other teams throughout the year. He brings so much to the table. His key in diagnose, his instincts. If you line up in the same formations against him, he's going to call out the play before your quarterback does, so you've got to be real sharp with your splits. You've got to be real sharp with the backs' depth. You've got to be sharp with any indicators that might tell him run or pass or which directions, so it really forces you to self-scout closely and make sure that at least any tendencies you may have that you can offset with something that looks the same that's different."
On if he believes losing in '09 towards end of regular season after going 13-0 was beneficial when entering the playoffs:"I don't think so. I mean, look, we play this sport and you get into this sport to win and to win each week and then pretty soon that momentum builds and builds and no one wants to let their teammates down. Our first loss was, I believe a Saturday night game at home here versus the Cowboys, a pretty good Cowboys team. That was difficult, you know because all of a sudden those weeks start moving back to back to back, and you really can't necessarily remember each and every one of them. But then the following week we lost again and had a 17-point lead to Tampa and then we ended up sitting our starters in the final game to Carolina. So, I think each year is different but I think that when you watch Carolina play, certainly you see that and feel that enthusiasm and sense of pride about doing something that's never been done before."
RE: Why the offense hasn't been scoring as much recently: "Well, we've really struggled in the past two games. The third-down efficiency numbers aren't good and yet they're a byproduct a little bit of our first and second downs. I would bet last week eight of the 12 third downs were nine or more (yards) and the week prior or the two weeks prior, we had a bye, it was the same so we've got to be more efficient on first and second down with either run or play-pass or our passing game, but those numbers have put us behind the chains and then all of a sudden if you're looking down at your call-sheet and you're spending most of your day at third and a 10-plus you're probably not doing well and you're probably going to lose."
On how much he has noticed Kurt Coleman:"Quite a bit. I think one thing I would say is, I think he forces the run tackles very well. At times he's down, at times Roman's (Harper) down. We would view Roman as the strong (safety) and Kurt as the free (safety) and yet there are some times where it's interchangeable, but he's one of those guys the ball kind of finds him and I say that in a very positive way. I think he's got real good instincts. To have the ball production he has, obviously he has good ball skills and also good awareness, but rarely do you see him out of place and I think there is a physical nature to how he plays."
On how many corners in the league could make the same play Norman did in Week 3: "Listen, it was a tough one. A couple plays prior Luke (McCown) had felt a trap coverage where Josh is pretty sharp when they play some trap coverage. He'll catch number two to the flat and kind of hang with the outside receiver and come up for a big play. There was a coverage bust inside and (Marques) Colston is the primary and Luke in his mind was thinking about this outside trap by Josh and Josh did a good job. I don't know if I would say he baited the throw, but really was low and then extended. He's got outstanding hands, long levers. I think the thing that you see watching him in person and then watching him on TV, he's going to draw the tough matchups and what's impressive is he meets the receiver at his alignment. Like, he'll hustle out, he's just playing at such a high level right now and with such confidence, so he too is someone that I think is extremely smart. He watches, I'm sure, tape and understands splits. He's having a fantastic year."
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED
View the top photos of Panthers vs. Saints by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.