Coach Sean Payton praises Saints for takeaways, 3rd down conversions & high level play

By: Tim Zimmer

Saints Head Coach Sean Payton spoke with Zach Strief and Bobby Hebert about his team’s dominating win over the Tampa Bay Bucs in Week 11.  The Saints controlled the time of possession 37 to 23 minutes and forced Bucs QB Jameis Winston to throw four interceptions.

Two key stats Coach Payton pointed out during WWL Radio’s Saints Coaches Show were 3rd downs and takeaways on defense.

The Saints defense was able to capitalize on a turnover, which resulted in a pick six late in the 4th quarter, and Coach Payton says plays like those are what winning teams all share.

“The four interceptions were huge,” said Payton.  “I thought the guys up front were able to get Winston off his spot.  We mixed up some coverage looks and guys ended up with some big plays for us.  When you get four takeaways on defense, you’re going to win games.”

Payton continued to explain the rewards of turnovers, “Every year those teams in the positive are in the playoffs.  You’re only looking at 12 possessions a game on average.  When you give one up and your opponent gets one, it’s a double whammy.”

Another key stat in the game were 3rd down conversions.  The Saints offense was over 50% for the day on 3rd downs.  Meanwhile, the Saints defense held the Bucs offense to just 38%.

“One other thing on your early downs is putting yourself in the 3rd and favorable. We were able to convert and keep drives going.  Time of possession, the number of rushes, all those things fall into place,” said an enthusiastic Payton.  “It’s kind of how we played prior to the Atlanta game for five to six weeks.  We played on the opponent’s side of the field.  We have been smart with the football and those are a lot of things that led to winning games.”

When the Saints are winning games, its playmakers like Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara who are usually a big part of it.  Thomas ended the game with eight receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown.  Kamara, who returned from injury this past week, rushed the ball for 75 yards and played a key role in the return game.

Coach Payton talked about Saints WR Michael Thomas and says his performance on the field starts the week leading up to the game.  “He’s such a competitive player in his preparation during the week.  He’s one of those guys, kind of like Drew, who can be his hardest critic.  He can be tough on himself during the week.  He’s extremely strong at the line of scrimmage.  Everyone is playing bump and run and he’s one of those guys who handles that well.  He came up with a lot of big plays.  It was good to see us score like we did.”

The Saints secondary played its best game of the season and that included a first career interception by Vonn Bell.  Coach Payton thinks Bell is someone who’s playing at a high level right now.  “Certainly he’s been around the ball.  He’s played big for us this season,” Payton said.  “I think he’s a sudden athlete, tackles really well and has good instincts.  The ball suddenly starts finding you and hopefully it will continue with him.”

The Saints return to the Superdome Sunday to face another divisional rival, the Carolina Panthers.  The Saints currently have a three game lead over the Panthers for the NFC South division.  A win Sunday would almost assuredly wrap up the NFC South division.   Kickoff in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is at noon on WWL Radio.