Sean Payton says Saints have to improve on 3rd down conversions, pass protection, penalties

By: Tim Zimmer

Saints head coach Sean Payton talked to Zach Strief and Bobby Hebert about his team’s disappointing 26-9 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints were held without a touchdown, while also committing twelve penalties for 90 yards. Coach Payton said there were a number of mistakes made while facing a team that was desperate for a win.“I felt a little bit more that Atlanta was dialed in. You’re constantly battling human nature in our league. You’re 7-1 and you’re going in playing a team that’s 1-7 and we all know they’re way better than a 1-7 football team. It’s not unusual in our league to see a desperate team win.”A key number in the game was 3rd down conversions. The Saints were only able to convert 25% of their 3rd down attempts. Meanwhile, the Falcons were just below 50% on 3rd down, but were bailed out a few times by Saints defensive penalties.“It really shows up when you look at the 3rd down numbers,” said Coach Payton. “There were three other 3rd down conversions that don’t get listed for Atlanta, because we had penalties on those plays and it gave them a first down. Overall, when you watch the tape, it’s disappointing. There weren’t a lot of positives to speak of.”Even with all the mistakes, Coach Payton can admit they got outplayed on Sunday. “Atlanta was a team that needed a win. Give them credit, they came in here and played their butts off and beat our butts. We have to play better than that, our league is too good week to week to try and cruise through a game. That starts with me; that starts with our staff and the leadership on this team.”Another area the Saints will have to improve on this week is pass protection. Quarterback Drew Brees was sacked six time, which tied a career high in a Saints uniform. Coach Payton said it’s hard for an offense to be successful, when sacks and penalties are leading to 3rd and long situations.“There were snaps where Drew was getting hit, when the ball hit his hand in the shotgun. I don’t care who you are, you got no chance to operate with any type of consistency. Too many penalties on offense, too many penalties on defense and you do that...I don’t care who you’re playing, you’re going to lose.”It wasn’t all doom and gloom against the Falcons. Saints kick returner Deonte Harris tried to spark the offense with a career high 46 yard kickoff return. Harris already has a special team touchdown during his punt return against the Seahawks. Coach Payton sees great potential in Harris. “I think our fans see that, our bench sees that. Anytime he gets his hands on the ball you have a chance for a big play. He is a confident player and any good returner believes he can make a difference. I think he’s continued to improve just by experience of getting reps,” said Payton.The Saints will continue their run through the division, when they travel to Tampa Bay. The Black and Gold have a two game lead in the NFC South over the Carolina Panthers. The Buccaneers come into Week 11 four games back of the Saints. You can hear Zach Strief and Deuce McAllister call that game Sunday at noon right here on the Saints flagship station WWL.