Marcus Peters of Los Angeles Rams tells Saints’ Sean Payton ‘keep talking’

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — A rematch with the New Orleans Saints can’t come soon enough for Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters.

On Thursday, Peters was asked about Saints coach Sean Payton’s postgame comment that the Saints got the matchup they wanted when Drew Brees threw a 72-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas, whom Peters was covering. The play helped seal the Saints’ win, as the Rams suffered their first loss of the season, 45-35, last Sunday.

“They were going to travel Marcus to him, and that was fine by us,” Payton said after the game. “We thought we really liked that matchup — a lot.”

After practice Thursday, Peters shared his own thoughts.

“Tell Sean Payton to keep talking that s—. We going to see him soon, you feel me?” Peters said. “Because I like what he was saying on the sidelines too. So tell him to keep talking that s—. I hope he see me soon, you feel me? Then we going to have a good li’l, nice li’l bowl of gumbo together.”

Thomas had a career day against the Rams and set a new franchise record for most receiving yards in a single game with 211.

Thomas caught 12 of 15 passes that he was targeted on.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Peters was the nearest defender on eight targets against the Saints, all of which were to Thomas. Thomas caught six of the eight targets for 127 yards and a touchdown.

After the game, Peters said he “just got beat” on the 72-yard play, which came on third-and-7 with 3:52 left, and that he was not pleased with his performances the last couple of weeks.

“Got up there in press, came back, he just beat me off the line,” Peters said. “Looked back and tried to make a play on the ball. S— happens like that in football.”

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Innovators Sean Payton, Sean McVay consider each other ‘must-watch’ – New Orleans Saints Blog

METAIRIE, La. — Sean Payton and Sean McVay will get a jump-start on their weekly film studies Sunday when they get the chance to watch each other live from the sideline.

Payton, 54, has established himself as one of the NFL’s all-time great offensive minds during his 13-year run with the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees. And the 32-year-old McVay has quickly joined him in two years with the Los Angeles Rams and QB Jared Goff, despite being the youngest head coach in the league’s modern history.

Both have drawn comparisons to Bill Walsh and Joe Montana because of their innovation.

But both coaches also readily admit that they will shamelessly steal ideas from one another on occasion.

Payton said the 8-0 Rams have “absolutely” become one of the “must-watch” teams when he studies other offenses around the NFL for ideas.

Likewise, McVay said of the 6-1 Saints, “I’ve always studied their tape every week to see what they’re doing.”

What both of them are doing is lighting up scoreboards on a weekly basis. On Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET, the Saints (33.4 points per game) and Rams (33.0 PPG) will become the first two teams ever to meet this late in the season while averaging at least 33 points per game, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.

“I think there’s some coaches that see things through the quarterback lens. Sean Payton is certainly one of those guys … and McVay is certainly that guy,” said ESPN analyst Matt Hasselbeck, who is part of a Sunday NFL Countdown crew that is going on the road for just the third time in the program’s 33-year history to be in New Orleans for this marquee showdown.

Hasselbeck, who played quarterback for another of the NFL’s all-time great offensive minds, Mike Holmgren, said there is something special about those playcalling coaches and quarterbacks who work in tandem like these two power couples.

McVay and Goff have gotten a lot of attention over these past two seasons — justifiably, since they are leading the NFL with 30.9 points per game since the start of the 2017 season after the Rams ranked dead last in that category in 2016, before McVay arrived.

Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are getting similar love with their prolific new partnership in Kansas City this season.

But Payton and Brees have clearly shown in 2018 that they aren’t ready to cede their title to anyone.

In fact, Payton has been throwing all-new wrinkles into his offense this season with an expanding read-option package led by third-string quarterback Taysom Hill. Just last Sunday night at Minnesota, he had three quarterbacks on the field at once — with Brees and Teddy Bridgewater spread out wide as receivers.

“Yeah, I think we like to feel over the last 13 years that we’ve kind of been at the forefront of the evolution of offensive football,” said Brees, who became the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader last month. “Obviously with Sean and [offensive coordinator] Pete Carmichael and [quarterbacks coach] Joe Lombardi and others who have contributed to that. Kind of taking the personnel that you have and then being able to utilize it in some really unique ways.

“I’m intrigued from week to week. There’s always some wrinkles in there, that as I get the call sheet and look at it prior to meetings and everything, it’s like, ‘I can’t wait to ask him about this.’ Or maybe even saw it on film or something like that, and then all of a sudden we just create our own little variation to it.”

Although Brees has lined up as a receiver several times now this season, he still hasn’t caught a pass from anyone other than himself (on a tipped ball) since he caught two with the San Diego Chargers early in his career.

When asked if he’s going to catch one at some point, Brees quickly replied, “I hope so. I hope so. But I don’t know, we’ll see.”

‘Attacking success’

McVay called Payton one of the great playcallers “arguably of all time.” And the trait that both he and Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips singled out most was Payton’s “aggressive nature” — not surprising for a coach who famously called an onside kick to start the third quarter of a Super Bowl victory.

McVay also pointed to Payton’s decision to go for it four times on fourth down during a 20-play drive to open the Saints’ victory at Baltimore in Week 7.

“I think that mindset of never being afraid to fail and always attacking success is something that we try to do here,” McVay said. “And I have a lot of respect for that approach, because I think it demonstrates a confidence and belief in your players.”

Payton and McVay do things a little differently when it comes to personnel groupings. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, the Rams have had the most frequently employed five-player combination in the NFL this season when it comes to the skill positions (RB Todd Gurley, WRs Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, and TE Tyler Higbee have played 204 snaps together). On the flip side, the Saints haven’t used any combination for more than 51 snaps.

But what both coaches like to do is mix things up to gain information from a defense — and figure out where they can attack.

Both coaches will move their personnel around, perhaps lining up tight ends or running backs outside of the receivers to see if a defense is playing man or zone.

“They’ll create a little bit of quick movement and then shift and get set and maybe get some pre-snap information relative to what they think you’re doing and then get to some advantage plays,” said Payton, who pointed out that the Rams use a lot of tight splits and rarely line up their receivers outside the numbers. “They do a good job with their formations and kind of giving you a few different looks and running maybe three different plays off a similar formation.”

Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said what really makes the Rams offense stand out is how much it can hurt you with both the run and the pass, whereas some teams excel in one area and just try to “keep you honest” in the other. And because Gurley is so dangerous, Goff leads the NFL in play-action passing yardage this season. Hasselbeck said most defenses stack the box against Los Angeles with a single-high safety, but McVay is great at using that to his advantage.

Payton said when the Saints coaches put together a highlight reel of touchdowns from around the NFL every week, “Here’s Gurley from 28 yards, here’s Gurley from 30 yards, here’s Gurley catching a screen for a touchdown.”

Another thing Payton and McVay have both been credited for is knowing how to take advantage of the NFL’s changing rules — things like outlawing hits against defenseless receivers or limiting contact down the field.

“Sean Payton stands out in that regard, big-time,” said Hasselbeck, who pointed to the seam routes Brees has been throwing since guys such as Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham were in New Orleans.

Hasselbeck said the “Sluggo seam” route has become a staple in the NFL (a slant-and-go on one side and a seam route on the other, forcing a safety to choose). But, he added, “Drew is as good as anybody has ever been at throwing that play, and Sean is as good as anybody at calling it at the right time and scheming you up formationally to be in the right coverage.”

But Brees balked a little bit at the notion that the rules have helped him and Payton lead the NFL in passing yards by nearly 30 yards per game over any other team in the league since they arrived together in 2006.

“I don’t know. I don’t play the game any different,” Brees said. “If a guy’s open, throw it to him. Be accurate with the ball, move the chains, score points.”

‘We did this’

One of the first things both Payton and Hasselbeck pointed to when praising McVay is the work he has done with Goff, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016 who began 0-7 as a starter that season before his remarkable turnaround under McVay’s tutelage.

“Remember, there were questions whether or not he could play in this league,” Payton said. “Quickly, Sean did a great job of really looking into, ‘What are the things that he does well?’ I think they’ve done a great job with personnel. He’s put together an outstanding staff.

“And so I think his energy, his creative thinking, just his approach overall, he’s someone that obviously loves football. … I think he’s done an unbelievable job in just a short time he’s been there.”

The one thing McVay and Goff can’t approach for a while, however, is the continuity Payton and Brees have together, which Hasselbeck said is one of the NFL’s most undervalued commodities.

Payton and Brees can practically finish each other’s sentences — so to speak — as they explained in a detailed conversation with ESPN this summer about what goes into their sophisticated playcalls.

“I just remember when Drew Brees comes over and he hugs Sean Payton [on the sideline after Brees broke the passing yardage record] and it’s, ‘Hey, can you believe this?’ Kind of like a, ‘We did this,'” Hasselbeck said. “It’s pretty obvious that you’re almost at an unfair advantage when you have that kind of continuity at the quarterback and head coach/playcaller position.”

— ESPN Rams reporter Lindsey Thiry contributed to this report

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Class in session: Sean Payton, Drew Brees teach NFL Lingo 101 – New Orleans Saints Blog

Gun Flex Right Stack 394 Dragon Smoke Kill Turbo Sucker Right

It wasn’t a particularly special play in New Orleans Saints lore — or at least you wouldn’t think so. Just a 6-yard touchdown run by Mark Ingram in the first quarter of a 2016 win against Tampa Bay.

But NFL Films had Sean Payton and Drew Brees mic’d up for that game and captured them relaying that playcall through the headset and into the huddle. So I used it as an example when each of them agreed to sit down and dissect just what exactly they’re talking about when they rattle off these cryptic, almost comically long sets of code words.

When I read it off to Brees to see if he could remember when the Saints might have used it, his instant recall was as mind-boggling as the terminology itself.

“I feel like we’ve called that play twice,” said the 39-year-old quarterback, who is heading into his 13th season with Payton in New Orleans. “I recall we ran one of those plays against Tampa like two years ago and scored on it.”

Wait. Can he do that with every play?

“I’d say I’ve got pretty good recall on most plays — but especially ones like that one, which was a bit of a specialty play,” said Brees, who explained that the Saints called two plays in the huddle in that instance, hoping they would get the right defensive look to “sucker” the Buccaneers into a misdirection run.

“But we could just sit there and go through a call sheet and just go play after play, and I could give you the history of it as we’ve been with the Saints,” Brees continued. “And I could probably rattle off that same playcall in certain games in critical situations. ‘Man, this was a game-changer. Or this was a game winner and this was this and that was that. Or this guy made this adjustment on this play.'”

So if I asked Brees to remember the call from, say, the two-point conversion pass to Lance Moore in Super Bowl XLIV?

“Bunch Right Tare Slash 37 Weak F Kill Q8 Solid Z Speed Smash,” he fired back so quickly that he might as well have been reciting his phone number.

It might not sound like poetry, but that’s the kind of terminology that has led to Brees and Payton being so successful together for more than a decade.

Since they arrived in 2006, the Saints have gained more yards than any team in NFL history over a 12-year span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau — averaging 404.1 per game. Their collaboration has been especially impressive considering they cut their teeth in different offensive systems.

Brees ran the spread offense at Purdue, then began his NFL career by running a version of the Air Coryell system with the San Diego Chargers that uses a series of numbers to identify passing routes. Payton, meanwhile, first began to develop his version of the West Coast offense (which uses names for the routes and numbers for the protections) under Jon Gruden as an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Brees said it was hard for him to adjust when he came to New Orleans — like “learning a new language” — before it ultimately became second nature.

“You’re really talking about a Mac vs. a personal computer,” said Payton, who laughed at the memory of coaching-pioneer Paul Brown being the first to send in playcalls from the sideline and trying to use his own secret communication device in the quarterback’s headset back in the 1950s before the league outlawed it.

“All systems can give you the same type of plays. It’s just, ‘How is it communicated? Are we naming the formation? Are we numbering the protection and then naming the route?’ It varies — and all are effective,” Payton said. “All of us, though, are searching to streamline that constantly. So you find yourself with words that you’re implementing to be one syllable — you know, ‘wasp’ — or those terms that come out of your mouth cleanly and quickly.

“In your hurry-up or no-huddle, you might just say a word, and then everyone’s understanding, ‘It’s this play.'”

That goes for the trick plays that everyone gets excited about in practice all week, too. Like the unforgettable “Philly Special” that just helped the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Or the Saints’ classic “Superdome Special” reverse touchdown by receiver Devery Henderson when they reopened the Dome after Hurricane Katrina in 2006. Everyone knows what to do on those plays.

But other times, more is more when it comes to jamming information into a playcall.

NFL Jargon Dissected

Gun Flex Right Stack 394 Dragon Smoke Kill Turbo Sucker Right is on the longer end of the Saints’ playcalls. But Brees said it’s pretty common — especially since they like to call so many two-play packages in the huddle instead of the classic technique of audibling at the line of scrimmage and trying to yell information across the field.

So what does it all mean? Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of one of the most dynamic offensive duos in NFL history:

Gun Flex Right Stack: That’s the formation. “Gun” means Brees is in the shotgun. “Flex” means the Y receiver is flexed out a little bit from the line of scrimmage. And “Stack” means the two receivers on Brees’ left side are essentially stacked on top of one another in the slot.

394: That’s the protection. The “3” signifies that it’s a three-step drop, which Brees said tells the offensive line to be “quick and aggressive.” And the “94” signifies a max protection, so everyone should be able to block long enough to at least get the ball off on a pass play.

Dragon Smoke: That’s a route concept — in this case a quick pass designed to beat a blitz. Payton said the receivers would know whether to run a “drag” route or a “smoke” route based on the look the defense is giving or the game situation. The routes are where these names usually get most creative — like Moore’s “speed smash” to the corner of the end zone in the Super Bowl. Or “Harvey” or “Hank” or “Henry” (variations that all signify a hook route).

Kill: That’s the key to this play — the word that signifies Brees is calling two possible plays in the huddle. If he yells, “Kill!, Kill!, Kill!” before the snap, he’s switching to the second play (which he did on Ingram’s touchdown run).

Turbo Sucker Right: That’s the run play Brees switched to when he saw the defense giving the look he wanted. “Turbo” means the Z receiver went in motion from the left side to the right side. And “Sucker” means it’s a misdirection play that looks like Brees might hand off to the Z receiver on a jet sweep as he comes across. Instead, Brees hands the ball to Ingram, who runs up the middle between the right guard and the right tackle.

“I knew if we got the right look for the run play, it would be a walk-in,” Brees said. “So it all drew up exactly the way we wanted. Those are always the best kind.”

The obvious question is, “Why do the playcalls have to be so long?”

Well, they don’t.

Coaches can simplify their scheme as much as necessary. Or even have all the plays listed on a wristband, which is what Brees did at Purdue. And yes, nearly two decades later he can still tell you that Play No. 33 on his old Purdue wristband was a “74 fade.”

But as Payton explained, the longer the call, the more information is being conveyed.

“If you just come up with a one-syllable name, it’s probably gonna be easier on the [quarterback] and it’s probably gonna stress some others a little bit more,” Payton said. “I can call, ’22 Flanker Drive.’ Boom. But if I call, ’22 Flanker Drive, Halfback Burst,’ I just helped the halfback out a little bit more. If I call, ’22 Flanker Drive, Halfback Burst, X go.’ Well, it’s the same play, but I’ve alerted the X on a go. So it’s information. And how much are you choosing to give? And who are you giving it to?

“And I would say, if it’s long for Brees, that doesn’t mean it’s long for the next guy. He likes the information, studies it, likes spitting it out. But it’s only as effective as your execution.”

Payton said his playcalls weren’t as long with quarterbacks like Quincy Carter and Vinny Testaverde when he was calling plays for the Dallas Cowboys or Kerry Collins with the New York Giants. And they wouldn’t be as long if a young backup like Taysom Hill was thrown into the game.

Former Saints quarterback Garrett Grayson, a third-round pick in 2015, admitted that he struggled to spit out the long playcalls with confidence and authority in the huddle during his first year or two in New Orleans — one of the reasons he flamed out in less than three years.

Hill said the Saints’ playcalls are the longest he has ever been around.

“We’re not gonna eliminate a player, though,” Payton said. “We’ll reduce so we can see them play. It’s not like, ‘If he can’t do that, he’s out.’ Because, well, what if a guy’s super talented?”

As for the terms like “Blue 80” that Brees yells at the line of scrimmage — he wasn’t as open with those.

“We’re getting into the proprietary information there,” Brees said coyly. “Any color number has existential meaning. There’s some stuff that means something (including the snap count) and some stuff that doesn’t.

“But I can’t divulge that.”

Payton’s NFL education

There was about 10 minutes of awkward silence in Payton’s office as he went down a YouTube rabbit hole trying to find a clip of Gruden calling one of those “either-or” plays in Super Bowl XXXVII, which led to a Keenan McCardell touchdown catch.

He finally found it — South Right Nickel 41 Kill 374 Wasp.

It’s not hard to pinpoint where Payton developed a large chunk of his offensive system and tendencies. He wound up with a kindred spirit when he landed his first NFL coaching gig in Philly 21 years ago and started learning terms like “Spider 2 Y Banana” from Gruden, then the Eagles’ offensive coordinator.

“He was very, very important [in my development], because it was a foundation of offensive football specific to terminology, formations, red zone, third down, quarterback play,” Payton said. “Just like years later when I arrived for three years in Dallas with Bill [Parcells] and the element of being a head coach.

“Sometimes you have some control over those, and other times you don’t. … But I was certainly fortunate to have ended up in Philly in ’97 to be around him and [longtime NFL coach Bill] Callahan. It was a forward-thinking room in regards to offensive football, and it was critical for me.

“You realize very quickly how much you still needed to learn and didn’t know, and then you really become a sponge and start taking it all in.”

Payton’s reverence for Parcells as a mentor is well-documented. Some of that is reflected in Payton’s offensive scheme, too — like the way the Saints label their series of runs, for example.

Brees also has been influential, as well as longtime Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., since all three arrived together in ’06 and started collaborating on the offense.

Brees is hardly the only NFL quarterback who speaks West Coast offense so fluently, because it has been the most popular system in the league since Bill Walsh made it legendary in the 1980s.

But Payton said Brees’ recall is part of what makes the 11-time Pro Bowler so special. And it’s part of what has allowed Payton to run one of the most diverse and sophisticated schemes in the league.

“His ability to study it, hear it … the stress he has on Tuesday night when he gets the list and Wednesday’s practice because he wants to get it right, and then he has it by [the end of the week],” Payton said. “I can give him the beginning of that: ‘Drew, give me Gun Flex Right Stack 394 …’ and he’ll just turn and [wave me off]. He’ll know it.”

Brees, who speaks highly of past coaching mentors like Joe Tiller at Purdue and Marty Schottenheimer, Brian Schottenheimer, Norv Turner and Cam Cameron in San Diego, said he takes great pride in mastering the game plan throughout the week. He wants to be able to anticipate what’s coming next and spend extra time between plays looking for clues in the defense, etc. He also wants to be prepared in case the headset cuts out, so he doesn’t have to burn a timeout.

When asked how often he hears the first three or four words of a playcall and knows what the rest is going to be, Brees said, “about 99 percent of the time.”

When asked how often he doesn’t even need to hear the first word, Brees laughed.

“Well, in certain situations,” he said, “a lot.”

In fact, the hardest part for Brees now is that sometimes he has a little too much recall.

“This is 12 years now in this offense, and we’ve evolved so much,” he said. “We call a play and I look at Pete Carmichael and [longtime quarterbacks coach] Joe Lombardi and Sean Payton, and we can sit there and be like, ‘OK, we’ve taught this four different ways over the last 12 years.’ And it might have been where we taught it one way for a little while, and then there was a better way, then we said, ‘No, we like the old way better.’ Or there might be, ‘Well, what if we tried this?’ So there’s plenty of times where a play will come up and we’re like, ‘OK, how are we teaching this one again?’

“It’s just constant evolution. That’s part of what’s been so fun about this.”

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Mark Ingram not expected to join New Orleans Saints until veteran minicamp, Sean Payton confirms

METAIRIE, La. — Coach Sean Payton confirmed that running back Mark Ingram is not expected to participate in any of the New Orleans Saints‘ organized team activities until the mandatory veteran minicamp in June, apparently because the Pro Bowler is heading into the final year of his contract.

It was Ingram’s decision to train independently in Florida and does not appear to be related to Ingram’s four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. News of his absence was first reported by the NFL Network.

Ingram, 28, also switched from longtime agent Joel Segal to new agents Paul Bobbitt and David Jones this offseason.

“He and I spoke, so it wasn’t a surprise to us that he’s not here,” Payton told ESPN. “I don’t agree with it. But it is optional, and that’s his choice.”

Payton also said that the Saints don’t have any immediate plans to sign a veteran running back to add to their young stable led by Alvin Kamara, Trey Edmunds, Jonathan Williams and sixth-round draft choice Boston Scott.

Of course the Saints could turn to a veteran later this summer or early in the season, especially if Kamara suffered an injury. In the meantime, though, Payton said he wants to see how that young group looks.

It’s hard to imagine the Saints signing Ingram to a lucrative contract extension before the season starts, both because of his looming suspension and because they have another rising star in Kamara.

Ingram is coming off the best two seasons of his career. The former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round draft choice ran for a career-high 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns last season as he and Kamara became the first duo in NFL history to both surpass 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same backfield.

Ingram (5-foot-9, 215 pounds) has 5,362 rushing yards, 1,428 receiving yards and 48 touchdowns in his seven-year career.

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J.J. Watt of Houston Texans wins Walter Payton Man of Year Award

HOUSTON — Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who raised more than $37 million in just 19 days for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, won the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award on Saturday.

Watt was announced as the winner of the award, given to an NFL player who has “a significant positive impact on his community,” at NFL Honors awards event in Minneapolis, where Super Bowl LII will be played Sunday. The other two finalists for the award were Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson.

Olsen launched plans for a one-of-a-kind cardiac neurodevelopmental center in Charlotte, North Carolina, through his “HEARTest Yard” initiative, while Watson led a campaign to battle human trafficking and violence against the poor.

After Harvey hit Houston in August, Watt set up an online fundraiser with the original goal of raising $200,000. However, his videos on social media went viral, garnering an incredible amount of attention, and many celebrities and prominent NFL figures made donations to the cause, including Tennessee Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk, who donated $1 million.

In October, Watt announced that $30.15 million of the money raised will be distributed among four nonprofit organizations to help rebuild homes, restore child-care centers and provide food and medical care. The other $7 million, Watt said, was set aside to be used in 2018 “as we continue to assess and analyze the evolving relief efforts.”

Watt and his Texans teammates also distributed supplies to those affected by the flooding from the hurricane before the season. Since then, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has spent time in Houston and its surrounding areas visiting with people and handing out food and goods.

The Walter Payton Man of the Year award is named after the legendary Chicago Bears running back who died in 1999 after battling a rare liver disease.

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