INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts and Saints might be in different conferences, but there are some major familiarities between the teams as they meet this weekend in Indianapolis.
Quarterback Drew Brees is obviously one of the greatest players in Purdue University history, leading the Boilermakers to their second ever Rose Bowl appearance.
Ironically enough, Brees' first ever attended NFL game was in 2000 when he was at the Colts/Titans Divisional Round contest at the RCA Dome.
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton's first major coaching stint came at Indiana State (1990-1991).
Here are Brees and Payton talking about their Indiana ties and their impressions of the Colts:**
New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees Conference Call
Do you enjoy coming back to the same state where you played collegiately?**
"Yeah, like you said, now that I am in the NFC and obviously the Colts are in the AFC, this only happens once every eight years. It was back in 2007 was the last time that we were there and I guess a few times before that. That was the RCA Dome so this will be the first time that I am playing a regular season game in Lucas Oil (Stadium). Obviously all the Purdue ties and I will have a lot of friends and former teammates and college roommates and all that other stuff at the game. That makes it a little bit more meaningful. Obviously every game is important, every game is extremely meaningful, but I guess it would be similar to going back to Texas to play a game, which is my home state. There is just something about going to a place that feels like home that you spent so many of your formative years there."
(With the Saints media) How would you describe your relationship today with the people of Indiana? It is an important chapter in your life. They remember you well from Purdue and you beat the Colts in the Super Bowl.
"The ironic thing is that Mitch Daniels, who was the Governor of Indiana back when we beat the Colts in the Super Bowl and had a friendly little bet with Bobby Jindal, is now the president of Purdue University. He asked Brittany and I to be on his President's Council. There is kind of a little irony there. He's a great guy. I had so many relationships back at Purdue. The first NFL game that I ever went to in person was a Colts game, back in (2000). It was a playoff game and I watched Peyton (Manning) play the Titans. All of my college roommates are going. I have a bunch of college teammates that are going to this game. I still know a lot of people and have a lot of great relationships back there."
(With the Saints media) Joe Vitt always says that playing in primetime gives everybody that helped you an opportunity to watch, which is more inspiring for the players; is it like that for you going back to Indiana? Are you doing anything in particular for the people that you know back there that are going to the game?
"I am going to see a lot of people after the game. I want to focus and play this game. That is my job. That is being dependable, consistent and being the quarterback of this team. (It's) getting myself ready to play and eliminating distractions. I am going to get ready to play this game and go play at my best. I'll see all of those folks after and hopefully we're celebrating a little bit. That is what I am worried about at this point. Certainly, it is a little bit more, like when I go back to Texas, whether we're playing Houston or Dallas. That is my home state so I know that there are a lot of people there that are friends of mine, family, people that watched me play high school football and that kind of thing. There is a bit more meaning there just like there might be some here because of my connection with Indiana and Purdue."
What impresses you about Andrew Luck?
"He is the total package. He's extremely athletic. He's got all the physical tools and he's got all the intangible tools as well. He's extremely intelligent. My times around him, he's got a great demeanor. He's got great poise. He's a big time player. I've seen him win a ton of big games and play really well doing it. He's got the ability to make big plays with his arm inside the pocket and out and also running the football, which I'd say is kind of a rare combination for a guy as big and strong as him just to be that athletic. He's just a competitor and so I respect a lot of things about him."
(With the Saints media) How much do you see from your time with Andrew Luck and the time from a far?
"Yeah, actually the first time I spent a lot of time with him was this past year at the pro bowl. It was really one of my main reason why I wanted to go last year. I didn't think I deserved it, but I had a chance to go and spend time with guys like that. I think he is a stud. He's got obviously all of the physical tools and mental tools, intangibles that you need to play this position and play at a high level and play for a long time. He can make every through. He is a great athlete for his size and strength. He is very poised no matter what the situation. He has won a lot of games for them over the last few years. This guy has a really bright future ahead of him."
People say that the Saints offense has evolved to where they aren't down the field as in the past. Is that accurate or not?
"We take what a defense will give us. I'd say we're more patient now than we ever have been, which is a positive thing. I think good offensive football, we strive for balance in the run game and pass game. We want to be efficient. We talk about spreading the ball around. We talk about playing with great tempo. We talk about our passing game at times being an extension of the run game and then when you have big play opportunities you try to make them. That is kind of the ebb and flow of any game. You're going to take what a defense gives you and then when you have an opportunity to make a big play you try to make it."
How surprised are you with how effective Ball State product Willie Snead has been for your team?
"He's really done a great job. I'm excited for him. Obviously like you said, he's a Ball State product so he's kind of a hometown guy, so I know this is meaningful for him. I have been really happy for him. He has worked extremely hard to get where he's at. We've continued, as the season has gone along, to just give him more and more responsibility. He embraces it and has really done a nice job."
(With the Saints media) What are the aspects that make Willie Snead a good, effective route runner?
"He's a quick twitch. He makes a lot of routes look the same. I think the best route runners I've been with you're not sure if they're running a go route or slant for the first 15 yards on the breaks, whether they break right, break left or on the double move. He's one of those guys that can make things look the same, that short area that is important to being a good route runner. Obviously quickness and ability to transition in and out of a break is something he's very good at as well"
(With the Saints media) Have you developed good chemistry with him in a short time?
"Yes, I have a lot of trust in him and our offense and nuances within a certain concept or route he has the ability to break this way or break that way. I find that he's a very good decision-maker and his body language tells me what he's doing. That's what we'd consider chemistry."
The Colts have played a little more zone defense because they have had so many injuries in their secondary. In recent games, have they got more back to their usual profile of mostly man coverage?
"You'll see that at times. It seems like they have a game plan for the opponents that the play. I think they have the ability to do a lot of things. They have some pressure packages that are unique. Obviously they can play man, they can play different types of zone. Greg Manusky was a coach in San Diego when I was there. I know Coach Manusky and I have a lot of respect for him and his scheme. I'm sure they will game plan for us and we'll see how they play us."
How do you evaluate the Colts secondary?
"I think it's a very good group. I think the safeties have done a great job of creating some turnovers and making some big plays. I think Vontae Davis is one of the better corners in the league. I think all around they are extremely sound and you see them making plays. I go into this game with a lot of respect for the guys on that side of the ball."
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton Conference Call
What's your take on the Colts from watching them on film?**
"In our scouting report meeting, we kind of go through all three phases. I think offensively what's noticeable is the speed at the receiver position and some of the depth. They had a chance to draft (Phillip) Dorsett, who is someone we scouted and looked at closely. Obviously T.Y. (Hilton), Andre (Johnson) and then (Donte) Moncrief has been playing well. The tight ends are versatile players. I think that the running game is more of a gap scheme as opposed to a zone scheme and that will be a little bit different. Defensively, they are playing out of a 34 front, a lot of under defense. It's a physical front. I think they're one of the top-five in the league in regards to minus rushing yard, having negative rushing plays. It's important to stay ahead of the chains, especially against this type of defense. Obviously we have to deal with the kicking game. The punter (Pat McAfee) is playing real well. The hang time and the distance is something that we have to do our best to simulate. I would say looking at their season and there are only a few teams that really like where they are standing at the five or six week pole. They played some close games and even going back to last weekend in their most recent game against New England."
What has impressed you most about Donte Moncrief?
"I would say this, he's comfortable catching the ball in traffic. He competes and you see, I think, real good transitional speed in and out of cuts. You see his hands and you see his willingness to catch the ball in some tight quarters. I think he's a guy that's playing with confidence."
What are your thoughts on the Colts defensive pass rush despite sacks?
"We try to look closely beyond sacks and we look at hurries, hits and pressures. So when they get you in the third downs that are favorable defensively – the six, seven, eight, nine, tens – they are a handful. Their edge guys can do a good job of really collapsing the pocket and up front the same way. Inside they do a few things that cause you concern in regards to pressure looks. I think for us, it's the conversion from a 34 to an even front. One of the other challenges is if you go to a sub-personnel grouping on early downs, there is no guarantee that you are going to get matched. So that creates a problem offensively because there a handful of things that you might want to do offensively in your three-wide package but versus a nickel front, not necessarily their okie front. We have to spend an extra amount of time on that because you just can't go out there with nickel and dial up runs."
Do you see an offense that is struggling to find its rhythm or do you see a very dangerous group?
"Well, I see a dangerous group. Obviously Andrew (Luck) was hurt there for a few weeks and I'm sure, just like I would say we feel, that there's a lot of yardage left out there that they want to improve on. I know that we feel that way ourselves and I think that history would tell you that."
You have a lot of connections to this area. Are there any special feelings about coming back to the Indianapolis area?
"I grew up in Illinois and spent a lot of time – shoot, my first coaching job was at Indiana State. Then for about four summers, six summers worked down at Franklin College. My high school coach coached in Indianapolis, J.R. Bishop, for a number of years, Dick Dullaghan. I've just spent a lot of time there and regionally it's very similar to Charleston, Illinois where I went to college. I'll have a handful of tickets. I haven't gotten the total yet, but it's a great area to be from. For me, it's where I first started getting a chance to coach."
The Colts have put a lot of things on film in regards to special teams. How much of your preparation has to be accounted for that?
"It started with (the Wednesday) morning meeting. It was one of the key points. I think they stress you in a lot of ways in the kicking game. I think combined with a real good kickoff and punter and then obviously a tremendously field goal kicker, they take a very aggressive approach and that forces us to make sure we spend an inordinate amount of time on alignment, assignment. They have been very good at it."
(With the Saints media) How did you think Andrew Luck looked against the Patriots and can you talk about the Colts overall a little?
"I'm going to spend more time talking about the Saints and Colts than any other team. Number one, the last ten years history would tell us that there have been a long line of teams that have struggled with New England. I don't have the amount of or their most recent number of division titles, but I know that it's one of the reasons they have been in six Super Bowls and won four. Really, when you look at the game last week and look at it on coaches tape, you're going through the tape and constantly the scoreboard flashes and basically it's a one touchdown game. Obviously it moves to that 13 (point lead). New England plays very good defense. They're going to contest a lot of throws. They are going to be troublesome in regards to your protections as well and so I think that a fairer analysis would be all the teams that have played New England and absolutely they have another good football team. I would say looking at Indianapolis, Luck was hurt earlier and missed some games. They were able to play (without him) and have some success. They are 3-3 right now. Their record following a loss is crazy good. They're a physical team on defense. They have opportunistic safeties that have real good ball skills. (Vontae) Davis is one of the better corners in the league. They get after the passer very well. Offensively, you are going to see a receiving corps that's explosive. Currently they are right at the top of the league in explosive passing plays down the field. You can go through (Donte) Moncrief, you can go through (Phillip) Dorsett the new young player, T.Y. Hilton, the veteran player in Andre Johnson (and) the tight ends as well. It's a team that is built and is able to get the ball down the field and mix in their running game. I would say you are going to see more gap schemes from them in regards to how they run. Their game against New England was a hard-fought game and although they lost it, I think really for three quarters of the game that goes back and forth."
(With the Saints media) Do you think Luck was sharp coming back from that shoulder injury?
"I think he's playing better. I mean it's hard for me to look and project as to how he is feeling because, look you come back because of an injury and the good news is you're in the lineup and the bad news is you're facing the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. You're going to be challenged and I think I believe him when he says look my arm feels good and so when I am watching the tape and looking at it. I don't see someone who is laboring, but I see someone who, obviously at times is going to be challenged by a team like New England just as we would be."