Evans on D&C: Saints ‘unbeatable’ at their best
|02.03.10 at 10:42 am ET|
New Orleans Saints (and former Patriots) fullback Heath Evans joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to discuss his team’s preparation for the Super Bowl on Sunday. Evans, who has been blogging for WEEI.com about his experience in South Florida, talked about what it would take for the Saints to beat the favored Colts.
Evans, who called the Super Bowl experience “bittersweet” since he will not be able to play in the title game after suffering a torn ACL in Week 7 against Miami, said that if the Saints play a complete game like they did against the Patriots in Week 12, “I would tell you we are unbeatable.”
A key part of that equation will be to achieve physical play that includes ample pressure on Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
“We’re going to win this game by finding a way to be more physical than the Colts. End of story,” said Evans. “If you let him sit in the pocket, you give him his 2-1/2 seconds, it’s going to be a long, long day.”
Evans also spoke about his time in New England and his relationship with both Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft. That pair, he said, “made it so hard to leave that organization.” He detailed the similarities and contrasts between Belichick and his new coach, Sean Payton, and his former quarterback Tom Brady to Drew Brees, adding that he thinks the two are “twins separated at birth” given the way they prepare for games.
A transcript is below. To listen to the interview, click here.
How frustrating is it for you to be there but not really be involved and be able to actively participating in what is happening on Sunday?
Oh man, it is miserable to say the least. Bittersweet: you know, obviously for our city, our town, the organization and all my boys on the squad, it’s obviously something special that we have been able to accomplish this year. But it’s not quite over yet and I’ve just got to keep telling myself that my ring will look the same as theirs, I just can’t go out there and smash heads with them. So it is bittersweet for sure.
How are you trying to contribute to their preparation?
Well, you know what, just trying to think back I learned so much football from coach Belichick and from the leaders around there like [Tedy] Bruschi and [Rodney] Harrison and [Tom] Brady, and the list goes on and on and on. But at the end of the day, this is our first experience here as a Saints team, and especially with where we are in Miami, just telling the guys, ‘You rule the city and don’t let the city rule you.’ Because I think this particular city has probably cost a number of teams Super Bowl championships over the years.
I look at the names and the outcomes of people leaving the Patriots to go other places that seemed, at least financially, to be greener pastures and they didn’t have much success. How much fear and trepidation was there for you to leave the Patriots to go somewhere else for greener pastures? It worked out okay for you, I think.
It did. Money wasn’t the first priority. You know, Beth Ann and I really sat down and asked ourselves what we really want, and we wanted to win. Bill and Mr. Kraft really put that taste in my mouth, and there is no replacement for winning. And we had a lot of better offers than even what the Saints were offering, but I looked at the organization from a whole and tried to put to affect what Mr. Kraft and coach had taught me about winning. And the money will take care of itself – we all make a great living in this profession. But really what attracted me to the Saints was the offense and kind of what I was getting to do in the first seven weeks of this season, which was block and run and catch touchdown passes and be a 45-snap part of the offense. And that is kind of what I missed in New England. I played my 15-20 snaps, but I didn’t really get a chance to do everything that I can do on a consistent basis.
In what ways are Drew Brees and Tom Brady similar, and what is different about the two guys?
What’s different is that Drew is not as vocal. Drew is probably a bit more energetic in terms of the emotional leadership of the team. He is our get-hyped guy; Tommy is just going to head butt you before a game. Quiet, keeps to himself, kind of chill, say something when need be. But during the week, Tommy would always speak his mind and he was actually an extra coach out there. Obviously the way these guys prepare — I’ve said it probably 15 times this week – I think they are twins separated at birth. When it comes to the details of their game, they are both extremely smart. Obviously you can probably throw Peyton in the mix there, too. But these guys, they just do things the right way. They are men of character and it shows up in everything they do.
What is it like being around a team that has to face Peyton Manning? Is he the biggest issue right now as you prepare to face the Colts?
Well, the best prediction of future behavior is past behavior. When he has been given the big stage, Peyton is the best. He’s been here, they are the winningest team of this decade, which almost hurts me to say after being with the Pats for so long. But they’ve won more games and they’ve done things at a high level, and Peyton is obviously the fuel that drives that machine. And if you don’t have a gameplan for him, or some way to at least manage what he is going to try to do, you are going to be in big trouble and it is going to be a long day. So it definitely starts with him.
What about the coaches — Belichick and Sean Payton? Other than the fact that you said he is one of the top five funniest men I’ve been around. Are we talking about the same Bill Belichick we see at the podium?
We sure are, man. Bill and Mr. Kraft — obviously, I had some great teammates — but they made it so hard to leave that organization. I love those guys, I owe a lot to them both. At the end of the day, our team meetings were hilarious. You know how intense Bill is, but at the same time he coaches with this comic relief that gets the point across but at the same time, you know that, ‘Hey this is going to be OK. Let’s keep working hard and keep doing what we’re asked to do.’
Sean and Bill’s passion to win is second to none. They go about it in two extremely different ways. You would never say Bill is the encouraging head coach, where Sean is very encouraging. He is a motivator in the sense that he’ll say, ‘You screwed up, let’s fix this, let’s get it better. But man, this is who you are, you can do this better.’
He will pat you on the back. You’re not going to get that from Bill. You’ll get the snide smirk out of the side of his face that lets you know everything is okay in Bill Belichick’s world with you. They are two extremely different coaches, but at the end of the day they are both getting the job done at a high level.
You are a good Christian man, and Bill is a good Christian profane man. Does that offend you, some of the things that come out of his mouth?
You know what, Bill and I had some good conversations over my four-year tenure there. I think at times he would almost purposely cuss me out in a manner that would almost try to purposely offend my belief system. But I know one thing about Bill, if he doesn’t respect you and doesn’t trust you, he’s not going to have you there as a player.
Give us an example of something that Bill has done that is funny.
Well, I don’t even remember but I did something in a game and Bill just then proceeds to “Jesus f’in Christ, and mother blah blah blah,” but everything had this religious tone. So the rest of the team room is over there cracking up, but he is yelling at me. When he is yelling at Brady or Bruschi, I’m over there cracking up, too. But with me, it was let me get this religious slant and really try to get underneath Heath’s skin and really try to prove the point. But it doesn’t offend me. I love the man and I know he always had my best interest and the team’s best interest at heart. And you know, you definitely have to be thick-skinned if you are going to play for Bill Belichick.
There are about a thousand different ways to look at this game and analyze it. But if you were told that you could look at two games to determine how the Super Bowl is going to turn out, if you watch Week 10 when the Pats went to Indianapolis and but for that fourth-and-2 call should have won, but lost 35-34, and two weeks later at the Saints get their butts kicked 38-17, does that give any credibility to the fact that maybe the Colts shouldn’t be such big favorites?
You know, I think obviously if the Saints play the best game they are capable of playing, kind of like we did in Week 12, I would tell you we are unbeatable. You know, we caused turnovers, we didn’t turn the ball over, we played well on special teams, we played at a very high level.
You made the Patriots give up in the end.
Well you know, I obviously wasn’t out on the field, but I would tell you they definitely looked out of their element. That is the only time I have ever seen it done. But you guys know that every week it is hard to put that product out there. It comes down to the prep battle, goodness gracious the Colts, they have us beat, just because they’ve been here, done that. You’ve heard the talk – the same hotels, the same meeting rooms the same weight room, the same practice facility. Listen, this is only my second Super Bowl but I can tell you the routine helps. Anytime you can do the same thing over and over, the repetition just breeds comfort. And that’s what you need this time of year, the repetition and just some comfort in your surroundings.
Do you feel lucky to get out of that NFC championship game alive? Because let’s face it, that wasn’t your best game.
No, not at all. You turn that film on and we can call it exactly what it is. Offensively we sputtered. At best we were given great field position by our defense numerous times and really weren’t able to capitalize on any of it. So you look at our defense that turns the ball over five times for us, constantly gives us extra possessions. And when you do give Drew extra possessions, we are tough to beat. Our special teams really stepped up for us and had some big returns, and at the end of the day you just fight and claw and try to keep yourself in position to win. Our mantra all year has been to finish strong, and that was the challenge at halftime and we found a way to get it done.
Do you know, right now, about how many times Reggie Bush will touch the ball?
You know, I don’t know. If there is a formula, I would always say he is probably that 10-15 touch a game guy. Obviously we want to get the ball in his hands. He is electric when he gets out in open space. Obviously he has done a much better job as of late when these games have counted in the playoff stretch of being physical and really using his shoulder pads and his strength — really things I think that have been lacking from his game that I have been on him about all year.
I’ve tried to say, ‘What would Bill Belichick or what would Ivan Fears, my running back coach with New England, say to Reggie?’ And honestly, he has been a key ingredient to a couple of these playoff wins. Just really electrifying our sideline with his physical play. So we want the ball in his hands, and most of the time good things happen.
Gregg Williams is probably not going to be able to confuse and outsmart Peyton Manning for very long. Perhaps the better tactic is for the defensive coordinator to come up with a gameplan that smacks Peyton at every opportunity, and every Colt.
Very true. We are going to win this game by finding a way to be more physical than the Colts, end of story. You look at the matchups across the board — you talk about Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne, if you stop there you are in trouble. But then you start adding the guys that they have really had step up for them this year, and you could say we are outmatched. But we have hit people all year, offense, defense and special teams, and I don’t think that is going to change this week. If we’re going to win, you’ve got to find a way to get pressure, you’ve got to find a way to move the pocket for Peyton and you’ve got to find a way to lay some hands on him so to speak, in the religious terms, to get him a little bit shaken. If you let him sit in the pocket and give him his two and a half seconds, it is going to be a long day.
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