Drew Brees has phenomenal numbers against the blitz. How difficult is it? Is he in the Peyton Manning category when it comes to trying to send extra rushers?
COACH DAVIS: Absolutely. Drew Brees has excellent numbers, Blitz, no blitz, coverage, non‑coverage. I know he's one of the best rated blitz quarterbacks there is so you bring up a good point. This offense is so efficient, and it is run on Drew Brees and his decision making and quick release, and he really makes you defend the field both horizontally and vertically because all five of his eligible receivers are up and active like a lot of the younger quarterbacks cannot pull that off and a lot of the older quarterbacks can't but he's been in the system and been with Sean [Payton] for a while and they just really stretch you, again, both vertically and horizontally.
Other than Brees, Jimmy Graham poses a lot of problems on offense.COACH DAVIS: He's the No. 1 target they have and he's been their most consistent target. He's a big, athletic tight end, catches everything thrown near him. They move him all over the place so it's tough to practice and get a beat on how to help guys on him.
He is the No. 1 target but one of the attributes of all great offenses and like this one, this ball goes to everybody. It goes to the open man, and Drew Brees does a great job of doing that quickly.
You have a quarterback that gets rid of the ball quickly, like Brees does, how much of a difference does it make in terms of coverage, do you man up on a guy ‑‑ how much of a dilemma is that for your coverage?
COACH DAVIS: I think the key is to change up that type of coverage and it's more about the quarterback than the actual coverage and what he's looking at and what he sees and how quick he can read it. He's seen every coverage and he's seen all kinds of different tactics, and then so has Sean and they have got adjustments to everything. I think constantly kind of shifting it on them is the best way to go about it.
The Minnesota game, did that have any effect on your corners, ever since that game, they obviously played well in Chicago and played really well this past game, but do you think that just they were determined to not have that again?
COACH DAVIS: Yeah, I believe we've ‑‑ during the course of 16 games, you have good games and bad games and good plays and bad. I think they had some good plays in Minnesota, also.
So it was just the collective lessons learned from the season that we continue to grow from and our corners have really stepped up. You are right, they played great the other night and they continue to play well and they challenge people and they make plays at the ball so, we are really excited about our corner play.
Throughout the season, how do you think the defense has handled tight ends?
COACH DAVIS: I think we have been good at times and struggled at times. Like anything, the talent level of the tight end that's coming at you, how much I help on the tight end with a call or I don't, depending how many weapons they have or the situation, sometimes I give a lot of help, sometimes I don't and I think it just moves, it's a moving target.
I think [Jason] Witten had a great game the other night on us, but he's a great player. He's a Pro Bowl player and he's going to make those plays. The first game, he didn't have so much but we kind of shifted where we were helping different places, put a little more help on Dez [Bryant]. You move it around and great players play great, especially this time of the year when it's playoff football.
How much does the interior rush affect what you do in coverage?
COACH DAVIS: I think it moves around. I think it probably gets more attention with some coverage, a game like last week, the ball was out so quick you didn't see a whole lot of press but some of the blitzes we called ‑‑ didn't feel like the pressure was there because of how quick that ball is coming out. So I think it's a combination of how quick the ball is out and some double teams.
How different is the way New Orleans uses their tight ends compared to Dallas?
COACH DAVIS: It's very similar. They probably move Graham around more than they do Witten but it's very similar. Both key components of the offense.
You have so many young guys in this group, you look at
COACH DAVIS: I think that's one of the most rewarding parts about the coaching profession is taking young guys who are raw and giving them the techniques and the tools and teaching them the concepts and watching them grow, and it's a fun group. They are a good group of men that enjoy learning and are getting better every week.
You mentioned the challenge, when you have players that will challenge ‑‑ like your guys have,
COACH DAVIS: I think it makes it a lot easier. We as a staff have a lot of faith in our guys and their confidence level and they have a lot of faith in us to know that there's going to be times that they will be beat and it's ‑‑ it happens.A lot of times you're going to get the job done and I'm going to put them in harm's way and they are going to rise up to the challenge and there will be times that they make a play and we have to make sure that as coaches, we understand that that's part of the deal when you overly aggressive blitz on some downs and that's a product. They are NFL players that make plays, also.
Looking back when the season started and everything, is there a way that you can quantify how far your defense has come since early in the season and what would you say was the biggest factor for that?
COACH DAVIS: I think the biggest thing that's happened in this defense is the chemistry and the type of men that they are made of and how much they are really playing for each other. I've been on a lot of different teams and been through a lot of seasons and this one is unique in that the guys are truly unselfish and they are truly playing for the success of their teammates. They believe ‑‑ and it really is a team win the other night. Our special teams came up with plays and our offense came up with plays and the defense stepped up. All those elements and also had some bad plays and we all rallied around. It's fun to be part of this team element that we have going here and that's probably our biggest thing defensively is the growth of the chemistry.
Conversely when things are not going well, Mychal Kendricks struggled at times this year but has been playing great of late ‑‑
COACH DAVIS: Mychal is a great athlete. Sometimes he'll take a chance and sometimes it misses and sometimes it hits. He's done a great job. He's made a lot more plays for us than he hasn’t and he continues to understand ‑‑ again, it's understanding leverage and concepts and where help is and where help isn't and how to play, and as we go along, Mychal is getting better and better at that.
You've talked about how hard it is to find a guy to play in the slot like Boykin ‑‑ is there anyway to find other opportunities to get him on the field?
COACH DAVIS: I really think, and I believe this, that one of the reasons that he's grown like he's grown and made the plays that he's making is because we've allowed him to specialize and really focus on the nickel position and how to play.
He's a young player that's still growing and I think that is one of the things that we've done that I'm most happy with, and I understand he's got a lot of interceptions and second in the league, but I think that's a product of specialization and really knowing exactly and playing a position with confidence and that's how you win.
I know you've talked all year, the pass rush ‑‑ even though the sack numbers are not there, as you get to the playoffs and face the better quarterbacks, do you need a guy, someone who can step up ‑‑ do you need more from someone in the pass rush department?
COACH DAVIS: I think our pass rush has been pretty solid and I think it's a product of some of these turnovers that we're getting. It's not always sacks and I really, I'm not comfortable saying sacks --
A guy that's hitting the quarterback ‑‑
COACH DAVIS: Exactly and I think we have our share of them and we are getting there and looking at the tape from the other night, the ball coming out that quick, they say, boy, the pass rush just wasn't on. It's a different time set; it's a different time frame. It's much harder to get to those guys that the ball is out right away. And sometimes; if he had held on one more count, we would have had him, and that's a product and that's why they get rid of it so quick.
I'm very happy with the pass rush where it is and we have a lot of pressure and it's a major cause for some of the turnovers we are getting.
Going back to when they were 3‑5, can you talk about the growth of the defense ‑‑
COACH DAVIS: I think you credit Coach [Chip] Kelly on the mental toughness of the team in general, and I think he preaches it and does a great job of always talking about, when things go wrong, like they always will in a game, for both the other team and us, how do we respond to it, how mentally tough are we as a group and how do we react to those challenges.
I thought the defense did a great job when we had the turnover to come out and get a big stop and turn it into a field goal and that goes back to the mental toughness that Coach Kelly is always preaching.
You talked in the past about competing against the opposing quarterback and play caller, Sean Payton as one of the league's better play callers ‑‑
COACH DAVIS: He's probably one of the best in formations and matchups and adjustments. He's got a great mind as far as, again, he makes you defend the width and the depth of the field. And I think him and Drew are really one and the same person. They have worked so much together that their understanding together that no matter what is in Sean's head, Drew can execute and that's the key to great offensive football is when the quarterback has the same understanding as at coordinator or the head coach in this case and they play very efficient and that's exactly what this team does.
Do you think it's difficult for domed teams to come out in January, outside, and try to win?
COACH DAVIS: You know, I know a lot has been said about that but playoff football is, we are going to get the absolute best from one of the top offenses in the league and it doesn't matter if it's snowing, how cold it is. This is a group of pros, Hall of Fame pros, Pro Bowlers. They are one of the top offenses in the league and we expect to get their absolute best no matter what the weather conditions because of the mental toughness that they have.
What kind of relationship do you have with Rob Ryan? You must have known each other for a long, long time?
COACH DAVIS: I don't really know him that well. I know the Ryan brothers to say hello to but I really don't have a big history with either one.
Their running backs, what kind of problems do they present in addition to Graham coverage‑wise in the pass game?
COACH DAVIS: I think it's a product of the offense. All five eligible receivers are always available. They don't overload protection because the ball is out so quick. So the running back part of that is why they are so high in their catches, that they are a quick outlet, the ball is out quick, in the initial one is in there it goes to the running back and they have great runners and catchers. They have done a nice job of putting their personnel together to have receiving running backs. So I think that's an element of the total offense.