|Saints OT Zach Strief discussed the difficulties ahead as the Saints try to recover from a 1-4 start. (US Presswire)|
Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief is probably the most analytical player on the team. With New Orleans coming off its first win and a bye week, he talked about roadblocks ahead as the Saints try to recover from a 1-4 start.
You've talked about the mental strain of trying to dig out of an 0-4 hole. Can you elaborate?
Strief: It is going to take energy. Every game is so important at this point, and there's almost like a feeling of desperation at the end of games -- that there's no other choice but winning. And that can be exhausting. One of the things that will help us is when we did that in 2007, it was in the age of practicing in full pads twice a week through Week 16. We were coming off a hard training camp. Those things can build up over time, and now we're probably in a better position to physically be able to do it.
So you feel fresher now than you did in 2007, when you lost the first four, won the next four and then petered out?
Strief: Those first two years (under Sean Payton) were pretty brutal. In ‘06 we practiced in full pads through the playoffs, which we needed at that time. We weren't nearly as talented. We essentially had to outwork people. But there's a lot more attention to how guys are feeling now. They've done a good job of kind of feeling the pulse of the team, knowing when to push and when to back off. Sometimes it's just as important to go into a game fresh as it is to go into a game having repped every play in your offense.
How much can you draw on the long win streaks you've had in recent years (13 in 2009, six in 2010, nine in 2011)?
Strief: We've been on rolls before. There's a formula for us winning, and guys have bought into it. It's important for us to win the turnover ratio. It's important for the defense to force field goals and to get turnovers. We have to put drives together and keep them rested. We have to make some big plays to loosen up teams. We have to become more balanced. If you look at the stats, you say it wasn't balanced (against San Diego), but when the offense really clicked in the fourth quarter, it was balanced. Even if it's not an 8-yard run or a 10-yard run, it's a 4-yard run that's keeping teams on their heels.
The offense had almost no third-and-long situations against San Diego. All but two were third-and-6 or shorter. Was that the difference?
Strief: It helps tremendously. Third-and-15 and third-and-6 are different worlds as an offense. There's 20 plays to call on third-and-6 and there's three plays to call on third-and-15. It certainly helps, and those are the types of things we have to continue to get better at.”
Interim coach Aaron Kromer took a lot of heat during the 0-4 start. He also coaches your position. Did you think the criticism was unfair?
Strief: He was put in a situation like no other coach in the history of the NFL has ever been in. Who do you call? What has impressed me the most has been his consistency. When things aren't going well, you have a tendency to try to change the wheel. He said we were not far away, and that was a tough thing for him do in this situation as an interim. He's been a rock for us.
Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on twitter @CBSSaints.