Saints' Sean Payton defends late play calling

DETROIT -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton became terse when questioned about his decision to keep throwing the ball with a six-point lead and 3:38 remaining in Sunday's game.

In hindsight, the decision backfired with quarterback Drew Brees eventually throwing an interception on third-and-9 that allowed the Detroit Lions to come back for a 24-23 victory.

"Three minutes, 30 seconds, three timeouts. That's like seven minutes," Payton said when asked why he chose not to start running out the clock at that point. Then he snapped, "Next question. Next smart question."

Payton returned to the question soon after, though, and explained that it would have been easy to second-guess the play calls in that situation either way.

And for what it's worth, I agree -- especially on a day when the Saints' run game was being silenced by a stifling Detroit defensive front.

Last year, for instance, Payton was criticized for choosing to run in a similar situation and allowing the New England Patriots time to march down the field for a late come-from-behind win.

"You get in that situation, and it's tough ... Hand it off three times, and there's two minutes, 48 seconds, more than that. So you go back and forth," Payton said. "It's less than a one-score game. We were in those situations last year. When the team's got three timeouts, and the team's got north of 3:30, 3:40 -- that's a ton of time. ..."

Payton was then interrupted and asked if he didn't think his defense could make a stop.

"I'm answering a question. Be quiet. ... Will you let me finish?" Payton shot back. "We made the decision at that point in the game with what we were wanting to do. I made it. Now it's easy when it doesn't work out to come back and [question it]. Now, if we hand that ball off and end up punting, then it's easy for you to sit in here and ask the same question again."

The Saints went with a pass-heavy mentality all day. But it was hard to second-guess the approach based on the results. The Saints' tailbacks gained 55 yards on 19 carries (an average of 2.9 yards per carry). Brees, meanwhile, completed 28 of 45 passes for 342 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Brees' numbers were even better over the first three-plus quarters, when he completed 26 of his first 32 passes for 335 yards. But the passing game suddenly collapsed, with Brees completing just two of his final 13 passes for a total of 7 yards, including the interception.

Afterward, Brees fell on the sword, saying he let the team down.