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Ravens Monday Transcripts: Week 13 vs. Steelers

Posted Nov 26, 2012

HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE

 

Opening statement: “We have a roster move to announce: Anthony Levine, who sustained a season-ending shoulder injury, will go on IR [Injured Reserve], and we will move David Reed up to the active 53-man roster in that spot. We will be doing that at 4 o’clock today.

 

“As far as the game goes, we pretty much saw it on tape the way we saw it last night. The thing that jumped out at me was the number of game-changing plays. We’re all going to talk about the fourth-and-29 [conversion by Ray Rice]. It’s going to go down in history. It was just a remarkable play. I said last night it was the greatest play I’ve ever seen or been a part of. It was 11 guys who made the play happen. One guy had a real big role in it; it was a sensational play by Ray Rice. Anquan Boldin came back and had as good a football block – legal football block – as physical of a block as you will ever see in football, and that’s Anquan Boldin – that’s who he is and that made the play happen. [There was the] offensive line with protection, Joe [Flacco] with the throw, the whole thing. And that epitomized the whole game. Defensively, we played pretty well throughout, but as the game went along, we got better on defense. We tackled better. We defended better. We pressured better, but we pressured pretty well throughout the whole game. We are improving on defense, and we improved throughout the course of the game. Special teams was solid. And offensively, we really struggled early. We did not start fast, but we finished fast, and that was the difference in the game. So, it was good to see the ability to struggle against a defense that was playing really well. We weren’t clicking. We weren’t quite making plays. We were close; we were missing some things there. But then, to keep fighting, keep battling, for a football team to stay together on the sideline and have faith in one another and never get down on one another, keep trying to make a play to help the other side get going – all three phases – to me, that’s what it’s all about. To see it come together in a victory like that, on the road, against a very good team – that’s what it’s all about.”

 

You’ve coached at this level for quite a long time. You’ve been around some good teams and been on the sideline for a Super Bowl. You said after the game yesterday that this team is building something special. What about this team says that to you? (Joe Platania) “The way they handle adversity. It’s the way they deal with adversity. To me, it didn’t begin [yesterday]. We always talk about beginnings and starting points, and the starting point of that idea was probably the AFC Championship game last year and the way our team was in the locker room. And that had started long before that moment, too, where the team was at that point to handle that adversity. And then to let that brew for the whole offseason and through training camp and to build on that and to build on the adversity that we faced throughout the season and to become better through all of that – that’s what I’m talking about.”

Did Dannell Ellerbe come out OK? And is there an update on Ed Dickson? You said he had a sprained knee last night. (Jason Butt) “Ed has a bruised knee, a sprained knee. It’s nothing major in terms of ligament damage or anything like that. He will have a chance to get back this week. It just depends on how it goes and how well it heals. Dannell Ellerbe has kind of a foot-ankle thing. [He has] got a little swelling in there. He’ll have a chance to get back this week, too, and we’ll just have to see how it goes. The practice for those two guys will be very limited this week, and we’ll try to get them to the game on Sunday.”

Coach, you had Ray Lewis on the sideline yesterday. There was a report that he is coming back before the end of the season. You told the CBS crew such, and there were multiple reports today [that said that]. Is that accurate? (Jerry Coleman) “I think he will. That’s a best guess. He’s working hard to do that. We’ll see. I think the six weeks might be up, is it, this week? So, could he practice this week? (Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations interjects: “I think he is eligible to practice this week beginning Thursday.”) There’s a timing to all that, and we’ll know then. We’ll have to test it and see if it will hold up. I really don’t know where it is at right now. Ray has been in rehab mode. He hasn’t been here from a football standpoint, in terms of us seeing any of that yet. But just talking to Ray, it sounds like things have gone well. There have been no setbacks, so there’s a possibility.”

That he could practice this week? (Jerry Coleman) “Whatever the rules are. I’d say there’s a possibility he could practice as soon as the rules allow him to practice, and we’ll have an update for you on that. I just don’t know that off the top of my head.”

What do you say to the fans who seem to be, with each week, sort of discouraged with these unconventional wins that you guys keep putting together? (Drew Forrester) “Are they? I’m not aware of that. I don’t get those calls. You guys get those calls, fortunately.” (laughter)

John, you talked about the offense. And yesterday, by my count, there were 11 times where you had third-and-seven-or-more. Talking about the third-and-long situation, how does that play into the difficulties you have on the road offensively? (J. Michael) “Well, we were 50 percent on third down yesterday when you take it as a whole. In the first half, the first three quarters, we might have been around 20-25 percent. I’m not exactly sure. It was in that neighborhood. So, we made improvement on third down. Third down has been an area of concern for us. That’s been something that we have really spent a lot of time on – really all throughout the year – but recently we’ve really worked hard at third down. And, obviously, we’d rather be in third-and-three, -four, -five, -one, -two. We didn’t get a third-and-one, and we had a fourth-and-one. So, I guess it goes both ways, and yet we are converting some third-and-longs, which is a credit to Joe, the receivers, the pass protection. So, sometimes you’ve just got to do whatever it takes. I think our guys have found a way to do that. Going back to your question a little bit, it’s just the reality of football. You deal with what you’re faced with, and that’s what we are trying to do as a team, and offense on third down is a good example of that. Whatever third down we get, we want to convert it. But, we sure as heck want to make it as manageable as we can, and we’ll just keep fighting to do that.”

John, talk a little bit about the incremental progress the defense has made. Going back several weeks when Terrell Suggs came back, I think that there was a feeling of some urgency in getting him back because the running game was struggling and you had lost some players. It seems like there has been very steady progress. Can you address that? (Peter Schmuck) “I’d agree with that. It’s probably worth looking at the numbers. I haven’t really looked at those numbers to say … (Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne interjects: “Since the bye, the Ravens have given up the fewest points in the NFL.”) That’s pretty good. (laughter) Congratulations to those guys. I’d say congratulations. First of all, our players and coaches have done a great job. I’d start with Dean Pees and the coaches on defense. We’re committed to fundamental football – that’s what we’re committed to. We have a great scheme package. We do some really, really great things. I think they do a good job every week of adjusting. We’ve put some packages together that have put guys in position to do the things they do best. But to me, that’s peripheral to the fact that we’re attacking the line of scrimmage better, we’re taking on blocks better, we’re tackling much better, our underneath coverage is much more disciplined and the eyes in the back end are getting better and better every week. We’re just playing better football. Yes, we’ve gotten some guys healthy and those kinds of things, but we’ve also gotten some other guys hurt. So, it’s just a group of guys – players and coaches – that are working really hard to improve. And then, you face another challenge this week. It’s going to be another huge challenge. That’s football.”

To follow up real quick, I guess where I am going here, talking about Ray Lewis, the first thing that popped into my mind when I heard these reports was, “Why rush Ray Lewis when things are progressing the way they are?” There might have been more urgency when there might be with Ray. (Peter Schmuck) “It’d be great to get Ray Lewis back. All of our guys would welcome Ray back with open arms if and when that happens. But, in the meantime, Ray is part of our defense, just like Terrell Suggs is part of our defense. The whole thing is coming together, hopefully, better every week. We could stumble at any time in this league, but adding a great player into the mix is only going to make us better.”

Talking about the fourth-and-one in the third quarter, was there something that made you decide at that point in time that it was worth the gamble to go for it? And did Joe Flacco check to the run to the right or was it a designed run to the right? (Mark Zinno) “I wouldn’t say checked out of it. The thing that made me want to go for it was I thought we’d get it. We knew we had to kick a field goal, and we knew we had to score a touchdown. We knew we needed two scores if a field goal was going to be part of it, and we knew that that was going to be the case. If it had been more than fourth-and-a-foot – and it was really six inches – I probably would have kicked the field right there and get the one score under our belt. The fact that it was six inches, we all felt real strongly that we were going to get that done. My personal philosophy as a coach is you give your guys a chance to make plays. They won’t always make the play, but you can’t run scared. I trust our players, and I think most of the time, the vast majority of the time, our guys will come through and make those plays, and that’s pretty good evidence when you look at the rest of the game. So, I’ll continue to trust our guys. There are certain options that we have. We’ve grown our package to where Joe does a great job at the line of scrimmage getting us in and out of plays, adjusting the protections, changing the routes, making those decisions at the line of scrimmage. Defenses are back and forth and challenging and all that kind of stuff. We made a decision. He had certain options in there, and he made a decision to go with that play because it was a called play within the choices that he had. They did a great job of moving a guy and beating us on the backside and defending it. There were other options he had there. Sure, he could have gone with them, but you can second guess that all day long. It’s part of our offense, and it’s what we want to continue to be. We call and run plenty of stuff, but you can’t just be a call-and-run-it offense 100 percent of the time in this league and not beat your head against the wall. So, I think that’s how we need to play, especially with a veteran quarterback who knows what he is doing.”

John, can you take us through what you were thinking on the review of the fourth-and-29 and just how that was handled with the long stoppage of play and everything else? (Brett Hollander) “I think it was handled correctly. I know that everybody wants to keep the game moving and everything for entertainment purposes, but getting it right is probably the most important and probably the true fans really appreciate that, too. This is just my speculation, when you watch the replay – and I’ve just watched the coaches’ copy over and over again: They got the spot right in the end. His knee went down at the 35 [-yard line] and his body was at least a yard to the [34], which is a yard to gain, and then he was extending the ball. So, I think they got the spot right when [referee] Gene [Steratore] brought it back. To me, the whole time they had to go back and figure out where the chains exactly were. They had to go back and look at the play-by-play and, I assume, they looked at the TV copies and stuff or whatever. They wanted to get those chains back in the right spot before they measured so they had it exactly right. In the end, they got it exactly right. Once they got the spot, once they put the spot down and got it right, we knew we had the first down because we knew the yard to gain was the [34]. That’s kind of the way it went.”

Was there a point in overtime – because you don’t get to the end very often – where you started to wonder what a tie would mean? Not that you were playing for it, but did that ever go through your mind of what a tie means to us? (Drew Forrester) “I just knew a tie would be better than a loss. Without doing all the ramifications and all the different scenarios, a tie is better than a loss, and a win is better than a tie.”

Did that come in play with what you did at the end of the game with running the four plays and draining the clock? (Drew Forrester) “Correct. The whole idea was worst-case scenario … We had confidence that ‘Tuck’ [Justin Tucker] was going to make it, but you want to just position yourself as well as possible for whatever scenario might come up. There’s no point in leaving Philip Rivers with more time than you would have to if he was going to go back down and have an opportunity to win the game there.”

Can you talk about the decision process having Bernard Pierce on the field for the fourth-and-one situation and not having Ray Rice in at that particular time? (Jerry Coleman) “We’re rotating both those guys in. I like Bernard Pierce. Bernard Pierce is a really good player. We’re not going to shy away from Bernard Pierce carrying the ball. I’d like to see him carry the ball more and more. I think those two guys complement each other really well. The better Bernard gets, the more he is going to play. [He is a] powerful, explosive, hard-running guy. He is a good choice for that.”

We saw you giving a demonstration on the Bernard Pollard hit that was called a penalty. What was your take on that? (Kevin Richardson) “They showed that? My take on it is I will be looking forward to seeing what the league says on that. Bernard took every precaution to make it legal. It was a legal, solid hit in his eyes, and I would have to say in my eyes, too, just from a coaching standpoint. So, that’s how I saw it.”

Is there a sense of comfort knowing that the Ravens have a three-game lead in the division? (Ed Lee) “There is no comfort in football. It’s not allowed. Comfort is not the word that comes to mind. ‘Competitive,’ ‘confront’ – not comfort – comes to mind. So no, we have no comfort.”

Knowing the playoff scenarios, though, if you win on Sunday you will create a four-game lead. Could that be a motivating factor as you head into this game against the Steelers on Sunday? (Ed Lee) “The thing the guys have done as a team … Our guys have positioned themselves very well. To take advantage of an opportunity, that’s what you try to do. We talked. Every game you win, it makes that next game that much more important. The importance of the games builds throughout the course of the season when you’re winning. So, this game is more important than last week. Of course, it’s obviously against Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has their backs against the wall, but this game is the same no matter what. Our concern is with us, it’s how we play and we’re looking forward to it.”

Brendon [Ayanbadejo] and Josh Bynes stepped up once the injury did happen to Dannell [Ellerbe] out there … (Jason Butt) “They stepped up really well. Josh [Bynes] played really solid, physical, downhill football like he always does. Brendon Ayanbadejo really played well. He was all over the field. Made a huge stop on that run that they had there on second down; I think it was second-and-four or -five. [He] stopped it for no gain – just really stepped up like you would expect a veteran leader to do. He played really well.”

Back to the notion of there being something special about the team: Is there something about the notion that some teams know how to win, and what causes that? Is that experience of winning a lot, is that leadership, or is that what? (Ryan Mink) “That notion comes up after they win. So, you talk about how special a team is after they win the Super Bowl – this team was a team of destiny. It’s hard to pick out the teams of destiny until destiny expresses itself. I don’t know about all of that. They are special because of the way they interact with each other – that’s what I’m talking about. I’m  talking about the way they handle adversity, the way they work with each other, the way they care about one another – all those intangible things that it’s really hard to quantity, and everybody just kind of wants to shrug their shoulders at and say, ‘What is that?’ If you have ever been on a team – like most of us have at one point in time or another – you really have a feel for that, and you kind of know what that means. When you’re inside of that, that’s what you try to express somehow. It’s hard to explain, but that’s what I’m talking about.”

We saw a lot of Paul Kruger early in the game. Is he becoming more and more of an impact player, or did we just see some isolated plays? (Peter Schmuck)  “No, Paul’s playing really well. The last two, three weeks he’s really, really played well. He’s been a huge impact in our sub packages. He’s getting better every week rushing the passer. He’s playing the run, especially in the sub packages really well. The fact that we’ve … We’ve had some other guys step up like Courtney Upshaw, Albert McClellan. We’ve even got some guys that are pushing their way up through in practice. That allows guys to spread their reps out a little bit and kind of show up a little more in certain areas. That’s probably what Paul’s done with the pass rush stuff.”

San Diego, obviously, very stout against the run – how happy were you to get that kind of production against the ground game yesterday? (Matt Zenitz) “Yes, really pleased, but we think we could have done better even. There were a lot of runs in there that were a broken tackle away from going really big. I thought their safeties did an excellent job of coming downhill and making tackles. Their safeties – I don’t know how many tackles they made, but it seemed like they were making most every tackle. So, we did a great job of blocking the front; it’s hard to get to the safety. I was pretty pleased with that. You’re right – give them credit. They are a very good run defense.”

How would you review the offensive line as a whole? Obviously, had some success in terms of the ground game, but also allowed five sacks? (Matt Zenitz) “I think as a whole they played well. The sacks – you look at the sacks and you’re like, ‘Gosh, that’s never a good number.’ That’s something that we are going to look at first, and say, ‘We have to get better,’ and we definitely do. Yet, when you look at the big picture, there were plenty of times in critical situations where they came up big in protection and gave Joe [Flacco] a chance to make some big plays. Overtime periods, second half of the fourth quarter, most of the second half, but the whole fourth quarter, they protected really well. There were some one-on-one things; young guys learned some lessons by some of the veteran pass rushers. That will make us better as we go forward.”

John, you turn the page to the Steelers, and obviously, it’s the Steelers, but a chance to clinch the AFC North as well with the Bengals’ loss. Then you have the conundrum of it’s not Bryon Leftwich anymore. You don’t know whether it’s Charlie Batch or Ben [Roethlisberger] at this point and time. How hard is that going to make your preparation? (Mark Zinno) “We will definitely have to take it into account, and we’ll talk about it. We’ve seen both of those guys, obviously, before. We’ve seen Charlie. We’ve played against him, and obviously, we know Ben [Roethlisberger]. I know what we’ll do is we’ll defend their offense. What you really have to focus on is defending the offense and the weapons they have in their offense. Their running backs, Heath Miller, the wide receivers – name them, every one of them – is just a huge threat. They are a big, physical offensive line – tackle-to-tackle run game. Then [Rashard] Mendenhall can [run] tackle to tackle, but he can take it to the sideline at anytime, too. That’s the focus more than the quarterback is defending their offense and playing against their team, because they are a great team. That’s what’s made them so good all these years, and that’s what made them so good this year. Just because they have had a number of turnovers and they haven’t played great the last two weeks doesn’t change who they are as a football team. It’s still the Pittsburgh Steelers coming in here, and they are a great football team.”

The Ray Rice play was, obviously, a kind of game-changing moment of yesterday. Can that be a turning point in a season when you look at it from a broader sense? (Garrett Downing) “To me, that’s what good stories are about. That’s what you guys can look at and look at those points and write a great story. It has all merit, but for us it’s not something that I’m going to be thinking about right now. [I] admire the play. Like I said, it’s the greatest play I’ve seen. We’ll see what it means if we can capitalize on it and stack some success on top of that.”

Do you think a large portion of the defense’s progress has been on run defense? It looks like you mentioned yesterday kind of getting in more third-and-long situations. (Ryan Mink) “We did toward the end of the game. Early in the game was a little more third-and-medium; toward the end of the game was a little more third-and-long. Anytime you can get in third-and-long, you can kind of get after them a little more with the pass rush, because they can’t get the ball out usually quite as quickly, so we always try to do that. That’s what stopping the run is all about.”

Speaking of neat stories, [Terrell] Suggs came back earlier than anticipated, and now you’re talking about Ray [Lewis] coming back way earlier than people anticipated.  Are there some medical miracles going on inside the building or what’s going on? There are two special cases here, because … (Jerry Coleman) “We’ll see about Ray [Lewis], first of all. That has yet to play itself out. I just have so much confidence in who Ray is as a person and a man, and the same thing for Terrell Suggs. [What] a guy like you would never be able to understand is that these guys are physically genetic, special DNA-type guys. (laughing) I can’t relate to that either. They work, and they work harder than anybody in this room physically – that’s for sure. Give credit where credit is due. We’ll just see how Ray [Lewis] does. I know one thing: He’s working. He’s working harder than any of us can imagine to try to get back and get healthy.”

John, how do you expect David Reed to fit in the mix? (Matt Vensel) “He’ll be a big part of special teams, probably, to start off with. He’ll practice really well on special teams in the next couple of weeks, and [we’ll] kind of work him back into the offense and see where it goes. So, it’ll just provide us with another good football player, and [we’ll] see where we can fit him in.”

 

Last week you had the late practices and did the sleep studies. I guess after you went out to San Diego, what do you think the end result was? Were you pleased with the tweaks you made in your schedule? (Matt Vensel) “I thought we were really, really wide awake at the end of the game. (laughter) It seemed like it was good. Everybody seemed like on Sunday that we were pretty alert in the morning and stuff like that. I thought our guys were ready to roll. Whether that was part of it, who knows? But everybody seemed like they felt pretty good about the way it all went.”

 

Is there anything to it that maybe you guys are looking to get Torrey Smith the ball in shorter yardage situations and see if he can run and break a tackle? Or, is that just kind of how the last few games have evolved? (J. Michael) “There probably is something to that. It’s something that we want to do. Torrey can run, and he’s elusive. He’s more elusive than people think, and that play [yesterday] is a great example of it. He caught a stop nine [route] out there. He caught the stop route and broke outside against Cleveland. He caught the back-shoulder fade, which was huge in this last game, which was kind of a down-the-field outside play. And then, as you said, he caught the underneath stuff and the crossing routes. So, Torrey is getting to the point where he can pretty much run all those routes really effectively. So, that’s a credit to him, and it’s really a big weapon for us.”

 

Any updates on Pernell McPhee? (J. Michael) “He practiced this week, and we’ll be hopeful that he can play. We’ll have to see.”

 

Arthur Jones has had two really strong games in a row. Do you think with him, it’s him having more opportunity to have more playing time than he’s had in the past? Or what have you seen in his development? (Luke Jones) “I’ve just seen in the last three, four weeks, he’s taken a huge leap technique-wise. His feet and his hands are tied together way better now than they were, and that’s a credit to [defensive line coach] Clarence Brooks and to Arthur in just deciding that he wanted to play with great technique. He’s got long arms, a powerful lower body. You’ve seen the way he’s built; he’s got that great lower body. So, it’s really heartening for a coach to see a guy playing that well and to make the strides that he’s made, and it’s huge for our defense.”

 

John, for all the struggles that people seem to indicate that you guys have on the road, you keep winning. You’ve already equaled your win total on the road from last year at four and you still have some more opportunities on the road. Do you kind of debunk the idea that you’re not a good road team? (Mark Zinno) “We’ve got the third-best road record in the National Football League – so that’s pretty good. But then again, our guys take the right approach. We’re certainly not patting ourselves on the back. We’d rather take the hard look. We’d rather say, ‘There are so many things that we can do better.’ And we can be a lot better than we are. And when the fans look at that – maybe I’ve grown past getting defensive about that kind of stuff; maybe we’ve all grown up – I feel like that’s fair. We look at that, too. We want to come out of the gates faster, we want to finish stronger, we want to get more first downs, we want to be in more third-and-shorts, or we want to stop the run better, we want to cover kicks better – whatever. That’s what we need to be looking at and ways we can improve. If we can do that, and you have the type of team that has the type of character and mettle to find ways to win through all of that, then you probably have a chance to be a pretty good team.”

 

The offense seemed to struggle early on yesterday and then had more success in the second half. What changed with the passing game as a whole? What did you see from them throughout the course of the second half that led to more success? (Matt Zenitz) “We just completed more passes. And I know that’s obviously an obvious statement, but we were forced to open it up a little bit. Obviously, we spread it out, because we were down 10 in the fourth quarter, and we had no choice and we probably changed gears. We got into a little more of a no-huddle, up-tempo type of a deal. We were in three-wides; we spread people out. Joe [Flacco] was in the gun, and we were able to mix in some runs when they were in six-box. We were running the ball – we were in more conventional type sets early in the game – we were playing that kind of a game a little bit more, like we’ve played. And the thing that’s the takeaway for me is the fact that we have grown into the ability to play really any type of game on offense that we need to play. And if we can shift gears and get in and out of that kind of stuff, or we can jump into a no-huddle, spread-type of offense and run it, and then jump back into a power running game and run it that way, too – run the offense I mean, whether you’re running or throwing, play-action and all that kind of stuff – that just gives us more weapons, more tools. And the good thing is we had enough tools to find a way to win that game yesterday, and that’s what I’m most proud of. That’s what I give Cam [Cameron] credit for, give the offensive coaches credit for, and the players – the fact that they’re able to shift gears in a heartbeat and run a different offense really effectively and execute. And all of a sudden – as you said – something changed, and we started moving the ball. And that’s basically what it was.”

 

John, in the two-minute drill at the end, is there a fatigue factor that plays into it from a defensive standpoint? Because a lot of times – I’ve seen this with your team and other teams – where earlier in the season you have a couple good drives late, but then you try to do the same things and it doesn’t necessarily have the same result. (Peter Schmuck) “You’re right, and the next follow-up question is obviously, ‘Well, why aren’t you in that offense the whole game?’ We’ve done that, too, and there’s a good chance in the future that we’ll do that again. We’ll come out in that type of an offense and we’ll be playing that way probably. But the whole key to that is just what you’re talking about. There is a certain momentum that goes with that offense, and if you can generate a rhythm, have some success, start generating first downs and keep the defense on the field and force them to play on their heels a little bit, that’s the beauty of that offense. The fact that we have the ability to run that offense this year more than past years is going to be a big thing for us down the stretch.”

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