Opening statement: "It is good to see everybody. I appreciate you guys being here. We just spent the morning evaluating the last game. Now, we are moving forward to getting ready for Jacksonville and to try and apply the lessons learned to the things that we need to anticipate. There is a reactive element to what we do and also a proactive element to what we do. You go back and try to correct things that come up, and new things always come up. There are a lot of things that were a lot better this week than they were the week before. But, there will be new things that we have to anticipate that we will be chasing ahead of time and also some new things that we won't be able to anticipate that will come up. That is the process that we are in. I think every team has that [process] in every sport – but especially football, because it such a complex sport. That is kind of how it works."
In the last two seasons and the early part of this one, you have nine blocked kicks from at least six different guys. Does this serve as a reminder for young players who may not be willing to do special teams that they can make a difference here? (Joe Platania) "Sure. Special teams are vitally important, and you know that. I think that is the point of your question; it is a great point. But, if you are a young guy and you don't understand the value of special teams, you are probably not on a team. You certainly aren't on this team, and you probably aren't on a lot of teams right now, because that is just the way it is. There are 46 guys active, and not just young guys – C.J. Mosley, Zach Orr, Albert McClellan, Kamar Aiken – those guys are playing big roles on offense and defense, and they are playing big roles on special teams. That is just the nature of the game. It is going to be always be that way. It can be alleviated with bigger rosters one day. I keep slipping that in there*. (laughter) *But, that is how the game is played."
How much pride does the team take in being able to consistently block kicks?* (Jamison Hensley)*"I just think that [special teams coordinator/associate head coach] Jerry Rosburg does a phenomenal job. He is the best special teams coach in the league. I say that assuredly. In my mind, it is not even close. He does a fantastic job – motivates guys, gets them excited to go do it. But, then we have a bunch of guys that want to do it. Lawrence Guy, who got the latest [block], he is into it every single day. He loves it. He talks about it, he watches tape on it, and he practices hard. He is into it. It is not just him; all those guys are into it. Devin Hester commented just last week to me about how impressed he was, how cool it was [and] how excited he was about the level of the enthusiasm in the special teams meeting and the level of the conversation and dialogue. Guys were talking at lunch, and they were talking about special teams – the nuances of it. [They were saying], 'Hey, you have to look at this, you have to see that on kickoff coverage.' That is part of the culture, and I think it is a credit to our guys."
Speaking of WR/RS Devin Hester, you guys talked about how you needed to block better for him. Were you much more pleased with how you went about that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Devin, is a threat every time he touches it. First of all, he is very secure. He makes good decisions. He made good decisions all day [on] kickoffs with the ball being a touchback or not. Punts, there were some high-hanging punts up there. There was a little bit of wind, too, and he handled it great – very mature, which is what you expect. Also, the electricity, the excitement; I think everyone felt it when he has the ball in his hands. The anticipation rises, especially if he has a little bit of room. The blocking can continue to improve. We will work really hard on that, but I thought that the kickoff return especially … Two things: The kickoff return blocking was much better; the fundamentals were way better. We were close. We felt like we were close even through preseason and last week. But, one or two guys did some things that we were surprised about. We got those things cleaned up and executed beautifully in this game. There will be new challenges next week. On punt return, we had a lot of good blocks without having fouls. The most challenging, toughest phase, as far as not committing penalties, is on punt return. It is happening fast out there, and the angles create blocks in the back. Our guys did a really good job of playing with discipline in that phase."
Can you explain the decision not to go ahead and kick the field goal in the second quarter there on fourth down? (Jerry Coleman)"Well, the analytics said clearly, go for it. I've had this argument with my analytics guys, because they are in my ear all the time about how the numbers are all that matters. I'm like, 'The numbers are not all that matter. The gut matters, too, and how you feel about it.' We have had two [fourth downs] in the past games that we have not gotten. To me, it is a good decision to go for it if you get it. It is not a good decision if you don't get it. That is the point I try to make. We have to start getting those. We give our offense and our guys a chance to make those plays, and we should make those plays; we should convert those. That is why we do it. We should try to turn it into seven [points]. We have had a lot of success. Our guys have done a great job over the years converting those, but that was disappointing not to get that. We have to do a better job, and if we don't do a better job, we have to kick them."
Can you talk about rookie DT Michael Pierce? It seems like he is getting pressure up the middle without having to blitz. You guys were getting pressure on Josh McCown, even when you weren't in the lead, and they weren't in obvious passing situations. (Cliff Brown) "He did. Michael Pierce [got pressure], and Timmy Jernigan was also a big part of that. I thought our edge rushers did a good job of holding the edge and not letting McCown get out. He is a good scrambler going in every direction and making plays on the run. They did a good job of keeping him in there, or at least chasing him when he did get out. There was good pressure. We pushed the pocket really well with Timmy and Michael, and Brandon [Williams] pushed the pocket well, too. They did a good job, and like you said, it was a lot of time converting run to pass rush. That was a factor."
I think it was 3.1 yards per carry yesterday. What do you have to do to get the running game ramped up? (Todd Karpovich)"We have to do a lot of things. We have to execute better. We have to have better schemes. We have to run against better looks. We had a couple looks that we couldn't block, and you have to have answers for that. That is always the chess match. We do the same thing on defense – we try to create looks that they can't block as well. All those things go into it. We have to run. We have to make some people miss. We have to run some people over. We have to create some yards on our own, too. I think Justin [Forsett] said it best – it is a team effort. I would include the coaches in that team effort; we have to scheme up some runs. We have tried to do that this year; we have tried to scheme up some runs. When you break a run, that tends to make a difference in the average. They had one run for 85 yards, and the rest of the runs were about 60 yards [total]. You have to pop a run here and there and be consistent with a number of runs over four yards per carry. We haven't really done either well enough. We have to go to work on it and get better at it. It is not easy, because people are determined to stop the run, but we are determined to run the ball."
Along those lines, you are 2-0 and you know that your best football is ahead of you. Have you seen progress in the first two games, and do you think the team has played well enough thus far? (Dave Ginsburg) "We have seen progress. I feel like we have improved all through the offseason program, the preseason from game to game, from practice to practice, and we have gotten better. Our guys have done nothing but work really hard. They have worked really hard, and most importantly, as you pointed out, they have found a way to win games. Part of that is not losing games, either. We haven't made mistakes down the stretch that have cost us. That is really important. Sometimes that can be the difference in the game. Also, making plays – making a catch, making a throw – [is important]. We made a number of third-down conversions in the second half of this game that were really enormous that probably made a difference. We had to score a bunch of points and not allow them to score any to get back in and win that game, and that is pretty rare. To me, they should feel good about that and be commended about it. They are [feeling good]. They will enjoy today. But, I promise you that there were 28 guys in the weight room at 10 this morning working out. Every one of them has seen the game tape probably twice. I know they watch it on the plane ride back home, and they probably have seen it again today. They probably already talked to their coaches about it. We are going to go to work and improve the things we have to improve and learn. You have to learn from the things that don't go right. Then, anticipate going forward, because it is all about getting ready for the next challenge, and you have to figure out what is going to come up in the next game."
People love using phrases like, "They won ugly." As a coach, does is bother you when people apply style points to different wins? (Jamison Hensley)"No, I don't care. We'd like to be pretty. Everybody wants to be pretty. That's why you get a haircut. (laughter) I don't know. Maybe we're just not that pretty. We never really have been. It's never really been our calling card. But we're tough. I don't even know what that means. I really don't care. We have to get better, that's the bottom line. It's not about being pretty or not pretty or ugly or any term you want to use. It's about just getting better, being efficient, executing and being good. That's what we're chasing."
Coach, what was the idea with the running game pitch-outs? It just didn't seem to materialize. Was that something you saw on film leading into the game? (Jerry Coleman)"Of course. That's really a rhetorical question, so I would say, yes. That's what we saw. We felt like we had a good chance to execute that and get their 'backers running a little bit – they have some fast 'backers in there – and try to cut off the defense with the man scheme and get some pullers out there and get those guys in space – either cut them down and run around them or have them run past it and cut up inside. It's a theme. It's a style. It's a man-scheme-type of a run. We just couldn't get it done. They outran us a couple of times on the front side. We really couldn't get to the linebackers, and that was the biggest problem. The two inside 'backers did a really nice job defending those plays."
*How much have you thought about Clarence Brooks over the past 24 hours? What would he have said after yesterday's game? (Shawn Stepner) *"I know what he would have said during the long run. That's the one thing I know, for sure, what he would have said. After the game, he would have been – Clarence Brooks would have been just ecstatic. He would have been laughing and hugging his guys and would have been excited. Then he would have been grumbling about getting better with our run defense. I'm quite sure that's where he would have been. We'll just take that with us. We know that. I don't think any of us really were able to very well express our feelings. Those are just groanings inside that you just try to deal with. We're going to miss him, and we'll just have to figure this out over the next few weeks."
How much can a comeback win like that serve you down the line later this season? (Ryan Mink)"It serves you, first, by the fact that it's a win. It's in the win column, and that's really valuable. We all know that. Secondly, it serves you in a lot of ways. I think Joe [Flacco] expressed it best: It builds you up in terms of you've experience coming back. I think we have to believe that we can come back and win a game. Also, I hope it serves to teach us that we need to start fast. It doesn't serve you well to dig a hole for yourself. And [we must] play fundamental football out of the gates. For whatever reason, I don't know if we were too hyped up or what … Really, to me, you look at all of that stuff, and it's all just theory anyway. It's fun to speculate about, but how do you ever know? Just coach the result. Coach back from the technique and play better football in the first quarter, [then] we will be in better shape. Probably, those two things [are important] more than anything."
It's a pretty cool thing to say you did, though. You're down 20-0 on the road, and you come back to win that game. That stands for something? Doesn't it? (Bruce Cunningham) "Thank you very much! We have a positive thinker back there, alright! (laughter) (points to reporters) Are you listening? (laughter) *Are you guys all listening?" (laughter)*
**Seriously, what does that do for your team? *(Bruce Cunningham) *"Oh, there goes the question. *(laughter) *It's a great thing. It really is. You feel good about it; it was a great locker room. Many of you guys were in the locker room – and gals were in the locker room – when that happened. That was a great, amazing moment. It was just one of those things … I don't care, pretty, ugly, whatever, it was a win, man. It's beautiful. It's a beautiful, beautiful win. You don't come back from 20-0 too often. It was 20-2 with 3:18 left in the second quarter. The other thing was, and here's the part I meant to mention: That was really a very physical game. When I went back to watch the tape this morning, it was a very physical football game. Our guys are limping around here today pretty good, and I'm sure their guys are limping around there pretty good, too. It was a classic AFC North game. That's a physical team, and we won it. In the end, we won it. Now, we have to move on and figure out a way to win the next game. That's really all you think about."
**John, what can you tell us about Jacksonville? *(Bruce Cunningham) *"Young, talented, fast and athletic. [They] played really well against Green Bay – probably should have won. For some reason, they went out there and didn't play very well against San Diego. I'm sure that they're going to feel like their backs are against the wall. When you look at their roster, you can't help but be impressed. We have to get ready for that."
In the physical game, the Browns had several serious injuries. How fortunate do you feel making out of there relatively unscathed? (Edward Lee)"We just have to keep work on getting healthy. We have a few guys that are trying to get back right now, as you know. I'm very hopeful, very hopeful to get those guys back soon. We didn't have anything serious – it doesn't look like – coming out of that game. We are very grateful for that. The recovery stuff that we do, the guys in the weight room flushing it out today, and getting into the recovery room today should help us. And again tomorrow should help us."
Coach, can you talk a little about TE Dennis Pitta yesterday? It looked like the rhythm was right there with QB Joe Flacco once again. (Bill West)"It was kind of neat. Dennis came off after the one he caught up the middle, and he got hit right on the back of his glute. He said he felt it, but it felt solid. I think that was the one where he felt like, 'This is going to be OK.' To have that kind of game, have those number of catches and take the hits that he took in the same stadium where he got hurt the last time is really good for him and for us."
*There was a report that OLB Elvis Dumervil is in line to play this week. Is that too premature? Is it possible he could be practicing this week? (Jeff Zrebiec) *"It's not too premature. You'll know if he practices, in all honesty. He has to practice. It's really in Elvis' hands. It's going to be a feel thing for him. There's soundness there, from what I'm told. He feels it. It's just a matter of whether he feels the strength is there, and the explosion, and everything he needs to go out there and compete.
Last year, you started off kind of in the hole, coming back 0-2 from Oakland. Being 2-0, how much of a difference is it, just as far as you talking about guys being in the weight room and so forth? Is it so much of a drastic difference as fans might expect? (Jamison Hensley)"That's a comparison question. *(laughter) *I will say this – I'll answer your comparison question: It's a lot better being 2-0 than 0-2."
But people will say though, just the mentality and the feel and everything, is it as drastic [as they think]? Because I know people say they're just trying to get to the next game, trying to keep it even-keel about things. (Jamison Hensley)"You look in your own life, and when you have some setbacks, I mean … We lost two close games [to start 2015]. We had one taken from us in the second game – let's be honest about it – and we had the first one in our hands last year. We could have been 2-0 there, [but] we weren't. We were 0-2. We didn't make the plays. This year, however you want to compare it, any way you want, you can say whatever you want, but this year we made the plays and won these two games. So, we feel a lot better about winning the two games. But really, in the end, the task at hand does not change. We have to get ready to play the next game, and we have to get better, because you're not done. You can't play the way you played in this game, whether you won or lost this game, and have any chance to win next week or four weeks from now, because everybody gets better as the season goes along, and you have to keep getting better. My dad said it every single day of our life: 'You either get better, or you get worse. You never stay the same.' And that's true for anything, and that's the way it is for us. We have to get better this week. If we're not getting better, we're getting worse."
Coach, your thoughts about maybe the NFL putting two better cameras in the back of the end zone, having a better angle so they can focus in on that? Some shots were better than others, but the angles yesterday with the cameras weren't very good at all. (Bill West)"Yes, that's something that's been brought up in the owners' meetings often, and [Patriots] coach [Bill] Belichick has been a champion of that, and I support fully what he says, out of fairness. There should be the same number of cameras at every game, and if the network doesn't have them, the NFL should put them in there. [Coach Belichick] says it way more flamboyantly than I do – he had some great lines that we all laughed about – but I'm siding up with coach Belichick on that one. That would be the right thing to do. Every game is just as important to the teams that are playing in the game. I don't know, maybe the networks didn't think our game was as important. I thought the crew did a great job. That crew is a really good crew, and a young crew, and when we had them in the production meeting, I thought they were awesome. But we didn't have as many cameras there, and it made a difference in the replays, absolutely."
John, when defensive coordinator Dean Pees met with the defense in the first half, LB C.J. Mosley said he spoke to the defense firmly without getting fired up. How critical is it to have sort of a calming presence like Dean? (Ed Lee)"Yes, it's good to have Dean on the sideline; I like him down there. And also for the adjustments, and things like that. Dean does a great job of talking to the guys and always gets things corrected, just like that. And the rest of the guys … [Defensive line coach] Joe [Cullen] does a great job, [linebackers coach Don Martindale] 'Wink' does a great job down there. [Defensive backs coach] Chris Hewitt talks to the [defensive backs] down there, and then having [secondary coach] Leslie [Frazier] in the box is invaluable. So, it's a good group of coaches doing a good job on gameday."
John, going back to where it did look like the Cleveland receiver touched the line in the back of the end zone, did the referee or the official just tell you they just couldn't see or have a definitive look? Is that what the explanation was? (Jamison Hensley)"Yes. They didn't have a camera angle where they could overturn it. They didn't have anything down the line."
**Coach, real quickly, the attire yesterday. You were going with the t-shirt. Is that a big change for you? *(Jerry Coleman) (laughing) *"I like that t-shirt; it had a good feel to it. [It was] just a changeup, just a changeup – trying to be cool. A lot of these guys, the NFL coaches, they're on the sideline and wearing their cool stuff, and I felt like I wasn't cool enough with my golf shirt out there, so I wanted to freshen it up a little bit." *(laughter) *