Opening statement:"Good to see everybody – appreciate you guys being here once again. We just want to ask for, really, some prayers for [former Ravens tight end] Konrad Reuland. He was put into the UCLA medical center intensive care unit today. He had an aneurism in his brain. He's going to undergo surgery tomorrow. He's in intensive care today and tonight. We just ask that you remember him in your prayers. Konrad Reuland, a tremendous guy, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family tonight and tomorrow through the surgery.
"About the game, I thought we played well. We had a chance to look at the tape. Pretty much what we saw after the game [was] a lot of little things here and there to build on and also to improve on, but our guys found a way to win the game. They played extremely hard. In the end, [they] played winning football. Our leadership showed up throughout the course of the game in terms of just continuing to fight and stick together and focus through every play. One thing that was significantly better was our pass coverage. I thought our defensive backs did a much better job in man-to-man coverage than the week before. They had been doing a good job at times throughout the course of the season – for most of the season – playing man coverage, but yesterday they really stepped it up and had some good reps out there. That was good to see [and] gave our pass rush some time. Then pushing the pocket, the batted balls, keeping [Andy Dalton] in the pocket for the most part, we wanted to keep him in the pocket. When he got out of the pocket, that was a problem, and we have to continue to work on that. At the end we did a good job of keeping him in there when they got the ball down close. That was really important for us. Those are some things on defense. Special teams, we had the last play. No big returns against us. Had a couple of pretty good returns, but we would also say we can improve there. Our core units can play a lot better than they are. We need to keep building on that, but they're fighting. Offensively, the same thing. We found a way to win the game, did some good things, especially in the first half. In the second half, we hit a lull, and we have to find a way to build on that, keep it going, and really finish the game off with touchdowns so we can extend leads. That's what we really haven't been able to do on offense. We have to figure out a way to do that."
Even though K Justin Tucker was flawless, it's late November, it's getting colder, and this is the first time you have had a grass field since 2002. Have you started to see the weather affect things on the playing surface? (Joe Platania) "The middle of the field was a little bit … Grass doesn't grow as well [this time of year]. Once it gets so cold, it doesn't grow at all. It was a little sandy out there. I thought Justin did a tremendous job with his footing. To be able to hit those long kicks – it was a soft field – and to be able to hit those long kicks was really just phenomenal. Our grounds crew does a great job. I'm sure they have something in store for the next two games. I'm sure they'll have that field in tip-top shape for the last two home games."
**Obviously, you want touchdowns, but is it nice to have someone who can virtually give you three points almost anywhere inside the 50-yard line if a drive does stall? * (David Ginsburg) *"It is big. I think most teams would be punting those balls. I thought about punting those balls, too, with the conditions, because it was a little windy out there to go with the soft field. [Justin Tucker] was so confident, and he made them. He got the job done. When you extend the field goal range 8, 10 yards like that, that's a big deal for a football team in terms of scoring points."
Where do you see any signs of improvement with the offense? The last few weeks the numbers dictate different, especially on third down. (Jerry Coleman) "As a coach, you're not just looking at numbers. You're looking at what you're trying to build and how guys are doing in practice every single day, where we missed a little bit here and there and what we need to game-plan for the next week. You're trying to win football games. That's really what we're trying to do. I'd love to see the numbers be through the roof, but numbers don't win games. You have to score more points than the other team to win games. Everybody knows that. We need to score more points as an offense. That's the bottom line. We just have to continue to find a way to do that. I believe we can do it. I know we can do it. Making plays here and there, blocking a little bit better, seeing some reads, calling some plays, building a good game plan, those are all things that you try to do."
Are there things that you think you got away from that were successful during that opening drive? (Jerry Coleman) "No, not per se."
Were you able to ascertain why you weren't able to duplicate what you did on that opening drive? (Jerry Coleman) "Yes, we were."
Can you explain or expand? (Jerry Coleman) "Not really. Not in any way that I can explain it to you that would make any sense. We just have to execute better. We have to get first downs. We have to stay out of the hole. You get on the 10-yard line. You make a couple of first downs. You get into that plus-fringe range. You have to make a play. I think you've asked me this question every single week, and I've given you the same answer. There's never any one thing. You have to execute these plays in these situations. Sometimes it's a block. Sometimes it's a catch that's not made. Sometimes it's a route that's not run. Sometimes it's a read that's not seen. Sometimes it's a penalty. Those are all of the things that go into it, because we have 11 guys out there trying to get the job done. That's the best I can do to explain it. If we sit down and watch the tape, I can show you every situation. But you go out on the practice field and you're not going to play the same game the next week. We have to get better across the board. We have to find the things that we can do well that we can execute in those situations that are going to give our opponent trouble, that are going to minimize mistakes and bad plays on our part, and all that goes into that. You're going to do it against an evolving-type of a defense. You're not going to see the same defense. You're not going to see the same schemes, and they're going to be scheming up ways to attack your weaknesses, and you have to account for that, too. That's what makes football great. That's what makes it so challenging. That's our challenge on offense, to get it to the point where the results are what you and I and everybody else want to see, which is yards and points and winning football that we can extend leads in the second half."
John, how would you rate QB Joe Flacco's slides recently? (Jamison Hensley) "You don't slide on your knee. He and I have had that conversation. He can be mad at me now, because I said it publicly, but we all played baseball. He wants to talk about a pop-up slide. Maybe that's what he did in high school, but you can't do a pop-up slide on a knee brace. It's just as simple as that. You've got to get down there on those glutes. That's what has to happen. It's not the first time he'll have heard that."
When he does those slides, I think a lot of people wonder if he's injured. Does that go through your mind when he does that? (Jamison Hensley) "I just want to see him not drive his brace into the ground. It's how he's always slid. He's always slid that way with, what he would describe as a pop-up slide, but it's not working with the knee brace. I see the same thing that everybody else sees, and he knows it."
We saw you handle the nickel slot a little bit differently with S Lardarius Webb sliding in there and S Matt Elam coming in. What was the thought around trying that? (Luke Jones) "Those are different packages that we had in. Some of the packages are more passing. Some of them are more running. Some of them have to do with pressures. Some of them are more base calls. [We were] just trying to have guys out there for what they do best and try to get our matchups as best as we can. That's really what it was. We try to put guys in positions to do what they do best."
With all of the batted passes on their last drive, was that an adjustment made on the sidelines to counteract their quick pass game, or did it just work out that way? (Ryan Mink) "We talked about it on the sideline, but we've been talking about it all week. They're definitely a rhythm passing team. Andy [Dalton] gets the ball out really quickly in rhythm to his first and second read really well, so the ball is coming out. You're not always going to be able to get there. You have to try to get as much push and get your hands up. I think we just did a better job of it. We were talking about it, and we did a better job of it toward the end of the game. We put our big guys in more towards the end, too. Our taller guys were in there, too. We put Brent [Urban] in there and Lawrence Guy in there. [Matthew] Judon got one. [Terrell] Suggs got one. They did a good job."
Forgetting pure statistics, how close do you think this defense is to rivaling some of the historically great defenses the Ravens have had? (Stan Charles)"That's a great question. I would like to think that this defense can be that caliber of a defense. That's what you work for and strive for, but when you're in the middle of it, it's really not what you think about, because that's big-picture stuff. What we're trying to do is look at the details in the end that will help us get to that point. We're not there yet, I don't think, to those defenses. I'm talking about two defenses, maybe three, in the last 15, 16 years. We can get there. It's going to come down to how well we cover people in the back end, how well we cage quarterback – keep them in the pocket and get to them – and also stopping the run."
When you came here, you inherited Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Do you see leaders like that, forget [OLB Terrell] Suggs and [OLB Elvis] Dumervil who are veterans, but do you see a new breed of Raven leaders on defense now? (Stan Charles) "I do. I get asked that question a lot, and I think it is something the fans think about a lot, so it's really a good question. It's no different than life. There's always another generation coming up the pike. I could get kind of philosophical here and talk about how we've got kids, and we meet our kids' friends, and I'm incredibly impressed with them. Old people used to lament, 'The world is going to hell in a hand basket!' and all of that stuff. Then you meet the kid, and you're like, 'They're so much smarter than we were, and so much better adjusted than we were, and they have so much more to deal with than we did – so many more challenges – and they handle them so well!' I have a lot of faith in humanity, and I have a lot of faith in God to make things OK. To me, that applies to football. You can lament that Ray Lewis is not here and Ed Reed … And even Terrell Suggs, who has emerged as a phenomenal leader, [and] Marshal Yanda … The next generation is coming up, and there's going to be a phenomenal group of leaders in that generation, too. I think you see, if you're around the locker room, you see who those guys are. That would be my long answer to that question."
Obviously, with OLB Elvis Dumervil, that forces a decision otherwise. What does OLB Za'Darius Smith have to do better so he is not a gameday inactive? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Well, it is competitive. There is a lot that goes into it. It is really not so much about Za'Darius and what he was or was not doing, it is more about the fact that we had to have a certain number of guys up in certain spots to play positions. We have five outside 'backers; it is hard to get five outside 'backers up. Probably, truthfully, Matt Judon had done a little bit more over the course of the last three, four or five games. That is competitive. [Smith] has to fight and fight his way back in there some way or another, do a little more on special teams, if he can. That is true for anybody. It is a good problem to have. I think Za'Darius Smith is a … I love the guy. I think he is a really good football player. He comes to work every day. He has a tremendous attitude. He works really hard, and he is very talented. He has played well; he has played very well. It is a good problem to have. I want competition for those 46 spots, and those guys need to be fighting to be up on gameday."
You guys used the no-huddle offense against the Browns and then again, yesterday. Is that something that is a function of the defense that you are facing, or are you just trying it out to see if that is the personality of your offense? (Gerry Sandusky)"It is probably both. It has to do with what we try to do – getting back to Jerry [Coleman's] question – to try and win games, to try and move the ball, try and change the tempo up a little bit. There are different types of no-huddle offenses that we use. We used two types of them yesterday; we did not get to another one. We are looking at that and saying, 'How do we get to that one more?' Maybe that would have helped us. I like no-huddle. I like going fast. I think it is tough on the defense. I think it is challenging on the defense, but it presents some problems for the offense, too. You have to cover those as well. I think Joe [Flacco] functions well in the no-huddle. But you look at Miami, who we are playing this week, and they were in the no-huddle offense for the first five or six weeks and really struggled. They have gone to a huddle offense almost exclusively since then, and they have won six in a row. It is different from week to week, from team to team. We just have to find our way that way. That is something that, to me, is good for us. We are not going to be exclusively a no-huddle team. That would take us down a road that I think would create problems for us that we do not want, but we need to mix it up."
Speaking of Miami, they had a really dominant running game, and then yesterday, the 49ers tried to stack the box and QB Ryan Tannehill threw for three touchdowns. How versatile do you see their offense? (Todd Karpovich) "I have not really watched them on tape that much. From what I understand … I am reading about them right now and watching highlights like you are. I will have a better answer for you on Wednesday. Tannehill has done a great job all year. Obviously, he has not made a lot of mistakes since they have started winning – more touchdown passes with fewer interceptions. They have run the ball. Their offensive line has been a little banged up I think, so they are probably hoping to get those guys healthy. They have three really good receivers and a great running back. It is a good combination of players."
How much satisfaction do you take in the way the game ended yesterday, especially with the execution and you having a special teams background? (Shawn Stepner)"It is pretty much a play that every special teams coach has in his playbook, so I do not think it is anything revolutionary by any stretch. I was really happy with the way the guys executed it. I was really proud of that; I thought they did a great job of finishing the game. That is a big play. You do not really want to punt, because they are rushing you, and they could block it, and you really don't want to put it back there in [Adam] 'Pacman' Jones' hands in that situation, either, if you don't have to, because he could take it back, and you have to cover it. So it is better to take the safety if you think you can run all the time off the clock. But 11 seconds is a long time to run off the clock. Our guys did a good job of getting all the time off the clock. Further on special teams, we have to get better on special teams. We have a lot of work to do, and we are going to work again this week on it."
Is 11 seconds the max you think for that kind of play? (Jamison Hensley)"I don't know. That would have been more Sam [Koch] … It was more than 11 seconds."
When you get late into the season like this and you get into December, are they [the Dolphins] at a disadvantage when they come north and play in cold weather, in your opinion?* (Bruce Cunningham)*"I don't know. That would be a great question. I have never coached a southern team coming north before."
With G Marshal Yanda making the switch to the left side and G Vladimir Ducasse stepping in, how do you think he is playing and how is the unit as a whole?* (Cliff Brown)*"I feel like the offensive line is playing better. I think when you watch them on tape, we are better than we were three or four weeks ago. Ronnie [Stanley] continues to improve as a rookie. Marshal [Yanda] did another solid job on the left side. Jeremy Zuttah played very well at center. I think Rick Wagner has had his two best games of the year the last two weeks. When Geno Atkins and [Domata] Peko don't dominate the game, and when you do a good job of keeping those guys at bay and keeping them out of your backfield, that is a successful game for your offensive line – especially for your centers and guards."
When it comes to CB Jimmy Smith, I know you were optimistic in saying it could be a possible game-time decision. Then, he was listed as doubtful. Once you get into that doubtful category – as you know – it is a 25 percent chance of the guy playing. Is that essentially him being ruled out? There has not been an occasion this year where you have used a guy who has been doubtful. (Jerry Coleman)"That is a great question for the league and how that all works. Twenty-five percent is 25 percent. The trainers do that. That comes up, what, on Friday? I was hopeful he would get back. He ran again on Saturday, and he tried to see how well he ran on the ground, and it was better, but it was not good enough to play. That is where we were at."
It sounds like CB Jimmy Smith is closer than he has been in the past few weeks. (Jerry Coleman)"He is close. He has been able to run for about a week, so we will see."
From your perspective, how has the secondary had to adjust without CB Jimmy Smith in there? (Ed Lee)"Guys have had to step up. That is the thing. The point I was making earlier was that they did a much better job of adjusting this week than the week before. Guys played better. We covered tighter. We were more aggressive. I just liked the mentality way better back there this week than last week. The technique was much better. They played with more confidence. That is how they should play. We have good players. We have a number of guys that can cover back there, and I would like to see them play into their capabilities, which they did a much better job of yesterday."
Can you talk a little bit about WR Breshad Perriman making another big catch in the end zone and doing a great job getting his feet down? (Bill West)"That was great. He had one earlier in the year where he didn't get his feet down, and that was a tough one for us; it probably cost us the game. You always love a player that learns from those opportunities. He has gotten his feet down a couple times since then. Yesterday he got his feet down, and he made a great catch two weeks ago. Those are the kind of plays that we need from Breshad, and he has worked really hard at practice to improve every single game. But he is going to be the first one to tell you on that deep crossing route, he wants to make that catch, and he is capable of making that one, too. He is a big-play threat. We need to keep building on that for him."
You have had some off-the-field conversations with K Justin Tucker. Is he quirky, interesting, deep? It just seems like a lot of the guys yesterday were talking about him being a little cocky. He has a broad range of interests. How do you find him to be? (Dave Ginsburg)"I do not want to label anybody. Justin is Justin. To me, it is all positive. He is a 27-year-old guy. He is a performer. He is a very confident guy. To me, you can call that whatever you want, in terms of cocky or confident. Or, what is the balance there? I do not personally think he has a hint of arrogance in him at all. I think he is a fundamentally-humble person who loves life, loves to perform and has a lot of confidence. He has earned the confidence, because he has worked so hard, and he is talented. We try to keep him in place and whip him in shape every now and then and make fun of him every opportunity we can. He has a great sense of humor and takes it well."
When you watch TE Dennis Pitta right now on film, does your mind still kind of think about him being a guy who is removed from two hip surgeries? Or is it to the point now where you watch him and it is just normal? (Jamison Hensley)"You don't think about that part of it anymore. It is just trying to find a way to make plays and win games and how he fits in and how we can get him the ball, how he can block and do all things he can do as a tight end. That is all we really think about now. We are kind of past that other part of it now."
There have been a lot of discussions about WR/RS Devin Hester Sr. with his health, primarily before the bye week. What have you seen from him since then? Of course, he had the long punt return yesterday. (Luke Jones)"I do think he is a lot healthier. He had some soft tissue injuries that he was dealing with, which I guess is not completely unexpected. He looks better now, to me, in practice. He is moving a lot better. That goes to catching the ball and making plays. He is starting to get his burst back, which is a good thing for us."
How would you rate the running game yesterday? (Bill West)"We need the running backs to be a big part of what we are doing, and they had about 140 yards yesterday of total offense. That is big for us. Those two guys are talented guys. Terrance [West] did what he has been doing so well. Kenneth Dixon stepped up and showed a little more of his ability. That was good to see. If those guys can be a one-two punch for us, we will take it. It has been positive. It was positive yesterday."