Opening statement: "We had a chance to look at the tape, and obviously, we're very pleased with the victory. Obviously, it was a team victory. It was an exciting football game, and we're proud of our football team. If you look at the different phases, in the second half especially, we faced some adversity. Sometimes our guys like to say, 'When it's tough on everybody else, it's just right for us.' Our guys grabbed onto that motto and ran with it during the game. It was the offense, obviously, stepping up and scoring two quick touchdowns and then the defense was on the field for three plays. So we go down 27-13 and I'm watching the defense play, and three defensive plays later it is 27-27. And that's a three-and-out by the defense and then a tremendous job, obviously, by the offense of taking it down and scoring twice. In the meantime, special teams finding a way to corral that guy [Joshua Cribbs] and at least get him on the ground – that was [big]. After a tough outing and a rough outing, we got him down and did what we had to do and got a punt return in the middle of it. Defensively, the last five series, I don't know if they got [a first down]. I think they had one first down in the last five series, defensively, which is the defense rising up and getting them stopped. And that's a good offense, getting them stopped when they have to. That defense had given up an average of 13 points a game over the course of the all the last games since our game, not counting the game they played against the Ravens. So people can talk about what was accomplished or what wasn't accomplished, [but] that was a good football team and that was a real good defense we were playing. That just is a statement about what our guys did yesterday. It's kind of how we see it."
Has enough time passed after the win's exhilaration for players to think about the fact that they're missing the bye?
"Well, we reworked the schedule a little bit, so we'll have to ask them when they get back on Wednesday because they're out of the building today, as most of you guys probably know, and they'll be out of the building tomorrow except for treatments and things like that. A lot of guys have been in here watching tape already, the guys who are in town, but a lot of guys went home to see their families. They're going to have Monday and Tuesday off, and then we've adjusted the schedule a little bit this week to tone the practices down a little bit on Wednesday and Thursday to account for the fact that we're not going to have the bye. So we'll find out Wednesday how they're feeling about it."
Can you talk about the theory of kicking or not kicking to Joshua Cribbs and if you will think about adjusting your game plan in the future if you run into such a strong threat on returns?
"We thought about it during the game. We were trying not to kick to him. I don't know if you noticed or not, but those mortar kicks that were going left and right were kicks that were designed to get in the hands of the wedge, and he [still] goes and gets them in a windy stadium. The wind wasn't howling in there, but it was moving around a little bit and he read Matt's [Stover] approach and found those two balls. The one time we got the touchback, was it the fifth or sixth kickoff we got a touch back that went over his head? Matt showed him a mortar look and then drove the ball deep over his head, which was a good change up. We were trying to get the ball away from him, but on kickoffs you're not allowed to kick it out of bounds. He can go sideline to sideline and catch the ball, and that's what he did and he did a great job. [Cribbs] and Devin Hester are the two best return guys in the league. I'll tell you what: We had our hands full tackling him. It really wasn't anything other than the fact that he broke a lot of tackles. We've got to do a better job of wrapping them up tight and getting them down on the ground."
Will RB Willis McGahee be ready to play this Sunday against the Texans?
"Yes. Willis will be ready. The fact that he didn't play in this game probably really helped him for next week. But he should be full-go next week."
Has RB Ray Rice proven to you that he deserves more playing time after his performance the last several games?
"It's a good question. Who gets more playing time, who doesn't get more playing time? You go into last week and you say, 'Who's earned the playing time?' I don't know if we know going into the game. We'll find out who is going to play more based on how we match up against this football team. But certainly, Ray has expanded himself with the things he can do and the confidence he builds in the coaching staff. We're a three-headed monster, as you guys put it all the time, and we're going to play all three guys."
Can you talk about the maturation of the Ravens' offense and the come-from-behind performance yesterday?
"It was a group effort. The offense scored the last 24 points, and [Terrell] Suggs was in there for one of those scores, and the fact that the defense got the three-and-outs [was crucial]. It is a great statement about the maturation of the offense. And the fact that we keep finding new weapons and we keep expanding ourselves, I think it's a tribute to the creativity of our offensive coaching staff and the willingness of the guys to learn what we're trying to do and put themselves in situations where they do things they're not used to doing. We've got to find new and inventive ways to move the football every week. You have to in this league or they catch up to you pretty quick. Cam Cameron, Hue Jackson, Jim Hostler, our whole offensive staff, has done a good job of that."
What is the health situation of the cornerbacks? Will CB Chris McAlister play this week?
"First of all, Chris is going to get a second opinion, third opinion, I guess it is now, this week. He will be out for this game. He rehabbed [the knee] all weekend. He'll be rehabbing it again this week. He's going to make the trip to get the next opinion, and hopefully, we'll know something more by the end of the week definitive. We thought we might [know] at the end of last week, but we really don't know yet. So we're hoping to get him back and he's trying to get back. Those [other] guys are fine. Frank [Walker] has been working through the hamstring and it looks like he is OK. Fabian [Washington] had the shoulder [injury] and it looks like he came out of it all right. Corey Ivy looks like he's in good shape, and we expect to have Samari Rolle. So we should be stronger than we were last week."
Will CB Samari Rolle be back this week?
"Rolle will be back, barring something that we don't know about at this point."
How will Rolle know that he is back 100 percent until he actually takes a hard hit in a real game?
"I don't know if he does know. That is what we're talking about. He'll be back and he's going to go, but until he gets into that situation, he's not going to know. The neck is sound, he's strong, he's got 100 percent strength back, and even more from what he had before, [and] he's going to be in a little bit of a collar. I think when he gets that first shot he's going to be reassured that he's going to be fine. But until you get the first shot, you're not reassured."
How healthy is McGahee and is it his ankle or his knee that is causing him problems?
"It's all of the above. He's got a knee issue, he's got an ankle issue, and he's got a rib issue. Therefore, he could have gone [Sunday], but those things start to add up and make you, obviously, less than 100 percent. [If] all those things get a little better, he feels better going into the game."
Will McGahee start against Houston or is that yet to be determined?
"Yet to be determined. Who's the starter? Is it tactical? Probably not. We're just going to play all of those guys. We'll see who gives us the best chance to run that play well."
Reports this morning indicate Houston QB Matt Schaub won't play. Does it matter who plays quarterback for them?
"Well, it matters as far as the things that those two guys do differently, but they're both good quarterbacks. One thing about Sage [Rosenfels] is he's proven he can be a starting quarterback in this league. He's a very talented guy and a tremendous backup who can function as a starter very well, so they're both good quarterbacks."
Is T Adam Terry back full-time, or will he see spot duty?
"He's back, I would say, full-time. He got through the game OK. He's a little sore. He'll play more in the next game, we hope, so he's a full-time player now."
What do you think about where this team is at 5-3? Do you think about the playoffs?
"We think about the Houston Texans, and really, that's the truth. You [in the media] can start thinking about and speculating about it. We're in it, you know. We have a shot to be in it way down the road, but until you stack up enough wins, you're not in it. We're going to have to stack up nine, 10, 11, 12 – whatever number of wins it is to do it, we're going to do it. And we can't do that without taking care of the next game, so that's the reality for a football team. You guys can talk about the playoffs."
Having won two, lost three, then won three, does that streakiness say anything?
"I wouldn't even know how to address that. I don't think it means anything. We have the next game up, and we need to win it. We try to win every game. We think we should've won every game. The games we didn't win, we have to go back and look at why. The games we did win, this game being one, we've got a bunch of things we need to get better at. We can't play the game we played last week and win next week. We've got to play a better game to win next week. That's got to be our focus."
Will you watch tonight's Steelers-Redskins game, or is there too much to do?
"Basically, what we do is, we have the Monday night game up on the TV screen there. Then, on our computers, we've got the tape we're watching and do this back and forth and watching both. We'll be watching, though. We'll want to know how they do."
When you had your first look at Rice, did you feel he could be a starting NFL running back at 5-foot-8?
"Well, he played like an NFL starting running back on Sunday. So in my mind, he's an NFL starting running back. Brian Westbrook is no bigger than Ray Rice, and there's a bunch of backs in this league that aren't tall. So height doesn't mean anything, really."
Does having three good running backs fall under the category of pleasant problems to have?
"Yes, it does fall under the category of… How'd you say it? That's a tongue twister. Pleasant problem to have. That's right. We'll take it. The more good players we have, the better off we're going to be. We want to develop all the players on our roster and give them a chance to be as good as they can be and find as many good players as we can wherever we can get them."
Can you give any specific examples of how you will adjust the schedule to keep players fresh?
"We're going to condense our practice a little bit, go from 11:00 until about 1:30 instead of having the lunch break in there. We'll slow down the tempo of some of the drills. Other than that, it'll probably be this much less physical, this much more mental, and we'll try to even advance ourselves as far as improving ourselves from this week to last week."
How much time did you spend getting DT Haloti Ngata ready to run a receiving pattern or has that been planned for a while?
"As far as him on the goal-line package, we work on that four plays a week. So he was in there for four plays last week, but he's been in the goal-line package since, actually, spring. So he's kind of been in and out on that, but it's a four-play deal."
The team spent a few timeouts on plays when QB Troy Smith was coming into the game. Was there miscommunication or what was happening?
"I don't remember the specific details of it, but there are times when we don't have it quite the way we want it – we don't have our personnel right, we don't have the play right, the 15-second clock is off and we have a tough time getting the play in. Troy doesn't have the [green] dot [for the radio helmet]. Those kind of issues come up, and we've just got to call a timeout because we need to make sure we execute the play. We don't want to do it, but sometimes we have to."
Can you walk about WR Mark Clayton's touchdown and the importance of him being involved in the offense and how that affects WR Derrick Mason?
"No doubt, Mark Clayton is obviously talented. We know that he can make plays. For him to get involved, the free safety cheated over to Mase hard [on Clayton's touchdown], and they're playing, basically, a single-high man coverage. He's over top of 'Mase.' Clayton runs a great route on the corner. The corner is pretty much on his own. Joe [Flacco] puts it in the perfect spot. That's the kind of thing that keeps defenses honest. Early in the game, they were really putting a lot of attention on Todd Heap. The outside backer, [Willie] McGinest, is banging Todd Heap off the line. 'Backers [are] jumping over top of Todd. They decided they were going to defend Todd, and that opened up 'Mase' again for a lot of receptions along with Clayton. Later in the game, they start spreading it out a little bit to defend both of our receivers, and there goes the running game. So that's what balance is all about. If we can do all those things and include all our weapons, that makes everybody better."
Were you surprised to see Heap jump before the snap a couple of times?
"Todd jumping, I haven't thought about it in those terms. I'm sure that's a couple of plays he'll want back. He got a little anxious on some of those blocks. He had some tough blocks. Throughout the course of the game he blocked really well. I'm a little surprised that he's as good of a blocker as he is, not knowing him throughout his career. And he's got the reputation of being a pass-receiving tight end. Everybody wants to see him catch more balls, and we want to see him catch more balls, and he will. But gosh, he's a physical football player in there blocking, and that's a good thing to see."
Here at the half-way point, are you satisfied with where you stand in your first year? How do you feel about what you and the team have accomplished over these eight games?
"It's irrelevant. It's a great question, and I know you're trying to get the big picture, kind of look at things, and it's fair. But we just don't have the time or the interest right now to look at it that way. It's a detraction from what we're trying to do. Are we excited to be in the hunt? Yeah. But that's all we are, is we're in the hunt. To look at for me, a deeper perspective, is, we think, a waste of time. We've got the Texans in front of us. We've got our hands full with those guys, and that's what we're looking at."
Let me ask it this way then: You knew coming in here that it wasn't like a lot of new coaches, coming into a real bad situation. You knew coming in here that you had the ability to win. Is that fair?
So obviously it's playing out the way you hoped?
"Sure. We expect to win. But people, you can talk about teams and projections in this league, and what does it really mean? I mean, who thought the Atlanta Falcons would have a chance to be 5-3, and Mike Smith has gone in there and they've done a great job. Or the Miami Dolphins? Look at what they've accomplished so far this year. Or any number of teams that were supposed to be great football teams and here they are sitting there struggling. And that's the beauty of this league. And having been in this league for 10 years, in my mind, you can't predict one thing – not from one week to the next, not from one season to the next. All you need to do is put your hard hat on, put your blue shirt on with your name on it right there, and go to work. That's what football's all about. If your guys do that, and if they take more care for taking care of one another than worrying about who gets credit or any of that other stuff, you've got a chance to be pretty good. And our guys have done a good job of that.
"The thing I did know, and realized, maybe after about the first couple of weeks on the job, and that's been constantly reinforced, is what kind of people we have in this program. When you look at a team from the outside, or a program from the outside, you're really not sure. And you guys have been around this football team and you know these guys, so you might have had a better feel for it than us coming in, but these are good people. They're hard-nosed, tough, competitive guys that love football, and they take care of each other. When you do that, when you have men like that, you've got a chance. But what have we done? We're 5-3. That means we're going to be at least what – do the math for me – 5-11? We're not going to be any worse than that, and that's all we've guaranteed ourselves right now."
What led to S Ed Reed being on the punt return? Can you talk about how you rotated people in and out of there?
"Right, well Ed wanted to be back there on that return, so that's really what that was about. He had talked to Jerry [Rosburg] about two times before that, wanting to go back there. You know it's interesting about Ed, and really all those guys, is they want to be on special teams. They want to do whatever they can do to help the football team. We'll get [Willis] McGahee out there at some point. We'll get [Todd] Heap out there at some point. We'll get [Terrell] Suggs out there. We'll get them all out there, contributing in whatever way they can. [It's] the same philosophy as our offense and our defense."
Can you talk about Flacco's maturation. He's gone three games without an INT, two of those played on the road.
"The No.1 thing for any offensive football player, and especially for the quarterback, is to respect the possession of the football, right? Sometimes you can do all you can do to do that and still, there's a turnover. But for him to accomplish not throwing an interception in the last three games as a young quarterback, it gives us a chance to win. He knows how important it is. The thing about Joe, we've said it from the beginning: He may make a mistake, and he'll make plenty of mistakes throughout his career, but he's not the kind of guy that doesn't learn from them. And he's done a better job, the interceptions have been important, but I think he's protecting the ball in the pocket so much better. When he gets pressure around him, he's tucking that right shoulder, putting the ball where it's supposed to be, and protecting the football like he's supposed to. I'm more excited about that maybe than the interceptions."
What concerns you about Houston on both sides of the football?
"We've looked at them one week already and we had a good feel for them, and now we're kind of re-acquainting ourselves with them. They're hot. They're a football team that's won three out of the last four. And the two games they lost, I think, in the last six or so were just heartbreaking losses at the end. They've got good, young talent on both sides of the ball, especially on defense. [Their] defense gets after it. They've got a great defensive end, and linebackers have played downhill. We think either one of the two quarterbacks is a good player. [They have] maybe the best wide receiver [Andre Johnson] in football, and a real good zone running game – inside and outside zone. It's a football team that's being built the right way."
You knew what LB Ray Lewis would do on the field, but the way he motivates his teammates off the field, like yesterday, does that surprise you?
"No, that's the thing probably that surprised me the least, because he has a reputation and it's all very well justified. He's spoken to our team on two or three occasions. Once in training camp, once on a Saturday night before a game, then even before the game a lot of times he'll do the team prayer right before the game. And he happened to do it in this last game, and the prayers are motivating. He's got the heart of a lion. He's just a guy… It's neat to be around. He inspires everybody. I didn't hear the talk on the bench in the third quarter. I guess that was a big talk. I think maybe, Larry [Rosen, Ravens VP of broadcasting], you might have gotten that on tape hopefully?"
[Rosen answers: "7:30 tonight on MASN."]
"We'll be watching. I'm looking forward to seeing that. But I know our guys responded to it."