JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. Thanks for coming out. Obviously, it feels the same way it did last night – very disappointing loss, one that we have to regroup from, improve in a lot of different areas and get ready to play this week. And, we're on to this week. Every week in this league is a new week. Every game is a new game. And at the end of the year, they count up how many you win and how many you lose. So, we approach this one and we go to work."
Admittedly, hindsight is 20/20, but in the offseason, almost one dozen veterans left the team via free agency. Would it have been good to keep some of those veterans around to help the young guys not go through the emotional peaks and valleys of preparing for good teams and to play against bad teams? (Joe Platania) "I'm not drawing the connection, really. We've got a lot of veteran players that lead really well. We've got some really good veteran leadership on this team. And, [as for] young players in this league, if you look around the league, pretty much every team except for one has a bunch of young guys on their team right now – that I can think of off the top of my head. I'm not worried about the composition of our team in that way right now. I haven't thought about it. I think we just have to get ready for this week."
I know you've watched the game more than once. Is the run/pass ratio something you wish you would have done differently, or do you think it was a good call against that team? (Aaron Wilson) "I don't know how you would do it any differently. I mean, we were in a situation where we lost two possessions. We had basically four possessions in the first half, the last one was with 46 seconds left, and that's a two-minute possession. Two of those possessions went really well, and two of them we had four or five plays on. So, when you don't have very many plays, it's hard to build up your running game. And when you're down, you've got to throw it to get back in the game. So, I think every game is different. You've got to do in any particular game what you've got to do to try to move the ball. In the end, we definitely want to have more runs. That's indicative of having the lead, having more plays, especially early in the game. But, the way the game went, we had to throw it. And based on some fronts they were giving us early, we felt like we had to throw it, too."
Is that what you tell someone like Ray Rice, who obviously wants to get the ball and try to help the team out? (Aaron Wilson) "Ray understands football. Ray knows what kinds of fronts we were getting and what the situation of the game was. Ray caught some passes, too, and made some plays for us that way, too. Ray and I talk all the time, and he knows football."
Do you think you and Cam Cameron started thinking you were somehow further behind than you were? You say you threw because you were behind. You were only behind by 10 points? (Stan Charles) "Well, we felt like we had to throw the ball, to some extent, during the second half. We came out and we got a tipped pass, and if you look at that particular play – if you want to look at that play – that's a called run. That's a run where they've got a Will 'backer up on the line of scrimmage weak and a strong safety up on the line of scrimmage strong. There's not a lot of places to run. You can hand it off there and probably get no gain. You have a chance to pop it, but the odds are against you. So, we make an adjustment there, and we throw a slant pass and it gets tipped. The guy makes a nice play outside, and it lands right in somebody's hands. Now you're down again, more than you think you should be down. Now you're down another field goal. That's the way the game went. It's not easy, but look all around the league. We're going to have to be able to run it and throw it. So, we'll throw it when we need to throw it against the defenses we need to throw it against [according to] the circumstances of the game, and we're going to have to be able to do that. We're always going to hang our hat on being a physical football team, and we want to be able to run the ball. We definitely want to be able to run the ball, and we want to be able to run it well. But the way that game went, it made it tough for us to do that."
Was it a lot like the Jacksonville game? You had some regrets after that game about not getting Ray Rice the ball enough then. (Jerry Coleman) "I'm thinking every game stands on its own two feet, like I've said many times. The comparisons that people want to draw between the three games, you can draw that all you want. That's all hypothetical, theoretical stuff. When you know football, you understand that the schemes that you see and the situations that you face are different in every single game. So, in that game, no, I didn't see a lot more opportunities to run the ball."
You've said in the past that just because you throw the ball doesn't mean you aren't physical. Do you feel like you were physical in the way you attacked Seattle's defense? (Kevin Van Valkenburg) "Yes."
One of the byproducts of the… You guys have used six or seven different kick returners. Is that maybe a byproduct of not having any camp at all in the spring or summer, [and] you weren't able to really identify one guy to do it full time? (Drew Forrester) "I think we're looking for a kick returner. Probably, [Lardarius] Webb is our best guy, if you look at it. But he's a starting corner and he's our punt returner. So, you can't put too much on any one guy's plate. We're looking for the best guy to do it."
When it comes to David Reed, how do you balance the fact that he led the League in kickoff return average last year, with the fact that now, in the past two games, he's put the ball on the ground three times? (Dan Kolko) "In what sense do I balance it? What are you talking about? (Reporter: "In terms of deciding if he's a guy that you want to go with going forward. Obviously, he has a track record where he's had success. But, at the same time, recently, he's been losing the ball.") Right. I think you can't turn the ball over; that's Job One. David knows that. That's something that he works on very hard, just like all our guys do. You can't turn the ball over, especially in a kickoff return situation. That's just not something we're going to be able to do and expect to win football games."
Is the connection with the three losses, like you've said is hypothetical and theoretical, but is any of it psychological for you going… I mean, seriously, going into a game, I mean there's a common element in all three losses this year. (Dave Ginsburg) "I'm not a psychologist. I think what you do is you look at football. You look at what you can do better as a football team. So, we're moving forward. You know, we took responsibility for the loss; we take responsibility for the loss. We did not play well. Just go back… I'm surprised I haven't gotten any questions about the game. What happened in the game? That's what you look at. I guess that's too straight forward, but that's what happened. We didn't execute in situations that we needed to execute as coaches, as players. You put yourself in a hole in a football game, you turn the ball over, you cost your field position, you don't make big plays and you give up a few big plays. I thought our red-zone defense was incredible. That's what kept us in the ballgame. But we put ourselves behind the eight-ball in too many situations and then ended up losing by just five points in a tough environment. So you play better football, you win football games like that. That goes to all of us. That's what we have to do. We have to coach better, we have to play better, and we'll win those three football games. But we've won some other football games that people didn't expect us to win, against some really good football teams. So tie the psychology together on that for me. I don't have time to be looking at that. We're going back to football. We'll study the football, as a football team. We'll have our answers in-house. We'll have our answers, that will be football-related answers, and we'll come out to play on Sunday."
Speaking of football, you've protected pretty well with the pass game. The quarterback had some time. Why do you think that they weren't able to hit on some throws that seemed like they were open? (Kevin Van Valkenburg) "We hit on some throws that were open, too. If you've got a specific throw, I'll be happy to answer it for you though. *(Reporter: "The first throw to Torrey, in the first drive of the game it looked like he had a couple steps on that guy.") *I think we overthrew it just a little bit. There was a little bit of wind coming across the field. Maybe the wind caught it a little bit, and he overthrew it a little bit."
With the defense, they played really well with the sudden change. At the end of the game, do you think they were a little bit tired? Obviously, Marshawn Lynch played very good football yesterday. Do you think they were tired? (Aaron Wilson) "You can't be tired; you get stops. I think they made some third-down conversions, I think that's what happened. We had two plays specifically in there where they made some really good plays. I mean Marshawn made a great jump cut; give him credit. I thought Tarvaris Jackson made a nice throw into Golden Tate on a sideline route. That's what kept the drive alive."
Football is a game of adjustments. How would you rate how well you adjusted in a game like this? (Mark Zinno) "I'm not going to rate it. You rate it. I'm not getting into ratings. What we're getting into is the Cincinnati Bengals."
Speaking of the Bengals, as frustrating as it's been over the past couple of weeks, there's eight other teams in the AFC that have winning records. But, basically all of them, except Buffalo and Houston, are 1-1 in their past two as weeks. So, that means right now, there is not a team that is any better than 6-3 or 7-3 in the division. What does that say about the level of competition in your conference? You're still in the thick of things. All you have to do is win on Sunday and you take control of the conference again. (Bruce Raffel) "Right. Well, I like that question a lot better than some of these other questions. (laughter) I think that's the reality of it. This is a tough league; there are no excuses. That's a tough trip. That's a good football team out there. We didn't play well, so we didn't win. We play better in a game, we win. [If] we play good in this game, we'll have a chance to win. We're playing a really good football team Sunday. We're playing a team that we're tied for in the AFC north. It's part of a three-way tie. [Cincinnati is a] young, aggressive, confident football team coming to our place. So, we've got our hands full. That's where our attention is going to be."
After a game like that, do you talk to your team about keeping perspective and telling them that all their goals are still ahead of them and within reach? (Ryan Mink) "Yeah, you talk to them, and you put it in perspective. Our guys understand that, but that's what you do as a coach. I think you frame it up, and you let them know what we need to do this week – what's at stake."
Did you make it out relatively healthy from the game? (Aaron Wilson) "Yeah. (Reporter: "There are no major injuries?") No injuries to report at this time. Thanks for asking."
You said your red-zone defense was one of the positive things. What other positive things did you take out of yesterday's game? (Kevin Richardson) "I think our guys played hard. Our guys compete. I thought the pass protection was very good. I thought we made some good throws. I thought we made some good catches, but we didn't make all the catches. I thought we had good, tight coverage on the back end for the most part. We played hard. We competed. It wasn't good enough."
After two road games, is there a little bit of comfort in coming back home and playing in a division game in your house? (Garrett Downing) "Not really. Not really. There is nothing comfortable about what we are up against. It's going to be a fight. It's a team that we know, a team that we understand, and it's going to be a tough ball game."
What are your impressions of Andy Dalton from what you have seen? (Kevin Van Valkenburg) "From what I have seen, he is really, really good. Obviously, he has stepped up. He is playing winning football. He makes a lot of good decisions. He challenges you at every level – inside, outside and top to bottom. He challenges your coverages, makes very few mistakes – gets the ball out quick. I think he is running that offense really well."
How would you characterize the emotions, the spirits of the team after speaking to them today? Some guys seemed to look pretty down yesterday. Have they put it all behind them in your mind? (Jerry Coleman) "I don't know. I expect them to be hurt. They had the plane ride back. We had every single guy, that I could tell, on his iPad watching the game, and they were talking about it and going through it. This is a bunch of pros. These guys are professional guys, they work very hard at it, [and] they take a lot of pride in what they do. That was a disappointing loss, like I said. But, they will put it behind them. They are in doing treatment, they are in lifting, they are meeting with their position coaches, and tomorrow they will start on the game plan, once we start putting that game plan together. It's week to week. We say it all the time in this league, but every week stands on its own two feet. The story of the season is going to be drawn, written at the end. So, to try to write that story now, I know you guys have to do that, but I am not writing that story now. The story for us as a football team is this week. You look at last week, and you correct it. You look at last week, and you find a way to find the things you can do well against the team you are playing this next week. And, you go into the next Sunday, and you compete and try to come out with a win this week. All the other story lines, I would like to give you an answer, but I am really not interested, to be honest with you. So, you guys can write that story. It's not my job to have that answer for you. Our answer is on Sunday. That's what a football team has to do and go to work to do. That's what our focus is."
You guys rested Lee Evans. He just started practicing. Is the idea that now that you have strengthened the ankle a little bit, had one week, that maybe he is inching closer, and do you think maybe this is a chance to play this week a little bit? (Aaron Wilson) "I think we'll see. We'll see. That's to be determined. [We're] always hopeful, but we'll have to see."
How tough is it now facing two games within the 11-day period. Do you do much differently this week getting ready? (Stan Charles) "No. This week is Cincinnati. Next week will be whoever we play next week, whenever we play them. But, this week is Cincinnati. Absolutely."
Are you not aware of who you play next week? (Dan Kolko) "I couldn't care less who we play next week. Honestly. You almost got me. You almost got me." (laughter)
Was it the same mechanical issues on Billy Cundiff's misses from 50-yards-out? And with the struggles he's had there, does that change in-game decisions on when you decide to go for a field goal? (Jason Butt) "It could, I think especially with the weather getting a little tougher. The operation has everything to do with it. It's a team effort out there; the three guys in the operation and the protection. There were some things there that made it a little bit tough on him. But you know what? That's part of it, and that was disappointing. I know he feels like he can make [those]; he made two 58-yarders in pre-game, so we felt like he had a good chance to make that kick. But, those kind of long kicks are never easy kicks, and you really don't want to give up that field position, which is your point, and I think it's a fair point."
With five minutes left, you had the Seahawks pinned back on their 10-yard line. How confident were you that, as bad as the game had been, that you still had one score away from winning that game and if you got the ball back you could drive down the field? (Bruce Raffel) "That was the idea. I felt like we had a real good chance to do that. Hey, give the Seahawks credit. They made some third-down conversions and they finished the game just like you want to in a four-minute situation. I think that's one thing on defense that we'll all look at and say we need to do better and we could have done better, specifically, was that drive. So, that's a fair thought, that we would have gotten the ball back there and had a chance to win it."
John, you don't think in terms of the big-picture maybe like [the media does]. But, the overall play of your special teams, are you pleased with it? Do you feel like there is a lot of room to improve? (Dan Kolko) "Yeah, I think we're young there [but], that's not an excuse, because you've got to be young, you've got to train guys up. But, there's a lot of learning going on right there right now. And when you dig in and you look at it very closely, we're actually getting a lot better, but it's not showing up in the results. So, as a coach, what do you do? You keep coaching, especially on special teams more than any other phase. I think sometimes, all of a sudden, the results appear, and you go, 'Wow, you got better on special teams.' Well, it's usually the culmination of about four, five, six weeks of work, and shuffling personnel, and developing some young players and them gaining some experience. The kickoff returns were actually probably the best blocked that we've had all year. And I didn't know that last night, but after watching the tape, I thought we blocked those kickoff returns pretty well. So, that's the thing. There are some encouraging things in there, even though the result couldn't have been any worse. But, you fight through that, you don't overreact, you definitely don't panic, and you get better."
John, I understand your philosophy about week-to-week, but to use a military analogy, "Every battle within a war is important, and you can't move on from one battle to another without licking your wounds and going forward and trying to do things better." So, from week to week, you have to continue to use those building blocks going forward. (Mark Zinno) "Yeah, but that really wasn't your question. I've already said that like three times. I agree with that. So, what's your point?"
I guess my point is that you're saying you're discarding this week and whatever happened… (Mark Zinno) "Did I say that?"
Well no, you didn't say that. But, you're moving forward to this week, but there are certain things about this week that are going to go forward into next week. And so… (Mark Zinno) "We're going to do everything we can to eliminate the negatives and build on and make more positives and win the next football game. So, if you're insinuating that we just ignore what happened in the past, you definitely haven't been paying attention the last four years of what we've been doing here."
I understand the desire to get past the loss quickly, but… (Mark Zinno) "It's not our job to lick everybody else's wounds for them. Licking wounds? No. We're not licking any wounds. We are moving on. We correct our mistakes, and we go practice on Wednesday and we get ready to play on Sunday. That's what we do."