JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Just getting started, obviously, we've had a chance to look at the tape briefly. Most of us did it on the plane last night, and we've moved on to Cleveland as far as the preparation. It's a short week, so we're scrambling. The players have been in for treatment. They've all had a chance to watch the tape, too. [It was] a disappointing loss. It was a tough loss. It was a tough trip. The Chargers played exceptionally well, got momentum early. We stubbed our toe once or twice early. They took advantage of some of our mistakes, and really, they never relinquished it. And, hats off to them. They went out there and they won a football game and did the things they needed to do to win. So, now we move forward."
You are preparing on a short week. Sunday to Thursday is a quick turnaround, but does it make a difference when you play on Saturday instead of Sunday? Does one less day really throw a wrench in your preparation? (Joe Platania) "It's a little bit like a Monday night turnaround-type game. So, we really just basically have this day to prepare. We'll bring the players in tomorrow [for] more of a mental-type practice. It will be like a Wednesday format, essentially, but it won't be as physical as a normal Wednesday. Then we'll be on our normal schedule from there."
When does the concern about Billy Cundiff shift from a health problem to a concern about his efficiency? (Drew Forrester) "It's always a concern. It's probably all wrapped up in there together. We've got to look at that today. We've got to look at that this week, because he hadn't been able to practice the last couple of weeks, and that maybe affected him a little bit. Nobody's more frustrated right now than Billy with it. Obviously, that's a real makeable kick – a kick that he had made in pregame. He had a really good pregame, and he had a good day the day before. So, we're going to have to look at that really hard this week and try to make a good decision that way."
What were the Chargers able to do to neutralize the pass rush? They went to a lot of screens early. (Matt Vensel) "That was part of it, but I thought they did a good job of chipping our two edge rushers. They chipped both our edge rushers pretty much the whole game with either a tight end who was in a little bit of a flex or the running back out on the other side. So, they sacrificed a little bit of getting their guys out. They still had the three big guys out downfield, or the two outside receivers, out right away, and then they chipped [Antonio] Gates out and they chipped their running backs out. That slowed us down a little bit."
They seemed to rush only four players most of the game, yet they had a lot of sacks. What was the breakdown in the blocking? (Bruce Raffel) "Well, there really was no breakdown in the blocking. It was really more of holding the ball. Joe [Flacco] didn't have a lot of places to go with the ball that were clear-cut to him. They did a really nice job of covering. It was mostly zone coverage the whole game, and they just executed it very well."
John, you guys are in the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Is there a feeling of accomplishment, or do you have a feeling of letting that home-field [advantage] get away? (Dave Ginsburg) "Well, we haven't let it get away yet, obviously. But, the control of it we certainly let get away. That's disappointing. That's something that we really wanted to hold on to. That was a target for us. It's a sense of accomplishment, because the first thing you have to do is make the playoffs. It's tough to do. It's not so much a one-week accomplishment either. It's what you do over the course of the season that earns you the trip into the playoffs. I'm proud of that for our team. I think that's exciting. That's something that we are looking forward to, but now the next two weeks are going to play out in terms of exactly what that is going to mean for us – are we going to be at home, are we going to be away? If we are away, where do we have to go? If we're home, who is going to be coming here? But to put ourselves in the best position that way, we have to win. We still have to win our next two games, starting with the Browns. So that's the thing we can control. We have complete control over the next two weeks, as far as what we do. That's what we need to take care of."
The [San Francisco-Pittsburgh] game tonight, I know you would be interested anyway, but do you think [you will be] a little more interested now because you really, really need your brother to help you out? (Dave Ginsburg) "Yeah, you're right. We would have been really interested for a lot of reasons anyway, because it impacts our team. It's going to be interesting to see what happens. We have no control over it. We'll be watching it. So, we'll just have to see how that goes."
A couple of weeks ago, after I think it was a loss to Seattle, you said, "I am not a psychologist. All I know is to go back to the drawing board and play football." But the fact that the team has not played well on the road – forget who the opponents are – does that impact how you feel about having to go on the road in the playoffs if you have to? (Stan Charles) "I think the fact that we haven't won as many games on the road as we should have is disappointing. We've been, traditionally, pretty good on the road the last few years. So, that's something that we have to look at, and we will."
How well did Lardarius Webb hold up in your mind last night? And could you just explain your decision and thought behind him playing in the nickel package and Jimmy Smith playing in the base defense? (Luke Jones) "He hadn't practiced all week. That was the main thing. He held up fine physically. I think it's something that you don't really want to push if we didn't have to. We felt like our young guys were going to do a good job out there. But the main thing was just handling all the different route combinations and the coverage. We felt like those guys that practiced all week gave us the best opportunity, combined with the injury, was the direction that we wanted to go."
The Chargers were able to exploit the cornerbacks on a couple of double-moves. Is that just a product of the pass rush not getting there, or is that something that the cornerbacks can correct, too? (Matt Vensel) "It's probably both, but I think, mainly, the cornerbacks and the coverages that we choose. It's a combination of a lot of different things. Those are good players. Boy, you've got to be at your best. They exploited us a couple of times. I thought [Philip] Rivers made some great throws. Those guys went up made some great catches, and we didn't stay on top of those routes as well as we we'd like to, as well as we're going to work on doing in the future. And we probably could mix our coverages in there at times a little bit better. It's everybody. It's all of us. We accept responsibility for the fact that they did a good job with their downfield passing game, and we didn't do a good job defending it like we wanted to."
We often hear that the cornerback position is really one of the tough ones to make that transition from college. For a guy like Jimmy Smith, is it just inherent that there's going to be sort of that on the job learning and last night was maybe an indication for some of that? (Mark Viviano) "Most any corner in this league would have probably had a tough time last night under the circumstances. Jimmy is a quick learner. Cary [Williams] is a quick learner. 'Webby' [Lardarius Webb] is a quick learner. That's the first time we've probably gone up against an offense that was clicking that way, all year – first time those guys have seen that caliber of quarterback play. They've seen quarterbacks of that caliber maybe, but not playing that well. Obviously, the Chargers right now are hitting on all cylinders that way. That's a big learning experience for us, and that's going to be an opportunity, going into the playoffs, to become the kind of coverage team we're going to need to be."
Saw David Reed come in and get a return late in the game. As far as the kickoff return game is concerned, will we see him get back into the rotation and closer situations game-wise?* (Mark Suchy)* "I think we'll see. It's not something we're prepared to make a statement on right now. It was good to see him get back in there and do a good job with it. That's why you hold onto guys. [You] try to work through tough times, and guys have those tough moments. It kind of goes back to what you were talking about, with the corners or whatever position it might be, [that] it's just learning experiences. David is a competitive guy. He's a good guy. He's a talented guy. So, we'll see how it goes."
Do you think there was an adjustment getting Ray Lewis back yesterday? In other words, did your team kind of rally around the fact that he wasn't there? Do you think, perhaps, having him back, they let down? (Stan Charles) "No. I really don't think so. It's an interesting concept, but I don't think they let down for that reason. I think they can just play better."
Could you talk about Torrey Smith? He set a Ravens' rookie record for touchdowns yesterday. Kind of like cornerbacks, it seems like that transition from college to pros for a wide receiver in their first year or so is a hard one to make. Can you just talk about the season he's had? (Ryan Mink) "Torrey's done a really good job. He's gotten better every week. We're pleased with the fact that he's a Raven; he's a hard-working guy. But, he can get a lot better, too. That's what we're looking for."
How difficult, generally, is that transition for a wide receiver from college? (Ryan Mink) "I really don't know how to put a 'how difficult is it?' [out there]. I don't have a measuring stick right now. But it's not easy. I mean, how many guys come out and play as well as he has as a rookie? He's done a real good job with it though."
Just as important as getting playoff position with these last two games, is there also a sense of getting back some momentum and bringing it into the playoffs? (Dave Ginsburg) "It's probably an offshoot of it. We want to play well. The thing that we need to do is continue to improve. That's the most important thing. If we get better every day, in each game, in a lot of little areas, then sometimes it'll show up, and sometimes it won't. We want to go into the playoffs and be the best football team that we can possibly be. That's what we have to shoot for."
With this Saturday possibly being the last home game of the season, what type of effort does the team want to show to the fans to make sure that they're on track to go into Cincinnati the following week? (Bruce Raffel) "Well, I think the motivation is going to be, again, to play the very best that we can play. And our fans appreciate that. I think our fans appreciate how our guys have played at home, for sure, and the fans have been a big part of that. We get a lot of energy from our fans and our stadium, so that should be a boost for us. And hopefully, we can play well enough to get them energized."
John, whenever you guys play on national TV, there are so many more cameras involved that it tends to capture some more of the sidelines from normal football stuff. Fans always kind of wonder, "Why are Terrell Suggs and John [Harbaugh] sort of animatedly discussing stuff?" Could you just talk about when you have a bunch of intense competitors trying to win games, how that kind of stuff is sort of part of what you do? It's not a sign of discord or something like that. (Kevin Van Valkenburg) "Yeah, I didn't even know there was an issue. Pretty much whatever they saw happens pretty much every game, and that's what an NFL sideline is like – especially when you're trying to fight, dig your way out of a hole. And for me personally, part of our style is to interact with the players throughout the course of the game a lot. And I'm always asking guys what they think or sharing my thoughts or whatever. Whether it's football or whether it's – if you want to call it motivation or whatever. And then I get a lot of energy from our players. We've got a brotherhood. There's no question, it's a brotherhood. When you're a team, a real team – we are a real team – and in a sense, we are a band of brothers. And guys are just out there fighting, trying to find a way to get the job done. So, whatever might have been seen, I really think that's what it is."
Are you pleased with where the pass offense is at this point heading into the playoffs? (Matt Vensel) "Well, I think the protection has come a long way. We've done a much better job, if you look at much earlier in the year, to now. We're protecting a lot better. Obviously, we're more explosive than we were at any time last year, and that continues to get better. The completion percentage has been steadily improving, but I think those so-called long handoffs are something that we can always improve on. So, really, every aspect of it needs to get better, and every aspect of it has gotten better. But if we're going to be a team that's going to have to win a shootout at some point in time, then we want to be a team that can do that. We want to be a team that can win a grind-it-out game; we want to be a team that can do that, too."
Looking back at the end of the first half sequence last night and knowing San Diego was getting the second half kickoff … Would you use your timeouts at that point again, to give yourself more time when you get the ball back there inside of 19 seconds? (Mark Suchy) "Yeah, definitely. I thought about that right away, while the game was going on. I should have used those timeouts and given us a chance to get down there and get us some points before the half."