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Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 30

Opening statement: "[We've] had a chance to settle in here a little bit since last night and watch the tape and just kind of evaluate what went on. One thing that was apparent in thinking about this whole thing was our crowd. It was unbelievable. You guys were there. It started right from the get-go. The first time they took the field on offense, the crowd was as loud as I've ever heard it, and it went through the whole game. Until the last series, the crowd was as loud as I've ever heard it here in the two years. So, credit to our fans out there for the job they did in helping us win that game."

Although we always hear you say it's one week at a time, have you had a chance since last night to take a minute to step back and think that this win was bigger than most because it was against the Steelers and was an overtime win?"Yeah, that'd be a comparison question though. We're not allowed to answer those around here, right? It was big. There's no denying it. It was big. It was big for a lot of reasons. We've talked about November and December being the most important part of the season. The last six weeks are going to be a season in and of itself, and this was the first game. It was the Steelers. They're in our division, they're our rival. All those things play in. So, it was a big win."

Does last night's win against the Steelers make the team believe it can control its own destiny in getting to the playoffs?"Well, we do. That's the thing we've been talking about all along. You have some devastating losses along the way, and in a one-week period everybody feels like, 'Well, you're not this; you're not that.' Then you win a couple of games and you're all this and you're all that. It's really a long season in this league. It's a series of sprints. Maybe it's not a marathon, maybe it is a sprint. Maybe it's one sprint after another that you've got to line up and run every single week. We've got another one this week against the Packers, and it's going to be just as meaningful, just as important as the last one."

Are you excited about going to Lambeau Field to play the Green Bay Packers?"Yeah, Lambeau's a great place. I've been there twice. They've got that old time walk way out to the field. It's about this wide, about as wide as this podium right here, and you've got to squeeze through to get onto the field. [It's a stadium] with an old green carpet that's probably been there since Bart Starr walked down there. So, it's a neat place to play."

Can you talk about rookie CB Lardarius Webb's first start and also about CB Chris Carr, who seemed to have a little different approach and was more aggressive than usual on punt returns last night?"First of all, Lardarius [Webb] played well in his first opportunity to play as much as he did. He's got some skills. There are plenty of things he's got to work on. There are a lot of little intricacies in the coverage that he's got to continue to grow through. But, he played well. All three of our young guys played well. If you take a look at the three rookies, they really have come on here. Obviously, [Paul] Kruger did a nice job. Michael Oher has been good all year. So that's all been positive. As far as the punt returns, we've been close all year, believe it or not, as we go. And you get some returnable balls. We got the gunners blocked a little bit better at times than we have in the past, and he was north and south. Very disappointed, just special teams-wise, with the penalties. There's really no reason. We work on it every single day. There's no reason to put your hand on the guy's back. It's hard to do, now, because you're trying to get a block and you're reaching for a guy. But we have to be better than that. You don't take away… It's not just the 10 yards you lose; it's the yards that you gain on the return that you lose. Those can be huge penalties, and at the end of the game that was probably a 50-yard penalty. That's an area that we as a staff work really hard on and the players work really hard on, and we've just got to be better in that area."

Regarding the heated exchange on the sideline with WR Derrick Mason, were the emotions magnified because it was a home game and is there any follow-up at all with that incident with him?"We talk about this. That's kind of what we're about. Everything's out there. We're not one of these teams that is going to try to sugarcoat anything with each other. We're emotional – all of us. And it's an emotional game. We're the same way in practice – Derrick [Mason] and the coaches and the players and all of us – because to me that's what's real. We don't shy away or back down from real raw emotion. So we move on, and we love each other, and we've got a game to win together next week."

Do you think QB Joe Flacco's ankle injury has affected his play in recent weeks?"I don't know if there is a way to quantify that. I think Joe [Flacco] has done a heck of a job of fighting through a little bit of an ankle [injury]. It's not a major injury, but I'm sure it's bothersome for a quarterback to have that foot a little bit sore. But, Joe is a courageous guy, and you see him standing in there and throwing in the face of some pressure sometimes and taking some hits. He's not shy about that, and that speaks to what kind of player he is."

Did Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau bring more pressure at the end of the game? "Well, it's a case of them doing what they do. They brought pressure the whole time, and I thought they got on our edge a couple of times and won some one-on-one matchups. And we won some matchups, and Joe moved around and got the ball out a couple of times, and a couple of times we marched right down the field. So, it's going against a great defense, and I know that was a big challenge for our offense and a credit to what we were able to accomplish offensively to move the ball the way we did against the No. 1 defense in the league, at times. Then again, at times we didn't move it so well. And the two turnovers were hurtful, so those are the things that you worry about when you play a team like the Steelers."

How do you feel the unbalanced offensive line did, and what about G Marshal Yanda's performance? "Well, first of all Marshal played well. We've said this before: We think we have six starting offensive linemen, and obviously, that includes Marshal, and it includes Chris Chester and the rest of those guys. There are a couple of other guys that are pushing their way into that group as they work hard to improve. So how you mix and match them and who you play where, you try to put the best fit together that you can, and I thought that between Cam [Cameron] and John Matsko and the players, they figured that out pretty well, and it helped us against that front."

How did getting DT Haloti Ngata back in the goal-line offense help? "Yeah, the goal line offense with Haloti sure helped, didn't it? That power play works a little better with him in there, knocking people off the ball. He had a great block. Haloti is a talented guy, and I think we'll be seeing more of him in some different types of situations as we go."

Is Ngata calling for the ball? "He'll be calling for the ball already. He's been calling for the ball already: 'Cam, give me the rock.' That's what he says. He's done it before. He played rugby; you guys know that story."

Does that go to show how physical this team is, and can be, on offense? "Well, we can be physical. We try to be physical. If you watch the pass protection, I thought at times we were very physical with some of the help blocks. So, that's got to be our personality if we're going to be successful as a football team across the board."

Can you talk about Yanda coming back this year from his injury? "When guys get hurt in this league, you sometimes forget about them. We've got a number of guys on Injured Reserve right now that nobody is talking about. And people talk about injuries and who had injuries and who didn't have injuries, and then go back and look at the roster and check back and see who's not playing for you that are on your team. You know, the Brendon Ayanbadejos, and on and on. Those guys are kind of in their own world right now. They go back, and they rehab, and they're forgotten about, and in some ways they don't feel like they're a part of the team. But they are, and they're around every day, as much as they can be. Marshal has been through that for a whole year, but got back probably from an ACL sooner than most people would, and now he's back in the mix. He really has been all year, and he's starting to play at the same level that he did when he got hurt against Indianapolis last year."

What has happened in the NFL to the coffin corner punt from the old days? "It's a great question. It's hard. You're thinking about the good old days – they weren't always so good. That's the reality of it, and there weren't that many guys that could do it back in the old days. It's not like those guys are pinning it out… You remember the good ones. The best I've ever seen is Jeff Feagles. I mean, Jeff Feagles goes to the right – he's incredibly accurate – and he's the only guy in the last 10 years, 12 years, since I've been in the league, that has been able to do it with any consistency, because when you angle it over in that direction, that's the angle. [If] you miss by about 10 degrees that way, now you've got yourself a ball at the 25 [-yard line]. You miss a couple degrees that way, it's in the end zone. So, people are starting to do the end-over-end, rugby punts a little bit more than they did in the past, and the percentages actually are higher with that."

Do you think close games like last night's are advantageous for you as a team heading down the stretch?"Well if they are, we're going to be in good shape, right? *(laughter) *We've been in plenty of those tight games. We know how to play in a tight game, and winning a tight game against that kind of a team was huge for us. We've had tight games. The Monday night game against Cleveland in a lot of ways was a tight game. The Kansas City game was a tight game. The San Diego game was a tight game. So, we've won our share of them, and we've lost our share. That's where we are as we go forward."

On the field goal to end the game at the end of regulation, did the officials handle that properly, or should the ball have been a little bit farther back based on the fumble rule?"I don't even know. From what I understand, it probably should have been a little farther back, and that's something that I'm sure that the league will take up. Like things that go both ways – they're out of our control in the heat of battle. We were just going to go out there and try to kick it as far as we could. I've seen a kick against us, actually, go 62 yards on the last play of the game, a field goal to win a game. Tampa Bay did it; Matt Bryant did it a few years back. It can be done."

What was your thought process in deciding to not have K Billy Cundiff try a long field goal in the second half? Does he come to you with a range of where he thinks he can kick from?"Yeah, it's a good question. He could have definitely hit from that range. If it had been later in the game, we would have tried. As we thought about it, I thought, 'You know what? We're in a field position game right now.' That's a tough kick. Not that he can't get it there, but the percentages plus-50 just dramatically drop for every kicker in the National Football League. So, the idea is: If we don't make this kick, they're going to have field position that they really haven't earned so much. If we have a chance to pin them down inside the 10, that's what we want to do. Our defense was playing well. Back them up, keep them down there, get them to punt back to us around the 50, and we're on the march again. To be honest with you, I don't remember what happened after we did that as far as their drive. Maybe you can help me with that."

You guys punted, but I think it came out to about the 18-yard line…"Well, that's the point. The point is we didn't get it down there as deep as we wanted to. The punt hit and rolled back, like none of you guys can hit your wedge, right? None of you guys can bring it back like that.* (laughter) *That was disappointing. I think we got them stopped there, I can't remember now."

Four plays…"OK, four plays. So we were OK. We just didn't have quite the field position advantage or gain that we would have liked to have had."

You talked about how the fans were and advantage in the game. On that fourth-and-five call, did you hear the fans reaction when the punt team started to come out, and can that ever really affect your decision if you hear your surroundings?"I got asked that last night, and no, I didn't hear it. I'm surprised, because you think you would hear it, but for some reason you just don't hear that stuff. What went through my mind, really, at that time was what we talked about. We were in a long-yardage situation and the mindset was, 'We're going to have to punt. We've got a couple of timeouts here, we can use them, and we'll get the ball back to get a stop.' All of a sudden it's fourth-and-five, and the punt team's going out there, and I'm not sure at fourth-and-five… Now, if it's fourth-and-two or -three, we're definitely going to go for it. Not exactly sure what we want to do. Clock's running. We want to take a time out anyway, so I took the timeout because the clock's got to be stopped at some point if we're not going to hurry up and punt it and just think it through for a second. We decided to go for it."

What does it say about WR Mark Clayton that he's done what he's had to do, and then he has a performance like last night?"Well, I think it says a lot about Mark and some other guys, too, that have been in that situation where it's tough. You don't always get the ball as much as you want, don't necessarily make all the catches you want to make. But Mark's made big plays for us in the past. For him to come up – I think he got targeted 10 times and made seven catches – that is a tremendous accomplishment. And then the plays, they were big ones, especially the one down the left sideline. I think it says a lot about not just what kind of person he is, but what kind of player he is."

What is your role on the offensive side of the ball during the week?"I'm the head coach. Cam Cameron is the offensive coordinator. Our offensive staff does a great job. They put the plan together, Xs and Os specifically. I'm not involved in that. That's not an interest for me, that's not something I want to get involved with. Now, you know there's going to be things that come up that you have the prerogative to get involved with, which I have on occasion. And, I would say that all those things I've gotten involved with have just worked out beautifully, worked out perfectly.* (laughter) *And leave it at that."

Did not knowing that Steelers QB Dennis Dixon would play before you played them hamper your game plan? "Well, it's kind of funny because I don't know if it was a blessing or a curse. If we would have known all week that he was going to be there, we probably would have put our game plan together that would have been a little more specific to him. But we were assuming it was going to be Ben [Roethlisberger], and you've got to have all your bullets for Ben Roethlisberger and that offense. Then, all of the sudden on Saturday it's going to be the other player. We studied him. We talked to our players about what his strengths were, but we didn't change the game plan. We probably didn't have a few things that might have been more specific to his ability, but at the same time we're playing the Steelers, and their offense is what they ran. They just moved their offense over a little bit from what they probably would have done with Ben. We probably didn't have enough things that we might have liked to have had, but we had plenty to defend their offense, and that's what we tried to go with."

Are you comfortable with the league telling you who can play and who can't because of concussions? "Well, you already had that. As a coach, it's not your call to make medical decisions, and rightly so. How much do any of us in here know about concussions and the impact they can have on guys, or any other injuries? There are certain things that you can rub down a little bit and you go play with and fight through the pain. I don't think concussions are one of those. I'm all for the league clearing it up for us, and really it's already been done. The doctors tell us – like I'm sure what happened with Pittsburgh – the doctors say, 'Hey, after what we've seen throughout the course of the week, we're not comfortable with him playing. It's not safe.' That's what you go with as a coach. The player comes first. The health and safety of the player comes first. These guys, if you left it to them, 90 percent of the time they would play. They'd play through everything. There is just a brotherhood in that locker room that they don't want to let anyone down. I think sometime we need to be protective from ourselves a little bit."

Does the mentality of teams change in December knowing that playoffs are around the corner? "I would like to think, for us, that our mentality is the same but just gets better – we just apply it better. We want to be the very best team we can be – the most aggressive, the most physical team that we can be at all times. Hopefully by December, we're the best team that we've been all year. But the most important football is going to be played in December, that's for sure."

What do you think of Kruger's story from starting off slow to being the hero last night? "I'm happy for him. His story… I was standing on the sidelines and I saw him running down the sideline with that ball. I was real happy about the ending, so to speak, but that's just the beginning for him. He's got a whole career in front of him. I couldn't be happier for him. He's walking around here right now on cloud nine, but he knows that it's right back to work on Wednesday and a new challenge is in front of him."

What does he have to do? "He's got to do what any player does. He just has to keep getting better. He is a talented guy. We love the way he played in college. You see that, I think you saw it in the way he played, not just in that play, but he played well in the game – throughout the game. You just keep getting better in every way – bigger, stronger, faster and better at all times."

Who do you want to win in the University of Maryland vs. Indiana basketball game? Does Gary Williams know that you're rooting against him because your brother-in-law, Tom Crean, is the head coach at Indiana?"Yeah, Gary does know that I'm rooting against him. I let him know that, and know on certain terms. This is the only game of the year that the Harbaughs will be rooting against the Terps. Blood is thicker than water. Steve Bisciotti is not real happy about it. I wouldn't dare wager with him on anything, but we're going for the Hoosiers on this one."

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