DAILY INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS
QB Joe Flacco
On losing in the locker room cornhole tournament championship match: "[Sam] Koch is that good, man. I got to the finals, so I can't complain, but Koch is that good."
On whether it would mean anything to beat the defending Super Bowl champs: "They're definitely a good team, and I think we're at the point of the year – we've played 13 games – and our teams are kind of decided. We know what kind of teams we are now. They're an aggressive defense, and that's what we're really paying attention to. We know that they're a good team. They're coming into our house. We feel like we're a good team, and it's just going to be a good matchup. I don't know how much the Super Bowl is playing into that at this point in the year."
On whether the offense has an identity or whether that even matters: "I don't think it matters. I think an identity is a word for people to use when they're just looking at the game and seeing what we need to do better and things like that. We look at every game and decide what we need to do better and what we need to correct and how we're going to correct it. I think we're well on our way, and we just need to continue to play the football we've been playing."
On Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams using different looks and blitzes: "He definitely gives some different looks, and he'll bring some pressure. He likes to put pressure on the quarterback, likes to hit the quarterback. We're going to have confidence in our offensive line to get the calls right and protect us up this week."
On whether sacks allowed has been an emphasis this week: "Yeah, definitely. I don't think you ever want to go into a game and let up sacks. It's a mixture of things. Like I said, it can be me, it can be the offensive line, it can be the running backs, it can be the receivers. It can be all of us. We work on correcting those things, but then when we come out to practice, we're focused on our next opponent, and we're focused on getting the job done right. We're going to have confidence going into the game – no matter how many sacks we let the week before – that we're going to get the job done right this week. I can tell you that every game I go into, I feel confident that I'm going to be protected, and if I get hit every now and then, that's part of the game."
On whether he can audible the pass protection to block a blitz:"Yeah, we have audibles and things, and we call protections in the huddle. There usually is somewhat of a set call that goes with that protection, and it's up to Matt [Birk], and then it's up to me if I want to override Matt. But, for the most part, it's up to Matt and those guys up front to get things sorted out. We just have to all be on the same page. I have to know where he's going. If I don't like where he's going, then I have to do it the other way. That's the way it works."
On whether he would want to change anything with three games to go: "I'm not a big guy that likes to change things. I think you play with what you have, and you do what you're good at. When you're 13 games into the year, you should know what you're good at, and you should go out there and run those things. You shouldn't need to change your offense and change what your identity is, or what you feel it is. We've played, like I said, 13 games. We're a 9-4 football team, and we should feel good about that. We should continue to go out there and play the football we have [played] and have confidence that that's going to win us football games."
LB Ray Lewis
On whether QB Drew Brees poses the same challenges as guys like QBs Tom Brady or Peyton Manning:"Oh, yeah. He's definitely in the elite class of those types of quarterbacks. He's proven himself, even in San Diego before he even got to New Orleans. And just watching him play the game, you can tell that he understands the game inside and out. And he loves to play the game. It's always good to see; I've always been a fan of Drew and I have great, great, great respect for him, and he has their team playing on a very high level as well."
On whether the defense learned anything from the second half of the game in Houston:"What we learned [is] that if you catch the ball, you close people out. If you don't, you don't, bottom line. In this business, either they're going to make a play or you're going to make a play. The game will never change. And when it's said and done, either you're going to be in the win column or you're going to be in the loss column. Everything else, that's what coaches [are] for, that's what meetings are for, that's what all that other stuff is for, is to come and critique this or critique that individually. But when it all settles, if you can pull out victories like that in a hostile environment like that… I mean, I know a lot of teams would love to trade spots with where we are right now. And that's kind of what I preach about with this journey that we're on. So, I think the learning lesson is that we went down there in a hostile environment and came back with nine wins."
On how big momentum can factor in at this point in the year, especially hoping to clinch a playoff berth:"I just think momentum is everything, because momentum is what builds confidence. And once you get that on your side, then it doesn't matter what you go through or how you go through it. And I think that's the thing, if you watch our ball club, what we've been through all year, we've been through ups and downs. And after every loss, one beautiful thing that we've come back and did… We've came back and bounced back the next week and won. And I think we're probably the only team in the NFL to do that right now, and that just shows we don't hold our heads down over anything, and we've got enough veteran guys on this ball club who understand that. It's always on to the next one. It's not about harping over a win or a loss, or what your stats were or what this was. It's about, 'Did you get it done?' If you got it done, move on. If you didn't get it done, correct the things you've got to correct and then let's get better for next week."
On whether it's rare for an offensive player, like Brees, to give pre-game speeches and huddle his team up to get them fired up before the game, much like Lewis does:"I mean, I think it's rare when you go around the league, because you kind of barely see it. You hardly see an offensive player do it, but then if you see the kind of rhythm that they do have, you kind of understand why. So, it's a nice little chant they have. I think mine is a… It used to be a chant, and it kind of is more of just saying certain words that mean something towards us. And I think it's the same thing that they have, so I mean it is rare, but a couple of guys do it, and Drew does a great job doing it."
On whether bad weather could play a factor in the game:"You're talking about a dome team, and that says enough by itself. And coming into that environment, I think bad weather plays a part no matter who it is out there we're playing, because if it's windy, if it's snowy, you know, throwing becomes a problem unless you're certain teams and you can play in any type of weather. But I just think overall – bringing a dome team out of their dome and to an environment that could be cold, crazy and very loud in Baltimore – I think that can definitely play a factor."
On his confidence in the Ravens to adjust to any type of team week to week, regardless of their different schemes and talents:"I think one of the credits to that is us being able to really bounce to any team week-in and week-out. We kind of stick to what we do, regardless. And so, sometimes it works against people tremendously, and then sometimes it doesn't. But if we can always stick to our guns and who we are, what our identity is, then it always falls back in our hands one way or another. And that's the thing that I've kept up with throughout the years of being here, of just understanding that, that it's not about the opponent. It's really about us, and it's about us executing and getting done what we're trying to get done."
On whether he's had any conversation with Saints LB Jonathan Vilma, who is an admirer of his:"Vilma? Yeah, I've had conversations with Vilma not just this week… He didn't actually text me this week – which is surprising – but we talk through the course of the year about certain teams that he was going to play against and what did I see and things like that. And that's a couple of them, that's a couple of young [linebackers] that I'll go around the league and talk to them like that. But Vilma has always been one of those ones, and he's always been one of those ones since at the University of Miami, I got in touch with him way back then and we've always kept in contact no matter where he's traveled to. And now, we keep in contact even more, and now he really has become a real student of the game, so we talk about the things that I see, the things I don't see, what I would do in this situation, that situation. But he didn't call me this week, so I'll probably get on him about that." (laughter)
RB Ray Rice
On what it means to play against the defending Super Bowl champions:"When you put it in perspective, they're the team everybody's chasing. They're the defending Super Bowl champs. Everybody's trying to take what they have. They're the defending champs. Ray [Lewis] said it earlier in the year: You can talk about whoever you want, anybody's record, but they are the defending champs, and you've got to give them that respect. But with that being said, they're another team in our way to what we want to do. I've got a lot of respect for them [and] how they play the game. If you look at them on tape, they play hard, they play fast. You see why they were the Super Bowl champs by the way they play the game."
On whether he thinks the perceptions of the Ravens will change if they can beat a team like the Saints:"Yeah. If we beat the Saints, it definitely sets us up for what we have at stake. We know what we have after the Saints. The Saints aren't in our division, but every game matters right now, and we all know that. To get a win against them, the defending Super Bowl champs, and then what we have ahead of us… Like you said about Monday night, everything's getting pretty interesting right now."
On whether it is fun to have meaningful games at the end of the season:"We've been making it pretty interesting, even Monday [at Houston]. You have these games… One thing about me, being in my third year and learning the NFL, these games are tough to win. You can't put a team's record out there [anymore] and say, 'Alright, look at their record.' It's a full 60-minute game, and it's never over until it's over. We would love to put people away. I'm sure you all were watching the game on Monday night. You were probably sitting back saying, 'Oh, they got this one.' Next thing you know, we're in overtime. That's just what the NFL is. You've got the level of talent and the caliber of guys that we're playing against. Everybody's professional, but these... I wouldn't rather have it any other way. We've had it this way for the last few years, and like you said, we've been making it pretty interesting. I think we have just the group of guys to get it done."
On whether there is an adjustment period to get used to the "jumbo package" with six offensive linemen:"When you add another blocker and tight end, which is what they really are, and that extra lineman, what it does is it brings an extra guy down at times. We can do many things off of it. We can play-action pass. We can do different things, but I think we're going to need that [jumbo package] in terms of short-yardage situations, goal lines, for mentality. Just knowing that we have that in our arsenal [helps]. We did get it out. We're still brushing up our run game as well. We're still trying to find answers. Right now is a time that we attack those issues and go out there each week and just try to find ways to win the game, whether it's running it, throwing it, or even our guy, David Reed, coming up with a big special teams play."
On whether there are still adjustments being made in the running game:"Every day there's an adjustment in the run game because not every defense plays the same. If you look at the way the Saints play defense, they play with an extra guy down; they play the 4-3 defense with a different blitz package. So, you can't just say, 'We're going to run the ball at these guys.' They'll put enough guys in the box to stop it. Like I said, that's why there's adjustments being made, knowing where to attack the weak spots of their defense. That's the adjustment being made every day. Coaches are always trying to find a way to give us an edge."
On whether he feels like the team hasn't played to its full potential yet:"I definitely feel that. I definitely feel like we haven't played at our best yet. That's a scary, but great feeling. Because if you look at this team and say, 'Wow, they haven't played their best yet, and they're sitting here at 9-4,' that feels… It's scary, because you don't want it to come back and bite you in the behind. But, at the same time, you look at the upside and you say, 'It's a team of destiny.' If we put our pieces together, if you go through the personnel and the talent that we have… There used to be a question about the amount of talent that we had here, but if you look at the talent level, I think we're in the top five in the league in talent. We've just got to put it together. Right now, we're scratching and clawing, but we're finding ways to win games, and that's exciting to see. Like I said, my word for this week is: 'We're making it interesting.' *(laughter) *But, we're finding ways to win."
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron
On what has happened to the backside protection coverage:"Did you talk to Joe yet? Here's exactly… Two different protections, all right? The great thing is here's exactly – I think you guys will appreciate this – Joe comes off the field two plays later, because he threw a touchdown the next play. So, he comes off after throwing the touchdown and I said, 'Joe?' He said, 'I know, I knew he was unblocked, but I thought I could beat [him].' He's got an opportunity; he knows he's unblocked, and he's got a couple options. He thought he was going to be able to beat the blitz with the ball – which we all do, to some degree – and he said where he was going with the ball got hung up and he held it just a count [too long] and got hit. And you've got to appreciate that. He knew exactly what the potential was that happened."
On whether it was a surprise then given that the player was coming unblocked:"No, by scheme he saw the strong safety right there. He just thought he was going to be able to put his right foot in the ground and get the ball out, because he had single coverage on Derrick [Mason] and he was just going to plant his back foot and throw it."
On what he can chalk up the pass protection issues to, specifically allowing a lot of sacks:"Yeah, we've got to continue to get that solved, bottom line. And sometimes, it was a single block, sometimes it was a combination block. At the end of the game, it was a combination block. There was nothing they did earth-shattering, scheme-wise, but there are some things we need to clean up – clean up technique-wise. As you can see, Joe [Flacco] was getting the ball out. It wasn't a case of holding the ball. It's just a matter of sustaining blocks longer and getting the ball to come out."
On what he sees that's not getting done in the second half of the last three games:"Nothing different than things we've already talked about."
On whether it gets discouraging that it keeps happening:"Absolutely not. Absolutely not. You keep playing, and that's what we do. We'll continue to get better. Again, we talked about being inconsistent. We've got to get those things cleaned up. We'll continue to do that. The opportunities have been there; there's some plays made in there. We had an opportunity the other night – and two cases come to my mind – after we hit Ray [Rice] down the seam, we had a chance to close the game out. And I'll tell you exactly what was going through my mind in the last series: You're sitting there, you're before the two-minute warning. You know if you run it and you don't make it, you can run the clock down and do the old, 'Hey, punt them down in there and see if they can go down and score.' Or, you convert and the game is over, because they've got no timeouts. You convert, and the game is over. And John [Harbaugh] and I talked about it before that, because they had called timeout, and I just had a lot of confidence in the play that we called. And unfortunately, it didn't work out. When you've got an opportunity to throw it to Derrick [Mason], throw it to [Anquan Boldin], you've got good protection, and you know you're going to get one-on-one matchup, and we've got a chance to put the game over right there, and we didn't execute it. But, I understand one way or the other. But, I think that was an opportunity for our offense to just put the game away, and unfortunately, we didn't do it. And if you don't do it, you leave yourself open either way to all sorts of things. Well, all sorts of… (Reports interjects: "Do you worry about second-guessing?") No, I don't worry about the [second guessing]. That's not going to go away; that's been going on for 600 years. I've got it back to 600 so far, all right?* (laughter) *So, when that water was bitter at Mara… 600."
On how he felt about the unbalanced line with G/C Chris Chester at TE: "I thought it was a plus. On the goal line, it was a huge plus. That was a big play in that game. We hadn't been in that goal-line look for a while. So, to go down there, and then score, and then two plays, was good, because they had been pretty good in their goal-line defense. It gave us some other options. With Oniel [Cousins] in there, it gave us a chance to put another guy beside him where we can be physical."
On knowing that Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will call blitzes: "Absolutely. [He is] one of the really good coordinators in this league. [He was] one of the good coaches in this league for a long time. They've got a good defense, a good team, and it'll be another big challenge."
On what he has seen out of Drew Brees from his injury until now: "Drew is like a lot of these guys, the great players in this league. No matter what the circumstances [are], you never underestimate them. He falls right into that category. This isn't the week for me to be talking about Drew Brees. However, I stand on what I said. This guy… Don't ever underestimate Drew in any sort of circumstances."
On why T Michael Oher as gotten penalized for a number of false starts recently:"I'll tell you exactly what it is: He's a quick-twitch guy. Like I've said, he's got a gift of quickness, and we've just got to harness it a little bit and be a little more disciplined. He's trying to get it solved. We're trying to work with him. We mix our cadence up a lot. Sometimes on young tackles, it'd be easy for us to go on 'one' all the time to help them out. That would make it a lot easier. But then, what comes next? Now, they're getting off on our cadence. We mix really five different cadences in there at times. We've just got to continue to grow and continue to get better."
On how much interaction he has with head coach John Harbaugh while he is calling plays:"It starts Tuesday night. Tuesday night, you go through the entire game plan. You review the previous game on Monday, and that leads you right into Tuesday night, and you go through the game plan and the situations. It is all week long. John [Harbaugh]'s involved in all three phases, which is good for us; it gives me a really good defensive perspective. It's ongoing. And then [interaction during] games, it varies from week to week. It really does. Obviously, I value his input based on our relationship. He always likes somebody who can give him another perspective. In critical situations, every head coach is involved, whether you need to run it here for clock management, or whether we've got to make sure to save a timeout. There's a lot of dialogue going on."
On why the offense has not scored a touchdown in the second half in four consecutive games and how they can change that:"Continue to focus on fundamentals and execution. That's what our guys are doing. There's opportunities; there's all sorts of circumstances that come up in games. But there is a bottom line. The bottom line is we've got to take care of the football, but score points. And we've got to find a way to do that. Especially, you're always talking about finishing – finishing drives, finishing games – but, what better time than now than to start finishing games because we're going to need to, especially down the stretch. If you're not finishing games, you're going to make it more difficult than it should be."
Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison
On how S Tom Zbikowski's injury affected the defense on Monday late in the game: "[It] affected a great deal of what we called, because he was our dime in that game, and we didn't feel like you could put a linebacker on Owen Daniels. That was evident as the game went on when we did try to play some 'man' against him and did try to play some coverage on him. You've got a total mismatch right there on one of the better tight ends in the league, and the second thing that affected it is we had three nose guard-type guys up to be able to play the run. They were rushing for 130 yards a game. All of a sudden, when they went into a passing fest, and you lost one of your pass rushers, Cory Redding, our choice was, at that point, to try to rush two nose guards or even three nose guards and one end and try to pressure with that when the secondary was already – you could tell – had been running a number of routes with them. We thought our best deal was to be able to rush three at times and to rush four and try to make sure that we didn't give them a big play, because the worst thing that could happen to us at that point is for them to score fast."
On what he attributes the fatigue factor to: "I think the biggest thing was one, anytime you get into a passing game, it's so much more taxing on the defensive line than it is a run game. There still was a lot of things left on that Pittsburgh game field. That defense, and that front seven laid it out in that game and played their hearts out. And then to come back and change to a game that switched into being pass, pass, pass… It doesn't hit you before it hits you. All of a sudden, when you look at the guy who is probably one of our toughest guys – and I'd say even [Terrell Suggs] is the same way this year – they give everything they have almost every play, [Jarret Johnson] and him, and [Jarret Johnson] couldn't go. Now you've got… An edge rusher even makes it harder when you're trying to rush four guys from the edge. It's farther to go, and you've got to go harder for a longer period of time. Those things kind of were our mindset. You'd like to have pressured at times, but just my feeling, the only thing I ever care about in calling defenses is what's best for the defense. The thing that I didn't want to have happen is for something to happen in a single-coverage defense and them to get a big play, and now, all of a sudden, you may be back there a lot faster than you want with a lot of clock left."
On not using a timeout before the two-point conversion and the effect of practicing in pads last week: "I don't know if I would attribute [fatigue] to [practicing in pads]. We look at all that stuff, and there's a reason for practicing in pads. I don't second-guess that a bit. If they wouldn't have come out and thrown 60 times… I mean, how many teams do you play against that throw 60 times? You know, we're fine. When I look back at the first half, it might be one of the best halves of football we've played. So, you're saying to yourself, 'OK, this is good. Everything has been perfect so far.' Now, all of a sudden, that first drive… And the other thing that happens – you never see it until you're there with the guys – is there were four fourth downs that they converted. Those fourth downs turned into adding seven or eight plays onto a drive. The thing that I was most proud of – and you never see it – it would have been real easy for us to give up two touchdowns instead of field goals on those drives. I mean, those kids fought. [If] you give up touchdowns right there, you're really in trouble. And they kept fighting. The other thing you look at it – if you ever have a chance to look at the film – rushing three a great deal of that second half allowed our four guys to have enough left in them to come. The two rushes they had on the goal line down there – the last two plays – were as good as we had all game. It wasn't because they said, 'OK, it's important now.' It's, I think, they had a little bit left in the tank. That's all I ever look at when we're calling it is, 'What do we have to be able to win this game with?'"
On what he has to correct before playing the Saints:"I think the one thing we've got to have [is] we've got to make sure we have a couple guys that can play that one position so it doesn't take us out* of defense, so you don't get taken out of that. The other thing is Tavares Gooden has done a great job for us as that [linebacker], but he had run down on four or five kickoffs. I looked out one time, and I was ready to call a pressure, and he was standing with his legs crossed, just trying to get some wind. I said, 'I can't do this to him, put him on a guy right there.' That's not how we operate. So, we've got to be able to do that, is one thing. And I think the thing that's got to happen for us is we've got to be able to roll guys through there maybe earlier, thinking that, 'OK, this could happen.' It's hard to do that. In other places I've been, I've done that all the time. [I'd] say, 'You're going to go these two series; you're going to go here.' But, our mindset was to stop the run, and our mindset was the bigger guys up there. I don't think that would've mattered. I looked out there one time, and I see Terrence Cody and Brandon McKinney, and I'm thinking, 'Wow, we're not going to get much pressure with this one.'" *(laughter)
On whether the big lead was the worst thing for the defense in the second half because Houston abandoned the run:"Yes, exactly. In retrospect, when you look at why they did what they did, us getting a lead… The thing that you expect to happen is we've got to stop them on a couple three-and-outs and get off the field. And now, you get it. There are some things that we did coverage-wise in there, or pass-rush-wise, that could've been better. It isn't always that you rush three or rush four, or they had big guys in there or not big guys, they still have to execute. That happens in a game like that where you get tired, and pretty soon, the first thing that you lose is your technique. I think when our guys watched it [on film], they said, 'Yeah, I could've done that a little better.'"
On what sets QB Drew Brees apart from other quarterbacks and how versatile the Saints' running backs are:"The thing that sets [Drew] Brees apart is his ability to get the ball out really, really quick. He really sees his receivers and sees who he's going to go to, and the ball comes out really quick. Running backs, [they've got] great speed. They've got a good running attack. The thing they have and the thing you're going to see in this game is they can get into all of their different personnel groups with different personnel groups. In other words, they can get into a three-wide package with all tight ends in there because they've got some good, [athletic] tight ends. What they do by doing that is it forces you sometimes on defense to stay more basic in what you're calling. You can't load up a run defense when you say [their] tendency is [running the ball], because they could spread you all out, and now you've got a disadvantage. That's one thing that they've done a really good job of with their package."
On whether the Saints' offense is similar to the Texans' offense:"No, no. [The Saints' is] more of a West Coast system. There are not a lot of different runs. The runs you have to stop are the runs you have to stop. It isn't like Houston. The other reason why pressure was not a great thought in [the Texans] game is because at any moment when you're pressuring, you've got somebody that's got to spy the [running] back. [Houston] is the best screen team in the league. All of a sudden, you're in that game when you're tired and [if] you don't cover that [running] back on a screen, you're in big trouble. This team here is also a screen team. They do a great job on the screen."