HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "OK, [it's] good to see you guys. I appreciate you all being here. I just had a chance to get through the tape. We just had our staff meeting, and we're getting ready for Cleveland. So, what questions do you have?"
You've talked before about getting callused over after you go over some things. After so many comebacks, do you almost, when you get in that situation, is it like, 'Hey, we're used to this,' type of situation? Kind of like the atmosphere towards another comeback like yesterday? (Jamison Hensley) "I'm sure there is. I think like anything else, [when] you get experience with something, you get more comfortable in that type of a situation. So, I think our guys are content in every circumstance right now, in every football circumstance, and determined to try to find a way to win."
We didn't ask you about it yesterday after the game, just because there was so much to talk about the dramatics with QB Tyler Huntley and QB Lamar Jackson. How significant was it for TE Nick Boyle to be back on the field? What did it mean from an emotional standpoint, just knowing how much he's gone through, and from a football standpoint? It seemed like you ran the first two plays right behind him or right in his vicinity. (Jeff Zrebiec) "That wasn't probably the dynamic for the two plays, but it sure turned out well that way. It's fitting. It was great to see him back. What he's been through, he can explain it to you so much better, but I've seen him in here every day through all the frustration and the agony of range of motion. You guys who have had these surgeries know how hard all of that is and getting that strength back, even just getting ready to play the last few weeks when he was closer but not quite there. It was great to see him back. He played well. He's only going to get better. The game moves fast, and he's only going to get better and better as he gets more comfortable on that knee."
Week after week, QB Lamar Jackson has been getting the credit for overcoming all the games. What does it tell you about QB Tyler Huntley, his first start in the NFL to [be sacked six times] and a cut by his eye, to still maintain his composure until the very end? Especially on the last drive which led to the victory. (David Andrade) "That's probably maybe the biggest story about Tyler [Huntley], is how he did keep his composure. It wasn't too big for him, and he made plays. He made plays down the stretch, especially overcame adversity. But all of these … You talk about credit. You mentioned credit; all of these things are always team efforts. It always takes the team – every aspect of the team, different guys doing different things. That's the beauty of football, and the way our guys hung together and fought together is really the story."
These guys didn't get a chance to ask you about WR Marquise Brown yesterday. Were you optimistic that he would play coming out of Friday's practice? Or was it always going to be iffy? (Childs Walker) "[That's an] impossible question to answer. I'm optimistic and hopeful, and it's always iffy. So, it's all of the above, really. It's not really an 'or' – you're hopeful, and he didn't make it."
We saw a couple of plays with trips on the right with TE Nick Boyle, TE Mark Andrews and FB/DL Patrick Ricard. Could that be like the return of the three-headed monster? (David Andrade) "I hope so. I sure hope so. I hope it becomes a monster that people have to contend with."
Along those lines, the bunch trips set that you guys had that used WR Sammy Watkins to get open, I think you had a similar formation against the Chiefs that led to WR Marquise Brown getting wide open for that jump pass from QB Lamar Jackson. What is it about that set that really stresses defenses? (Jonas Shaffer) "Bunch formations are tough. We deal with them all the time on defense as well. Especially if you motion in and out, or you shift guys on and off the ball, or you change up who's lining up where, it messes with your matchups. A lot of times, defenses will have … You can lock it, and three guys have three guys, usually the point is pressed. Sometimes, you can put the point man on two or three. Sometimes, you can lock one of the guys and in-and-out the other two guys. Sometimes, you can three-way the whole thing and sort it that way. But there's communication, especially when things happen fast on the run, or if you're coming out of the huddle, like we were, and going no huddle. They just messed up the communication, and two guys covered one guy, and Sammy [Watkins] popped open."
When you win a game like you did yesterday short-handed, especially with your quarterback being out, of course you give credit to the players, but do you as coaches take time to give yourself credit, considering that's a game that half the league probably would have lost? (Cordell Woodland) (laughter) "Pat ourselves on the back? Never. Never, ever. You go home, and you're happy. In my case, my wife [Ingrid] was there. [My daughter] Alison was at the game, so I got to spend some time with her after. I talked to her on the phone driving home. That's what you do to me, you talk to your family. It's great to win. It's hard to win in the National Football League; it's a big challenge. Anybody who thinks that every team should win every game, now that's even more impossible than answering one of [The Baltimore Sun reporter] Childs' [Walker] questions. (laughter) That's tough. So, you do; you take a moment. I think you just try to enjoy it. Enjoy the incredible, then back to work on Monday."
How is QB Lamar Jackson feeling today? I know a lot of people are eager to find out. (Jamison Hensley) "He felt good today. I don't know how good, but he was feeling much better today from what I was told. I haven't seen him."
On the fourth-and-11 touchdown, everyone is going to second guess when you give up a play like that, but in that situation, deciding how aggressive to be, how much does the score, knowing that a field goal – you wouldn't have the lead anymore – and the clock really factor in there? Knowing that they can drive down the field, kick a field goal and have no time left? (Luke Jones) "All of it has to do with it. You make a good point; sometimes, a quick outcome is OK either way. If you go back to the end of the Browns game last year, when they went down the field and scored so quickly, it was better that they scored so quick than scoring slow. Sometimes, a quick death is better, because you're not dead yet. We weren't dead yet after that play, which was the good news. We had numerous other [Cover] Zeros in there. [Cover] Zero was our call that game. We change it up situationally, game to game, but [Cover] Zero was our call in those very situations in the gameplan. [Defensive coordinator Don Martindale] 'Wink' stuck with the gameplan, [and] a number of them worked. That one really easily could have worked; we were a little late with one of our blitzers, and we were a little too aggressive at the sticks with Chris [Westry], and they made a play. If you think back, Andy Dalton … Am I speaking out of turn if everybody says, 'Andy Dalton, here we go.' (laughter) Right? I mean, the fanbase? Not everybody, but [my wife] Ingrid mentioned the same thing to me. (laughter) Laura Martindale told him [Don Martindale]. But the last time that happened, when he was with the Bengals, we ran out into Tampa 2, and it was a fourth-and-12 touchdown. So, this was an all-out [Cover] Zero blitz, which we've had some success with, and they got it. They got it, but our guys overcame it."
How do you coach up CB Chris Westry, and not just in correcting that, but also … You guys showed a lot of confidence in making that call with him. That's his first NFL start, and he hasn't played a whole lot. (Luke Jones) "Yes, he [Chris Westry] had so many good plays in the game, and there were other things. There were little technique-things that … He's a young player, and playing corner is all about technique – technique and talent and discipline. You've got to be locked in every play. It's a tough job, and those are things he's really going to learn from in the best kind of way, because he's very conscientious. On that particular one, you want to play the sticks, but you want to give a little ground when the receiver is moving north on you, and then you've got to be ready to put a foot in the ground and break, because usually the ball comes out quick. The ball came out a little later than we would have wanted to, or it wouldn't have been an issue, and he got a little heavy at the sticks, because he's thinking about stopping the first down. His eyes were better than I thought. When I saw the tape, his eyes were a little better than I thought. But he lost vision late on the receiver and then [Marquise Goodwin] obviously got behind him. So, that's what happened."
What has impressed you about CB Chris Westry? He was a training camp standout – coming back from injury and playing as many snaps as he did? (Jonas Shaffer) "He played like – I don't know – 50-60 snaps in the game and played hard. I just think he's a great young man. He really works hard. He's very talented, very conscientious. [He] really, really wants to be good [and] was very upset – very upset – about giving up the play. I mean, there was some consoling going on – even after the game – with the win, in the locker room. But those are the moments that … In some ways you treasure them, because it's a great learning experience, but it's also just a great growing experience. It's kind of a privilege, as a coach, to be a part of that a little bit – the response to events. So, he's going to be fine."
I know you never think about giving up a touchdown as a good thing1, but did you think about that if the Bears didn't get the touchdown, you had the roughing the passer, and then they have the ability to run more clock off and maybe kick a game-winning field goal. Have you thought about that at all? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes. As a matter of fact, in the locker room after the game, the guys were getting on … The defense, the outside 'backers were getting on Odafe [Oweh] about ... It was a bad roughing the passer, and it really shouldn't happen in a situation like that. He'll learn from that, also, but by the same token, it turned out OK." (laughter)
Do you expect CB Anthony Averett to be out for long? I know he showed up on the injury report on Friday. (Luke Jones) "I do not expect him to be out long. It is not a serious hamstring – quote, unquote – injury. He just got to the game … I actually thought he would play in the game. He got to the game, went out there and tested it, and just didn't feel like he could go."
You guys are going to have a lot more divisional games down the stretch here, starting this weekend. Everyone in the division is still above .500. Is this as tough, top to bottom, as you remember the division being. (Noah Trister) "Yes, it's just a great division. I have been in this division now for many years, and it's always like that. It really doesn't really matter what the records are; it's still always really, really tough to play these games, yet now, everybody is above .500, and everybody is in it. And all the games are now at the end, between all of us, so it's going to be pretty exciting."
Where did you get the sweatshirt that says, "Faith Over Fear?" And also, faith has been a big part of you and your coaching tenure. It seems like maybe more this year? (Ryan Mink) "I would like to think that through the course of our lifetime, events transpire that grow our faith and don't undermine our faith. I'm sure in some cases it does. A friend of mine gave me this sweatshirt at the beginning of the season, and kind of portended some things. He kind of said that. He goes, 'I'm telling you; this is going to be meaningful.' And it's really warm and comfortable, too." (laughter)
You spoke in the locker room after the game about faith and guts, and CB Marlon Humphrey told us after the game that everything started with a speech that you gave the team. Can you share a little bit of that? (David Andrade) "The talk the night before?" (Reporter: "Yes.") "It was short and sweet, man. It was just about what it was going to take to win the game, and I mentioned turnovers, I mentioned a blocked punt – which turned out to be prophetic, so that was cool. (laughter) But our guys understand what's required. You don't have to say much to them. You just try to hit on some of the main points, and I like to talk about how we're going to play. As much as what we're going to do, is how we're going to play, and if we're going to kind of match-up to our personality in that. And [I] try to give them a lot of confidence, in terms of … [When] you believe in a bunch of guys, you want to see them believe in themselves and go be who they are and be them, and our guys do a good job of that. So, that was it."
In that regard, what did you see from OLB Jaylon Ferguson, being able to come in and get a hand on that punt? (Jamison Hensley) "That was great, yes. They were trying to cover, and Jaylon [Ferguson] gave them a little fake block, like he was going to hold him up. [He used] a rush move that we practice a lot, and then James Proche II had an up-and-under move, [and] he was right there, too, with a three-step up and under. So, it's great to see those guys get a piece … It made a big difference. A couple times … We had the blocked punt; we had the [fourth down] stop; we had a turnover early in the game on the sack-fumble. Those were just game-changing plays for us in a tight, low-scoring game."
CB Marlon Humphrey was talking about guys coming and going, and he didn't really know who was going to be out there. When you guys were making a decision on inactives, how frantic was it during the morning of the game, when you have guys working out on the field, and you're seeing if they can play? You also had the QB Lamar Jackson situation. You said this week was unique in that way. What was it like pre-game? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It was frantic. We had 53 on the roster this week, which made the math a little easier, for me anyway. It was not knowing if Lamar [Jackson] was going to be there, and then Anthony [Averett], and there might have been another guy or two that I'm forgetting about. But it's just been that way all year. It's been that way all year. Every single week has been a challenge, in terms of who's going to be up and down, so we've got to get everybody ready, and our coaches have done a great job of that – preparing, really, the whole roster to play, because it turned out to be, 'You've got to be ready to play.' Ar'Darius [Washington] came in and played six plays on defense [and] played some plays on special teams. It wasn't like he would have thought at the beginning of the week he was going to be playing. So, I've really got to credit our coaches and the players for doing that."
Do you expect OLB Pernell McPhee to be able to come back this season? (Luke Jones) "Yes, he should be able to come back this season. It's kind of a clean-up scope, so it's a short-term IR [injured reserve]."
With QB Lamar Jackson, is the expectation for him to be able to participate in tomorrow's walk-through? (Jamison Hensley) "The hope is. I don't want to say expectation, because who knows?" (Reporter: "Do you expect Marquise Brown to participate?")"I'm very hopeful."
I know you can't choose your schedules, but were you able to overlap at all with your brother, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, with him coming to Maryland for the game in College Park? (Jonas Shaffer) "I wasn't. I was going to try to run down there, but then the combination of getting out of here closer to 6 [p.m.] on Friday and their schedule, and then traffic. I started thinking about traffic, and I was kind of like, 'He doesn't really need me. I think he's going to be able to get by without my help.' (laughter)But that was a great win for Michigan, and now they have a big game coming up [against Ohio State]."