HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. Thanks for coming. The injury thing, we have an announcement: Jameel McClain has a spinal cord contusion from last week. He has seen two specialists now. He will be done for the season on that. That will not have time to heal before the end of the season. We had a couple of concussions with Bernard [Pierce] and Torrey [Smith]. We'll see as the week goes on how those guys progress from those things. Obviously, those things are unpredictable. All the rest of it from the game is all stuff that guys should be working on this week, and we'll just see if they can practice and how much they can practice. We have some optimism with that. The guys that are out from last week, Marshal [Yanda] and Bernard [Pollard], we'll see how they go as the week goes along. Ed Dickson, [is] the same. That's really it on injury stuff."
When things are going as they've been going, there are all sorts of speculation and blame that could be thrown all over the place, but do you make a concerted effort to shield or deflect it away from players and coaches? Do you want to have it all on you? (Joe Platania)"We don't get into all the blame stuff. Ultimately, it's all on me, yeah, sure. As a head coach, that's your responsibility. So, it's my job to get us in the best position to play the best we can and get our team ready and motivated. Just like all of it, we own that, I own that. I'm disappointed with how we played the last couple of weeks, because it hasn't been good enough to find a way to win. But, I'm proud of the way we fight. I'm proud of the way our guys compete. I'm proud of the way they overcome adversity. And, we'll take all that into the next week and see how we do."
In terms of Bernard Pollard, was he close this week? (Aaron Wilson)"I'm not getting into all that. Close, not close … What difference does it make?"
Talk about your decision to not go for two points down 18 with about four minutes left in the game? (Jerry Coleman)"To me, it's a simple decision. Your chances of making three two-point conversions in a row are lower than your chances of scoring two touchdowns and getting a field goal."
**John, has anyone stepped up, specifically any one player, during this three-game streak leading that we wouldn't necessarily know from outside the locker room? *(Drew Forrester) *"A lot of young guys have stepped up really well. Through all of this, some unexpected guys have stepped up and played exceptionally well. I don't have that list in front of me right now, but I can give you one name that just pops into my head – it's Corey Graham. Corey Graham has really played well. He's played at a really high level. I am really proud of how he has done. Josh Bynes really played well yesterday. He stepped in and played well. When I start mentioning names, I feel like I am going to leave guys out. Pernell McPhee, who had the groin pull earlier in the week, got ready for Sunday and stepped in there and played really well. Our defense did a really nice job for a good stretch of the game. We had a number of three-and-outs in the first half, which is pretty impressive when you are playing that offense and you're playing that quarterback. There are many things to improve upon, but there are also many things to build on, and that's what I'm excited about. So, how far away are we and how much better do we need to get? We say we need to find a way to get just a little bit better in everything we are doing. Will that be the difference to make us the kind of team that we want to be when we hit the playoffs? That's the goal right now. We have two things we are looking at: Our No. 1 objective right now is to win the AFC North. That is a mighty accomplishment. And with the adversity that we face, we are going to be darn proud of that, but we have to earn that. And that's in front of us. That's a goal that's right in front of us. And then our dream is to win the ultimate prize. That's a possibility, too; that's an opportunity that we have. So, how good can we get? We need to get healthy and we need to get better. If we can do those two things, we give ourselves a chance."
You are a playoff team, yet the aura around here doesn't seem like that. How do you guys take it? I realize your goal is to win the AFC North, but you are in there for the fifth-straight year. Is there any feeling of accomplishment thus far? (Dave Ginsburg)"Sure. We're proud of the fact [that we've made the playoffs]. We've owned our five losses, or we've owned the last three loses. We also own the nine wins, so we are what we are. We are what our record says we are, and we're in contention, and we're proud of that. But, we know we have to get better, and we have to get healthy. We go to work; that's what we do. So, any aura … I haven't noticed an aura. We're not looking for auras."
Terrell Suggs kept coming in and out of the game and looked like he was in a lot of pain. How did you guys manage what he was able to do, and do you feel like it is something that can improve going forward? (Aaron Wilson)"With regards to what? (Wilson: "Terrell, he was in obvious pain. He kept coming in and out of the game.") Was he in obvious pain? Did you ask him about it? (Wilson: "I tried to. He was pretty quiet after game.") I'm not aware of that. (Wilson: "He left the game several times.") I'm not aware of the pain. I'm not sure what you're talking about. (Wilson: "Just about his biceps …") Just give me a better question. Give me a question that doesn't assume certain things that aren't true."
How did you feel like Terrell Suggs played? (Aaron Wilson)"I thought he played well. I thought he fought and battled out there. He has a lot of courage. He is a fighter. I like Terrell Suggs. He is a warrior."
What are some of the other positive things that you can take away from the game? Obviously, the defense stepping up there, particularly in the beginning, but what are some of the other assessments after watching the tape? (Kris Jones)"Our special teams played well. We had the one punt return that slid up the sideline that we could have covered a little better, but to take that returner and bottle him up the way we did, both in kickoff and punt return, was really good. Our kickoff returns were out a couple of times. We were actually close on a couple punt returns. Offensively, there were some good things in there, as far as throwing the ball, especially towards the end of the game. We'd like to run the ball a little better than we did. I am a little disappointed in that. We tried to get that going, and there just wasn't much happening there. We need to sustain. We need to be a little more consistent, make a few more plays and get first downs. It's been the thing, really, that's been the same issue all year. We understand that. We're struggling with consistency. That's something that we have to find between now and when the playoffs start. We are going to work hard to do that. I don't think we're that far away. I really believe we're close, and we'll keep fighting for that. We have really good players and hard workers. When you take it in perspective, put it in perspective, you look around the league, and there are only a few teams right now that are clicking on all cylinders. And even sometimes, they don't click on all cylinders when you watch. You watch last night, and you watch the week before and the week before that. It's a tough league. It's a tough league for tough people. We have a bunch of tough men, so that's what we'll do."
John, I know you addressed this yesterday a little bit, but after you watched the tape and you saw how the end of the first half broke down, do you wish you would have taken a timeout there? (Mark Zinno)"It's always a good question. The question is from what perspective? From a strategy standpoint generally, or from an outcome standpoint? *(Zinno: "Obviously, from an outcome standpoint, you want it to be different. When you look back at the tape, is there anything that when you looked at and said one of these options would have worked or maybe if I would have thought about it a little longer, as opposed to just kind of being in the moment?") *That's a split-second decision that you make. The idea there – and we've done that before – it's a strategy choice that we make to keep them on their heels. It has nothing to do with how many timeouts we have. We made a decision there that they were on their heels, they were trying to make a substitution, and we noticed that, so we wanted to get on the ball and run a play. That's what we tried to do. Hindsight, outcome? Absolutely. Huddle-up and regroup. That's a pretty easy assessment at this point. So, absolutely, from an outcome standpoint, I wish we would have done it differently. But, it's not something we're going to throw out of the playbook. It's something that we feel good about, and it's had a lot of success in the past, and we'll have success with that in the future. We'll mix it in. That's a good question."
It looked like the offensive line really struggled with both run blocking and pass blocking yesterday. How would you assess the offensive line's performance yesterday and kind of progression over the last few weeks? (Brett Hollander)"[Denver has] a really good front, first of all. We knew we had to find a way to minimize the damage done by those two defensive ends. We did that to a large extent. We didn't have a sack until late when we were kind of in desperation mode, and we were just trying to make a statement maybe. Those sacks are on me, because that's the way I wanted to play the game at the end. So, I don't put that on the offensive line. That being said, we need to run the ball better. We need to be able to run the ball against the front – any front – and that's something that we have to do a better job with."
*Does the linebacker position – now with Jameel [McClain] out – is that something that you are going to need to address this week in terms of bringing somebody in for the open roster spot? (Jeff Zrebiec) *"We might need to, yeah. We will have to see how that goes – see what's available."
Coach, how involved was [offensive coordinator] Jim Caldwell in terms of the game plan and you in terms of coordinating. It looked like there were a couple of sets there that we had never seen with him in Indianapolis. Just wondering on your input versus his because of the short span [since he became offensive coordinator]. (Jerry Coleman) "Jim [Caldwell] and our staff – I would say – collaborated really well to coordinate a game plan and put a game plan together. I was real pleased with the game plan. We've had a lot of great game plans. We have had great game plans here for five years. Some have worked out better than others. They're always based on the things that you think are going to work and are going to give you a chance for success. The game plan was really good. It was little bit different than what we've had before in some ways, but it was all within the system that has been built here. It wasn't anything completely different than what we've had. We're going to try to do a better job with it in the future."
*Does it look like Joe [Flacco] is pressing to you? (Drew Forrester) *"I hope everybody is pressing. I really do. I hope we are all pressing. I hope we are all doing everything we can do to get a little bit better. Where the line is between that and overdoing it, I don't know. We are all going to press. I'm for pressing."
Do you think some of the struggles with the run game early on were just the Broncos picking up certain tendencies? I know out of the seven drives that you had the first half, besides two passes to [Vonta] Leach, they were all runs on first-and-10. Is that something that you saw them picking up on and adjusted the second half? (Kris Jones) "Our goal is always going to be to mix the ball on first down. We probably could have mixed in more passes there on first down on that stretch – no question. But you want to be committed, and you want to try to get something going in the run game, too. If we get a few more yards in the run game, then those second downs and those third downs, you have a little better of a chance of accomplishing converting on third down. Third-and-8, third-and-9, third-and-10 is a little bit tougher. That's a balance, but sure, that's something that we can do a little better job of balancing."
How did you think Jimmy Smith looked? He played about a dozen plays. Do you anticipate a bigger workload for him this week? (Luke Jones) "We'll just have to see. That's a type of an injury where you … He wasn't a 100 percent out there, and that's something that you really don't know until you get into the game. Unfortunately, he wasn't as quick as I would have hoped he would be. We'll just have to see how he does this week. Sometimes in practice it's a little harder to judge that."
Are the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties bother you – either Anquan's [Boldin] or Cary's [Williams]? (Drew Forrester) "Anquan's [Boldin] does not bother me at all. Anquan was blocking back. It was a legal block. I saw it on tape today. It was a block when Joe [Flacco] was running out and a guy was pursuing to tackle Joe, and it was a perfectly legal block. What was the other one? Cary [Williams]? Cary's was late. Cary's was out of bounce and late. Cary would be the first to tell you that was a mistake."
Much is made about fans booing the home team, especially given the performances you've had in your career at home. Were you shocked a little bit at the reaction of the crowd? (Kris Jones) "No, where I come from, that's a pretty normal occurrence. *(laughter) *[I have] heard that before. That to me is painful. There's no question about it. It stings, but rightfully so. That's the way that we had played. We had done things that you just can't do if you want to win a football game against a good team, and we did it in the most inopportune times. We did it early – the first drive – and we did it right around halftime. Those are the two situations where you really don't want those things to happen more than any other situation. We deserved it. We've got to go earn those cheers. That's up to us."
Was Joe [Flacco] left in the game because you wanted him to get familiarized even more with Jim [Caldwell]? (Jerry Coleman) "We aren't into taking guys out of the game. All that stuff, that's not what we do. Anybody can debate that all they want. Look around the league. See what other coaches do. That's not what they do either. I'm not even getting into that conversation."
Is this the toughest three-game stretch you've had in your career? I know you've had three-game losing streaks before, but… (Mark Zinno)"We had one early on [in both 2008 and 2009] – this is the [third] one. I am counting. *(laughter) *We do know. This has been difficult. It's been challenging. But to me, any adversity, any challenge presents an opportunity. It's an opportunity for our guys to demonstrate – for all of us – to establish who we are [and] what we're about. It's a little easier when things are going well for people to see good, for people to be in a good place. It's a little tougher when things get tough. [There's] the old saying, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.' We've got some tough guys, mentally-tough guys, and I'm looking forward to seeing how we respond to it."
John, do you see any similarities to you and your brother and what the Manning brothers are to the NFL? (Joe Platania)"Jim and I are older, so we probably have more years behind us, right? Oh, you mean closer age-wise? Do we see similarities there? Well, they've got two talented throwers … I guess I'm the black sheep there; I wasn't a very good athlete compared to all those guys, so maybe that's the biggest difference. It's something that … I'm proud of it. I'm proud of the fact that Jim is doing well. I was proud of Jim last night – his football team going in that building in there and playing the way they played and winning that game. I'm sure the Mannings feel the same way when they see each other."
John, what was the message to the team today? (Aaron Wilson)"Get healthy, get better. We've got work to do, and like we always do, we're going to try to become – we're going to do everything we can do and fight like crazy to become – the team that we're capable of becoming. And we're not that team yet. It's a long season, but all of our goals and all of our dreams are squarely in front of us. And that's what we're shooting for."
Is it hard to get that message across when you're riding a three-game losing streak? (Jerry Coleman)"Not to our players it's not. Coaches and players, we all understand that."
Coach, the last two Super Bowl champions kind of stumbled a little bit down the stretch. Is that something that you can say to your players, or does everybody already know that? (Ryan Mink)"We have mentioned that. We do give history lessons quite often; sometimes it's National Football League history and sometimes it's real history. But it depends where you want to dwell, what you want to dwell on. You can dwell on those things that aren't so helpful, or you can choose to dwell on hope. And that's what we do. You can't do it any other way when you've got to line up and play next week against another team that's contending for the playoffs and for a division championship. How many games has it been in a row that we've been in dogfights with teams that have everything at stake when we play them? We've played overtime games; we've played overtime games that have gone almost the whole overtime; we've been in physical games; we've been in heartbreaking losses; and we've been in exhilarating victories at the end. We've seen it all this year. We've had injuries, we've had adversity, we've had exhilaration, and we've had great moments. So, that's what a season is made of, and the team that navigates all these things the best in the end will be the one true champion. That's in front of us. That's what we're looking to accomplish. So, make no mistake about it; we're not backing down from that. All the other stuff, it's just noise to us. It doesn't mean much. We know what our goals are."