Ravens September 23 Transcripts: Week 3 at Detroit Lions

Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton

Opening Statement: "Good morning. Good to see everyone. Just a quick recap on the Kansas City game: It was great. It was great to get a win against that team. I thought our guys … For the most part, I thought we played pretty sound. We did have a holding penalty. You guys know how I feel about penalties – we can't have those things – but in that case, you take that penalty. Also, we gave up a 33-yard kick return. I thought our guys covered well on the night; we just broke down with little technique issues from there, but it's things that we could easily get fixed, things we've been working on this week, and we will get them fixed. Moving forward to Detroit, we're going to face a pretty good special teams unit. We've got a lot of respect for [Lions special teams coordinator] Dave Fipp – he does a great job. We had an opportunity to face him when he was in Philly last year. His guys will come, and they'll be ready to play. It's going to be a physical game, and we've got just the men for the challenge. Any questions?"

Regarding that holding penalty, first of all, what happened on the play that broke down there, and then do you coach them and say, 'Whatever happens, that guy can't to the punter?' (Bo Smolka) "I don't think we ever want to coach that, because we don't ever want to put ourselves in those situations. I think it was really just poor protection from that right side, and it's an easy fix; we've just got to come out – I talk about it all the time – and we've got to be perfect all the time with our fundamentals. But it's like any other position; if a guy gets beat, the more likely you'd think he's probably going to grab the guy and make sure that if there is a problem, we're not creating a bigger problem – you guys saw the play – and that could have been a bigger problem for us. So, I think in that situation, hey, go ahead and tackle the guy. We live; we live to play another down and punt the ball. But those are some things we'll get fixed. We don't ever want to see those things, still."

I don't think you were with the team at the time, but in December of 2013, K Justin Tucker had a six-field goal performance in Detroit. Do you think he secretly at all misses the times when his offense relied on him a little bit more than they do now?' (Bobby Trosset) "I was not here in 2013. But I wouldn't say he misses it, because I think any time you get an opportunity to put him out there, his job is to go make the kick. If he's not out there, that just means we're scoring a lot of points. We will take that, because that means we're winning football games – the more points we're scoring – we're kicking extra points instead of field goals. That's good for us. So, I don't think he misses it. I think any time his number is called, he's going to be ready to kick the field goals."

Before the game, we saw two fans kind of wander onto the field and talk to you. (Jonas Shaffer) (laughter) "That was pretty interesting. (laughter) I was out there pretty early just kind of walking around, doing my normal pre-game routine, and I saw some players with frowns on their face, staring at some guys, and I looked over, and I just saw two random guys on the field. (laughter) The guy thought he knew me, and he wanted a handshake; I didn't pay any attention to him; I just said, 'Hey man, get off the field. It's kind of too early. You want to watch this game. This is going to be an exciting game. You'd rather not get thrown out of the game before it starts.' (laughter) That was pretty weird. We need more security detail to take care of that, so we're not dealing with that, as coaches and players." (laughter)

Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman

Opening statement: "How's it going, everybody? We're getting ready for a really good Detroit Lions team. [They're] really strong in the front with [Trey] Flowers really leading the charge. [Charles] Harris shows up quite a bit, [Romeo] Okwara, and we know all about [Michael] Brockers and what a good player he is. The safety is really playing well. [They're] really fast, fast players. [Alex] Anzalone, the linebacker, we know him from New Orleans. He's a really active player [and] a sideline-to-sideline type of player. So, the guys are really dialed in on this game, and we're excited about the challenge of going on the road. Any questions?"

How pleased have you been with your ability to get WR Marquise Brown the ball, at least for the first two weeks, and just the different ways … It seems like you were stretching different areas of the field on Sunday with a clear effort to get him the ball. (Jeff Zrebiec) "Really, the ball gets thrown where coverage tells you. A couple times, maybe we threw it to him when we shouldn't have. He's definitely a playmaker, and we're always trying to get him involved, because of the positive impact he can bring. Having him out there really makes a difference, and we're striving for that consistency with our operation. But Marquise 'Hollywood' [Brown] is doing a really good job. He's a really good team guy [who will] do whatever it takes. I thought his blocking last game was as good as it's ever been. Of course, that stuff never shows up on the stats sheets. We should have a fantasy football for blocking, OK?" (laughter)

As far as noise with the first road game … Going into your second road game, how do you feel with the noise after not having to deal with all of that last year? (Jamison Hensley) "It's very different. As I watch film from around the league, it's showed up in a lot of games that I've seen. It's something that we have to … We're more prepared for the second game, but it's something we have to deal with. It's part of NFL football – insane crowds going wild, and our operation has to be strong and smooth. I think we'll be better; I really do. The more these guys do something, the better they get at it. So, I really trust them there."

T Alejandro Villanueva's performance at left tackle, what was the key for him … It was sort of a bounce-back game for him. What were the adjustments he made? Is he more natural in that position? (Todd Karpovich) "Obviously, he's played there a lot longer. So, is he more natural there? At this point, yes. But I just think he's getting more comfortable with what we're doing, how we're doing it and whatnot. The crowd noise had a little factor for him in that first game, but I really think as I watch, he's really getting more comfortable with things. I think he looked at that first game and just said, 'That's not going to happen again.' So, that's a credit to him."

Have you been surprised at all about how fierce he is as a run blocker? (Childs Walker) "Yes. I wasn't quite sure how that would look, because you don't get a true look at it in training camp. Gameday is just a little different. So, I got kind of a feel in training camp, but the Carolina game, I started to really see it, in the preseason game. I'm really liking what I'm seeing there. I think [it's] a little bit better than I thought it would be."

In terms of the growth of the running game from Week One to Week Two, it feels like you're able to do a lot more. How much of that do you attribute that to the offensive line being more comfortable and also the running backs, just getting them more reps and allowing them to be at the mesh point more often? (Pete Gilbert) "We made a lot of progress last week with all the new guys that are here. We were able to clean up some things that we have in the first game. So, I really felt a lot more comfortable doing that. Credit to our offensive staff [and] all the position coaches for working diligently. Getting off that plane from 'the town that Moe Greene built' at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and at their desks at 7:30 [a.m.], these guys worked really hard to get some things fixed and get things looking the way we wanted."

On that fourth-and-1 play, head coach John Harbaugh was screaming to QB Lamar Jackson, 'Lamar, do you want to go for it? Do you want to go for it?' You're upstairs. What's going through your mind in that moment? Are you knowing you're going for it all along? What's going through your mind during that whole sequence? (Bo Smolka) (laughter) "Whatever he says we're going to do; we're going to do. But I knew we were going [for it]. No, I didn't. It's just … In my position, my job is to have something for that situation and have our players prepared for it – simply put. If Coach 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] makes the call that we're going for it, we're going for it. We have to have an array of things throughout the season to have ready for those situations. It's interesting. Whatever plays we run in the game, there's also a lot, lot, lot, lot more that we didn't run. Things for that type of situation, the players are working on that stuff every week. We might work on something for five weeks in a row, and it doesn't show up until Week 8. So, there's a lot that goes into this, and you try to choose wisely on gameday. But I think we ran 36 different runs in that game, completely different runs, and I promise you, we had a lot more on the shelf. So, credit to the players and the assistant coaches."

What about G/C Patrick Mekari allows him to be so versatile and allows you to kind of plug-and-play with him down the line? (Bobby Trosset) "You know, Pat [Mekari] is a special kind of guy. He is as diligent as it gets, from the moment he got here. [He's] very intelligent, very tough-minded, and he can figure things out instinctively. Once he does something, he can figure out how to fix it. So, you can get a lot of mileage out of that – that skillset and that profile. So, I'm really proud of the way he played the other night. Midway through the week, stepping into that role, we've had quite a bit of that this season so far. God willing and the creek don't rise, things can settle down a little bit and guys can settle in a little bit."

Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale

Opening Statement: "I know your time is important, and I appreciate you all waiting. [It was] a big win, Sunday night. The thing that jumped out to me the most was our fans. It was unbelievable. That's the loudest I think I've ever heard it, especially in that fourth quarter, and it's not, 'I think it made a difference;' it did make a difference – on both sides – [with] communication, but I'll never complain about that. We've just got to get better communicating and understand the importance of staying closer together before they break the huddle. But overall, that fourth quarter was some of the best defense that we've played, and we still have a lot of things to work on. But going forward, it's a heck of a lot better being 1-1."

Forget about the numbers – I know there's always a focus on rankings and numbers – generally, what have you liked through two weeks, and what are some of the areas you'd like to see get better? (Jeff Zrebiec) "In the two-week time [period] from Week 1 to Week 2, we said we need to get off the field on third down, and holding the Chiefs to 16% (1-of-6; 16.7%) on third down, that was really big in the game, especially there at the end. I liked the first three quarters against the Raiders, and I liked the fourth quarter against the Chiefs, so we've just got to put it together for four quarters and have a complete game. We played 20 guys in that Chiefs game – off the roster – and it's a credit to the assistants, and it's a credit to the players that, with the way our system works, we can fit people in and out of our system and make it work."

OLB Odafe Oweh won AFC Defensive Player of the Week. What's been his impact as a rookie through two games? What is he bringing to the defense? (Todd Karpovich) "Obviously, you weren't listening during training camp. (laughter) It's organizational alignment. I can remember back in the spring before the draft, [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] told me, 'You need to watch this 99 from Penn State; he's a Raven.' And [there are] those traits that we all look for here in Baltimore, and he checked every one of those boxes. It's like I [say] to the defense all the time, 'We control the narrative. It doesn't matter what anybody else says; we control the narrative in that room. And as soon as you let other people control the narrative, whether you're a sportswriter, newscaster, whatever, and you start worrying about what other people think, it's not you anymore. What some guy that's cooking chicken at Royal Farms thinks becomes you.' And I did clean that up from what I usually talk about with the defense. (laughter)

"[Odafe Oweh] has done a heck of a job. He's a smart, humble kid. He stays after and works with [outside linebackers coach] Drew [Wilkins]. In the meeting room and [with] everything else, he's a perfectionist. He stays out afterwards, and he works with Justin [Houston] and [Pernell] McPhee. You can just see that he's just got a hunger for wanting to get better every day. And the thing is, he has enough humility that just because he won this award, he's not going to stop doing what he does. As far as, 'A good idea has no rank,' we were out here Wednesday, and Justin Houston said, 'I love the bully stuff that we're doing gameplan-wise.' He said, 'We need to get 99 some work.' So, I would like to take credit and say that it was my idea to put him out there on [Travis] Kelce and do that, but it was Justin Houston, and what great foresight to see that. You don't go into a game thinking you're going to get a bunch of injuries, but we got him some work on Friday out there doing it, and it was a good thing that we did, because that's what caused the interception."

What does it mean to you when we're talking to players after the game, we're talking about that fourth quarter, and a lot of the guys said that you wrote up on the board 'Don't Flinch' and that kind of resonated with the players? (Jamison Hensley) "I think as a coach, you're always proud of the fact that they're listening to you in tough times, and that Raiders game was a tough time, and yet, we knew what type of game this was going to be, going in with the Chiefs, and I stated that throughout the week, with the offense that they have. But the biggest thing that I was proud of is they were steady throughout the whole game. They might have flinched after we saw Lamar [Jackson] getting the fourth-and-1 – I think we celebrated there – but I was really proud of them [and] how they attacked that game."

With the injuries in the secondary, how challenging is the lack of depth in the secondary in terms of what you want to execute on defense? (Ryan McFadden) "I think every week you have those types of things. I'll just keep going back to our system [and] that we have different things in place, and there's just different things that you can do. So, the challenge if you have a system like ours is not a great challenge; it's just the execution of it is what you're hoping to get come Sunday."

It's the third week in a row you have to face a top-tier tight end. You've had practice the last two weeks against a top-tier tight end. Does that help you? (Pete Gilbert) "Hold on a second … (pretends to throw up) … (laughter) Yes, it does. It's like if our safeties want to know what it's like playing in the Pro Bowl, just look at the last three weeks. This guy [T.J. Hockenson] is the NFL Pro Bowl tight end – he and [George] Kittle and those guys. It's going to be a great challenge, because he is one of the best tight ends in the NFC."

How similar is T.J. Hockenson to what you've seen the last couple of weeks? (Pete Gilbert) "It's very similar. It's very similar. And the biggest thing with those tight ends is the relationship they have with the quarterback. Think about right here with Mark Andrews and Lamar [Jackson]; they've got a great relationship, [and] Mark knows where to get where Lamar will find him, and that's what you see time and time again. It's the same thing there in Detroit."

I asked about Anthony Averett last week, and I suggested, casually, that you might have been "gassing him up." I learned, and I'm not going to say it again, but I imagine you've got to be pretty pleased with the way that he's responded since his number has been called. (Bobby Trosset) "No doubt, no doubt – not surprised, though. But I am very pleased. He's just taken it and run with it. Playing corner – he takes great pride in it, too. I think there's just going to be great things with him throughout the season."

The numbers had you guys at the lowest blitz rate since you've been defensive coordinator. When you're kind of game-planning for a game like that, is it nice to put yourself in a different situation, when you're not doing the same things? (Jonas Shaffer) "Not nice at all – no. It's a punch and counter-punch-type thing when you're playing an offense like that, and I have the highest respect for [head coach] Andy Reid. He does a great job of putting a gameplan together. Obviously, when you play a team like that, it's like a self-scout for yourself, because he's going to attack what he thinks is weak in the system, and it helps you make corrections and things like that afterwards."

Would you rather play them early in the season than late? (Jonas Shaffer) "No doubt. (laughter) but I think we're going to face them again, probably, in January – if you know what I'm saying."

In those first three quarters, I know the tackling was probably something you went back and looked at with those guys and pointed out. How much do you look at that and say, 'The preseason is what it is; training camp is what it is?' (Pete Gilbert) "I'm not giving excuses for missed tackles. We took terrible angles. We need to corral the football, and make no bones about it, we've worked on it this week. So, I'm expecting it to improve every week, and I'm not giving them an out, but those are tough tackles against that team."

We just spoke to T Alejandro Villanueva. In the years when you were game-planning against him as a tackle in Pittsburgh, what kind of respect did you develop for him? (Childs Walker) "Yes, we respect the Steelers – all of them –by position, basically, because it's such a rivalry, and I think that's one of the things that makes it a great rivalry. So, [we respect] each one of them by position, and obviously, he was the tackle."

T Alejandro Villanueva

On the team's victory over the Kansas City Chiefs: "It was a fun game for the whole team. I think … We're still 1-1. We're still very early in the season, but to get the first win off is always a great feeling in the National Football League."

On how different the Ravens offense is with the RPOs: "It's difficult to think anything else other than, 'What is my next play? I don't know if it's going to be a run or pass? And how do I execute the play to the best of my abilities?' So, if I had the powers to know that we're going to run the ball 41 times a game, then I'd be able to answer the question and say, 'You know, we're running the ball, and this or that,' but we don't know what we're going to go into this game. I think we prepare for everything. It doesn't feel any different than any other offense that I've ever run in."

On if he has a ritual to help him bounce back: "No, not really. I try to approach everything the same. I try to get better at my craft. I try to understand my gameplan. Find a routine. If you don't have a routine, it's tough to change it, because I really don't have one right now. But no, it's … Relying on the people in the building that will support you, coaches [and] players, and try to do the best with the next snap. That's the only thing that matters, there's always the next snap."

On how what he attributes the difference in his performance to from Week 1 to Week 2: "I think the sample size is very small. We're talking about two games. There's a lot of football left, and there's a lot of improvement we have to have as an offense and as a team. So, it's very early to say if the change is [from being comfortable in the] offense, whatever it may be, the crowd noise. We haven't played with fans in a year. We don't know yet, we'll see."

On QB Lamar Jackson giving him a chest bump after the Kansas City game made him feel Jackson's appreciation for him: "It's meaningful to celebrate with your teammates, and he's one of us. He's a very good kid. [He's] definitely very approachable and very down to earth. [He's a] Broward County [Fla.]-type kid that just loves to ball. So, this team feels very close [and] very college-like. It's always good to celebrate with any of your teammates, for sure."

On his analogy of playing tackle is like jumping out of an airplane: "I think that offensive linemen are very dark people in a lot of ways. I think it's a position where when you close your eyes before the play, all sorts of bad things are happening, and you're hoping that they don't, because a lot of things are outside of your control. It's very similar to when I was jumping out of airplanes. I don't want to get too controversial with this statement, but when I was in the Army, I would always look up and see the big mass jumps of the 82nd and the Rangers, and I would always ask myself if we were really going to jump ever again into combat – if that's a thing we're going to do in the future. If we're not going to, then why is it that I'm jumping? I'm about to commit suicide until a system of shoelaces and plastic bags catches me up in the air and avoids sure death. Then you get these types of feelings that there's not a lot of upside to jumping [and] not a lot of upside to playing tackle. It's one of those things where you're just kind of going through the motions."

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