Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
How do you improve on last week's performance when they had zero return yards, period? (David Ginsburg)"It's kind of hard to improve upon zero. We'd take that. Justin Tucker did a great job of kicking off. I think it really showed his maturity as he's gone through the season, that he's gained skills, because it's a lot different getting touchbacks in August than it is in January. And he hit those balls really well, and they were able to keep their kickoff return team out of the game. And going into it, Sam Koch was bound and determined to make sure their returner did not get any opportunities, and he was able to do that well. So, I give a lot of credit to our specialists. They did a great job."
You talk about kickoffs; they will talk about the idea of possibly eliminating kickoffs over the offseason. What are your thoughts on that, particularly since you have someone who returns them so well? (David Ginsburg)"I think Josh Cribbs said it well – you'd have to change the name of the game if they take kickoffs out of the game. It's football, so let's play football. That's my personal opinion."
Earlier in the week, John Harbaugh said he'd be a little more likely to go for a longer field goal with the altitude being thinner. With Justin Tucker having never kicked in that environment, what's the plan for kind of getting him ramped up for trying a longer field goal? Do you do anything different in that scenario? (Mark Zinno)"Since we're practicing at sea level, there's really not a lot you can do here. We practice the concept more than anything else. We really didn't back him up and have him miss from 65 [yards]. So, when we get there in warm-ups, we'll kind of determine how it's going, and then make a decision as to exactly what the line is, and that's typical for any game, really. If you're going into an environment where it's windy and so forth, you're kind of making a pre-game decision as to what your yard line is going to be. Now what comes into play, obviously, is the game situation, because if you do take a very long field goal and you don't make it, then you're giving up field position. So, all those discussions are taking place, and we'll figure out before the game exactly what our yard line is and then go from there."
Same goes for the weather conditions, if there is snow and everything? (Mark Zinno)"Sure. All of that enters in the conversation. When you're playing in a snowstorm or in wind, then you have to decide, 'Well, really what we want to do here is keep field position.' So, you obviously wouldn't want to take a field goal that would give them an opportunity to have a short field. The other factor that we have to deal with aside from the altitude is a plus, but the temperature is going to be a negative, so we'll have to see how the balls react to the 20 degrees, or whatever it's going to be. So, all those things are things in pregame we're going to look closely at."
How real is the altitude effect? What's fact? What's myth? Is there a number you can put to it? (Pete Gilbert)"I don't have a number. I know it's real. You watch the kickoffs, and probably the best way of looking at it is, you look at the specialists playing in the altitude, like Matt Prater for example. At home, he rarely gets an opportunity for a return to go against him, and then he comes here in Baltimore where we had a couple opportunities. So, that's really the best measure – just looking at the tape and then figuring out what the weather conditions were at the time, and then making comparisons based on that. But it is real."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
You've had experience with Peyton [Manning] as a player. Does his game change from regular season to postseason? Does he elevate his game when it's playoff time? (Ed Lee) "I wouldn't say that, because he's pretty intense all the time, obviously. He's kind of always been that way. Every single game is as important to him as the last game – whether it's playoffs or not. So, he's pretty intense most days."
Do you find that perhaps his execution is sharper when its playoff time for him or is it the same? (Ed Lee) "No, not to get into his psyche, but I'd tell you no. He works extremely hard. He acts as if practice No. 1, Day One of training camp, is the most important set of drills that he has ever done in his life. That's just how he functions. I would say no."
Going back and looking at the last game, they were able to limit the damage done by the wide receivers, specifically Anquan Boldin. Looking back, what were they doing to disrupt the passing game in that regard, and are you confident that there are things you can do to get guys like Anquan Boldin open this time? (Matt Vensel) "Obviously, it's a heck of a defense. Not only did they thwart us in that particular game, but they've done so the entire season to every team they've faced for the most part. They are a real challenge. Obviously, we have to work on some things to really get us in position to execute, and we have to be able to spread the ball around a little bit. We can't become one dimensional. This is a team that has great pass rushers. They lead the league in sacks. They do a good job of limiting you in terms of what you do on the ground. We really have to be good in every single in area. We have to be good in terms of our passing, and we have to be very good in terms of our running game."
Obviously, that was your first game as the offensive coordinator. How much more settled in now do you feel since you have a month under your belt? (Garrett Downing) "Settled in for a coach is probably not an appropriate word, I think. I don't think we ever really feel comfortable or settled in, but I'm a bit more familiar with some things. I can put it that way. It's a real challenge. Obviously, calling plays and adjusting … But I have a lot of help. The assistant coaches that are on our staff – [wide receivers coach] Jim Hostler, [running backs coach] Wilbert Montgomery and, obviously, [offensive line coach] Andy Moeller – the whole group, and they do a tremendous job of assisting along the way. There are some things that I'm a bit more familiar with, but comfort and settled wouldn't be the appropriate word, I think, to describe it."
You know Peyton Manning as well as anybody in the league. Have you talked to the Ravens' defense about what is the key to stopping him? *(Diane Roberts) "*I have not."
What is the key to stopping him? (Diane Roberts) "[Defensive coordinator] Dean Pees and that group … I'm sure you asked Dean that same question. Those guys know what they are doing. They do a tremendous job. This defense has been great around here. They do a tremendous job of looking at the personnel that they are about to face and making adjustments accordingly. They don't need much of my help. I have enough problems just trying to make certain that we are heading in the right direction. (laughing) And in theory, I don't think there's any one key – just to answer your question – in that regard. Those guys, they will figure out what they have to do."
You talked about their pass rush. Can you talk about Von Miller specifically? What makes him so effective and an all-around player, not just a pass rusher? (Matt Vensel) "Speed, power, quickness, finesse – he's got it all. He can run past you up the field. He's got enough power to lean and bore and drive the protector back into the quarterback. He can make you miss inside and out. He is just an unbelievable performer. He's got a move that he uses – his little dip move as he comes around the corner. He can get so low to the ground and pop back up, almost as if he goes underneath the arm or the hip of the offensive linemen. This guy has a little bit of everything. He's tremendous. There is a reason why he has 18 sacks – 18.5 sacks."
Speaking of your offensive line, there were some changes last week. How would you assess how the offensive line played with three new guys being shuffled around? (Matt Vensel) "I think they did a good job, obviously. Two guys had played the positions before with Michael [Oher] going back to right [tackle] and Bryant [McKinnie] going to left tackle for us. Both guys did a nice job, and K.O. [Kelechi Osemele] probably had the biggest adjustment to make, so he had to go into our left guard position, but he played extremely well. He fought. He blocked well. Obviously, it wasn't perfect. I think you're just going to see he's going to get better and better all the time."
Bernard Pierce has come on strong the second half of the season? What have his emergences meant to this offense? (Garrett Downing) "Obviously, he's given us a one-two punch. The complement between he and Ray [Rice] has been really, really good, and it's worked well for us. Ray, obviously, can run inside, outside, make you miss, that low center of gravity. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield, which is great. Also, Bernard is a powerful runner. He can break tackles for you. He can get north and punch holes in the defense. Being able to rest Ray and get a very, very productive performer in there while he's taken a little break has been a Godsend."
**What does Dennis Pitta provide at the tight end position? Especially, do you like flexing him out and having him stand up in the slot because there is a mismatch with other linebackers? *(Ed Lee) *"We do a little bit of everything with him because of the fact that he is so versatile. Often times, we can line him up, literally, anywhere we would like within our scheme – all the way outside flexed to see what kind of matchup we can get on the outside or with a reasonable flex or tight. He's a little bit of everywhere for us and plays a number of different positions for us. He does create some problems. You have to make a determination on how you are going to deal with him from a defensive standpoint."
In your experience, do you like your quarterbacks to wear a glove on their throwing hand in cold weather or do you have a preference? (Ed Lee) "To each its own. (Reporter: "Why is that?") Everybody has their own style and what they think best helps them perform, so they adjust accordingly. I've been around some guys that have and some guys that have not."
Nowadays with technology with gloves, it used to be when you were wearing a glove, the ball is going to slip out of your hand when you're throwing the ball. Is that now not a concern anymore with technology being what it is? (Ed Lee) "You know what? Because of the fact that I'm not real familiar with that aspect of it, I haven't examined it closely. So, I would not, certainly, be the person to comment on it. You might want to ask one of those guys that are in the equipment room. They know that a lot better than me."
*The last couple of weeks, we've seen [Joe] Flacco moving a little bit, moving the pockets. What did you see in his game to try to implement that a little bit more than in the past? John [Harbaugh] talked about it after the game. (Luke Jones) *"With him, No. 1, he can roll left and right. Often times, you'll find guys that have a tendency to want to always roll to their throwing hand. He is very comfortable going opposite. It's helped us because of the fact we should be able to move the pocket some, particularly with some of the elite pass rushers that we have been facing. If they know your launch point, it's going to be in the same spot all the time that can make things a little rough for you. He's also good outside of the pocket. He can run. So, we get him out, and he opposes a threat not only as a passer, but also as a runner."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
As you've said so often, you kind of have to look at your lineup and say, "Who do I have this week to put out there and play?" This week, it looks like you'll have a lot more guys, certainly more than you had the last time you played the Broncos. How much does that change the way you look at Peyton Manning and what you're going to try to do? (Pete Gilbert)"I don't think it changes too much how we look at Peyton. It changes kind of what we do maybe from the standpoint of, like we've talked about all year, whoever we've got, we have to decide what can they do well, what can't they do well, what can we put them in to have success. So, it's kind of the same. We now take some guys that we've added back into the equation and say, 'OK, can we now go back and do some of these things well? What do we want to take that was good from the last game? Can we do that? What are we going to throw out from the last game?' It's kind of the same thing as just evaluating the talent that we have, but then also put that up against what they do and say, 'Is this a good fit? Is this guy a good coverage guy on their tight end? Will this guy be a good coverage guy on their [running] back if we're playing man? Who can play zone?' It's all those things you kind of take into account. It's just now we figure who we've got, and we go from there."
Terrell Suggs has had a quiet stretch. Is it injuries or is it some other factor that is playing a role? (Ed Lee)"The fact that this guy came back from an Achilles [injury] in and of itself … I don't know about you guys, but I am marveled the guy has played at all this year. So, I think anything that we've gotten out of Terrell Suggs has been a positive. I don't look at it at all like he hasn't done something successfully. I look at it as this has been a bonus that we ever had the guy. I never dreamed that we'd ever have the guy at all this year. So, anything we've gotten out of him, to me, is a positive and a bonus."
With how effective Peyton Manning is on the play-action passing, how important is it to stopping the run game to kind of at least limit the effectiveness of those play fakes? (Matt Vensel)"Very important, because we didn't do a good job of it in the first game, especially in a couple of the packages that we were in. Later in the game, we kind of did a little better job of it as the game went on, and they went more to it. I think they ran the ball 40 times in that game. So, we've got to do a better job. There's no doubt about it that if you're running the ball, it's going to set up your play-action a heck of a lot better. We need to try to get him into third-and-longs and that kind of situation. The way you have to do that is you have to stop the run."
What is the challenge for the defensive backs in particular on those play-action fakes? (Matt Vensel)"Well, the biggest thing always is to do your job and keep your eyes where your eyes ought to be. If you start wandering around, looking at something that you're not supposed to look at, that's always gotten us in trouble. That's, sometimes, where you give up the big plays. Everybody has to do their job. We have to expect the front seven has to do a good job of stopping the run, the secondary has to do a good job of covering on the play-action passes. To sit there and say that a linebacker is not going to bite up on a play-action fake is ludicrous – they are. If they're going to stop the run, and Peyton does as good of a job as anybody of selling the play-action, we can preach that all we want to, [but] that guy is going to bite up. So, the guy on the back end really has to keep his eye on his luggage and know what he's doing back there."
Haloti Ngata's injuries probably haven't gotten quite as much attention as some of the other ones, but can you describe his toughness in playing through them and just assess his level of play recently? (Childs Walker)"It's not on the same regards as [Terrell] Suggs, but Haloti has been hurt all year, and the fact that we've gotten a lot out of him – we've tried to rest him a couple of times, tried to take some reps off of him – the guy never says a word. He just comes out and plays, does what he's supposed to do, and it's a credit to him. I think he probably, production-wise, maybe he hasn't had the year that he has had in some other years, but he really has been hurt. The biggest thing is just nobody has really talked too much about it. We haven't talked too much about it; he doesn't talk too much about it. But he has been banged up all season."
Do you think he's played better later in the season than he maybe did in the middle when the injuries were fresher? (Childs Walker)"Sure, absolutely. There was a point in time during the middle of the season he was really hurt. He was still playing, but he wasn't playing at the level that he's used to playing at. I think taking some of the reps off of him with DeAngelo Tyson and Art Jones and some of those guys getting some playing and playing experience, whether we wanted him to or whether we didn't want him to, in the long run, I think it was a good thing, because we got to take some plays off of him, which has been a little bit better here towards late in the season."
With Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, they are two guys that are so explosive out there on the edge, what kind of challenge does that create defensively when you are trying to figure out who you should focus on and shade the coverage and those kinds of things? (Garrett Downing)"There's nothing on defense that takes away everything. If that were the case, we'd all play it every down, just like if there was an offensive play that worked every time, you'd run it every time. You just have to change it up, and you can't take everybody out of the game all the time. There are not enough guys on the field. So, what you have to do is you have to kind of pick and choose based on maybe formation, maybe based on down and distance, based on a lot of things. Who are we going to emphasize in this situation? Who are we going to take out? It's usually not going to be the same guy all the time when you have multiple guys. If you have one great receiver and nobody else, then that's kind of easy – we can double him. But, when you have multiple guys, you can't double them all. You don't have enough people, so you have to kind of pick and choose. A lot it is based on formation. A lot of it is, like I said, based on down and distance. You just have to keep mixing it up on them."
What are your experiences of playing in Denver and dealing with some of the myths and realities of the altitude? What did you take to for this team as far as preparation? (Pete Gilbert)"I've never really bought into the altitude thing, to be honest with you. Maybe it's because I had a professor in college … When I was getting my master's degree, I had a guy that was a football player that was one of my college professors. It was a kinesiology class or something. I can't remember exactly what it was. But, he talked to me. He was a football player for BYU. He was a prof; he had his doctor's degree. He told me that when these guys sit on the sideline and put those oxygen masks on, that is absolutely placebo. That means nothing. There is nothing. Your body takes in so much oxygen. That's it. Unless you're really at altitude of climbing a mountain and you are way up there, it really is more in your head than anything else. That's what I've believed the last 40 years."