OLB Paul Kruger
On the abundance of defensive snaps: "It gets tiring. That's how games are. Right now, we're playing a lot of snaps; we're on the field a lot. But we love to play football – that's not the issue. The issue is what we're doing out there. Playing a lot of snaps, it does have a wear and tear on your body. It's hard to make those plays over and over again, but that's no excuse."
On how much different it is without LB Ray Lewis communicating with the defense on the field: "Ray's the leader of our team. He's been a guy who's created a lot around here. It's the kind of team that we are, and I think Ray's a huge part of that. Of course, we are missing him, and of course, it's a detriment to our team. But on the other hand, we have the guys to step up, and we have the guys to fill that void. We all need to come together as a collective group and change some of the things that we are doing to come along here."
On if having three of the next four games on the road would be considered the most crucial stretch of the season: "I think the games coming up … There are few of them that are must-wins. In every season you are going to have a couple of games that are must-wins, and I think we're at that point in the season when we are building our identity, and I think these next couple of weeks are going to be big. This bye came at a perfect time. I feel like we're going to get our bodies back, get our rest, and it will be easier to come back and refocus and get the excitement back and come in strong."
On if offenses are looking to attack with the ground or the air now with CB Lardarius Webb out: "I think if you watch the tape, there are a few things that stand out. At the same time, people are doing good things against us all over the field. There are a lot of corrections that need to be made, and we're working on those. Everybody's fighting to do that. We are our own worst critics. You could say we're not doing a few things that we need to be doing – whether it's them passing or running, it doesn't matter. We just have to play better football – that's it."
On defensive coordinator Dean Pees' style in the meeting room: "That's a part of coaching is changing the environment – whether that's getting after us or creating confidence. He does it all. He's been very consistent through the year, through the offseason. I think we all know what's expected of us. There are just a lot of things that need to be changed, and we're working on those."
On If it is difficult for the defense because there is no point of reference to go off of after giving up two back-to-back 200-yard rushing games: "The point of reference we are trying to get back to is where we have been in the past and what we have done against the run and as a defense. It's the first half of the season, and we haven't played up to our standards, by any means. We have the time now, and we have the ability to make those changes and kind of recreate our identity as a defense and as a team. I think we're in good shape. It's no time to lose your mind about it or freak out as a team. We just need to refocus, find the things we need to fix and make that happen."
On where he sees the identity of the defense going:"Up. Better. That's something that we're kind of recreating every day. The negative plays that have come and building on the positive things that we are doing and finding the little things that we can get better at every day."
On if OLB Terrell Suggs coming back is helping the identity of the defense: "Yes, absolutely. [Terrell] Suggs is a huge part of this team's identity, especially the defense. He's a playmaker; he's a leader out there. [He] brings a ton of experience, and I think we are all grateful to have him back. Those are the type of guys that create a lot of confidence and a lot of, I guess, you can kind of lean into him a little bit. Suggs has always been one of those guys. I think that's going to help us a lot."
On how surprised he was to see OLB Terrell Suggs playing on Sunday: "The way I saw him running around at practice a couple of days before, it wasn't surprising to me at all. I was surprised at practice, and then in the game I knew what he could do, because I saw him do it a couple days previous. He's a hell of a player, and the way he's worked to get back and get his leg back in shape – it's pretty incredible."
On watching Suggs come out to practice, and his thoughts on when he thought Suggs would be back: "My thing was I continued to ask him through the months, 'How are you feeling? When do you think you'll be back?' It was always a positive thing, and he always felt better and better and better. You saw him working around in the training room, getting healthier, going through ladders and doing drills. You could see the progress over time. It wasn't a huge surprise to me."
On if he thought Suggs was the kind of player to put in extra effort towards his rehab: "Yes. There are only so many guys that love the game as much as he does. He's one of those guys that just lives for it – he has a passion for it. I knew that he would do everything he could to get back."
LB Jameel McClain
On if the defense's frustration is growing:"I feel that the defense is disappointed in their performance. I feel like we all are disappointed in what we've done at this point. But now, at this point, at the bye, we have the chance to look back and see how we can correct what we've done, and how we really can get better and how to work on our strengths and [minimize] our weaknesses to get them out of there as much as we can. It's definitely frustrating, because we know it's a higher standard in this organization, and we are here to uphold it. It's something that we've done before, and we still can continue to do it. We just have to get it done."
On if he is confident the defense can bounce back:"Of course I am confident that we can bounce back. These guys put in the time; we all put in the time. We all love this game, and we all love each other and respect the organization and respect the coaches. Can we bounce back? Of course we can. We definitely can bounce back."
On what are some of the areas the front seven can improve on:"As far as the front seven in particular, I don't like talking about one group in particular, because we all are one. I call it a chain, and each person is a link on it. So, as far as where we can all improve is communication on the small things, being on the same page and understanding one mistake on your part is a problem – it's a big problem – because you could make one mistake on one play, someone else makes one mistake on another play and another person makes one mistake on one play, then it's just like, 'Oh, I only made one mistake.' But shoot, that's six mistakes in a game, and that's five big plays or four big plays. That's game-changing for us."
On if he felt Houston was willing to attack the defense through the run and pass:"In the beginning, we got across our point: We stuffed the run, and we got those three-and-outs, and we were fortunate. But, they had the pass, and they were able to get after us on some of their play-action [passes], and then it just came down to what it came to. It's the NFL. If you show a weakness, teams are going to [exploit] it. This is no surprise. The next team is probably licking their chops. Cleveland is like, 'Man, we can go in there, and we can run the ball because they have been unsuccessful with it.' So, it's our job to step up and stop it and let the team after them see it on film and be like, 'Ah, I don't think that's going down. They have it back on track.' That's what we need to put on film, because it's the NFL. They don't coach against schemes. They coach up against weaknesses, and that's something that we've showed. But it will be fixed, and it can be fixed. It's that easy."
On if being 5-2 and at the top of the AFC North makes Sunday's loss at Houston easier to swallow:"Absolutely not. A loss is a loss. It doesn't matter what our record is. For us, we're disappointed. We should be [7-0]. We're 5-2. We're fortunate. We're blessed. We are in a good position, and we're at the top of the division, yes, but we have problems we need to fix in all phases – special teams, offense and defense. That's what this week is allowing us to focus on."
On if OLB Terrell Suggs being back gives the defense a lift going into the bye week:"To start off, what Terrell Suggs did is amazing. It still baffles me to this day, to this moment. I said to him, 'For you to be out here after going through what you went through, is something that makes you want to fight even more for that respect and for that man.' That man is going through what he is going through. Ed Reed is going through what he is going through. We have a lot of people banged up. We have a lot of people down. All of that makes you fight more. It's even more of a reason why we need to be on the same page and not let these small miscues hold us back from being great."
On when he thought Suggs would come back:"I honestly had no idea. I know the track record on that type of injury is a season-ending thing, so to see him in and to be productive – I mean like really productive … He had a couple of pressures, a sack, could have had another one if we would have held our end on the back end a little better. It's definitely something that we're going to do, and we can see, to me, Suggs is in his Pro Bowl form, as usual. So, we have to put him in position to be great, like he always is."
On the mindset that the defense was giving up yards before CB Lardarius Webb and LB Ray Lewis got injured:"It is a similar mindset, with those guys or without those guys. No disrespect to them or no way for anybody to take this out of context, but those yards were given up while they were in there. This is a problem that was happening with them, and it's a problem that's happening without them. It's something that we have to fix right there. Like I said, they're two phenomenal players, amazing players and great for this organization. It's just something, right now, that we have to focus on as a defense, and what we have in front of us, and get it corrected."
WR Torrey Smith
On how he has seen defenses adjust to him from last year to this year:"It's probably just a little more attention in terms of safety help, but I get opportunities just like everybody else, and I've got to take advantage of it."
On what enables this team to rebound from losses so well:"I think it's the NFL. You have to be able to rebound; everything is not going to go the way you want it to every single week. There are going to be ups and downs, and the downs are going to be some very, very low times. So, you just have to be able to bounce back, and that's how you become great."
On if he notices any change in team morale or demeanor following a loss:"I don't know. I think we've all been there. Everybody's lost a game before, so you know what you have to do to bounce back. Now when you get a string of losses … Last time I checked, we've only lost two games. We might not have played perfect, but there's no need to panic. Now if we were at .500, or below .500, it might be a different conversation, but we're not. So, we just need to fix our problems and just keep going to work."
On if he's been able to figure out what has been the difference with this team on the road versus at home:"I don't know, but I've been getting asked that by everyone – in grocery stores and everywhere. *(laughter) *I don't know. You're putting all the same players on the field, you've just got to execute, and for whatever reason on the road we haven't done as well."
On if there is a momentum aspect to that:"Oh, definitely. Especially last week, you can't have negative plays. And our defense did a great job. In the first quarter we didn't put up any points – we had a field goal, I think, at first [to make it] 3-0 – and then they had the 'pick-six' and they did a great job batting the ball down. That just sums it up. Once we get in rhythm, we're tough, and we weren't able to get in a rhythm."