Transcript - John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference


Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. Thanks for coming. Obviously, it's good to stand up here after a win, and I think the credit goes to our players. When you get a chance to really watch the tape and study what went on, our players won the vast majority of the one-on-one battles. And, that's what you hope your guys can do, win the one-on-one battles. And they did that with a combination of talent, physical play and great technique. And that's what created most of the plays. Of course, there were other situations where we didn't quite execute as well as we wanted and give us a chance to score some points or extend some drives or get some stops in order to get a couple of returns, so those are the things we keep working on."

Do you believe the rout of New England in last year's playoff game will be a motivator for the Patriots in their preparation this week?"No. Hey, we're playing them in New England in Week 6, and it's a very important game. So, whatever motivates them is no concern to us."

When Josh McDaniels stated yesterday that the Broncos were "out-toughed, out-mentaled and out-coached," which of those three meant the most to you?"You want me to say out-coached is my favorite? I don't believe it. Like I said before, it was the players. The players won the game. It was one-on-one battles. I thought our guys played very smart [and] played disciplined for the most part, and they won the battles."

Are you happy to be able to balance the offense between the run game and the passing game without establishing an identify as being one or the other?"I'll keep saying it: We do have an identity. We're rough, we're tough, we're disciplined, we're smart, [and] we play hard. We're good decision-makers. That's what we're building toward. Run or pass, who cares? The idea is to be able to do everything you do from one week to the next. I'm not sure why everybody wants to say, 'Hey, you're identity is that you're a running team.' That means you're one-dimensional. That's the next thing someone's going to say. We don't want to be one-dimensional. We want to have guys we can hand it to, guys that you can throw it to. Joe [Flacco] made some runs, which was good to see. So, we do have some guys that can make plays. We've got an offensive line that's starting to play really well. It gives us a chance to be tough to defend, and that's really the goal."

Do you feel the offensive line has been a large part of the team's success in anchoring the offense?"The offensive line is always going to be the key. You start with the trenches. When you build your team, you start in the trenches, and the game is won and lost in the trenches. If you can't win in the trenches, you can't win. And, that's what we've been built on from the beginning, and that's never going to change."

What factored into your decision to make the change to go with CB Josh Wilson as the kickoff returner instead of RB Jalen Parmele, and is Wilson the guy you see in that role going forward?"We'll just see going forward. We've got some guys that can do it. It was just kind of an idea to get a spark, to try something. Josh has looked good in practice. He's getting a feel for the schemes. A lot of times it is less about the returner on the kickoff return thing than it is about the blocking, because you've got to create some space and get a guy going. On a punt return, sometimes you can block nobody and get a big punt return. But on kick return, you've got to get your guy going. So, I think both of those guys have done a good job. We're just looking for a big play. The thing on the kickoff return yesterday that was more disappointing than anything was the two penalties. [Those penalties] were completely unnecessary, and they have no impact whatsoever on the return. So, we can do better there."

Does playing New England twice last year make your preparation for this game like your preparation to play a division opponent?"Yes. You're probably right, because we have a chance now to go back and include those two games in the breakdown along with the other games that we think are appropriate in terms of scheme and things like that. So, we know these guys pretty well. It's a very good football team. Traditionally, they have done very well coming off the bye week. That's going to be something we've got to factor in. [The Patriots] are very well-coached, obviously. [They are] tremendously talented, and they have a great quarterback. So, we've got our hands full."

How much of an advantage is it for New England to be coming off the bye week?"That's the thing with them: They've proven [that they play well after the bye]. They have a track record after the bye. So, that's something that we will be bucking up against, and we're looking forward to it."

Going into Week 6, despite a team's win-loss record, does every team in the NFL have the same outlook for the rest of the year?"By Week 6, you start to determine, maybe, a little bit where you're at now. It starts to shake out a little bit, and it seems like this year it's, I guess, like most years, it's unpredictable. You never know. And what you see now won't be the same six weeks from now. There will be a lot of changes. They will be teams that seem like they're down and out, and they'll win five games in a row and they'll be right back in it. That's one of the great things about the National Football League. We've just got to take care of our business from one week to the next and let all the rest of that stuff take care of itself."

Are you worried that the season-high eight passes defensed yesterday did not result in interceptions?"Worried? No. What's the alternative, you don't break them up? You let them complete them? Then I'd be worried about the fact that [our opponents] are completing too many passes. The interceptions, if that's the question, are going to come. We had a couple that were tougher catches, but we had our hands on them. All the break-ups were one-handed break-ups where you stick the mitt in there and knock it down. So, those aren't really ones you have a chance to intercept. But, we do need more turnovers. We got the one on the kickoff, which was good to see, and it's something we'll shoot for. But I don't think you chase turnovers. That would be to the detriment of playing good defense."

The measures that you go through to limit penalties, having referees regularly out at practice and communicating with the league every week, is that a common practice across the NFL as far as you know? "I don't know if it's common practice or not. I think that's… You try to do everything you can do as a coach in every area. I just credit our players. I think our players have studied, and of course, it's a group effort. We work together – coaches and players and everybody – to kind of find out what we need to understand about the way the game is played and the way it's officiated and the way the rules work. To me, it comes down to playing fast with great technique. If you play fast and you play with attention to detail as it relates to technique, then you have a chance to play within the rules and not get called. We have done a good job of that so far this year. But you know what? Every week is a new week. I think we've put pressure on opponents in some ways to grab us. We've had some pressures that are coming clean, they've grabbed us and they've gotten holding penalties as a result. But, that's a weekly, daily proposition."

How is CB Josh Wilson getting around today, and do you think it is a short-term injury? "I hope it's a short-term injury. It's not a major hamstring pull or anything like that, so we'll just have to see how he looks this week."

When you keep hearing from national media that this could be the best team in the AFC, do you take any sort of pride in that? "No, none, because we know how bogus it is. We know that it means absolutely nothing, because the very next week… The same guys that have got us up there this week had us way down there two or three weeks ago. So, we don't care. I said it before: It's irrelevant to us. We just think it's all just hot air. It's fun for the fans, I guess, and all that. Anytime they're saying nice things about you, we're very wary about that. We like it when you guys don't say nice things about us. We like to read that. That's motivational."

From a tackling standpoint, was yesterday the best game of the season, four quarters of tackling, getting guys to the ground? "That's a great question. I'm not sure if I've compared it to the other weeks, because I think we've been a good tackling team most weeks, except probably for the Cleveland week. But, I do think we're a really good tackling defense. That's probably one of our strengths. We are a good tackling defense, and we've got to make sure we do that from one week to the next. That's the difference, really, in limiting a running game. They may pop one through there and get their six or eight yards, but if you can come up and tackle them and get them on the ground, you're going to eliminate a lot of those yards. And it goes for run after the catch, screens, everything, special teams."

How much of an advantage has it been with K Billy Cundiff on the kickoffs and the position he's helped put you guys in? "It's a big advantage. Once again, I see some of you guys write about our kickoff coverage and how bad it is because of the numbers. I hate the fact that we had that one big return against us. We've worked hard to fix that, but the drive start has been good. OK, why has the drive start been so good? Well, I think we are covering well, but the kicker has had a lot to do with that. He's kicked them deep in the end zone. They've brought them out. It messes up the timing of the kick return, and we've had a bunch of touchbacks, which are automatically at the 20-yard line. So, I can't say enough about what Billy has done with that. Now, as the weather gets colder, there's going to be fewer and fewer of those, and we're going to have to cover better and better. Huge challenge this week: Brandon Tate is emerging as one of the best kickoff returners in the league. [At] North Carolina, he had a bunch of returns for touchdowns. He's had two so far this year. He's a speedster. He's got a great knack and vision. They're being schemed up as well as you're ever going to be schemed up with Scott O'Brien, their special teams coordinator. They've had two weeks to study us and work on what we're doing, and that's something that we're very concerned about."

How important is it this week to put some hits on Tom Brady and try to take him out of his rhythm? "We're going to try to hit every quarterback that we possibly can. We got to Kyle [Orton] a few times, but so many times we were within two steps, and we had to pull off because you have to pull off if you're not within a step. And I thought our guys did a really good job of determining when they could hit him and when they couldn't. I was just disappointed that we couldn't get a little bit closer so that we could get some more hits on him. And that's what you have to do with Tom Brady, but a lot of times the quarterback kind of dictates that. He's got a good feel for pressure, gets the ball out – similar offenses these two weeks in a row – and it's tough to get to him. But, that's something that's going to be important."

How much does the team's versatility play into its success? And, by versatility, I mean the ability to line up DT Haloti Ngata and run him out as a receiver or call a draw for QB Joe Flacco… "It's really important because it's more things for a defense to defend. We talk about defending the width and the depth of a field, and that probably goes within that. There's a lot of different blocking scheme opportunities – the way you go after different defenses – that you want to be able to do. The more guys that can carry the ball or that you can throw to or whatever obviously gives you more creative options that way. It has to do with your offensive line, who can pull. We've got a bunch of guys that can pull. Both our guards can pull. Both our tackles can pull. That's not something that very many teams can say."

Does it make it any harder to scheme for the Patriots now that they've gotten rid of Randy Moss and you don't know what this team is like without him? "That's a great [question]. Yeah, I think with Randy you kind of knew, and pretty much people were starting to play them in a similar way. What does that mean? How are we going to defend them? Who's the deep threat? It's going to be Brandon Tate for sure. He can run. He's a threat. Obviously, they feel very good about their offensive weapons or they wouldn't have done it. And I don't think they ever do something… No team ever does something to make themselves weaker. They feel like this is going to make them stronger short term and long term. That's why they've done it, and we'll be the first team to find out what their plan is. And they've got an extra week to get ready, to put that thing together, and I'm sure that's not by coincidence."

What does TE Ed Dickson need to do to continue to develop as a jump-ball threat?"I think in order to get on the field more you've got to do more than one thing well. He was on the field quite a bit yesterday, did some pretty good things, blocking. Had the holding penalty, obviously. He was disappointed with that, as was I. But I think that kind of goes hand-in-hand. But that's also our job to get him on the field more. Here's a guy that's got ability, has worked really hard. I think he's very dangerous in the passing game, and we need to try to get him out there more and more."

Has the secondary exceeded your expectations by playing well without CB Domonique Foxworth and S Ed Reed?"They've exceeded your expectations, which is fair. I get that. When you're coaching a group of guys – and I give a lot of credit to [secondary coach] Chuck Pagano; he's done a great job – when you're coaching a bunch of guys, you're putting together a unit, so you kind of see them as a whole. And I think Chuck felt like, and we all felt like, this could be a good group playing together, playing technique. And that's what they've done, because they're good players. And then we felt like once we started getting guys back – we were a little worried, obviously, with Fabian [Washington] with the ACL, and then you've got Lardarius [Webb]… How fast are they going to be able to get healthy? And we were able to bring Josh Wilson in to give us a little bit of a buffer there. But now, as things have turned a little bit with the health, now all of a sudden we have a little bit of a depth. We've got some competition, at corner especially. The safeties have played well. Ken Hamlin is a good safety, and we haven't seen much of him. Now we're going to add Ed Reed into the mix. So going forward, you get kind of optimistic and excited about the pieces. But, I guess the point I'm trying to make is it's the whole that matters. So, we've got to make sure that we incorporate these guys back in and we continue to get better as a group back there so we can play good pass defense."

Did the fourth-down play when DT Haloti Ngata got hurt cause you to think twice about using a player on the opposite side of the ball? And is there a balance between coordinators when using each other's players?"Everywhere I've been there's always that balance, as you put it, between the coordinators – except for here. This is the first place that I've been where the three coordinators truly encourage one another to do what's best for the team. So, I guess that's where I step in sometimes and have to be on top of things. And I think the coordinators do a good job about being smart about the fact that, 'You know what? Is it really worth what I'm asking him to do based on the risk?' So, you take a guy like Haloti or a guy on special teams returning kicks or whatever, and you try to determine whether or not you're getting enough out of him in order to take the risk of the extra snaps. The bottom line is you're trying to win every play, and whatever gives you the best chance to win every play, balanced against the risk of injury and what he means to the other side of the ball, you want to try to do that. That's kind of a long-winded way of saying, 'Yeah, we've got to figure it out and decide if we want to put him on that or somebody else on something else.'"

Did it change the way you think when you saw Ngata go down after that play?"It makes you hold your breath for a second. I don't think it really changes the way you think, because you already knew there was a risk there. It just kind of draws everybody's attention to it. I think as a coach, you can't get scared away by public perception. I'm not going to get intimidated by the fact that fans are going to say, 'Oh, Lardarius Webb got hurt on special teams. He should never play special teams.' You can think that, but we've got to put 11 good players out there on every single play in order to win that play, because that play might be the play that makes the difference in the game. And that's just the way football is."

Is there anything that played into the team letting up touchdowns at the end of each half or is it just about playing strong throughout the game?"Yeah, and it's critical situations. If you look at each of those situations, we feel like… First of all, the offense feels like they should've never put the defense back on the field. If we get a first down on each of those two situations and we close out the half and we close out the game, the defense is never on the field against that quality of a passing attack, and it's never an issue. The defense feels like every time they get on the field, first of all, don't give up big plays. Secondly, don't have penalties that extend drives. If we do those two things, we're not going to have too many people drive the field against us, the length of the field. Anyone of those things happens, and those aren't an issue. And that's what we have to do better the next time."

How do you feel about talk of eliminating the three-point stance for linemen?"That'd be absurd. I just think that would be… You'd be changing football. You'd be better off putting guys back in leather helmets than do something like that. So, throw that one out there as a possibility."

Why are more teams deferring at the start of the game when they win the coin toss?"Before, the rule was different, because if you didn't take the ball then you weren't getting the ball either half. So you have a chance to get the ball in the second half [now]. I don't know. Maybe everybody's been watching us, because we've been doing it here for three years – probably because we have a lot of confidence in our defense. We were going to take the ball yesterday. What happened yesterday? They won the toss and they took the ball? So now you know. We were going to take the ball if we had won the toss. (Reporter says: 'That's just what you're saying now.') I'm not Cam [Cameron ] standing up here. *(laughter) *Not divulging tactics, right? We were going to take the ball because we felt that was the best thing in that game for us. It's more of a gut feeling probably than anything."

Were you impressed with the way RB Ray Rice ran near the goal line, and do you perhaps see him getting more opportunities in those situations?"I don't think we ever felt like Ray couldn't do it [from inside the 5-yard line]. We just had Willis [McGahee, who] had such a hot hand, and Willis is so good at it. But, all three of those guys can carry the ball. Joe [Flacco] carried the ball [on the goal line], didn't he? He scored a touchdown, right? But I think all three of those guys can carry the ball on the goal line. So, Willis isn't going to want to hear that we're going to spread it out more, so I really don't know what we'll do, but I think they can all do it."

Have you had any conversation or given any consideration into re-signing LB Antwan Barnes since the Philadelphia Eagles released him on Saturday?"I haven't had a conversation with him. You know, we don't really have a roster opportunity right now for that, [but] I wouldn't be opposed to it. You know, Antwan's a good person, a good player, and obviously, he's done some good things here. But right now, there's just no way, roster-wise, we could pull that off."

Are you happy with the way the red-zone offense has performed so far?"Are you ever happy with the production? We want to score every time we get in there. I'm disappointed with the times we haven't come away with touchdowns, you know? I feel pretty good about the fact that we haven't blown too many opportunities to score points in there. You know, that was my decision to go for it on fourth down [on Sunday], so I blew that one, as far as not getting the three [points]. But you always want to get more touchdowns."

Did CB Fabian Washington's play excite you yesterday?"It did, it did. Fabian has ambitions of being an elite corner, and you know what, he's got the ability to do it, and he played like it yesterday."

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