JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: WEEK 14 at CHIEFS
Reviewing the tape, you look at the defensive effort, and there have been a lot of great ones over the year, but what the secondary did to one of those prolific offenses, that was Atlanta's worst showing this century, offensively. When you looked at the tape today, or looked at it last night with the defensive coaches, I assume there were a lot of smiles in the room, but what was the general feeling? Was that the highest level you've seen that secondary play at in some time? (Jerry Coleman) "We gave them the game ball after the game. Jimmy [Smith] accepted it for the secondary. I thought Jimmy played at a really high level. The secondary played at a high level. Coverage was excellent – tight coverage. We have a lot of good players who play tight coverage. The communication was very good. [We] had a couple miscues. Even at that, we want to chase perfection. There are two or three plays in there that we know we'd like to have back. I thought the linebackers tied in the with secondary very well in coverage. Even our defensive ends, like Terrell [Suggs] and Matt Judon, who often drop into coverage – not often, but every now and then drop into coverage – were very good. So yes, all that was excellent."
Along those lines, everyone talked about the time of possession in the second half and keeping the defense fresh, but the first half was much more even. The offense had sputtered for a period there. How critical was it that the defense kept the game right where it was and then kind of allowed that formula to really get going in the second half? (Luke Jones) "Yes, it's a long game; that's the thing you learn. Hey, look at the game last night [Chargers vs. Steelers], right? I went to bed at halftime. I had given up hope. (laughter) And really, we were rooting for a loss for both teams, so we couldn't get what we wanted, but that's the way football works. It's a long game. It's going to be hard-fought. You can jump to a big lead. You can fall to a deficit. You can be in a tight game. Whatever it is, you have to keep grinding, you have to keep fighting, keep trying to find a way to make plays and try to find just a way to win the game at the end, and our team did a good job of that."
How much do you attribute the crooked time of possession to the fact that the defense had defensive touchdowns in the second half in back-to-back games? (Jordan Schatz)"Yes, it's probably part of it. It's a good point. I hadn't really thought about that, but the fact that you score – and I think we scored, was it … It was first down in this one. Was it first down last week? I can't remember now, but yes, that's going to be a short possession when you score a touchdown on a turnover in the first three plays of the drive, and it's going to be huge for getting off the field. But, the thing about that is, is you go right back on the field on defense, right? So, I guess it takes away an offensive possession if you think about it. I hadn't really thought about that. I'm not sure what to think about that, now that I think about it." (laughter)
Sticking on the secondary, CB Marlon Humphrey obviously is another guy that was really active yesterday. What do you think it is that has allowed him to play as well as he has this season? (Garrett Downing) "Marlon just works hard. He's talented. He's a very serious guy, as you all know, and he takes his technique very seriously. He chases perfection in everything that he does, and he works at it, and he wants to be good. He wants to be good. He's a team player. All the things – he has great parents – and all the things, he has them."
I know you go against coaches that you've had connections with throughout your career. Is it a little different when it's going against Chiefs head coach Andy Reid? (Jamison Hensley) "He's the only former head coach I've worked for, so yes, I guess it is a little different than the guys … The other guys that we were with were either assistants here, or we were assistants together in Philly. But sure, it makes it different." (Reporter: "Overall, have you ever thought about the impact that he has made on the direction of your career? I know you've had many influences, but him in particular?")"We've had a lot of conversations about that, and they've done quite a few little pieces on that, stories on that, so I get asked that a lot – the impact Andy has had on my career, and I'm just grateful. One of the most important things in any profession – it's probably true in journalism – is where you start. Who you start with really makes a big difference. If you start with people that do it the right way – good people, teach you the right things – it just gives you a chance, gives you a leg up. And Andy, for me, was a big part of that in every way. I learned a great many things from him, and watching his tape now, I still learn a great many things from him. Yes, he's certainly at the top of the business in what he does."
When former Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes left Philadelphia, did you think that you had a chance of sticking on the coaching staff? Or, did you kind of assume that when Andy Reid took over, you might have to look elsewhere? (Jamison Hensley) "It was a long time ago. No, I thought I had a chance. We had played well on special teams, so you'd like to think that that would have had an impact, and he gave me a chance. That's the thing: He didn't have to. Andy did not have to give me a chance coming in at the time. I'm sure he had a lot of people he knew, but he decided to take a chance on me, and like I said, I'll be forever grateful for that."
I know you said that QB Joe Flacco was ultimately not cleared to play yesterday. When is the next time that that decision will come up for review? Is it every day, or is it the end of the week? (Childs Walker) "Probably by the end of the week. I don't think that they look at that every day. He's cleared to practice, so he'll practice. They'll probably look at what he does in practice. They look at tape, and they'll just let me know. They'll let us know. We expect to ramp him up in practice a lot more this week, since last week was his first week, and we'll just see how it goes."
Aside from just letting Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes kind of do his thing, what are some of the unique things that that offense is doing? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Speed, lots of speed, lots of speed. Very creative – they run all the tough plays, all the 'circus' plays, so to speak, that they execute so well, and the speed just enhances it. I also think they execute very well. They're precise in what they do. That's good coaching and good players, that combination. Andy [Reid] studies football everywhere. I know he's had coaches on his staff over the years that have specific areas of study. They look at college football and probably high school football. Probably junior high football – he's probably looking for plays – knowing Andy, and he just does a great job of that."
After watching the tape, just how impressed were you, or what were your impressions, of the way that RB Kenneth Dixon ran the ball in his first game back since Week 1? (Ryan Mink) "Positive. I think he had eight or nine carries there, quite a few, probably, for the first time back in such a long time and did well. [He] ran hard. He'll be beating himself over dropping the ball. The good thing is, he recovered it right away. That's the biggest thing I saw from, offensively, an area of improvement, is we need to hold on to the football. The football being on the ground is on the ground way too much. Our guys know that, and that will be – continue to be – a major point of emphasis, and even more so, because that's just going to be critically important."
After QB Lamar Jackson's third-career start, how have you seen him get incrementally better each week? What has he done? How has he improved each week, and this past week, how was he much better than the first time he started? (Todd Karpovich) "He's getting better. Football is like that, especially at that position. You do it in practice, and that's one thing, but there's nothing like the game. And, the game is where you learn lessons the hard way. He made a few mistakes that are well-documented, that he'll learn from, just like the week before. But there are a lot of things that can happen in football. There are a lot of crazy scenarios that can come up, and they're pretty impossible to predict all the different scenarios that can come up. So, I just think you learn by experiencing them, whether it's situational football or understanding where you are on the field, when you're on the field, when you can take a chance, when you can't take a chance. All of the sudden, a three-technique shows up in the backfield – how do you handle that? Those are all things he continues to experience and grow from."
You said after the game that you guys are all sort of seeing where this offense is going together. It's sort of a process of discovery for everybody, but is there something to be said just for hitting teams with something so different that they're just not seeing with any other team? (Childs Walker) "Yes, definitely there is. It's tough when you see something for the first time. You can go back to the old Air Force offense, or what Navy does down there with Ken [Niumatalolo]. When a team sees that for the first time and doesn't have a chance to work on it all throughout the year, it's going to be challenging for them, of course, and all of the coaches in the last three weeks have said that. So yes, I do think that's a plus."
What's the importance for a rookie quarterback feeling comfortable in the pocket? There were a lot of times Sunday when Lamar dropped back and looked really comfortable standing there, going through his reads. Do you think we've overlooked the importance of having a good offensive line in front of a rookie quarterback, who is still learning the ropes? (Jonas Shaffer)"The offensive line has done a really good job. But you know, I talked to Joe 'D' [D'Alessandris, offensive line coach] this morning, and he's like, 'Well, we started off slow in pass protection, but we picked it up.' That's probably true. There are things that we're getting hit with that are probably a little different than before. This offense is different, in terms of the way people are approaching us, even in the pass rush. But keeping Lamar clean is critically important, absolutely."
There was a report that defensive line coach Joe Cullen interviewed for a college coaching job at UMass. You've never stood in the way of your assistants from getting jobs. Would the timing of that make it tough this time of year? (Jeff Zrebiec) "No, this happens a lot this time of year. It's a good question. Yes, Joe did interview at UMass. We have great coaches – they're going to have opportunities. But the college jobs happen now, so it's not a problem. Guys don't need to spend a lot of time preparing for those interviews. I think the [athletic directors] and hiring committees understand that they're in a season; they're trying to win games. So, they don't expect them to come in there with some kind of a PowerPoint presentation that's going to blow them away. I don't think they're looking for that. It took about two hours. So, it's something that we're proud of. We appreciate our guys. We have great coaches, and if they get opportunities like that … I like to see guys get opportunities, and I want to see them advance in the profession."
Is jumping over defenders something that you guys teach, endorse? (Jerry Coleman) "What is that?" (Reporter: "The leaping sometimes over the defender.")"We only endorse it if they get over the defender cleanly and continue to run. (laughter) Otherwise, we would like them to lower the shoulder. I don't think you need to put too many restrictions on guys. I talked to Mark [Andrews]. I know the DBs don't want to see you lower their shoulder. Being an old DB – I can promise you that. I think the good way to do it is to lower your shoulder or run through the backside shoulder, as we say. But hey, you don't want to handcuff these guys too much. They're really fabulous athletes."
Have you seen defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale's fingerprints on this defense with the things that he's done?_ (Jamison Hensley) _"Oh, of course! Of course, yes. Don has done a great job. He has certain skills and gifts as a coach that are unique to him and are really, really strong. He does a great job. It's a team effort, too. We have a great staff. All those guys have done a great job – our players are involved, as you know. We have the right kind of culture. I'm proud of all those guys. We have a bunch of young coaches in there that are really smart guys and have done a great job. Don does a great job of bringing them all in to it [and] including them. So yes, that's all part of it."
A lot of teams spend time throughout the year managing their running backs' carries. What effect do you think it has since RB Kenneth Dixon hasn't played since Week 1 and RB Gus Edwards only took on a heavy load midway through the season? Do you think the fact that they didn't have a huge load early in the season makes a difference going down the stretch? (Aaron Kasinitz)"As far as being a positive?" (Reporter: "Yes.") "Probably. I mean, it's probably good. Gosh, it's tough being a running back. You're the target, and there are a lot of big guys [on] every play you get hit. You're the punching bag, so to speak. Those two guys deliver the blow pretty much, too. I like the way they run. Yes, I think that's a good point."
Does that work in terms of the recipe for success: a strong running game, strong defense, strong kicking, especially on the road, in the winter, in cold weather?_ (Jerry Coleman)_"It does. It does, absolutely – all those things. You want to have a passing game, too, though. I wouldn't discount that. So, all those things [matter], yes."
We didn't have a chance to talk to you about the RB Alex Collins move. Was that just not getting better and you needed the roster spot to get RB Kenneth Dixon up? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We did need the roster spot, so that usually dictates when you have to make a move. So yes, but beyond that, I just leave that for Ozzie [Newsome] to explain – whenever you get a chance to talk to him."
In regard to what happened with the Chiefs, they had a bombshell dropped on them on Friday. Can you empathize with what Andy Reid had to go through, in real time, dealing with a situation like that, one that you had to go through a couple years ago? (Jerry Coleman) "I think that's their situation. I didn't give it too much thought, to be honest with you." (Reporter: "Only because a lot of parallels were drawn because …")"Yes, I know. I understand what you're saying. I just … I didn't give it that kind of thought. I didn't. I was trying to focus on winning the football game. I know it, I saw it, noted it and didn't really express any opinion or judgements on it. I don't know anything about it other than what was reported. I'm really not too concerned about it in the sense of our football team. I'd just rather leave it at that."
The crowd noise in Kansas City … You've played there before, you've won there before in the playoffs. How does it compare? I know you don't like comparison questions. Let's not go there._ (Jerry Coleman)"Rephrase!"(laughter) (Reporter: "Is it the loudest environment or among the loudest?")_"Yesterday, first of all, was great. We had a bunch of fans there [in Atlanta]. I just want to credit the fans who were there. Thank you, to all the fans who were there. There were so many fans there, and they were loud and into it and fun, in that sense. Kansas City is very loud. It's a great environment. It's one of those environments you love going into in this league. It's what you do this job for. Yes, it's an awesome place to play. It'll be loud, they'll be into it [if] their team is winning. This'll be a big game. We're looking forward to that. That's something that you really kind of relish."
Records are being set offensively around the league. Your defense is No. 1 in the league in different categories. How much is that a credit to them – for what has been "a year of the offense" largely around the league – that they've managed to consistently keep numbers low and give you a chance to win? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's something that … Yes, it's a credit to everybody, but I think you start looking at those things at the end of the season. That's not something we … We're going to face, arguably, the best offense in the league on Sunday. We just have to go to work. That's all we have to do is go to work, learn as much as we can about them, be as good as we can be in practice on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then do everything we can do to take those things to the game on Sunday and play. I know that's what you always hear, but that's really got to be the focus. Just keep it about that, and that's it."
You guys have done a great job with controlling time of possession, but you also want some opportunities to make some big plays. How much do you see an opportunity to make big plays along with what you've been doing with the time of possession? _(Cliff Brown) _"Yes, we want to make big plays. We need some big plays. I think we had one play over 20 yards yesterday. That's an area that we're working on very hard. We had some things set up. Sometimes, they just happen on normal plays, you know, a normal run will pop. I think it's a disappointment, but it's also a credit. We rushed for over 200 yards without a big run. I'll tell you what: Atlanta's defense was playing hard. They were playing hard. That was a battle in the run game trenches. Watch the tape and watch what kind of battle that was. I think our guys deserve a lot of credit – the fact that we were able to average what we did per carry and put 200 yards up on what was 49 carries. It was a fight, man. I saw their inside linebacker said, 'Hey, we fought as hard as we could,' and they did. But sometimes those will pop, and you'll hit it. I think Denver hit a 60-some-yard run yesterday; that kind of got their numbers up. That happens, too, but we also try to scheme some big pass plays that we just haven't connected on. We're going to connect on those. That has to happen and will happen. That's something that's very important."