JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: WEEK 7 vs. SAINTS
Opening statement:"OK, good to see everybody – appreciate you guys coming over. We went through the last game and pretty much cleaned that up as of early this afternoon. Now we're on to the Saints and preparing, obviously, for a very good football team that's had a bye, had a little extra time to prepare for us. It'll be our challenge, and we're looking forward to it. I just wanted to make one note before we get going. I hadn't had the chance to do this earlier, but I got a text, communicated with [former Orioles manager] Buck Showalter after the game last night. We've gotten to be good friends over the course of the last eight years – play golf, doing a lot of things together. I really, really admire him and respect him. I've learned so much from him over the years as a coach and a leader and relating to players and all the different things that come up. I just want to acknowledge that and what a great job he did in Baltimore and how amazing he's been for the fans, for sports fans in Baltimore, how much I've enjoyed watching his teams play and what a great job he's done for the Orioles. So, I just wanted to say that and put that out there, because he hit me last night about our team, and I always enjoyed talking to him."
Any update on G/T Alex Lewis? (Jamison Hensley) "Alex is in the building. [He] came back with us last night. It looks good. There's no serious injury there, in terms of [neurological-] type issues. He's possible for this week, as far as I know right now. So, we'll just have to see as the week progresses and they continue with the tests and see how he comes along. That could change at any time, but that's what we've been told at this time."
Is there a particular diagnosis? Was it neck trauma? (David Ginsburg)"I don't have that. I don't have the name of it right now. I'm sorry – I didn't get that."
When you look at the Saints and how they've been able to be an offensive power year after year, what are the keys to that? (Childs Walker)"The two keys to the Saints' long-term offensive success?" (Reporter: "Well, it doesn't have to be two keys. It can be however many you want.")"I have two keys then: Drew Brees and Sean Payton – those two guys. Sean is a great builder of offenses and schemer. He does a great job of building his offense one week to the next, changes it up, creates a lot of problems. Then of course, Drew Brees makes it all happen. Those are the two keys."
Is RB Gus Edwards the kind of guy that can play himself into the running back rotation? (Todd Karpovich)"Yes, sure. He's been doing that. To see him go out there – especially towards the end of the game when we needed those key yards to finish the game – he did a great job. He's a big guy. He runs behind his pads, and he's a tough tackle. So that was a plus for us."
How pleased were you to see the running game set the tone, chew clock and protect that lead? (Luke Jones)"It was important. We had great time of possession through the whole game. I think a lot of things went into that. We ran the ball a lot – towards the end of the game with more success obviously, and that's kind of what you're talking to. We had 16 defensive snaps in the second half, so that goes to the fact that we were getting three-and-outs and also to the fact that the offense was staying on the field. We had one really long drive, kept the ball, didn't score a lot of points, but we kept the ball a lot. We made a number of third-down conversions. I think we were, maybe, 12-of-17 on third-down conversions, and at one time I think we only missed one. A number of those were long – third-and-longs. Those two things probably went hand-in-hand."
Do you think those long possessions help the defense? (Garrett Downing) "That's the way football is; it's a complementary sport. It's complementary between all three phases. It's also complementary between all 11 guys on the field at one time. Everybody plays off each other. Symbiotic? Is that a good word? That's how it works. I think one phase can make the other phase better, and that's what you are always trying to achieve."
When you went back and looked at that opening drive on film, what stood out? Historically, there hadn't been a drive like that since you arrived here of that length and that nature. (Jerry Coleman)"The key thing in that drive were the third-down conversions. We had a couple big third-down conversions. Willie Snead had a number of them, 'Crab' [Michael Crabtree] had some in that drive right there. In that first drive, [Javorius] 'Buck' Allen had two huge plays that converted on third down. I thought that was the key."
You alluded to the lighter defensive workload yesterday. Could that have some long-range benefit, even this week? As you said, you're playing a team who is coming off a bye. Is that a benefit to you guys? (Childs Walker) "Well, the fewer snaps you can play on defense, it's usually going to be a good thing. Conversely, we had offensive linemen who were breaking out in hot sweats getting on the plane. They had over 80 snaps, our guys did. So that's a good thing, too, but it's tough on those guys. They're in good shape, but it's a positive, yes."
How pleased were you to see the distribution of the sacks? It wasn't just one guy, but many making sacks. (David Ginsburg)"Very pleased. That's how we're built on defense. We're built that way. We bring a lot of pressure. We bring different people from different places. Everybody can blitz on our defense, so when you do that, you're going to have a lot of time, you're going to have all the rush lanes filled up, and it just kind of ends up being who gets there. Sometimes the guy with the best rush doesn't get the sack. That happened a lot of times last night. Sometimes the guys that flush the quarterback don't get the sack. He'll get credit for the pressures. We do a good job in this league now of charting all that stuff – that's good information to look at. But I thought we had a bunch of guys rushing the passer really well."
Was any of the pressure due to the fact that the defensive backs had everyone covered? (David Ginsburg)"That's a great point. We had really good coverage all day. There were a number of times where you stop the tape and say, 'Well, if you were the quarterback, where would you go with the ball?' And really, most of the time there was nowhere to go with the ball. So that's kind of the way … Again, that symbiotic relationship – those things go hand-in-hand."
What was your evaluation of the way CB/RS Cyrus Jones played? (Ryan Mink)"Cyrus played well. I thought he stabilized us back there, was really solid. He did a good job – did a good job in coverage, made a big tackle in kickoff coverage. It was a big plus for us having Cyrus."
Not a huge game for WR John Brown and the tight ends. Do you think that's just the push-and-pull of the defenses reacting to what you guys have been doing well with recently? (Jonas Shaffer)"Yes, from a numbers standpoint, you don't worry about that too much from one game to the next. Certainly, if it goes a number of weeks, you start to wonder why that's happening. But looking at the tape, the tight ends played really well, 'Smoke' [John Brown] played really well – made a huge catch on that inside, that slot seam [route] to convert for us. He was tightly covered. I'm pretty sure he's going to have some big games in the future. I feel that way about the tight ends, too, especially. Mark Andrews had a couple big catches for us, conversion catches. We keep building on that."
Did you like the way that G James Hurst came in and played left guard when G Alex Lewis had to leave and T Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle? (Jerry Coleman)"Well, we really went with [Bradley] Bozeman. Bozeman was the guy playing guard and James stayed at right tackle. We had Orlando … What you might've seen is Orlando came in some extra offensive linemen-type situations. We have formations that move guys around. I thought 'Boze' played really well. He did a good job, was solid. He really stepped up and played solidly. Orlando was very physical in his snaps. So, both of those guys played well."
What are the challenges – you mentioned about the Saints offense, but specifically with QB Drew Brees – when you just think of QB Drew Brees? What kind of challenges pop out for you? (Jamison Hensley)"His vision is unbelievable. His pocket awareness is the best, and he's very accurate. So, he can see, he can find the open receiver, and he gets guys in position. They scheme guys open. He knows what he's looking at pre-snap, and he knows what he's looking at post-snap. So, he's not going to miss an open guy very often, and he has a great feel for the rush. He'll take some sacks if he has to, but only if he has to. He throws; he'll hang in there and make some tight throws when he has pressure all around him. He has the numbers he has for a reason. He's every bit of what he's cracked up to be, and I have a lot of respect for him, have a lot of respect for the whole offense. They have some really good receivers. They have one from Ohio State who's not too shabby [Michael Thomas], among others. Offensive line is big, physical, playing really well – zone and gap-blocking-type combination, blocking offensive line. They're running the ball really well. They have two really good backs, very physical, both who are utilizing the passing game. You can't say enough about their offense that way."
I know you'll look at recent tape, but will you go back when you played them in 2014 and look at some things that you did well, that worked against QB Drew Brees? Or is that something that you won't do? (Jamison Hensley) _"We do. That's always part of our breakdown, going back and looking at previous games, so that will be part of the analysis." _(Reporter: "Is there anything you see when you previously played that you did well against him?)"I'm sure there is. Yes, I'm sure we'll take a look at that. I wouldn't be able to outline it now, Monday at 2:30 p.m., and I wouldn't outline it anyway, but I'm sure there are some things, yes."
Do you feel like you've gotten exactly what you were looking for from WR Willie Snead IV, in terms of being a guy that you can always go to for a tough catch on third down? _(Childs Walker) _"I'm really glad you asked that question, because I just think Willie had a great game, exactly what we were looking for, what we hoped he would be when we signed him. He came up with some huge catches, some third-down catches. How about the third-and-18 to start the second half to keep that drive alive when we were backed up? Just one of many. He's on the ground, he makes the catch, he's getting pushed back to the ground, stepped all over, and he just gets up and gives the first down signal right there in the guy's face. That's the kind of competitor he is. He's all ball, all the time. And, I think he was a big factor in the game."
Are you surprised by his attitude at all, seeing his nastiness and the way he played yesterday? (Mike Preston) _"No, not at all! It's a good question. Ball State guy, Mid-American Conference guy. That's what you get from that conference, man! _(laughter) You get a hard shell, and that's the way he played in New Orleans. That's who he is. I have to elaborate. This is a guy that's been doubted his whole career – high school, college and the NFL – so I'm fine if they keep doubting him."
You're coming off a three-straight-road-game stretch, which doesn't happen too often in the NFL. You won two out of those three. How much are you looking forward to now playing four of your next five at home, and just your overall thoughts on where you are as a football team right now in these first six weeks? (Luke Jones) "We're in a good place. Not as good as we could be, but you can't look back and lament that. You just have to move forward, and we're happy to be where we're at, and we have to make the most of it. It's like Terrell Suggs said in the locker room last night: It doesn't … Winning a game like that on the road doesn't mean nearly as much if you can't follow it up. You have to back it up with another win, and what you need to do in the NFL is stack wins. You need to find a way to get on a roll, and you do that by getting better every single day, all the things we always talk about, and going out there and playing good, winning football on Sunday. That's all our focus needs to be, because if we can stack a win on top of that win, then it really starts to mean something. But, a huge challenge, whether you're on the road or home, playing against the Saints. I'm glad we're going to be at home. I'm excited that our fans will get a chance to see us and be a part of it. We had great support. For those of you who were at the [Tennessee] game, you probably know this. There were a ton of Ravens fans there, especially at the end when we'd come down, and they're all around the ring in the field. It was pretty cool to see. So, thanks to the Ravens fans for being loud and being a part of it yesterday." (Reporter: "Do you need directions back to M&T Bank Stadium?")(laughter) "I've been there a few times, been there a few times, but it's been awhile, there's no question."
Did you get the feeling that the defense was really, even as you guys pretty much had a win, wanted that shutout badly, and do you think there's a sense of pride that they have not having given up a touchdown in the second half yet this year? _(David Ginsburg) _"Sure, absolutely. It's definitely something that they're aware of, but not talked about. During the game, same thing. The thing I like about our guys is no matter the circumstance, they're going to scrap and fight and claw every single play. And, the other team sometimes makes some plays and gets you on your heels at times, and you have to keep fighting, keep them out of the end zone. Line up for the next snap, line up for the next series. I think that same mentality applies when you're playing really well, and you haven't given up a point, to when you have given up some points. So, just take that same mindset play-to-play, into every play and every game, and that's what our guys do. It's reflected in every game like that, too. They gave 'Wink' [Martindale] the Gatorade bath. I told Wink to make sure he didn't get any shivers or cold or anything after that and take care of himself."
When you go back and look at a game like that, is it hard – maybe it isn't, as a coach – to look for corrections and look for things to point out as negatives. There were some penalties and things of that nature that you could point out, but was that difficult? (Jerry Coleman) "No, it's really easy as a coach, to your point. It's what you ... It's never as good as you think, it's never as bad as you think, and when you go back and you watch a game like that, sometimes you're a little bit surprised by what you see, in terms of, there are more negatives than you remembered seeing. You get in there, and you go to work. And that's it. There's a poem: 'Meet triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.' Anybody know what I'm talking about? 'The Unforgiving Minute?' [The poem 'If,' by] Rudyard Kipling? You guys are journalists! You should know these things. (laughter) But check that one out. To me, that's the approach. So yes, you look for every single thing that needs to be corrected, and you try to chase perfection."
OLB Matthew Judon, when you went back and saw what happened with the unnecessary roughness penalty, that looked like one of the few mistakes that were made yesterday, and it's happened before with him. _(Jerry Coleman) _"Yes, absolutely, that's something that has to be cleaned up, no doubt. It was unnecessary roughness, very unnecessary. He knows that."
I know it's a non-issue with how well QB Joe Flacco has played so far, but what do you make of the high number of batted balls he's had at the line of scrimmage? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"Too many. I know we lead the league in batted balls. I think we have 11 now, and that's something that's a problem, because those are opportunities. A lot of times, those guys are open, and those are chances to complete passes. That's something that we've been working on the last couple of weeks. We still haven't it cleaned up the way we want to, and we're not happy about it. We need to clean that up."
Along those lines, for a guy who is that tall, is that why it shouldn't be happening? _(Jerry Coleman) _"Those guys that are in front of him are pretty tall, too, but Drew Brees, I don't think, has a batted pass yet this year, to make that contrast. So it's probably not as much about that as it is about other issues. It's always a team effort. Anything like that is always a team effort, and we have to get better at it."
You mentioned with G/C Bradley Bozeman, you liked what you saw. Do you get a better read on a young player when he actually is thrown into a situation like that rather than just practicing? Does it make any difference as you're evaluating a young player and how he's progressing? _(Cliff Brown) _"Does it make a difference, the fact that you see him in a game? Yes, yes. You see him in practice, you feel good about him. Football is a practice sport, so people often say, 'Give the guy a chance,' and players will say, 'Give me a chance,' and we'll say, 'You get a chance, every day at practice.' So, until you start doing well in practice, we're not going to put you into one of our 16 games and let you go in there and show us that you're the exact same player who is not good enough in practice. But, once you're good enough in practice on a consistent basis, you gain some confidence from the coaches to put you in there in a game and see if you can do it. Then, that becomes the next step. To see him and Gus [Edwards] and Orlando [Brown Jr.] and those guys do well is a good step."
Along those lines, what does OLB Tyus Bowser need to show you to sort of get back on track? _(Childs Walker) _"Tyus is doing well. It was more of a numbers thing yesterday. We got Tim [Williams] back, and it just didn't work out numbers-wise. We have so many outside linebackers, it's kind of hard to decide who you're going to sit down. Some of that stuff has kind of come down to special teams and who plays a bigger role. Probably in the fine line of special teams, the inside 'backers probably win out sometimes over the outside 'backers, and that's the numbers that are getting Tyus, or got Tyus, off the 46-man [roster] this week. So, he can continue to build on the special teams, but he practiced really well last week on special teams. He practiced well on defense, and Tyus is a really good player, so it's a good problem to have. But, you have to be one of the … When you get everybody healthy, it gets pretty competitive, as far as who's out there on Sunday."