Transcript - John Harbaugh Tuesday Press Conference


Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement:"OK, obviously, it's been a quick turnaround. I think we got in about 3-3:30 last night. Great train ride. Appreciate Amtrak and the good work they do. I don't think we got paid for that. (laughter) But, it was a great win. I'm very proud of our coaches and our players. I thought our game plan was really outstanding – it showed up. I thought the execution was even better, and that's ultimately what wins a football game."

When the game was finally over after all of the hype and talking, what did you and Jets head coach Rex Ryan have to say to each other?"I just said, 'Good luck.' There wasn't really hardly anything said. It's kind of understood – move on to the next one."

How proud are you about the way the defense performed? "I said last night I thought it was probably… It was the best defensive performance I've seen here. I think our defense just continues to get better and better. I thought our coaches obviously did a great job understanding what [the Jets] were trying to do offensively. But our players did a great job of understanding them offensively. We were probably one step ahead of them for the most part throughout the course of the game, and it showed up in the results. But our players played. The secondary – everyone wants to talk about the secondary – how'd they play? The D-line I thought lived up to its billing. Terrell Suggs just jumped off the field there – two huge sacks, pressures throughout the game, tremendous against the run. Of course Ray [Lewis], his play speaks for itself. You can name guy after guy. Haloti Ngata was dominant. [He had] the sack in that last drive – the one-on-one matchup there where he just took over the game. But there were so many plays like that throughout the course of the game."

You said last night that players rallied around LB Ray Lewis. Was that a byproduct of his "blow-up" last week because he said what players were thinking?"Yeah, I think what Ray said… The words I used last week with him were 'right' and, in some ways, 'righteous' almost. Some people have described it as a 'rant.' I just thought it was outrageous when I see it described that way. Read the quote. Listen to what he said. What he said was solid; it was humble. And so, our guys rallied around it because that's who Ray is. But everybody took something emotional into that game. Even the rookies that never played before – that's their first game. Their first game in the NFL is going to be on Monday Night Football in a huge – what really has become a rivalry game – in a brand new stadium. So they had some emotions going in. Then all the guys' relationships they had going in. Everybody had something different to take into that game. And obviously, some of the rhetoric, as Joe [Flacco] pointed out, added to that. That's OK. That's what makes it exciting to be a part of."

How much did knowing that the referee crew would call a lot of penalties influence what you did on the field? "I think the NFL… It's really not so much about that crew. That crew… Every crew has got their own tendencies, OK? So, they've got their tendencies just like the other crews do, but the tendencies are not much really in the end. The NFL has made it very clear what the expectations are in terms of coverage. I think we learned that last year the hard way at times, and the Jets learned it the hard way last night. You've got to respect what the league is asking for, and they should call it that way. There were plenty of other calls that didn't go our way that we felt should have gone our way. You're always going to have those grey-area situations. I liked the way our guys played technique in the back end. That's been something that's been building all through the offseason and something that you work on through training camp, and it showed up in a game. And as a coach, man, that is fulfilling. That's what you try to get accomplished."

What is your assessment of the way S Tom Zbikowski performed on that one punt return? "Disappointing. Tom was disappointed. I think tough balls over his left shoulder – he had to go get [them]. That's tough. I thought he did a nice job of catching the ball and securing the ball, but I think he tried too hard to make a play. And sometimes guys will do that their first outing. You've got to respect the guys covering a little more and take the ball north and south. [Jets S] Jimmy Leonhard's a good example of it – he's been doing it for a long time. He understands the geometry of that play. 'Zibby' will learn from that. We had a good conversation about it on the train, and it was good-hearted. He'll be fine. But we need better, yeah."

Will you continue with Zbikowski as the primary guy returning punts?"We'll see. We never rule anything out, and we have Chris Carr as an option and some other guys. 'Zibby' I think can be good at it."

Are TE Todd Heap's injuries from the game minor enough to allow him to bounce back quickly?"It should be. He should practice tomorrow. We'll see as the week goes on. If it flares up and he doesn't practice, that would be a red flag. But it looks like he's OK. It was a great catch. Todd played well. Anquan [Boldin], T.J. [Houshmandzadeh] and all those guys played well. Derrick [Mason also]."

Do you sense an exhale from the players now that the game is over and they can move on to the rest of the season:"Yeah. That's really fair, because when the [schedule] first came out and you saw that it was going to be the Jets, [you think about] how good a team they are for one thing, but you're going to have to go up there and open up their brand new stadium. So the emotions are going to run high just because of that. And the fact that we've got all these relationships with these guys, [playing the Jets in Week 1 is] probably something that's done two things: It's probably motivated us to have a great offseason in a lot of ways. Every single day you'd think you've got the Jets in front of you, so I think that helped make us a better team throughout training camp. Then [there is] the fact that pressure mounts. So to get that behind us, especially with a victory, is a chance to exhale. But here we are, five days away – five-and-a-half days away from last night – and we've got to play the Cincinnati Bengals, the reigning division champs, at their place. So, that'll wipe that relief off pretty fast."

How difficult is it to play on Monday Night Football and then go on the road after a short week?"It's very difficult. You'd have to look up some stats and see what the history of that is. But you know what? It doesn't matter, because that's our challenge. That's a team that beat us twice last year handily, both at our place and at their place. That's a very good team, so we've got our work cut out for us."

When you win the time of possession battle by as much as you guys did despite not being able to run the ball, what does that say about the offense?"I think it says a lot about the offense, but it also says a lot about the defense because they weren't getting any first downs, so the clock stopped ticking for their side and got the ball right back to our offense and gave us more possessions. The other thing was the third-down conversions. That was the bottom line there. We didn't run the ball well. We didn't get ourselves in as many third-and-shorts as we'd like. We had a couple third-and-real-longs that we converted. But, for the offensive line to understand the pressure and to pick it up and give Joe [Flacco] a chance… A couple times they had some guys free for Joe to move away from the pressure, and then for guys basically to get open against one-on-one-type coverage out there. That was the key. The fact that Cam [Cameron] was patient and kept running the ball was really important because that kept the clock running. Even though we weren't getting yards, we were getting conversions and we were getting time off the clock, which in a 10-9 game is critical."

How did you think G/T Marshal Yanda and G/C Chris Chester did at right tackle and right guard, respectively? I thought they did really well, just watching the tape. There were plays that we'd like to have back all the way across the front. And again, that's a really good front. Those guys practiced there for about a week-and-a-half for the most part, so I think they're ready to do it, but there's nothing like a game to learn from."

I know you guys like Yanda at right guard, but if T Jared Gaither is unable to come back for the next few weeks, do you see Yanda as a long-term option at right tackle? "Yes, yes, we do."

It seems like rookie WR David Reed really made an impact on special teams and that's something he hasn't really done a whole lot in his college career… "I tell you, he's come a long way with that. He never did it before. He really struggled early in the OTAs. He was kind of getting his rear end handed to him early on, and then all of a sudden, about halfway through camp, he started flipping that. [He] started handing people theirs a little bit, especially in the last two weeks in practice. It showed up in the last preseason game, and then it showed up again yesterday. He did a nice job."

What'd you see from S Haruki Nakamura in there as a nickel back and do you feel like CB Josh Wilson will have a bigger role defensively as he gets further into the playbook? "That's going to be real interesting to see how that shakes out, because all of a sudden we have some competition. And Haruki, I don't think we anticipated, necessarily, him to this level being able to cover in the slot. Now, he's got some things he does really well, and of course he's got limitations. Everybody does things well, but he understands the defense really well. He's very quick and athletic and he's a playmaker. So those are things that are hard. And that position in there… Those are the most important things, if you understand what you're doing. He's really a tremendous blitzer, too. For us that's a huge deal. But in this package, you play the slot, you play the dime, you play the extra – the seventh defensive back. There's a lot of places we can play he and Josh and Kenny Hamlin and Lardarius [Webb] when he comes back. We're going to have a nice mix of guys playing in different packages."

When did you begin to think about using Nakamura in the nickel position? "Before the Washington game. That's when he started kind of working back in there. That's when we basically decided to. He looked good in practice doing it, so we decided to see if he could do it, and he just shined doing it. He's our best option at this time. That was really before Josh got here, but Josh has picked it up quickly, and Josh can play outside, too."

Was last night one of the tougher environments you've had to play in, being in a brand new stadium in front of a big crowd?"I don't think it was just the environment. We've played probably in louder places, and the fact that I think the way we played kind of kept the crowd out of it a little bit. But the combination of the situation – Monday Night Football on the road in a new stadium and the Jets and the emotion and the intensity that they bring – just because that's the way that they play – made it a real tough environment, especially for our offense. So, the fact that we were able to weather the storm… I think our defense – our offense made mistakes early – and our defense weathered the storm. And then our offense didn't come unglued. They kept playing, found a way to make some plays, especially on third down, and that kind of poise is really important. And for our guys to show that I think is… It's going to give us a chance."

What about the level of fight shown from your team in the game last night?"Yeah, our guys fight, but there's more to it than just fight. You know, there's no question, if you look at the Ravens, they've always been fighters. The last three years, having been here and watched these guys, there's never a situation where they don't just come out and battle, no matter how bleak or how good things look. But to turn it into production, that's really what counts. And I thought our guys found a way to do that last night against a really good team. "

Do you think RB Ray Rice is underrated as a blocker, and how important is it for him to step up and pick up a blitz for the team?"Ray's a lot better pass-blocker than what people think. He's a fireplug, he's powerful [and] he understands protection. You know, we've got three guys: Ray – as good a pass-blocker as he is – he's probably No. 3 of our running backs. I mean, Willis [McGahee] is excellent, and Le'Ron [McClain] is excellent. And those guys, a little more experienced than Ray, really kind of teach Ray the ropes on that. So, [running backs coach] Wilbert [Montgomery] has done a good job with those guys, but that's a strength for us. All three of those guys."

With CB Lardarius Webb, is it a case of something he's feeling in warm-ups, or is it something that you're not seeing from him that is keeping him out of games?"It's just a healing process, and probably all of the above. That's what you have to look at. We've said before we don't want to rush those guys back. We didn't want to rush Fabian [Washington] back. Fabian, we had to really hold back. Lardarius – between he and the doctors and what we see – we're just going to take it slow. We want it to be right when he comes back. So, I thought he had a chance to play last week; he wasn't able to do it at the end. I think he's got a chance to play this week. Whether he can do it or not, it's going to be his decision in the end."

Was QB Joe Flacco doing something better on third downs last night or was it a combination of that and the pass protections he was getting on third-and-long?"Yeah, a combination. You know, the pass protection was good, but there were times when they got guys running at Joe and he got the ball out. They're going to do that. They've got a great scheme. Other times, they had a scheme wired up, and we just got the protection right where it needed to be and got them blocked long enough. Other times Joe gave guys a chance by getting the ball up in the air, and then some big receivers try to go get it."

Was one of the progressions you saw from Flacco last night scrambling around in the pocket?"Yeah, that's probably something… That's a great point. You look at the guys that really understand what they're doing, the guys who have been in the league seven, eight, nine years, or more… They understand how to move away from the pressure and buy a little bit of time. For Joe to do that two or three times last night was a big indication of how he's grown."

Do you have any updates on rookie LB Sergio Kindle?"No, I don't. I wish I did. No update yet."

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