HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Thanks for coming. I appreciate you guys being here. I just really had a chance to go back and look at the tape. [It's] really not too much different than what we saw, or what we thought, after the game. [There was] a lot of good play – very efficient [with] all three phases contributing. [And] not just all three phases contributing, but depth within each phase contributing at every position. [There were] guys stepping up; guys stepping in. We built some things into our defense. We rotated a lot of defensive backs into different roles, and all those guys played well yesterday. Young defensive linemen, of course; offensive line, you know all about that; running backs, you know about that. That has been a real positive. I have some notes here: [senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne], you gave me this one: The offense has had 12 drives of 10 or more plays. I didn't even know that. That's efficient; that's operating. That's not putting yourself in too many third-and-longs. When you get in third-and-longs, it's [about] making plays that extend drives. It's not putting yourself in too many penalty situations. It's [about] very efficient football. Defense [is] doing the same thing. We're either … If we give up a drive, we're really stingy in the red zone, and many times we get some critical three-and-outs. We had a three-and-out and a four-and-out at the end of the game yesterday that were big. And special teams, we were hoping to have a chance to make some big plays, but they were pretty determined not to give us a chance to do that. I feel like they were getting away from Jacoby [Jones] for the most part, or are hanging [the ball] up so high in punts you can't get a return, but that's a compliment. You have to bide your time and try not to try to make something out of nothing and have a bad play. The idea of stacking one good play on top of another good play is something that we need to continue."
**When it comes to the coverage in the back end, you were happier with the way the guys played yesterday except for one touchdown. You're facing QB Andrew Luck this week. Is it going to be important to be as close to perfect as possible? *(Joe Platania) *"Yes, it really always is. Cam Newton … I don't want to say it wasn't important this week, because we had an error back there, and they found us. So, all these guys can throw – especially the big-armed guys – and Cam Newton is one of those guys, and Andrew Luck is one of those guys. Also, [both are] very similar in the sense that Andrew Luck can make plays on the run. He might have in the high 30s – 37, 38 – third-down conversions running since he has been there in the dome at home, which is a pretty amazing stat. You guys will have to check that out – check me on that one. You have to contain with his legs and his arm."
**John, are you impressed with the resiliency of your team? There have been some pretty key guys injured; there have been the obvious distractions, and yet here you're standing 3-1, having won three straight. *(David Ginsburg) *"I would have to say that I was impressed with it before all this came about. But sometimes they say, maybe, that football or life reveals character – builds it, reveals it. Maybe it does both. In this case with our guys, it has revealed character, but it has also galvanized us in some ways. We've been through a fire a little bit, and it burns away. It either makes you or breaks you. So, I feel good about that, but we've just begun. It's the end of the first quarter. We are 3-1 in the first quarter, and now we start a new phase, a new series, so to speak. The second quarter of the season is the second series, and three of these four games are going to be on the road in very tough environments. So, we have our work cut out for us."
**What did you see from S Terrence Brooks in his first regular season defensive action, and what do you see in him that makes you like him playing that centerfield role? *(Ryan Mink) *"Without getting into too many specifics, he's a good football player. He plays fast. It seems like he has a good sense of the ball back there. He came off the hash on a corner route and really almost got the ball out, but had the presence and the wherewithal to take his right hand and try to get the ball with the left hand. He still got the receiver down when they made a really good throw and catch, which they made a few of those yesterday. He played well, and he merits more playing time."
Coach, I don't know if you were asked yesterday about CB Lardarius Webb. When it comes to his situation, is it now going to be a week-by-week, going-forward-type situation, not knowing until we get to Sunday, or do you plan to know earlier? (Jerry Coleman)"I'll probably have a pretty good idea after watching practice. [I] probably won't let anybody know until Sunday. But it will be based on how [Lardarius Webb] practices and how he looks in terms of getting his acceleration and his burst back – the things that everybody saw that weren't quite there. They tell me that he's healthy now, and he says he feels healthy. But it's just a matter of that strength and quickness and burst, which should come back fast. Anybody that has ever trained [knows] if you've been in great shape, you get back in shape pretty quickly, in terms of strength and burst and things like that. You just have to do it. He's working really hard at it, and it very well could be this week. I'm sure hoping it's this week. I want to see it this week, and we'll be shooting for that."
Coach, another good game – QB Joe Flacco didn't get sacked again, T James Hurst stepped in for T Eugene Monroe. The offensive line, is it what you were hoping for? (Matt Pierson) "Yes, it was what we were hoping for. I don't feel like we had a real sense of concern. We had seen James practice, and I don't think any of us felt like there'd be any big drop-off, except you never know until you get into a game situation, and he did. He was kind of invisible, there were some things he can work on still, certainly, but he played well. There was no drop-off as he stepped in there. They're all improving. The man thing we have to do is get better. People aren't going to stay the same. We can't just say, 'OK, we're playing pretty well in these areas, and now we're fine.' It's not like you check off a box. Everybody improves, everybody attacks perceived weaknesses; they try to negate your strengths. So, you just have to continue to improve as much as you can every week."
John, with WR Marlon Brown starting to increase his role a little bit, what do you see from Marlon in terms of [how] he stayed really patient – he was playing special teams, and then helped your offense a little? (Aaron Wilson) "Marlon [Brown] played a bunch of snaps. He had around 30 snaps, and he was in there on the first three-wide group. [He] did a good job, made a couple plays – third-down conversions that were very important. [He is a] big target, gets off press really well and blocks, and he did a good job in special teams. He played well. It kind of goes back to what we were saying as far as guys stepping up at different positions."
**Like you said last week for WR Jacoby [Jones], he just has to … It seems like he's pressing, and he just has to get a catch under his belt, and then maybe snap out of it? *(Aaron Wilson) *"I would agree with that, yes."
In terms of that pass protection, is it that guys' technique has improved a lot in that area, is it getting the ball out quicker, [or] could it be Gary [Kubiak's] offense? What do you see there that has led to such a dramatic improvement? (Ryan Mink) "It's all those things. It's all those things."
John, I know LB Daryl Smith and LB C.J. Mosley have played pretty well. Where do you see areas where LB Arthur Brown … First of all, how is Arthur Brown coming along? Where do you see areas where he needs to improve to be a factor on defense? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I don't want to get into all that. Arthur Brown is doing a great job, and he's working hard. He's just not active right now. If he were … If we could activate one more guy, two more guys, he'd be active. The league had a proposal on that, didn't they? [The league] talked about going to 48 [active players], and that would be nice. I really don't understand why we have so many guys who are on the roster in sweat suits on Sunday. I just don't get it. But that's the deal, so it becomes a situation [where you have to choose] this guy or that guy? And right now, it's that guy in Arthur's case. But he's going to be fine. He's playing well. All you have to do is turn on the preseason tape and watch him play. But then you turn on the preseason tape of the other guys and watch them play. In Arthur's case, it comes down to a couple little phases that we think the other guys are a little better at right now, and Arthur knows that."
John, whenever the Michigan job becomes open, or when they talk about the coaching situation there, they tend to bring up you and Jim [Harbaugh]. Your thoughts on that kind of phenomenon and how that seems to unfold almost every single time? (Aaron Wilson) "Yes, it does. It seems like it's kind of there. I don't really know why. [Michigan head coach] Brady Hoke is a guy we all believe in. The Harbaughs believe in Brady Hoke, and he's a great coach. He has done it everywhere he's ever been. He believes in Michigan. I believe in what they're doing there, and they're going to get it turned around. The team should be galvanized right now, and I would expect them to come out like a bunch of wounded lions and go to work, because they love Brady and they love those coaches, and they just have to go. So no, I'm interested in Brady Hoke being the head coach at Michigan for a long time to come."
You talked about it a little bit yesterday, but the discipline that the team showed … I think that you mentioned four penalties, and none really [in] critical spots. How important has that been? And it's really an extension of what's happened throughout the season. (Dave Ginsburg) "You are so right. First of all, it starts with the coaches. Our coaches have done a great job. I could name the whole staff: it goes coordinators and position coaches and our intern coaches just emphasizing the things that matter all the time, not getting bogged down on things that aren't important, and getting the guys to focus on the things that are important. And also building systems and teaching things that matter – black and white, straightforward – the important things. If you teach good technique, there's less of a chance you're going to get called for holding, as an example. And our coaches across the board have done a great job. I think we have the best staff in the league. I believe that, and our players understand that, and our players really respect our coaches, and they listen. What goes with that is our players … Our players are smart and they're coachable. They have a base of confidence and a base of humility that goes together really well. So our players respect our coaches; they listen. Our coaches respect our players; they listen to the players. Our players have as many ideas as our coaches do half the time, and they're willing to listen to one another. It's just a really good blend that leads to something like that. Hopefully, and I know we will, continue to build on that."
And you're going on the road now where it'll be a little more difficult – the snap counts and everything. [Are you] at all concerned there? That's where you have the guys jumping offsides because maybe it's a little louder. (Dave Ginsburg) "Right, exactly. We'll have to work on the crowd noise. We had a loud stadium in Cleveland, and it's only going to be louder in Indianapolis because it's indoors. And rumor has it they pipe crowd noise in there, so we'll see if that's the case or not going back there again. But we'll be looking forward to it."
Isn't that illegal? (Jerry Coleman) "Yes, it is. (laughter) It's a rumor, it's a rumor. Sorry, [Colts head coach] Chuck [Pagano]." (laughter)
John, are you a little concerned about WR Jacoby Jones? He has nine drops I heard today. It leads the league. (Bruce Cunningham) "You heard? Where'd you hear it?" (Reporter: "The radio.") "Are you doing your research, doing your homework back there? Sure, of course. He's a guy that … He works hard at it. He catches hundreds of balls on the JUGS every single day. He catches the ball in practice. Sometimes I think he's pressing. I really do. Jacoby has a lot of pride, and he's made big, big plays in this league before, and he wants to pick up where he left off. [That] hasn't happened for him, but the thing he has to know – just like Torrey [Smith], just like anybody – is that the key is persistence. You just keep hammering and you don't get down on yourself, and focus on the fundamentals and the details, and it'll work out."
Could you, in fact, say that about WR Torrey Smith? He scored his first touchdown and he was really part of the game plan it seemed – a guy that hung in there and now saw results. (Dave Ginsburg) "That's exactly right. He stuck it out and you saw the results. That should be something Jacoby should be looking at, but Jacoby has been through it before. He's a veteran. It's not like he's a rookie who's never been down this road before. I'm not worried about him one bit. Yes, I want it to happen, but I can't get caught in that trap either. It's going to happen, as long as he keeps working hard. You can't work as hard as our guys work in practice and not have success, and that's going to happen for him."
Coach, you spent so much time yesterday answering about WR Steve Smith Sr., but QB Joe Flacco had such an impressive game. When you went back and looked at the tape, did that really confirm what the numbers said about Joe's performance? (Garrett Downing) "It did. Joe played probably his … I don't know. You say, 'What's his best game?' He's had some incredible games here, but just numbers-wise – quarterback rating-wise, it was [outstanding]. The thing that I notice is the combination of the fact that he minimized the downside in so many situations. Whether he was being pressured or whatever, he did not have a downside play the whole game. Could he have read two or three plays better? That's everybody, of course. But there was no downside play, and he made plays. He made plays, and especially third down-and-long plays when he had pressure coming at him. He had to get the ball off, he took a couple hits, and he drilled the ball in there to guys and guys made catches and got the ball across the first-down line knowing where the line was at. That's the kind of execution that you're really proud of, and that happened for us on offense."
John, you guys have talked about being a Top 5 defense, and that's kind of your identity. But do you feel, offensively, you guys could maybe be a Top 5 offense this year? (Clifton Brown) "Of course. I'm sure I'll get misquoted on this – not by you, Cliff, but by somebody out there that doesn't have the journalistic ethics that you have … (laughter) Our goal is always to be No. 1 in everything. That's the idea. And to say that we anticipate or plan on or [are] working toward being in the Top 5, people want to put you under attack. But that's the state of your profession right now. I feel bad for you guys, and it's a sad state of affairs in that sense. But the cream rises to the crop. Or, no … (laughter) The cream rises to the top? What's the 'crop' cliché?" (Jeff Zrebiec: "The cream of the crop.")"The cream of the crop rises to the top. That's a new one for you, and that's what we have here, so we're blessed." (laughter)
John, you talked about being "road warriors" yesterday. For the next month, you're going to be on the road pretty much for all but one week. What sort of challenges does this represent, this part of the schedule? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Well, you have to go play in another stadium. That's the biggest thing. We're used to traveling; we're used to the hotel routine. All that's fine, but the challenge is you have to go play another team in their environment, and that takes an incredible amount of discipline and poise. And the more disciplined and poised we are, the more able we are to execute under [pressure] and tune out the noise – ignore the noise, so to speak – we'll be good, and that's what we have to do."