Skip to main content

Transcripts: John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference (10/3)

Opening statement: "Alright, good to see you guys. I appreciate you being here. The NFL – you fight, you compete, it's an emotional deal, and that's what makes it so compelling. That's why we love it and being a part of it and competing. The highs are high, and the lows are low because it's such a big challenge to be able to win a game in this league. We're four games in; basically, the first quarter is over. We're 2-2, tied for the division lead, and that's where we stand. So, you take a step back, you look at that, and you understand where you're at, and we start getting ready for the most important game of the season so far, which will be Sunday Night Football against the Bengals, our first division opponent. So, we're excited about that; we'll go to work, it will start tomorrow. It's already started for the coaches, and that's where we stand. So, what questions do you have?" 

It seems like everyone has an opinion on your decision to go for it on fourth down at the end of the game. Have you had a chance to reflect on the decision, and what are your thoughts on it a day later? _(Jamison Hensley) _"I feel the same way as I felt during the game and after the game. I trust our players implicitly in everything. As a coach, I trust our offense to make plays and extend leads and all that; and I trust our defense to get stops; and I trust our special teams to make plays and flip field positions. So, you start with that. That's what you always do. I think with that goes the obligation that the players trust me, too. They trust the coach, they trust the coaches to put them in the best possible position to win the game, whatever that might be. It's not about a coach making a quote-unquote 'safe decision.' It's easy to make a safe decision that just puts it on the players, 'You didn't score from the one-[yard line] or you didn't get them stopped, and we have to get better in that area.' You can do that; that's easy. I just have never been one to take that route. So, when you step back and you look at that decision, it's the same decision that we made last night when we were looking at it. We had basic choices; one choice is to kick the field goal. You kick the field goal, you go up by three [points], four minutes left in the game, they get the ball back at the 25-yard line. They're down, and they have an opportunity to go down the field and tie you, or to beat you with no time constraints, and they have an opportunity to extend every drive until they get in field goal range with four downs. There's nothing less safe in the National Football League than a three-point lead, a four-point lead, a five-point lead or a six-point lead. That's kind of been proven, and I trust our defense to get a stop with three points; I trust our defense to get a stop with three, seven or a tie game. Any one of those scenarios, I trust our defense to get the job done, and we were close to getting off the field, especially on that third down. So, we can do it that way, but the options were, now we're in a situation where, if we score – and we're right down there to score, we're moving the football – now it's a seven-point lead. Instead of putting them on the 25-yard line in a four-possession game with a field goal 75 yards away from the end zone, it's a seven-point lead. I think we have a better chance of defending that; it's better for our defense to have a seven-point lead in that situation. Or, if it doesn't work, the downside of that is that it's a tie game, they're at the two-yard line, and they're only going to be looking at three downs because offenses who are behind are way more aggressive. They've got nothing to lose; they're going to go for it. Just like against the Patriots, when you're behind you throw the ball up, you have chances to get interceptions. But when you're tied, you throw the ball up, you get an interception down there, you turn the ball over … we're kicking a field goal, running the clock out and winning the game. Or, I think we have a great chance, and I completely trust our defense with the ball at the two-yard line to get a stop there. They punt us to the 50-[yard line], we run it down into field goal range, we run the time out, and we kick the game-winning field goal, and that was the thinking. So, rather than put them in a situation for a field goal in that situation at the 25-yard line, with four minutes left, I'm thinking either seven, or I'm thinking the ball is at the two-yard line, and I really stand by that decision, 100 percent." 

Did the play you called on fourth down materialize the way you expected and wanted? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"There's always stuff that happens in a game. The play wasn't exactly perfect… We had 'Bate' [Rashod Bateman]. Someone asked me about 'Bate' yesterday, and I didn't know the situation exactly with 'Bate,' because he was dealing with a foot injury, a mid-foot little deal. So, he was in and out over the course of the last couple drives there and trying to fight his way through and get on the field. So, right there at the end he just wasn't up for it. So, we had some other guys on the field. I think they were communicating in terms of what to do and where to line up, but they got lined up. Lamar [Jackson] got blocked because the corner route came open. It was a play that we had had up; we practiced it in that range, from basically two-to-five yards. It was the play that [offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] was looking for, and [running backs coach] Craig Ver Steeg, who does our red zone, was looking for. So, they were excited to get it, it popped open, but sometimes you get shielded, and that's the disappointing thing about it with football, but I don't feel bad about the play call. There are a lot of options down there at the two-yard line; you can run it, you can do shovel passes, you can run bootlegs, you can do sprint outs, you can do a lot of type of stuff, but that's the play that they had worked out, and [we] executed it well in practice, and ultimately it came open, but it just didn't work out." 

To go with that, is there a concern with execution in short-yardage situations? _(Luke Jones) _"I was kind of thinking about your question last night, and it's hard just to kind of think exactly what we're saying there, but I think I have a better feel for it now. You're always concerned with everything. You want to do the best you can in every area, so absolutely, we need to get better at everything we're doing – and I'm saying us. When you don't execute a play, it's not just the guy in that situation who didn't step the right way, or did the wrong thing. It's all of us finding a way to put us all in the right position to do well. That's how we look at it as a team. It's not going to be … We're not pointing a finger at anybody and saying, 'You.' We're pointing a finger at all of us and saying, 'Us, let's go,' because that's how you get better. Yes, we need to get better in all those situations. We need to finish; we need to extend. The best defense is a great offense; it's an offensive league. So, in the third and fourth quarters, the best way to win a game is to keep the defense off the field and extend the lead, and we've done that before. The best offense is a good defense; get the ball back, keep the score down, get the ball back. Special teams; put the ball in good field position. That's complementary football. So, we need to get better in every area that pertains to that, and short-yardage and goal-line is a big part of that." 

Have you talked to CB Marcus Peters today, and as a coach, what's next after a situation like that? (Bo Smolka) _"Marcus [Peters] is an emotional guy; I'm an emotional guy. I'm not worried about that at all. We'll be fine. What I said last night about Marcus stands, that's how I feel about him. I don't anticipate any issues at all. We're here. Unless things have changed – and I'll talk to him when the opportunity comes up – we're going to be great friends for the rest of our lives. We're going to look back, and when we see each other at the reunion one day, I'll probably put him in a headlock. _(laughter)If you think it's not going to be like that in these kinds of environments, then maybe it's a perfect world, but I don't worry about that stuff." 

You talked about WR Rashod Bateman, does that injury have the potential to be anything more serious? _(Childs Walker) _"I don't think it's serious, but we're going to have to see. He told me today he's kind of day-to-day, so we'll see how it plays out." 

With the result of the fourth-down play being an interception with the thinking being if you didn't convert they would take over at the two-yard line, how penalizing was it to have them start at the 20-yard line instead, and did you speak with QB Lamar Jackson afterwards? _(Kyle Barber) _"That's football. [That scenario] wasn't in the equation, I guess is my point before, and it just wasn't part of the thinking on it. So, it changed the equation a little bit, no doubt, but interceptions happen. He's trying to make that play and put the ball up and give the guy a chance to make a play, so I'm not worried about that either." 

Do you have any idea of how serious RB Justice Hill's hamstring injury is, and how tough was it to lose him with the way he was giving you such a spark in the running game? _(Luke Jones) _"It's a good one; we got good news on that; I think we dodged a bullet on that. It's not a serious hamstring. That doesn't mean he won't be out for a little bit, but it's not going to be one of those long-term hamstrings, they say. So, I always take that with a little bit of a grain of salt, but good news on that front." 

While we're talking about people coming back, you have four or five guys who could be eligible to practice this week, is it still too early to know if guys like OLB Tyus Bowser or TE Charlie Kolar will be able to practice this week? (Jeff Zrebiec) _"Tyus [Bowser] is really close; again, it's really in Tyus's court. We'll see. I think he'll be out there to some degree, for sure. I don't know exactly what degree; I'm not necessarily planning on him for the game, unless something changes, some conversation changes. Charlie [Kolar] is not going to practice this week yet. I think Ronnie [Stanley] will continue his progression, and we'll keep our fingers crossed. _(Reporter: "Is Gus Edwards still a little ways away from practicing?")Gus [Edwards] is actually going to get out and start practicing. Gus is going to start practicing, so we'll see how it looks." 

Have you had a chance to look at the tape of the roughing the passer call on Josh Allen? (Kevin Richardson) _"I have. _(Reporter: "What are your thoughts?)You coach your guys to do it the right way. I've read a lot of the people, [CBS Sports rules analyst] Gene Steratore and those guys, [NBC Sports rules analyst Terry] McAulay – they all said it was a good, clean hit. I saw the same thing; I didn't see any head or neck contact in all honesty, so I can't speak for [referee] Jerome [Boger]; Jerome is a great official. I have the upmost respect for him. That's real time that they have to make those decisions. I wish they would look at those in review. I think they should take a look at them real quick and get them right, because that put them in to field goal range." 

You mentioned playing complementary football especially at the ends of games, which is something you guys have been good at in the past, especially with draining the clock. Do you feel like you can get back to that same formula? _(Jamison Hensley) _"That's a great question. I absolutely believe that, and that's what we're working for. That's where we want to get; we want to put that together. When you dig into the tape, you see that we are progressing in a really good way and no different than any of these other teams around the league. All the sudden a team looks great, then they don't look great. It's back and forth, it's body blows being thrown throughout the whole season. You have to fight to improve. So, we will continue to do that. Our guys work hard; our coaches work hard, and we'll continue to improve. Hopefully, that shows up in games where all the sudden the results are there, but there are 100 little things that go into each one of those kinds of situations." 

It seemed like there was one player, OLB Odafe Oweh, who didn't get the play call on the let them score at the end. Was that your understanding? When talking to us after the game, Oweh said he thought it was let them score or try to strip the ball. _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"That is the play call. The play call is a strip or let them score. That's how we teach that situation. So, when you go through and watch the play back, I knew exactly what Odafe [Oweh] was trying to do, because the back was getting down at like the six-yard line. So, he's going to the ground. We actually coach our guys – and you've seen it done before – we coach them to pick the guy up and carry him into the end zone if they can, to that desperation that's what you want to do. People aren't really going to the two-yard line and then stumbling into the end zone anymore after we've seen that happen a few times. We coach our backs to get down early, early. So, that's what the back did, and Odafe was in a situation where at that point he's not going to be able to pick him up; he's going to the ground, he's trying to punch the ball out. So, I thought he did the right thing. Before that, like at the eight-yard line, could we have picked him up and carried him into the end zone for eight yards? I don't know that the guys really felt like that was possible, so they kind of let him go by, acting like they were trying to tackle him and hoping he would go too deep. You credit the Bills, they're well coached, and they handled it well. It's kind of a desperate situation, so I'm not really too worried about that particular communication. Everybody was on the same page with that." 

What did you think of OLB Jason Pierre-Paul's debut, and did you anticipate him playing that much? _(Bo Smolka) _"I can't say I anticipated him playing quite that much, but I was happy he did. I thought he played well. There were a couple of rush patterns that he'll clean up going forward as he understands the defense more, but he's a really hard-playing guy. He's going to get his 'sea legs' underneath him even more this week. So, that's a net plus for us, for sure." 

What were your thoughts on T Daniel Faalele's performance, especially going against Bills OLB Von Miller? _(David Andrade) _"Yes, he did well. It's great for you to point that out. Daniel [Faalele] has kind of established himself the last two games as a viable guy for us. As we get guys back, he's still going to be in the mix. He played really well. Morgan Moses over there did a really good job. Those guys had a big task with those pass rushers. Pat [Ricard] was chipping, especially for Daniel's side; he did a good job to chip. So did the backs, Justice [Hill] and Mike [Davis] did a good job of that. So, it was kind of a comprehensive gameplan, but I thought the O-line all-in-all played well." 

RB J.K. Dobbins took on a much heavier workload yesterday, how do you think he did with it, and do you still think he is building up physically to some degree? (Childs Walker) _"Of course, of course. Certainly. That's one of those injuries where it's going to be a path. The good news is you see him getting better all the time. He works hard. There's no doubt that he's going to regain his former ... What's the word for it? _(Reporter: "Form")Form, he's going to regain his former form. He's going to be fine, and I thought he played well; he scored two touchdowns, he made some catches. He's going to tell you, he's going to be his own worst critic, but he's getting better week to week, and I'm excited about that." 

What did you see from the designed passing game in the first quarter, where it seemed like most of the success you had in the air was from QB Lamar Jackson scrambling around? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"Yes, they're playing a lot of quarters. The underneath drops were deep, and we were using our underneath routes a lot of time for chippers. So, we weren't able to quite do the high-low, maybe type of challenges as quickly as we wanted to because we were working our protection, to your point there, a little bit more. Sometimes those guys got out late; I think Pat [Ricard] got out late one time. You saw J.K. [Dobbins] get out late one time, and Lamar [Jackson] was able to dump him the ball. Or, the checkdown ended up being Lamar because we had the protection set up to protect against those two pass rushers, and Lamar found his way through, and he was the checkdown. So, that's just another way to do it, and I think that's the way it played out in this game quite a few times, like you're saying." 

When you lose the way you did yesterday and in the Dolphins game, is there any type of fear that it could become a mental hurdle going forward? _(Cordell Woodland) _"We have a team psychologist, and she does a great job, Dr. Tricia [Bent-Goodley]. So, I'll let her worry about that, and we'll worry about the football. We have some strong-minded guys. Our guys are going to be thinking about getting the next stop or getting the next first down, the next touchdown, and that's what we'll go to work on. So, that confidence comes when you do good things. So, we built confidence against New England, and we played better in this [Bills] game in a lot of ways than we have all season. So, there's a lot of improvement within that outcome. You want the outcome to be a win, but it wasn't, but there's a lot of improvement within that, so we just keep building on that." 

You guys have now lost seven-straight one-score games, is that a thing where you think that's a bunch of discrete parts that don't tell a compelling narrative about what this team can actually do? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"I'm not writing narratives as much as ... Five of those are last year. So, it's a different team. That's more your narrative to write and to beat up down with. You want to beat us over the head with that? Go for it. We have broad shoulders; we can take it. We can take punches. We'll be fine. We just have to concern ourselves with ourselves and being the best team we can be in those situations. The New England game could have been a one-score game, too. We won that one; it was a one-score game, until it wasn't. Then we won."

Related Content