JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
*Opening statement: *"Good to see everybody – appreciate you guys being here, appreciate being here. It's good to still be here, still be standing – literally still standing. I'm proud of our guys, and we're really excited about the opportunity to go play in the Divisional Round against a very well-respected New England Patriot team. We're looking forward to it. Injury update – the only real thing we have is between [Timmy] Jernigan and [Eugene] Monroe. It looks like they will take the practice field tomorrow, so we'll see how those guys do, and we'll have injury reports as we go through the week."
Joe Platania – I spoke to him today – he said he wants to know if you now consider the secondary a strength of this team? (Aaron Wilson)"I feel like they played really well back there. 'Spags' [secondary/assistant head coach Steve Spagnuolo] has done a great job. That's a great point. Thank Joe for asking that. They're playing with good technique. They're patient. They're not overreacting to things. They have their eyes in the right place. Certainly, we can get better in some coverages – especially our safeties – and a couple of things that happened during the game. But that's what you want. You want positive things to work off of."
**John, New England [is] not a place that you guys are afraid of. Any reason for that, and any explanation for this team's success on the road? The [Ravens are the] only Wild Card team that won on the road over the weekend. *(Dave Ginsburg) *"I really don't have an explanation for that other than the fact that we played well. And you have to play well, obviously, on the road to even have a chance to win. We had the one turnover that led to points, but with the way we played the rest of the game, we were able to overcome it. We did a good job of scoring in the red zone. I thought we did a good job of keeping them off the board in the red zone. Those are the two main things. We forced field goals, and I think two out of three times we scored touchdowns down there. We had our fair share of big plays. You worry about those guys making the big plays – and they had a few – but we matched them big play-wise. That was probably the thing. And then in the trenches, we played really solid football. But as far as the New England part of it, we're just going to play a really great football team. [They Patriots are] tremendously well-coached, very well-balanced. They play complementary football as well or better than anybody in football year-in and year-out, and especially this year. All three phases are Top 10-, Top 5-type units. They're good up front on both sides. They have playmakers, skill guys everywhere [and a] great quarterback. They can run the ball; they can throw the ball. You never know what you're going to get from coach [Bill] Belichick scheme-wise. So, it is just a huge challenge for anybody going in there in the playoffs."
Coach, I know it's a different team than you had a few years ago, and this will be the fourth playoff game you've had in New England since you arrived, but you have 20-some players that were with the team the last time you guys won there. How much does that help you in an environment when you take it to the next level like you will on Saturday? Can that be a factor? Can that carry over from a few years ago? (Jerry Coleman)"It's always a plus to have played in a building before. We've been in Pittsburgh. We've been in Miami, for instance, pretty much every year. It seems like we play there a lot. It's always nice to know your surroundings, and that helps us. Beyond that, the guys who had experience playing against the Patriots will be able to lead the way a little bit. They are the same coaching staff, the same principles that they are built on in all three phases, so that helps to some extent."
**Was it nice to have your brother [Jim] there over the weekend, and are you going to try to convince him to come up to New England? *(Garrett Downing) *"It was great. I don't know if [Jim Harbaugh] has a recruiting weekend or what this weekend. But I told him, I said, 'That's probably pretty good recruiting, you know?' You tell those guys, 'You want to play in the National Football League, come to Michigan.' That's a recruiting pitch, right? *(laughter) *It was great to have him there, and it seemed like he enjoyed it. He was able to enjoy the environment. When you are coaching, you don't really enjoy the environment that much. I saw him looking around up at the crowd and the players and interacting with guys, and that stuff was neat to see."
John, I heard you for several weeks during the season saying that, "We hadn't played our best game of the season, our best 60 minutes." How did it play out that you were able to play your best 60 minutes of football this season? (Stan Charles)"I don't know. You just try to get better every single week, and you try to put your best foot forward every single week. You should be playing your best at this time if you are fairly healthy. When the stakes are the highest, you'd hope that you're built that way, and we try to build the program that way."
John, not surprising that Gary Kubiak has attracted some attention from other teams. He says he doesn't want to focus on that and doesn't want to hear about that from other teams. Your thoughts on his approach and what he has done for you, especially the way he called the game plan in Pittsburgh. (Aaron Wilson)"I thought Gary [Kubiak] called a great game, built a great game plan. [The offense] was in attack mode the whole game, both run and pass. [He] did a great job, like he always does. It is great to have that experience, that knowledge. He does a great job every week, week-in and week-out."
**Your thoughts on Gary Kubiak's singular focus? *(Aaron Wilson) *"I'm all for his singular focus. I'm committed to Gary's singular focus on the task at hand, and it shows you where his mind is at. But that's not unexpected. That's the kind of coach that he is."
**John, I know you love players playing with a lot of emotion and energy. With OLB Terrell Suggs, you can see the energy and emotion that he brings. How much does that carry over to the rest of the players and the team? * (Jamison Hensley) *"You have to have an emotional leader, and Suggs is definitely our emotional leader. He's fun; he keeps things loose. He always has high energy. 'A lot of energy, a lot of focus' – that's what he says. I don't know if it's tongue-in-cheek or if he's serious, but he's just a fun guy to be around. I enjoy him. I know that, and the rest of the guys do. Along those lines, he's never not ready to play at the highest possible level, and he does that week-in and week-out."
John, I know early in the season you don't look very far ahead – you're focused on what you have – but at some point, with the history and how much success the Patriots have, did you figure at some point if you guys are going to go where you want to go, you were going to play the Patriots in a big game? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I just know that we're playing the Patriots in a big game this week. We have been immersed in the game-planning part of it – that's a huge challenge. Coaches-wise, we're all pretty exhausted, but we have to go to work. This is a huge challenge. You never know what you are going to get. Take special teams for example: They probably have the best special teams coordinator, one of the best, if not the best in the history of the game – Scott O'Brien. I happened to learn from Scott at the University of Pittsburgh, and he's been one of my biggest coaching mentors from the beginning. He's always fond of saying, 'Boy, I taught you everything you know, but not everything I know.' *(laughter) *That's a little disconcerting. So, he'll have some schemes for us and some plans for us just like they always [do]. You never know what you're going to get from them."
John, you got great pressure on QB Ben Roethlisberger on Saturday. Is the challenge of getting pressure on QB Tom Brady the same challenge? Or, how different is it?* (Peter Schmuck)*"It's different because Ben scrambles a little more and he's a little stronger shrugging off tackles and things like that. Neither one of them really scramble to run; both of them scramble to throw. Tom does a great job of getting the ball out quick. They're both excellent before the snap. The comparisons are probably more similar than different. They're both elite quarterbacks, obviously, at the top of their game. We have to do a good job of trying to not show him too much about what we are doing before the snap if we can avoid it."
John, [what are] your thoughts on how S Darian Stewart performed? It looked like that was arguably his best game since joining you guys. (Aaron Wilson)"Darian Stewart played really well. [He had] two huge plays, obviously, with the interception at the end. But the best play might have been the play where he came out of the middle of the field when they had Antonio Brown in the corner of the end zone and he covered a lot of ground and knocked him out of bounds right there by six inches. That's about as good a play as you can ever see. The range there was tremendous. Darian is quietly really putting together a really good second half of the season this year. He's really come on well for us."
John, you guys haven't faced the Patriots since they got CB Darrelle Revis. Not to reveal the game plan or anything, but is he still a corner that you have to pay a little more attention to than the average guy? And just anything about what he's done for their defense? (Clifton Brown)"Well, both those corners, they have the ability now … They have a number of really good corners, but all three of those guys give them the ability to play man coverage more than they ever have before. They play a lot of single-high. They have a lot of people down in the box to stop the run. They'll press you. They'll play combinations where they double a certain player, take him out of the game. They can do that because they have corners that can single people up, especially Revis, but also Brandon Browner can do the same thing. [Revis is] a tremendously patient corner. We talk to our corners [and say]: 'Watch Darrelle Revis. Watch how he plays technique. Watch how square he plays, how patient he is. He's always in the right spot.' [It] seems like they run the routes right to him. He's has a knack, and he's as good as he ever was."
John, you've done very well in covering tight ends this year. Is it good to have confidence playing against tight ends like that, but is TE Rob Gronkowski just maybe another level?* (Jamison Hensley)*"He's one of the best. He's big; he's fast; he's tough; he's nasty. He gets the ball in his hands and he wants to punish people – run after catch, he's trying to run everybody he can over. He's just a gifted guy, and they get him the ball, and they get him the ball quickly, and they give him the ball downfield. Julian Edelman is another threat. You just have to handle him all over the field. They're going to scheme ways to get him open, especially on third down, but really all the time. He plays everywhere. [He is] a very versatile player. Brandon LaFell [is a] long, rangy, talented wide receiver. They have a number of playmakers, and they have five backs. I'm watching No. 34 [Shane Vereen], [and] I'm like, 'Wow. This guy …' but it's not just him. Then, [No.] 29 [LaGarrette Blount] … We know him pretty well because he's going to be a bludgeoning guy. [They also have] Jonas Gray. It seems like they want to get a back with fresh legs in there one game to the next depending who they are playing against who can break off some good runs and make some big plays for them in the run game."
Coach, OLB Elvis Dumervil had two more sacks against Pittsburgh – both of them were third downs. Could you reflect on not only his ability to make big plays, but make them when you're holding your breath? (Bill Ordine) "He has done that all year. Elvis Dumervil has been a guy that has made game-winning plays pretty much all year, and there's nothing better. And a lot of times I'm looking at the coverage, so my eyes are back and we're watching how we're matching the routes and next thing you know, everybody kind of takes a deep breath in the back end, I look over there and Dumervil is on top of a quarterback. Not just him – [Terrell] Suggs, [Pernell] McPhee … Courtney Upshaw has really come on the last half of the season rushing the passer. All those guys are doing a great job."
**What did you see on the blocked punt in terms of … It looked like the snap was high. Not characteristic of LS Patrick Scales, but did you see anything else in terms of protection? *(Aaron Wilson) *"No, it was more of the snap. Just the timing of the thing was thrown off, and they had a rush on right there where the snap took them, and they did a good job with it. We were very fortunate that it went straight out of bounds, and we had the safety on it."
Is there a different psychology to going on the road for these games? Obviously, there are some practical differences in what you have to do during the week, but is there a different mental preparation, or is it pretty similar to what you'd be doing if you were playing them here on Saturday? (Childs Walker)"It's pretty much the same. We've been on the road enough, so it's not like we have to talk to our guys about traveling or how we go about doing that. Our guys are very businesslike home or away. We keep the same routine home and away. Our guys will be focused. They'll be ready. It's a business trip, certainly. It always is, but even more so I'm sure it'll have their attention."
Is that they key in a way that you don't let it become something different? (Childs Walker) "It's a game we have to play. The bottom line, it's going to be emotional. And there's a lot at stake, certainly, because we've earned the right to be in this game just as the Patriots have. And it's an honor to go play the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round. We've earned the right to do that, and they have as well. They're the No. 1 seed. We're the No. 6 seed going to play the No. 1 seed. We honor that. We understand what that means. So, that's all there. But in the end it's a game, and the team that plays the best on that Sunday or Saturday, that's the team that's going to win the game."
Coach, how much pride do you take in winning on the road in the postseason? You guys have done it as much as any franchise in the history of the league now, and to be able to go in and quiet down an opposing crowd in such an intense environment with so much on the line … (Jerry Coleman)"It's great after you do it, but it doesn't mean much for the next game. So, we're excited about the challenge – looking forward to New England."
John, late Saturday night, I read something that Tony Grossi of The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote that you, by far, have the best coaching staff in the league. Could you talk a little bit about how that might give you an advantage late in seasons? (Stan Charles) "The coaching staff that we're about to play is top notch in every way – top to bottom. But we have a great coaching staff." (Reporter: "He didn't say you were the best coach. He said it was the best staff.") "Well, then I'll try not to drag us down too much, you know? (laughter) Hopefully they'll carry me. (laughter) We have a great staff. They do a great job."
Following up on what Jerry [Coleman] asked, the playoff numbers under you and QB Joe Flacco, they're starting to get like all-time numbers – we're starting to see you listed with the Green Bay Packers and things like that. Do you ever pay any attention to that sort of thing? (Bruce Cunningham) "No." (laughs) (Reporter: "Too busy?") "What am I going to do, you know? [Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne] shows me every now and then – that's about it. If we've accomplished anything … Which it's hard to look at now because we're in the middle of what we're doing – that's the point. But our guys have done it. Our players have done it; our coaches have done it, the coaching staff. Over the long haul, guys like Joe [Flacco] and Marshal [Yanda] and Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata who have been here that whole stretch, they're most responsible for it. Those are the guys out there making plays. If I'm proud as a coach … Just like any teacher, if you're proud of anything, you're proud of the accomplishments of your students. You're proud of the fact that you're associated with them and you get to be a part of their journey. That's the most important thing for a coach or a teacher."
John, we were talking about NT Steve McLendon and the nose tackle he is, but [what are] your thoughts the game that DT Brandon Williams played [as] your nose tackle? (Aaron Wilson) "Brandon Williams played great. Haloti [Ngata] also played great in there, and Chris Canty and DeAngelo [Tyson] – all four of those guys inside playing the rotation. We played a lot of split-safety coverage; we were covering those wide receivers quite a bit. And those guys did a great job of controlling the inside run game. We want every run to be no gain. That's our standard around here. But we were playing with a light box, and those guys did a great job of getting off blocks and making plays inside, as did our inside 'backers."
John, I know a lot of the teammates were calling NT Haloti Ngata "Fresh Legs," and not to insinuate the suspension could be turned into a positive, but did he look like he was much fresher by having a break? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't have that meter. We don't have the 'fresh leg' meter to give you an empirical answer to the question. I'll just go with what the players saw. They probably have a pretty good eye for that."
Coach, walking off of that win off of the field in Pittsburgh, where does that stack up with all that you've accomplished here? (Bill West) "It's the best one, because it's the last one. The next one will be even better. You're always looking to the next horizon, but it was very special and meaningful. To be in the locker room, to be on the plane ride home with the fellas, you never forget that stuff. That's really why we do what we do and you put all the hours and all the work in, endure all the challenges – for moments like that."
John, as you get deeper into the playoffs and every team gets better, every opponent gets better and better, do special teams take on added importance as maybe the difference-maker since everybody at this point has an excellent offense and excellent defense? (Gerry Sandusky) "First of all, you can't lose the game. As much as you can, you have to play good, solid football, but you can't play in a shell, either. You have to be able to play that kind of football while attacking your opponent and making plays. Those plays can come in all three phases. Special teams certainly can be the difference, just like offense and defense can be the difference. You never know where it's going to be. But if you're giving up plays on special teams, you're going to be in trouble. That can swing it real quickly, because the field position difference is so great. You're talking 40 yards, 50 yards every single play – that kind of a swing. We're going to have to be at our best. New England is one of the top special teams [units] in the league – [No.] 1, 2, 3, maybe in the rankings, somewhere there right now, depending on which poll you look at. They have [Matthew] Slater, they have [Julian] Edelman returning kicks, they have [Danny] Amendola returning kicks and punts. They have great cover guys. They have a big lefty punter [in Ryan Allen], which is tough to catch. They have Stephen Gostkowski. They have a bunch of big linebackers who can run and get after you. It's going to be a big challenge for us. They have one of the all-time great special teams coordinators [in Scott O'Brien], so we have our hands full in that area. But that's just, to me, indicative of the whole game. That's kind of a microcosm of the whole thing."
John, before WR Julian Edelman re-signed with the Patriots, was he someone that you guys thought about, and what is your thought on him as a football player? (Aaron Wilson) "He's a great football player. He's a guy you have to know where he's at at all times. He can play anywhere – in the backfield; he lines up at all the receiver positions. He's a great football player."
John, you were asked about this after the game about all the fans that came forward that went to the game and got tickets [in Pittsburgh]. How meaningful is that to you, especially knowing how difficult those tickets are to get? (Jeff Zrebiec) "So meaningful. I hear from so many people that say, 'Hey, you don't wear your purple in there,' and all that, and I'll tell you, our fans, they wore their purple that I saw. They were in there and they were loud and proud, and the 'O' [during the national anthem] was loud. To see our fans in Pittsburgh, the ones that could get in – not as many as we've had in some other stadiums, because it's just so hard to get a ticket there – but to see them ringing the lower level there from our bench around to the tunnel was a great thing."