Transcripts: John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference

JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE

Opening statement: “Great to see everybody here. Great win last night, a really great night. The crowd, fans, were amazing. The stadium was incredible, like we talked about. I’m pleased with the way our guys played. [Once you] have a chance to go back through it, you’ll find out there are a lot of things that need to be worked on and improved upon. What we really need to do is go to work and continue to improve. I feel like we’ve been doing that, and that’s part of the process. We have to continue to do that to have a chance to be successful going forward. We have eight games left in the regular season. The second half of the season begins in Cincinnati, and we have to be ready to go and be our best, the best team we can be. We’re going to have to be better in Cincinnati next week than we were at M&T [Bank Stadium] last night, and that will be our focus.”

How hard is it to coach off of a victory like that when you say you have things to work on? How hard is it to get the players to buy into the fact that you have to … (Stan Charles) “It’s not hard with these players at all. These players have been great with that, and I expect them to be even better. I expect this to motivate them and excite them, and they’ll be back to work. If I know these guys at all, which I believe I do, they’ll be ready to go tomorrow, and they’ll be working hard.”

It seemed like CB Jimmy Smith really jumped back in with both feet. Did you feel like he made an important contribution to what you guys did overall yesterday? (Childs Walker) “Yes, Jimmy [Smith] played well. He really did. He played well. He really doesn’t miss a beat. I felt like we were chasing those guys around all night, and he had tight coverage all night and made some tackles and played well.”

How important was it, in your mind, to get WR Marquise Brown involved early? He made the big catch on third down on that first drive, had the flip and run. How did he look? And in general, how do you think he has handled this year? He’s been through a lot, with the challenges in coming back from the foot, missing so much time. We hear so much about rookie wide receivers and how difficult the adjustment is at the next level. How has he handled that? (Luke Jones) “He’s worked hard. He’s coming off an injury – it was a major injury – his senior year, toward the end. He missed most of training camp with that, and he’s worked really hard. Then something else happens; you get the high ankle sprain. But he continues to work hard, and he’s nowhere near where he’s going to be. There’s no doubt about that. But he contributed last night right where he’s at, and that’s the thing that you appreciate. He made a couple of big plays, as you said. That first drive doesn’t happen without him and Lamar [Jackson] making that play on that critical third down. It was just a great play that two guys just made. We don’t get those seven points, and that could be a different ball game from that point on forward. So, those are all the little things in the game that can happen, those moments that I’m really appreciative that he made that play, and the other play on the crossing route, too.”

Considering the setting, the opponent, the result, can you look at it, maybe, as more than just one game, because the rest of the league was watching, and the media message was sent about the Ravens and the style of football that you play? (Jerry Coleman)“You can look at it any way you want. That’s for you to decide.” (Reporter: “Do you think that type of window was kind of a statement win in any way for your team, in terms of confidence, after what they did in Seattle?”) “All of that stuff is part of it, but really, to me, it’s a good win. It’s probably more than a good win. But it’s behind us now. For us, our mindset will be to get ready for the next game, which is Cincinnati, which is a rival game in their stadium. They’re getting all their players back. They’re going to be starting a new quarterback, a young quarterback. They have a great receiving corps, obviously. As we well know, [they have] a great running back. Their defense is always a challenge. [Carlos] Dunlap is going to be back. Believe me, that’s all we’re thinking about right now. All of that other stuff, as I said, you can think about it how you want or anybody else, and that’s great. That’s the way it should be. Talk about it all you want. But for us, it’s Cincinnati.”

How much of a challenge is it to prepare for the Bengals when – I know he played in the preseason, but evaluating QB Ryan Finley and not knowing what they’re going to do with him, does that make it an extra challenge? (Jeff Zrebiec)“[It is a] big challenge. Seeing a quarterback for the first time is tough, because you haven’t seen him. You don’t know what you’re going to get. They had to deal with that last year with Lamar [Jackson] when they came in here. So, the tables are turned a little bit on us that way, and we’re going to have to be very cognizant of that.”

You talked about CB Jimmy Smith and WR Marquise Brown coming back from injury. ILB Patrick Onwuasor missed a few games, and he was out there with the strip play that CB Marlon Humphrey returned for a touchdown. He had a sack. How happy were you with how he played yesterday? (Ken Weinman)I’m very happy with Patrick [Onwuasor]. He played great. He’s really just a guy who loves to play, and he worked really hard to get back. He stepped up, obviously. He had some huge plays. He was very productive in the game. He plays really hard, and he did a good job. [It was] probably his best game, I would say, for the year so far.”

The Patriots had pretty strong defending in the red zone. You guys were able to take points every time in there. How important was that, after looking at it? (Jerry Coleman)“Critically important. It’s a great point. Field goals and points are good and all that, but one of the critical points in the time of the game, again, was that first drive when we got them to jump offsides on the field goal. That was just huge. That took it from three to seven, and we were obviously able to finish it, to your point, in the red zone. They’re tough in the red zone. They’re one of the best red zone defenses year-in and year-out. They scheme it up pretty good, so our guys did a great job.”

It looked like T Ronnie Stanley was moving a little uncomfortably late in the game and then after the game. Did he come out of it OK? (Childs Walker)“He did, yes. It’s a very physical game, I can tell you that. I’m sure both teams are feeling it this morning.”

I know a lot of it is gameplan-specific, but with using all four corners and using CB Brandon Carr at safety, do you feel more confident, after seeing that for a full game, that that’s going to be a weapon for you guys?_ (Aaron Kasinitz)_“Yes. We were pretty confident going in that it was going to be good for us, because you know the players, and we knew what we wanted to do with the matchups. But sure, it’s good to see it in action, and it worked. So, it won’t be everything we do, but it will definitely be in the tool bag going for it.”

Do you feel like one area where you could really use – I don’t want to say, “is a concern,” but that could use some improvement – is the return game? I know CB/RS Cyrus Jones had the fumble. Chris [Moore], I think, put a ball on the ground, but he may have been down. Is that area a concern? (Jeff Zrebiec) “Sure. Special teams, generally, is inconsistent right now. We’ve had some turnover. We were really, really doing a good job early in the year, and it’s not as good right now. We’re going to play, if not the best special teams, one of the top two or three special teams in the league next week in Cincinnati. So, we better go. We have to crank it off. Kickoff coverage wasn’t good enough. Kickoff return and punt return weren’t good enough. So, we’re not happy with it. And we missed an extra point, too. That’s just the facts. So, we have to get better there.” (Reporter: “Are you confident in CB/RS Cyrus Jones putting that mistake behind him, or is that an area you could overlook? I know it’s been reported that you guys have had some punt returners that didn’t work out.”)“Yes, we’re confident in Cyrus [Jones], and we’re always looking for players. To me, that’s kind of how it always works.”

Looking back on the first half [of the season] – I know you're not much for reflection – but what was your favorite … What's the best part of this team right now moving forward? And I guess would special teams be a thing that you'd want to work on in the second half? (David Ginsburg)“I wish it was that simple to have one thing that's the main thing and then one thing you need to work on. It's not just that simple. There are too many priorities to say one thing, to be honest with you, that we need to work on. The best thing, probably, is I love our effort. I love how hard we play. I love how physical our guys are. I love the heart. What we do, but how we do it is good, and that speaks to the players. I really appreciate the players. I'd say that's the best part of our team is our guys and the fact that they understand that they need to improve. I asked all the guys what they said last night. That's exactly right. They all nailed it, right? And everybody in their own way needs to improve on one, two, three, four things. Keep it simple and get better. Then that's how we improve as a group.”

When you went back and looked at the K Justin Tucker extra point [miss], was it just, I mean – any explanation? Because it's such a rarity. I mean everyone has to do a double-take when it happens. (Jerry Coleman) “Yes, it was a technique thing. His plant foot wasn't quite what he wanted it to be, and he just pulled the ball over there a little bit. That's why ... You talk about what he's done – and they've done – it's so remarkable. It is such a surprise, and then you watch it, and it's a little thing that leads to a miss. And that's why they chase those details so hard.”

It's pretty common now for FB/DL Patrick Ricard to play 25-30 offensive snaps. Last year down the stretch there were some games where he was inactive. I'm curious, at what point did you know he was going to be a huge factor in this offense? Probably when you were building the offense? (Aaron Kasinitz) “Yes, when we were building it.”

In that final drive, RB Mark Ingram II had a couple great catches to keep that drive going. Is the connection with him and QB Lamar Jackson in the passing game … Is that something that you expect him to kind of develop over the course of the season? (Jonas Shaffer) “Mark Ingram in the passing game – yes. Those were situational calls, third-down calls against man coverage that were part of the gameplan, and we ended up getting the coverage that we wanted. And Mark [Ingram II] runs that crossing route really well there. Is that the one you're talking about? The crossing-underneath route?” (Reporter: “Yes, he had two catches on that final drive.”)“Yes, Mark is a really good receiver, and he's a big part of us. Two or three weeks ago, he had a huge one on a crossing route that got us going. Who was that against? You can't remember. Except you expect me to remember all these plays all the time. (laughter) I guess it is my job, though, right? (laughter) Fair enough. (laughter) Yes, I do think it's important that they are kind of getting a feel for one another.”

When you're preparing for teams throughout the year, is there certain things that you do to try to keep your team mentally focused. Is there ... Do you try to do it through, whether it's during practice, attention to detail? Do you do stuff in team meetings just to try to keep your team ... (Jamison Hensley) “For what?” (Reporter: "After like a big emotional win like the Patriots, is there anything special that you try to do to make sure the team is focused?") “We're relentless all the time. I mean, we do what we always do. And I don't want to downplay it, because I understand the question. It's a good question, certainly one I'm thinking about, but I'm not too concerned about our guys. But if I see a problem or something, I'm going to be all over it, and they know that. But again, our guys understand. You want to make a big win matter? Then you have to follow it up with a win. If you follow it up with a loss, you've just negated the win. You might as well not have won the game. So, we don't want to throw that away. We also understand that records don't mean one thing. They don't. It's the National Football League. We'll have to play our best, and they're going to be healthy coming off the bye. They're going to have a great gameplan, and we're going to have to play our best game of the year. That's what we're going to have to do.”

Your having three tight ends the way you do, how difficult is that for a defense to sort of account for? I mean, how much does that flexibility help your offense? (Stan Charles) “It helps a lot. The simplest way to say it is we have a lot of weapons, and weapons can be used in different, various ways. There are weapons catching passes, handing them the ball. There are blocking weapons, as well, and tight ends are probably the most diverse type of weapons that you can have. All three of our guys are really good at ... And I put Pat Ricard in that category, too. He functions as a tight end as much as a fullback, so probably those four guys are about as diverse as you can get in doing all the different things that they need to do. So, yes, they're a big part of what we do.”

Did you hear on the broadcast Cris Collinsworth said something about QB Lamar Jackson having a tell? Do you have a reaction to that? Is that something you've heard before? (Jeff Zrebiec) “I have no reaction to that, and believe me, we're on top of most of all that stuff.”

This is a little bit of a comparison question, but just hear me out. (Jamison Hensley)(laughter) “What are you guys giggling about?” (laughter)(Childs Walker: "Because you hate comparison questions.") _“What are you giggling about?” (Childs Walker: "It's just always funny when you're asked a comparison question. I wanted to see your reaction to that.")(laughter)_(Jamison Hensley: "As far as your offensive personnel and flexibility, do you feel that you – as far as you can go three tight ends, you can play heavy, all these [things]. Or you can go empty backfield, spread it out. Do you feel that maybe this year the flexibility is maybe more than you've ever had since you've been here, as far as the personnel groupings and the different ways you can attack?)“Yes, I do feel that way. I gave you an answer to a comparison question.”(laughter) (Reporter: "How ...") “o, I'm not going there. laughter) “I don't have a measuring stick for that.” 

Is it an advantage, though … I mean, in the big picture, is [it an advantage to have] the ability to attack a defense in so many ways?"_ (Jamison Hensley)_“It's very valuable. That's the idea. It really is. But, how you're able to do that and all that, that's just part of it. It's always going to be important. Sometimes you have the ability to do it more with the personnel that you have. Sometimes you're healthier, sometimes you're not. Sometimes it applies to the defense that you're going to play, sometimes it doesn't. This is a tough defense we just faced, and there were some things you had to stay away from because they just do certain things really well. Our coaches do a great job of that.”

Speaking of comparisons, NFL coaches … Do you feel like your fraternity of NFL coaches, you guys have a bigger input on your sport, on the game than, per se, your counterparts in the NBA and maybe even in baseball? (Jerry Coleman)“To answer the question with any credibility whatsoever, I would have to have some semblance of an understanding of what influence they have, which I have none. I don't know what kind of influence [coaches in] those other sports have.”

Well, it's said that the NBA is a player's league. Baseball is now being run by the analytics. Coaches have more of an input in the NFL, perhaps, than in other sports. (Jerry Coleman) “I don't think I can base my answer on that explanation of what amount of input they have in the two sentences you gave me, so I still, I don't know. But thanks for trying to educate me on that.”

You're a fan of those other sports, so I figured you may have a reply. (Jerry Coleman) “Right, I don't.” (laughter)

What about the pressure your guys got on QB Tom Brady? It may not have equated to eight sacks, but he was really, it seemed like, under the gun most times he dropped back. (David Ginsburg) “Our guys did a good job. It's really hard to rush the way we rushed him – very direct rushes in front of him. I thought we impacted him as much as we could. Our guys gave a lot of effort. It took a lot of effort, and then they went into the no-huddle [offense]. I thought [that was] very smart on their part, and you're going to get tired rushing the way we were rushing and also defending the run. They were mixing the run and the pass. He's just one of the toughest quarterbacks to go against. Their scheme is really good. I thought our guys did a really good job of getting pressure as much as we could.”

Speaking of versatility, with TE Nick Boyle, he's always been a very versatile player and great blocker. But how have you seen him grow as a pass catcher? And how happy were you to see him get his first touchdown? (Ryan Mink) “I think he's always been a good pass catcher. I really do. I saw it at Delaware. He had good hands. He runs good routes. He's a big guy; he's a big man. He really is. And he's a really good athlete for his size, so I've never not thought he was a good pass catcher. The tight ends in the league that are the so-called ‘great pass catchers’ or the ‘vertical threats,’ they're not blocking like Nick Boyle, I promise you. So, he's probably one of the best all-around tight ends in the league right now.”

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