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Transcripts: John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference

JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: WEEK 9 vs. PITTSBURGH

Opening statement: “OK, good to see everybody; appreciate you guys being here. We’ve been through the tape. Obviously, we go through our process, and we’ll get ready for Pittsburgh. Huge game coming up here at our stadium. We’re looking forward to it. It means a lot, and that’s what we’re focused on right now. [We’ll] try to improve, try to get better, try to correct the things that came up in the game this last week, or in the past, and address all those things and keep working. That’s what we do, and that’s where we’re at.”

You’ve had losses like this in the middle of some of your most successful seasons. Is there any wisdom, either specific or general, that you can draw from those past experiences? (Childs Walker) “Yes, we talked to the team about all of that. We’re 4-4 in a .500 league. We’re a game out of first place, and we have our season in front of us. We’d all love to have a better record than we do right now. We probably should have a better record, but the record is what it is. That’s our starting point. That’s what we fight from. The bottom line is the process and where we’re at and where we need to go as a football team. You study the tape. There are lots of things to get better at, but it’s not as bad as it felt after the game. So, you draw from that. The guys played super hard. They played very hard. We just didn’t play well all the time, and the Panthers made a lot of really good plays. There were some throws and some catches that were just great plays in critical situations. There were a lot of things. You get a ball [that] bounces up in the air, and it ends up being a touchdown instead of an interception. That’s the type of stuff that turns games, but we made our share of mistakes. You can’t leave a guy unblocked and run into the backfield early in the game when you have a chance for a good play, and those end up being devastating plays. So, those are the mistakes that we have to clean up.”

The fake punt – the decision there by the officials to call the illegal shift – when you went back and watched it, were you able to identify who it was? And, a quick follow-up to that, in the pregame discussion, did you talk to maybe referee Pete Morelli or someone, another official, and say, “We may do something like this?” (Jerry Coleman) “They called it on the center, so I don’t know. That’s what the explanation was. We talked to them quite a bit on the sideline about it. Never seen that call in 21 years, and the center was set for a second, so I’m not sure what the call was. We sent it in [to the NFL]; we’ll see. But, you can’t control the official. The official makes the call that he makes. It was a huge play in the game.” (Reporter: “Was it something, though, where you tried to have an explanation beforehand?”) “There’s no … Yes, we told them we had a fake punt. We told them we had a dive-on. Maybe we shouldn’t have. Who knows? Maybe there’s some kind of psychology with that that I’m not aware of. Some coaches talk about that. Maybe that’s what you’re referring to.” (Reporter: “I just know that sometimes the officials know about these things and expect them.”)

The pass-interference penalties on WR Willie Snead IV, CBS didn’t really show what he did. Were you able to go back and look at that? (Todd Karpovich) “Which one?” (Reporter: “He had two of them; it was the same sort of infraction.”) “Yes, again, I don’t. I don’t have any comment on it. I don’t know. [You’ll] have to call the guys that made the call and ask them. I don’t know.”

A few weeks ago, 11 sacks against Tennessee; none yesterday. Are teams learning how to defend it, or what would be the difference between the two? (David Ginsburg) “I think it’s a great question, and it’s just, yes, people are playing completely differently. We’re not getting too many dropback pass. People aren’t going to dropback pass and just let us rush the quarterback and cover, so I think that’s the main thing. The gameplans we’ve gotten in the last two weeks have been very different than the ones that we’ve seen on tape – within the realms of what those teams do, but much more skewed toward exotic-run-game-type stuff, I guess, [like] play-action pass, boots, waggles, exotic motions, things like that – to kind of keep us off balance and not let us play downhill. And, we have to adjust to that. Part of that is, we have to play with discipline. We have to play with discipline across the board, in terms of assignment, controlling the edge, eyes where they’re supposed to be, especially when you have the kind of speed that we saw this last week. The quarterback is really fast, and they have a number of guys who get on the perimeter that are very fast, those two young guys, of course: D.J. Moore and [Curtis] Samuel. So, those are the challenges. We’re going to see a lot of that going forward for the rest of the season, because people use that type of stuff – along with tempo and no-huddle and things like that – to negate the things that we’re doing on defense.”

Are you feeling good about T Ronnie Stanley’s status? (Jeff Zrebiec)“I’m not going to get into all that. So, we’ll just see how it goes.”

How did you think G/T Jermaine Eluemunor did in those series he was in? (Jonas Shaffer) “He actually did pretty good. He did pretty well. It was mostly pass protection; he’s good in pass protection. He’s stout and firm, and he handled the bull rushes really well – probably the best of all of our guys throughout the course of the game. I was very encouraged by that.”

What do you think about the timing of playing Pittsburgh this week? It’s an important game, but a chance for you guys to prove to yourselves there’s an important step possibly. (David Ginsburg) “Yes, I guess that means we can’t prove it to anybody else – but that’s OK. I can be concerned about everyone else, thanks. It’s perfect timing. It’s just the game we need this week. It’s always perfect timing. It’s all set up the way it’s supposed to be set up and organized the way it’s supposed to be organized – from a big-picture standpoint. I look at it from a faith perspective that way; that’s how I see all that. I think it’s perfect timing.”

It seems like over the past few years, you have really strong starts and you do well, but in October – there always seems to be that that was the roughest month for you guys. Is that a coincidence, or is there something to struggling in that particular month? (Jamison Hensley) “I think probably people outside the coaching staff probably have a lot more time on their hands to look at that. I certainly have my thoughts on it. You can go back each year and look at the years and see what was going on with the team in those type of situations and look at each game for what it’s worth. But, those kind of big-picture trends … You can pluck any of those out you want. You can pluck out the close games like you did, and you can make it six [points] instead of seven. You can ignore the games that we were [down] six with eight minutes left that we pulled away. You can torture statistics any way you want and get them to tell you whatever you want them to tell you. But, there are also statistics that are meaningful. The value in that is to study them and try to make heads or tails of them in ways that can help you go forward. That conversation now is really meaningless to us; it doesn’t really matter. I do have some opinions about it, but we have to win the next game. It’s a good question; I like it. It’s a fair question – something we should be thinking about.”

Did the way that Carolina put up points in that first half diminish how you planned on using QB Lamar Jackson? He was instrumental in that first opening drive. (Jonas Shaffer) “No, not really. We used him about how we planned on using him.”

Your defense has played well over the first half of the season. You mentioned how opposing offenses might be attacking you a little differently. One area you haven’t thrived in, as much as the last couple years, is forcing takeaways. Is there anything that you can pinpoint that you’re seeing as to why they haven’t come? I understand there’s a certain amount of luck and that may contribute to that as well? (Luke Jones)“Teams are being very careful with the football – there’s no question about that. They tend to do that when you’re a team that has a reputation for taking the ball away. This year, that’s been part of the plan coming in. They’ve been a little more conservative in some ways. Some it’s on us – we haven’t made plays on the ball all the time like we need to. Sometimes the ball hasn’t gone our way. But we haven’t caused very many fumbles, and we haven’t gotten our hands on as many balls as we did last year, for sure. We have to find a way to do that. I’m disappointed in that for sure. That’s something that we need to do better. We’re minus-four. You can put it right on that if you want. If we’re not minus-four, what’s our record? If we’re even? If we’re plus-four, what’s our record? It’s probably completely flipped. It’s a big part of it.”

Any reaction to the news today that Hue Jackson was fired as the Browns’ head coach? (Ed Lee) “No. I just saw that just a minute ago coming down. No, I haven’t followed that situation at all since we played them. So, I have no reaction to it.”

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