JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Good to see you guys. I appreciate you being here. Obviously, we're just finishing up our review right now of the game and moving on to the Buffalo game-planning. It was a heck of a win against a very good football team that played really hard – a really physical game, very hard-fought game. Situational football was a big part of it. Both sides made a lot of good, strong decisions. Those had to be dealt with on both sides. The fans were great. It was really fun for the fans to be there in that weather and stay the whole game. It was hard getting out of there afterwards, wasn't it? The fans didn't leave early – for obvious reasons, it was a good game – but they stuck it out in the weather, too, so we're proud of our fans."
After last night's game, you guys are the No. 1 seed in the AFC. What does that mean to you, if anything, understanding there are four weeks to go in the season? (Dave Ginsburg) "You control your destiny, in that sense, but they don't have the No. 1 seed until they do the seeding. So, that's four weeks away."
To be in that position now, is that something you've always coveted? You guys haven't had that chance in the past. Now, like you said, there are still four weeks to go. If you went out, that's the way it works. All you have to do is just win. (Jerry Coleman) "That's all we have to do. Yes, that's right." (Reporter: "Is that something you covet, though, because of the fact, that it's been elusive … It's tough for the franchise …") "I don't speak in those terms, that word you use. I don't use that word. It's a weird word to me. I answered your question. It's been answered."
QB Lamar Jackson kind of conceded that because of the conditions yesterday, he didn't feel as sharp throwing the ball, which is understandable. The fact that you won the game, does that make this game important also, because you're going to another cold environment? So, it gives him a chance to … (Peter Schmuck) "Every game is different. All you have to do is win the next game. There are no points for style. There are no points for conditions. It's just who wins the game on that day in those circumstances with what they're faced [with], right? And that's what it's all about. So, this next game doesn't mean anything for the game after that or the game after that or the game after that. All it does is it means everything for this week, and you need to put one [check] in the left side of the column. That's it. That's what it's about. That's all it's about. All the other stuff is just noise. It's just a distraction. And that's not what we're interested in. We're not even going to talk about that stuff, because it doesn't matter to us. [It is a] great point for you guys to write about and think about, but I don't have time to think about that. I don't care about that."
It looked like DT Michael Pierce was effective in the snaps he played. Did the tape show that, from your perspective? (Childs Walker) "Yes, Michael [Pierce] played really great. Yes, absolutely. He was very physical. Brandon [Williams] was really physical. [Domata] Peko and 'Jelly' [Justin Ellis] played really well in there. Our inside tackles were excellent, dominant. They ran the ball on us too much. We have to look at that and straighten that out, but it was outside stuff that we can clean some stuff up. We saw more of a base running game than we've seen. We've been in our base defense 32 reps all year, up until this game. We were probably in it 32 reps in this game. I don't have the count off the top of my head, but it was probably at least in that range. So, there were a couple of things that we can look at and we can definitely build on and improve on. We have to go to work on that. There's a chance we could see it from Buffalo. We'll certainly see it before the season is over. So, that was part of it, as far as the inside run, and the edge runs were more the issue for us."
How many times did they catch you in actual blitzes that resulted in … (Mike Preston) "Not that many, a couple."
A lot has been made the last several weeks that you guys haven't had to punt very often. In that third quarter, a couple things hadn't gone your way. How big was that for P Sam Koch and WR/RS Chris Moore, that combination to pin them at the 1-yard line? (Luke Jones)"Great play. We had three game-changing plays on special teams. That play, Chris Moore and Sam, Sam put it down there. The field was a little soft, so the ball checked a little bit. Nobody has a better feel for that than Sam Koch. And then Chris Moore was just, he was high-tailing it down the field. He was flying. And he has such a great awareness. You see how many guys make mistakes – they slide, they get on the ground, they fall. He knew how to keep his feet on this side of the white line, tapped that ball – just a great play. We had the partially blocked field goal by Marlon [Humphrey]. Obviously, that's the difference in the game, in the end, if you want to look at it that way. And then [there was] the game-winning field goal with the snap, hold, kick and the protection. So, special teams was a big part of the game."
With the play that CB Marlon Humphrey made, was that just getting there faster or was that an alignment thing?_ (Aaron Kasinitz)_"Just getting there, just beating the blocker and taking the right angle and just making the right play. He deserves all the credit for that."
It looked like in that first quarter you guys also got close to blocking a punt. Did that show up on tape as well? (Jonas Shaffer)"Yes, we almost had that. L.J. [Fort] almost had that deal. It came around … If they had been punting to our left, which they do, we kind of thought they were going to punt to the left there, he would have had it. The footing, too, if he had had a dry field, he probably would have gotten it. But yes, it was just great effort on his part. He did almost get it, yes."
After looking at the film, do you feel like the shots that QB Lamar Jackson took were all good? I know you and CB Richard Sherman exchanged words. And then afterwards some of your players had stuff to say about shots that Lamar took. (Jerry Coleman)"I don't care. I'm not getting into it. Our job is to protect our quarterback. The officials' job is to officiate the game. They called two roughing the passers when he was in the pocket. And that's just what it is."
After watching the film, how do you feel like C Patrick Mekari handled center given not just one of the league's best fronts, but the wet ball and all that stuff? (Jeff Zrebiec) "That's a great point. Here you have a first-time start for a rookie, who was in pretty tough conditions [to] snap that ball in gun snaps, and we were in the gun a lot. And all the snaps were very good. He made all the assignments. We operated normally with the center calls. He made all the right calls and made almost all of his blocks against one of the best defensive [fronts in the NFL]. The offensive line deserves a lot of credit in this game – and the tight ends – because that front just wreaks havoc against everybody they play, and they didn't do that in our game. Our offensive linemen did a great job of blunting that and keeping them from playing in our backfield. They did a great job with that. Patrick [Mekari] and all those guys were a big part of that."
[When] C Patrick Mekari talks to us, he seems like just the calmest guy in the world. Is he that kind of steady-take-things-in-stride kind of person? (Childs Walker)"I don't know. Yes, I guess. You talk to him, so you can make your own evaluation of his personality. I like his personality. I like him. He's a tough dude and works his butt off."
You mentioned the tight ends. Can you just talk about TE Hayden Hurst and the contributions he has made this season? (Ryan Mink)"Hayden Hurst, a list of contributions he's made. I don't have it on me, but I think he had a great game. He got a game ball, and he continues to improve as a player. He had a huge catch for us – two huge catches for us. [He] blocked pretty well. Those guys – I just think we have … I love our tight ends. I love the whole room. I love everything about them, and I know that they know that they can even get a lot better. That's what they're focused on doing. But to see Hayden step up like that and make the plays, he deserves that. And Lamar [Jackson] trusts him. You can see that, so that was great to see."
If I'm not mistaken, S Brynden Trawick could play Sunday. Is the plan to bring him up? Or are you going to have to wait and see how the roster falls this week? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes, I'll probably give you the 'wait and see.' I know what we're doing, but we're going to wait and see. If that's OK with you? (laughter)I don't know if we have an advantage by not saying one way or the other, but I'm just going to hold that. I hadn't thought about it." (Reporter: "You can wait until ... You have until Saturday [to decide]?") "You can, yes. You can."
ILB Patrick Onwuasor came off the field a couple times yesterday. Is there anything you can share about his status for this week? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Nothing serious. Yes, he's dealing with that ankle. He works through it, and it's painful. So, I'm sure he'll keep healing. No setbacks that I'm aware [of], [no] big setbacks, but he's dealing with it."
Looking at the film and listening to your guys after the game, they talked about how great of a game it was and that they'd like to see San Francisco ... They could see it playing out again sometime maybe in another place. Do you like the confidence they have in looking forward towards something like that? (Jerry Coleman)"Our guys have a vision for where they want to go, and they understand that it's ... You have obstacles in life. So, it's good to have a long view, and it's good to have a short view. And our guys have both."
You talked a little bit about it yesterday, but was it good to have a close game just to see the grit that your team had? And then at the end, holding the ball for the last six-and-a-half minutes – [was that] just something that they had to do in and [they] came through with it? (David Ginsburg) "Well, it was a tough game. It was a hard game to move the ball for both teams. It was 17-17 at that point, right? So, it was no given that you were going to be able to get yourself into field goal range there against that defense, the No. 1 defense in the National Football League. Our guys did what they had to do. Lamar [Jackson] really buckled down and really got it done as a quarterback. He had some runs. He had some passes. The offensive line, hard-running backs, pass protection, catches were made in those kinds of conditions. That's what it takes, and those guys did it. And the players deserve all the credit for that, all the credit for it. Of course, our coaches do a great job and did a great job, but that's players, man. That's players doing it in critical situations and getting us into field goal range, then protecting the field goal and, of course, 'The Wolfpack' coming through. So, that's how you win games. That's how you win football games. [There were] no mistakes in that drive, clean drive. [We] held on to the football the whole game except for the one [fumble] that Lamar [Jackson] had, which he's mad at himself about. But I thought in those conditions, we did a great job of protecting the football. [It was] just an all-around winning performance."
What went into the decision to have four cornerbacks active? In the past you've had five. Was that just a numbers thing or a matter of style of play? (Aaron Kasinitz)"Yes, we just wanted to have the extra D-lineman up with the [poor weather] conditions, and then the offense we were going against has a lot of heavier personnel groups than we see a lot of the time. So, we wanted to have the extra defensive lineman up."