CONFERENCE CALL WITH NEW ENGLAND MEDIA
Head Coach John Harbaugh
On why the Ravens are so successful on the road in the playoffs:"I don't know. It's just we've been on the road a lot. So, we get a lot of practice doing it, I guess."
On if that starts with a confidence and calmness from he and QB Joe Flacco:"I don't really want to analyze it. We have a game to play on Saturday afternoon – that's really all we're thinking about right now. Looking back really doesn't do any good."
On the challenges in going against the Patriots' secondary:"The whole group is playing really well. They play a lot of man coverage, they press you, they play off, they play different combinations. They can double whoever they want to double, in different form and fashion. [They're] just really well-coached and have a great scheme. But those guys are very aggressive and they're very good – the whole group."
On New England's special teams group:"That's a great point. The Patriots are one of the best special teams in the NFL as well. They're ranked in the Top 3 for sure; maybe they're No. 1. They've just done a great job and probably have the best special teams coordinator in the history of football in Scott O'Brien. [He's] been doing it a long time, knows the game inside and out, and always creates problems for you – always creates matchup problems, always knows how to take your best players out of things. They just do a great job across the board."
On what goes into having successful special teams:"It probably starts with the kickers and punters. Guys that can kick the ball, punt the ball well, and then the returners make a big deal. They have four guys that are Pro Bowl-type guys, really, at every spot in terms of kicking, punting and returning. So, we've got to keep our eyes on those guys at all times. But then their core, Matthew Slater is probably the best in the business at what he does. You have to account for him at all times. They have big, fast linebackers, starting with [Jonathan] Casillas, and you can look at the whole group as far as the defensive backs. They all contribute; they all play hard. It's just a real tight group, and they're big and physical guys, and they run fast."
On if he had any trepidation about QB Joe Flacco being able to run mobile in offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's offense when he hired him:"Not at all."
On if Flacco is surprisingly athletic or if that's something he has worked on:"No, anybody watching him his whole career knows how athletic and mobile he is. Anybody who wouldn't think he is really hasn't been paying attention."
On what he has seen from the Patriots' run game:"I see a lot of good backs, see a lot of really good schemes. They give you a lot of problems in terms of how they block from one week to the next – different kinds of trap schemes and things like that. But, they hurt us last year with base schemes. They ran downhill at us, ran some zone schemes downhill and ran a little bit of power right at us and had a lot of success, especially at the end of the game. So, [they have a] big, physical offensive line. They want to run the ball and have some backs. Each back is a little bit different, brings a little something different to the table, but they're all punishing, physical-type runners."
On having NT Haloti Ngata back and how important he is to the defense:"He's important – very important. He's a premier player, a physical presence in there, and having him back is very important and it's good to have him back."
On his impressions of RB Jonas Gray from his time with the Ravens and why it didn't work out in Baltimore:"Jonas decided to leave us. We wanted to re-sign him after the season for the offseason and go forward with him, but he decided to go to New England. I liked him a lot, had a great relationship with him, and he's done really well."
On the accomplishments of RB Justin Forsett this season:"It's one of those stories that, man, you feel really great about. Here's a guy that really was on his way out, I guess, in some ways – I'm pretty sure that somebody would have signed him – but underrated, undervalued. Gary [Kubiak] had had experience with him in Houston, and then we had a good feel for him; I just kind of liked him, what I'd seen of him, but I didn't have any up-close look at him. So, Gary was the main force in bringing him here, and he's been even better than expected. And as good of a player and as well as he's played, he's 10 times even the person that he is a player."
On what he has seen from Patriots' LB Jamie Collins:"I was just telling our guys today, 'This is a special young player.' This guy is a budding star. He's a guy that we really liked a lot at Southern [Mississippi]. I thought coach [Bill] Belichick … I know he went down there personally and worked Jamie out and just did a great job evaluating him as a player and fitting him into their scheme. A lot of scouts didn't know where to play him; that was the hang-up with him. But Bill did, and he's one of the top young players in football."
On how much the veteran players are sharing with young players about going to Foxborough to play and how important that is:"Probably somewhat important, but you really can't … What can you say? There's not really much you can talk about in describing a stadium. It's a stadium, and the fans are really loud and it's a tough place to play. But the thing that makes it tough is the team you're playing. They always have a great team, great players, great coaches, and it's tough. It's tough to go in there and get a win. Our guys, we'll be watching the tape, obviously. That prepares the young guys better than anything, and we'll be trying to make sure that we're on top of our game, because we're going to have to be to have a chance to win."
On what has stood out about rookie LB C.J. Mosley this season that has helped him be so successful:"Thanks for asking that. We thought he was going to be a really good player, but I don't know that we could have anticipated the kind of year he's had. And the kind of consistency, for him to be able to play the whole season now – actually going into what, his 22nd game if you count preseason games – and to just keep getting better every single week … That's not easy for a young guy to do just coming out of college. But he's a very mature, very humble, very hard-working guy, and I couldn't be happier to have him on our team."
On if he was amused at all by the talk early in the year that QB Tom Brady had lost something in his game:"I was. I was amused by that. I'm sure other people are holding out hope that someday that happens, but it doesn't look like it's anytime soon. He's still a great, great player."
On if Brady is doing anything different now than he did two or three years ago:"Not really. He's the same player that he was. He does such a great job of incorporating new players, and they run their system and they tweak it, and adjust it, and adapt it week to week, year to year. But the way they plug the different players in there and he's been able to mold those guys around the way he plays the game, that's what is amazing to me. He always does a great job with that. Of course, he's a Michigan guy, so we love that about him, too." (laughter)
On if he brings up the previous playoff games in New England with his team at all this week, or if that's ancient history:"It's ancient history. It really doesn't matter. You watch some, schematically, there are things you look at. You try to pull out [things] that you think may apply going forward, but that's the extent of it."
QB Joe Flacco
On what it has been like to work with WR Steve Smith Sr. this season: "It has been a lot of fun. Steve is a fiery player and kind of a fiery guy, too. But he has been a lot of fun to get to know and obviously a lot of fun to have out on the field, just because of what he has been able to bring to us and that passion and just the play-making ability."
On what it has been like to play under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak: "I think right now we're playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of speed. I think the biggest thing with playing with [Gary Kubiak] is the amount of confidence everybody plays with, because they're not out there trying to figure out every tiny little thing. We're going out there, and we're playing football, and we're reacting. I think the biggest help was with the offensive line and with those guys being freed up mentally and allowed to play physical and fast, and that's really all they have to worry about. I think it's blending itself very well into our team with how we play."
On how comfortable he is with the boot-action and throwing the ball on the run:"I love doing that stuff. I think you need to move the pocket a lot to keep all these good rushers that you have in the NFL off balance a little bit. When you're dropping back and you're giving those guys the same spot to go after every single time, it becomes pretty tough."
On whether his footwork and throwing on the run is something he worked on in the offseason: "No, not at all. I've been doing that my whole life. It's really not that big of a deal."
On whether he would consider himself a mobile quarterback: "It's not like it's the biggest part of my game. I mean, come on, I'm a 6-6, pretty big guy back there. But I've always felt like when I've had to move and throw the ball on the run, I've had the ability to do that."
On how much the Patriots' secondary has changed since acquiring CB Darrelle Revis and CB Brandon Browner: "Obviously, anytime you have two corners out there, it allows you to free up and really do what you want to do as a defense and really get after people, because you have so much confidence with what those guys are doing outside. So, it becomes tough. It's tough when teams have one good corner that can go out there and play as well as these guys are playing. So, when you have two of them – one on each side – it makes things interesting and it makes things a lot of fun, because it makes it that much tougher. These guys can play a lot of man coverage and have confidence that those guys outside are doing their job."
On what RB Justin Forsett has brought to the team as a running back and a receiver: "[Justin Forsett has] been huge. He's a really good runner. He's very patient. He sees the holes well. He hits them when he has to. He has done a lot of really good things for us. He has been great in pass protection and leaking out when he has had to. So, I think he has brought us a lot of things, and we have to keep getting as much as we can out of him."
On the Ravens leading the league in pass interference calls and whether the offense will try to expose CB Brandon Browner's physicality to draw penalties: "Well, hey, you can't really go in there and say, 'Hey, we're going to try to get the pass interference call.' We have to do what we have to do and what we do well. If those things happen, then they happen. Those things usually happen by our receivers going out there and playing well and getting themselves in positions to make big plays. If the throw is not quite on or if a guy catches up, but doesn't do it in the right way, those things get called. I think that's just a sign of how much our receivers have done a good job of putting themselves in positions and have won on their route."
On why the Ravens are not intimidated to play in New England during the playoffs: "I don't know. It's tough to tell people why you're not intimidated. I think it's kind of funny that people would be intimidated at any point in any game against anybody. It's just not in our nature. We've played in a lot of big football games and this is no other. It's not like it's not in our mind to go up there and win this football game. So, we're very confident, and we believe we have a good team. We believe we have a team that can win this game, and I think that allows you to go up there and play free and play with that mindset and not really let those other thoughts creep into your head."
On what spending his entire career in Baltimore means to him: "Obviously, it's awesome. It has been a lot of fun, and it's a great place to play football. [It is a] hardworking town that had an awesome tradition here in this league and didn't have it for a while. And now the last 20 years or so since it has been back, it has picked up right where it has left off, I'm sure. It has been amazing to come to work every day and play in that stadium. [We have] a lot of great fans, and I've had a lot of great teammates and coaches along the way. So, it has been a lot of fun."
On whether it is important for the offense to not avoid a cornerback like CB Darrelle Revis because of his talent: "Well, I think so. In games where we've tended to try to stay away from people, or made it our job to go after people – however you want to put it – it puts a different mindset on you as a quarterback, and it's kind of a tough one, because it's our job to go out there and go through our reads and hit the guy – go through the reads thinking on whose going to be open and where our best matchups are, and then hit the guy that ends up being open. You usually don't have a total idea of who is actually playing defense on that guy. So, when you go into a game and you're thinking about that, it can kind of mess you up a little bit. I think with this offense, we tend to go through our reads and make the plays that present themselves. And obviously, with the fact that they have two good guys, it kind of makes it tough to pick one guy out anyway. We just have to go out there and play our game and we have to have confidence. I mean, come on, we're in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. We have to have confidence that at this point in the year we have guys out there that can do their job."
On how the Ravens have been able to focus on football despite off-the-field issues: "Honestly, man, it's the same as any other year. There's a lot of adversity for every team, and it comes in different forms. And this year has been a little bit different than maybe the way it came [in the past] and what we've had to deal with in the locker room, but you pretty much deal with stuff similar to that every year, and it has just been another one of those years. It always comes down to the wire, and you're always fighting like crazy to be one of the teams that are where we are today. And it makes for a lot of fun. It makes for some great stories, and it makes for a great bonding experience with all your teammates. It's just what the National Football League is about. It's what makes it … It's part of what makes it what it is – is dealing with this kind of stuff and then coming out on the other side."
On what allowed the Ravens to reach the playoffs despite being 5-4 and last in the division through nine games: "Hey, we felt like we had a good football team, and our whole division at that point … We had a lot of the year where our whole division had winning records. Even in the last game of the season, if Cleveland would have beaten us, nobody would have had a losing record. So, we had a tough division to play in, and you can see that by Pittsburgh and Cincinnati also being in the playoffs. Even though we were 5-4 and in last [place in the division], we were still right there. I think we went from last to first like in a week or two at one point. It's just because everyone is separated by a game or half a game. So, it was just one of those years that you had to stick it out and have a lot of confidence, have a lot of faith [that] after 16 games it would all work itself out."
On how he and WR/RS Jacoby Jones have progressed in their chemistry over the years: "I think the biggest thing Jacoby [Jones] has done this year … He hasn't played as much as he has in the past, and when he has gotten in there he has done a great job of getting in there, making a play, doing his job and being there. He has been an awesome guy to stick in there, and it has been awesome for me to have a guy like that that I've played with a good amount to rely on, and I can rely on him. Like I said, when he has been in there this year, he has produced, and that's awesome to see for a guy that hasn't probably gotten the amount of snaps as he has had in the past."
On how he has seen WR Steve Smith Sr. work against man coverage this season and whether he will be reliable if matched up against CB Darrelle Revis: "Of course. I have a lot of confidence in Steve, and he does a great job. He still has a lot of explosion and a lot of quickness for a guy that has been in the league as long as he has. Obviously, I think when you still have that explosion and you have the experience that he has gained over the last 15 years or whatever it has been, it goes a long way. And I think at the end of the day he catches the ball, which is the biggest thing. Even if there is going to be some tight coverage – which we're going to have to deal with, we're going to have to catch some tight balls in tight situations – I think that's one of the big things that he does well is he catches the ball in those situations. So, he'll get his separation. And when it's tight, the biggest thing is having confidence in throwing the ball and knowing he's going to come down with it."
On whether he gets nervous in the playoffs: "Do I get nervous? I mean, I think everybody deals with the emotions of a National Football League football game in every different way. But yes, I'm sure that whatever feelings I have before a game are exactly like everybody else. You're getting ready to go out there and take the field against a bunch of talented men that are coming after you and bearing down on you, and you want to do well. You want to be able to look at your teammates and have that look of, 'Yes, we did it today.' I think that's why we come in here and we prepare the way we do, is so that at the end of the day we can look at each other in the eye and be proud of what we did. And I think that's where some of those feelings come [from], is because when you're out there on that field, all you have is the guy next to you and you want to be able to rely on him. So, I think that some of those feelings come from that and wanting to do that."
On whether he gets nervous during a game: "But during the game, when you're in the middle of it and bullets are flying, you're reacting and you're relying on everything that you've done leading up to that point to take over, and you're not really thinking about all that other stuff. So, once the game starts and you get hit and you make a throw, you're just in the moment. It's different than sitting on your couch or sitting on the bench at the end of a game when there's 30 seconds left and the other offense has the ball. I probably get nervous at that point, just because I'm not out there, and I'm not in the moment at that point. It's kind of like I'm an outsider and I'm sitting on my couch watching it on TV back at home. So, it gets a little bit more nerve-wracking at that point."