WEEK 14: RAVENS CONFERENCE CALL WITH MIAMI MEDIA
Head Coach John Harbaugh
On if he is treating this game as a "big" game or just another game:"I know one thing – I had this conversation with Joe Flacco recently – you talk about big games, then you start adding them up and you realize how important they all really end up being. It's a fine line between making the playoffs, winning the division, those kinds of things. But December football, it's where teams separate themselves. So obviously, it's different."
On if he emphasizes the playoff implications of the game to his team at all:"It doesn't really matter that we're playing another team that's in the hunt, because there are so many teams in the hunt. If this was the last game or one of the last games and there weren't a lot of teams in it, then it would be more important. But I don't care who you're playing this week. If you're in the hunt and you lose, you're in trouble."
On what he has seen from the Dolphins' run defense:"I see a very good defense with Miami. One game to the next, things happen in this league. Teams make plays. Sometimes you get a couple big plays. Obviously, they had a couple of reverses last game where most of those yards were at. They have a very stout front. They have a very gritty defense. You have to be impressed when you watch them play. They have a lot of guys that play really hard – good players, great scheme. [Dolphins defensive coordinator] coach [Kevin] Coyle does a great job with the scheme; we've seen the scheme in Cincinnati. They play great defense."
On the challenges that Dolphins TE Dion Sims presents:"Well, we liked him coming out a lot. He was one of the top guys as a tight end that we felt really good about. There's no doubt. He stepped right in there and filled in, and there really was no drop-off, it seemed like. So, now they have two tight ends that they feel really good about. He's a threat to catch the ball, he's a good blocker. He's becoming a very high-quality tight end."
On his impression of QB Ryan Tannehill and his performance this season:"He's running that offense really well. He's a talented guy – we saw that last year. He has a cannon for an arm. He throws a nice ball, very elusive, very good in the pocket; stands in there with a lot of courage. [He] moves around [and] makes plays with his feet, which, again, we saw last year obviously at the end of the game. He's doing a great job with the offense that they're running."
On how disruptive QB Ryan Tannehill is by running in the read option: "It's just a really good play, and it's a really good concept. It's different, so it can be very disruptive."
On the Dolphins' offensive line this year compared to last year: "I can't really remember their line from last year, but this year I would say that they look really good. As you said, they've moved some guys around. They have a really athletic group. They all look like they move really well. They do some stuff with them as far as the run-blocking scheme and those kinds of things it takes athletes to do. So, I think they've done a great job."
On when the Ravens realized the talent they had in RB Justin Forsett: "We knew he was a really good player as soon as we saw him in OTAs. To think that we would have known that he would be able to put up this kind of production, it would probably be pretty hard to make that claim. But gosh, the guy has really good vision. He makes people miss. He's a well-rounded back. He can protect. He has good hands, runs routes. He's really a complete back, so we're just really pleased with him, and I'm really happy for him."
On if WR Mike Wallace looks similar on film now compared to when he was with Pittsburgh: "Exact same guy – exact same threat downfield, crossing routes, double-moves. He does a great job with the 'nines' and the stop 'nines' – just a really dangerous threat. You always have to be on your toes. You always have to know where he's at."
On whether there is anything that stands out about the Ravens historically playing well against Miami: "Really not in the sense it's hard to think back. You think back [to] some of the highlights of different games [against] different teams and things like that. Those have always been really good, tough games – I know that. They've always come down to the end, and as I recall, we've been able to make a couple plays at the end, especially on defense. But other than that, I really don't remember the games that much other than they've been hard fought."
On the similarities and differences between Miami's offense under Mike Sherman last season and now under Bill Lazor: "I really don't remember what they did last year. In all honesty, it's just not on my mind right now. But they've always been good. They were tough last year. We had our hands full with them last year. Two years ago we had our hands full with them. They're good. Miami is a huge factor in the conference race, and we know the challenges that we're facing against these guys this week going down there especially."
On how the Ravens have built their tough personality: "That sounds like a seminar-type question. (laughter) I don't think I have that at my fingertips right now. The main thing that we like about our guys – and I see the same thing in Miami's guys – we have a bunch of guys that like football, that love to come out and practice, that love to be in meetings that love to compete on Sunday, that love to be around one another and are team guys first, and I think that's where it starts. Football is a hard, tough sport, and you need tough guys. I see that in the team that we're playing this week, and I certainly see that in our guys."
On what you can do to build a team's personality: "It's how you prepare. It's how you train. It's what kind of schemes you build and all those kind of things."
On the Ravens being one of the few teams to have the quarterback under center: "Big picture-wise, I guess it's different, because very few teams are doing it now. It's amazing our world has changed so much that a quarterback taking a snap from under the center has become a rarity. What's the world coming to? (laughter) It's good for Joe [Flacco]. It's good for … It's really just a scheme thing. It's Gary Kubiak. They have done a great job with our offense, and Rick Dennison coaching the quarterbacks. It's their belief system. But you just try to put your guys in position to be able to do things well and win games and play to their strengths. Joe has done a good job under the center, so that's why he's there right now."
QB Joe Flacco
On when a quarterback knows that he's "made the next step":"I think that's usually up to you guys [the media] to debate on that kind of stuff. As a quarterback, I think you just go out there and you try to do your job the best you can every game, and get wins, and feel as comfortable as you can each week and develop that rapport with your teammates and that confidence. I think all of that stuff takes care of itself, and you don't really think about it. You just go out there and you try to win football games and then let you guys [in the media] do all the talking." (laughter)
On when he thinks he made that step in his career:"Personally, I think you always have to have that mindset that you feel comfortable and that you're confident out there. You always have to feel that way or you're not going to be as successful as you should be. Obviously, the more games you play and the more experience you get in really close games, and really tough games, and really important games – like the playoffs – then it's easier to get your mind to do that and react the right way for you. But I would say the biggest thing with that is just being confident in yourself to begin with, and obviously, through experience in playing in some of those games, I think it's easier for you to look at yourself and get that confidence."
On how big of a surprise RB Justin Forsett has been to him and what he has meant to the Ravens' offense:"It's tough to talk in terms of how much of a surprise he's been and all that, because obviously, he's a new guy for us, and he came in and he's done such a good job so quickly. You could tell during practice in training camp and during the offseason that he was good, but obviously, you had to give him the chance to get out there and really do it. He's meant a lot though. He's a patient runner and he hits the hole quick when he makes the decision to, and he breaks a tackle at the line of scrimmage and allows himself to get that extra yardage. He's been really big for us."
On what concerns him the most about Miami's defense:"They're good. They obviously have good pass rushers. They have athletic corners out there that can really play. So, the combination of being able to get to the quarterback and having guys that are athletic out there and can make good moves on the ball, it obviously lends itself well to those guys."
On what he's seen from Dolphins' QB Ryan Tannehill:"I don't get to see him too much, but my brother just … He definitely throws the ball well. One of my brothers was on Jacksonville's practice squad, and I think they happened to be playing them. Did they play Jacksonville?" (Reporters: "Yes.") "And one of my youngest brothers was actually down there for the game and he said, in person, he thought that he really threw the ball very well. Like I said, I haven't really gotten to see him play that much and all that, but I know he's a big athlete and obviously has a good arm, and he's playing very well."
On if he views this game as a playoff elimination game by the way the standings are setting up:"It's tough not to look at it that way. We find ourselves over here saying, 'Man, that was a big game.' Every week, 'Man, that was a big game.' And the bottom line is they're all big games. You put yourself in position to be a playoff team at this time of the year and you have to go out there and have the mindset that you have to win it, and win it, and win it and keep it going. So, this is a big game. It definitely is that way, it feels that way, and like I said, it is that way."
On if this feels like more than just one of 16 because of all the teams that are bunched at 7-5:"At the end of the day, they're all one of 16, but that week, man, the game is the most important thing out there. And this time of the year, when you see all the teams jumbled up there, it's tough to not think it's a little bit more serious than that. We're all human; we all have those emotions. We definitely feel like it's a big game, and it's going to prove to be big in the end."
On if he senses a difference in December football games having been in the league for a while now:"I think there's more talk about things here and there, but the bottom line is when you go out there and take the field on Sunday, or whenever it happens to be, they're pretty much the same type of game. The one difference is, at times, depending on where you play, there can be weather. The other difference is the ability for teams to stay healthy, and teams and their ability to play well even if you might be missing a couple of guys. I think sometimes those things can change games a little bit, and therefore, make it a little bit different. But, I don't think when people talk about games being faster, and this and that, I don't necessarily think that's true just because of the things I just talked about. You have guys that are beat up, you have guys that aren't on the field. It just tends to feel that way because everybody is pushing through and running on empty. It's when you really find out what kind of team you have."
On what the Ravens have done right against Miami in their recent matchups:"I think for the most part when we've headed down there, we've been in good shape, we've been able to control the ball a good amount and keep their defense on the field, and it's lent itself well to us. We haven't worn ourselves out and we've given our defense a good time out there. I'd have to go back and look at those games individually – I'm sure they've all been individual – but the biggest thing for us is a team that's a little bit more up north going down there is being in shape, and I think we've been able to keep ourselves on the field a lot when we've gone down there, and it's worked out well."
On the Dolphins' pass rush and how effective it can be, particularly DE Cameron Wake:"We've played against him a couple times, obviously, when we've gone down there. He looks like a beast out there and he's fast. He gets off the ball and can do a lot of things. So, I'll have to be aware of it and make sure I step up and have my hands on the ball and everything."* *