Opening statement: "OK, [it's] good to have everyone with us. I really appreciate you being here. … [It was] a great win. We have a quick turnaround. We have a team – just watching them on tape – that's playing absolutely as well as anybody in the league has all year. So, we have our hands full. It'll be a short week schedule for us, and we're just really going to work on that right now. So, that's where we're at. What questions do you have?"
I know you're heading to the road again, but no one in NFL history has won more road games than you have [in the playoffs]. You have eight road wins. Could you just tell us whether you're proud of that record? How does it come about? What makes your team so good playing away from home in the postseason? (David Ginsburg) "Well, we've had a lot of road games – that's probably where it starts. We had a good run there for a number of years winning those games. This one has been a long time coming, this last one. So, I don't know that we have any answers on that, really. Personally, I just think our guys play well. Our guys have played well on the road all year, and for a couple years. This specific group has really done a great job of playing on the road anyway in the regular season. So, they just played a good football game. Our guys were ready. They overcame adversity. They played a great game. As far as being proud of it and all that, I'm proud – yes. I'm proud for the guys. I'm proud for … [Hall of Famer and former Dallas Cowboys head coach] Tom Landry and [former Jacksonville Jaguars/New York Giants head coach] Tom Coughlin, right? Those are two great coaches. I didn't really know that until my dad told me about it last night. He was fired up, so it was neat in that respect. But really, it's the players; they've played great on the road all year. We're on the road, so we have to keep doing it."
I wanted to ask you about two players in particular and their impact on yesterday's game; CB Jimmy Smith, the job that he did, and OLB Pernell McPhee? (Stan Charles) "I'll tell you; those are two of the guys to pick out, for sure. Jimmy [Smith] was coming off of, really, a very painful injury that he had. It's healing well, but he fought through some pain out there and did a great job with it. [He] played well and covered extremely well. [He] played hard. It was big for us to put him out there into the mix at corner. And then Pernell [McPhee], boy, he set the edge. He was a physical force out there. He was a dominating presence; setting the edge and then coming off blocks and making tackles off the edge. I thought Pernell had his best game of the year, along with a lot of other guys. All of those outside 'backers, as we mentioned last night, did a really good job."
I wanted to ask you about CB Marcus Peters. Obviously, he makes these game-changing plays, but he's also very unpredictable. You don't know what's going to follow sometimes. Sometimes, he's hopping in Buffalo drinking a beer after a play, or [he's] running onto the logo. How do you kind of deal with a player who's very emotional and plays off the emotions, but you want to, maybe, not have too much emotions at some point? (Jamison Hensley) "The main thing is that Marcus [Peters] is a guy that … We have a great relationship, but really, I like him, and I love him. I just really think he's genuine. He's as authentic as it gets, and that's what you appreciate about anybody, especially someone like Marcus. He has a heart of gold. It really matters to him. He really cares, and I think it shows. He's an emotional guy, [there's] no question about that. Like all of us, he works to be the best he can be. We're all growing and stuff like that, but I'm a … I just like him, personally. I like the way he plays, and I like his heart. So, as far as where you draw the line and all of that? That's something that individual people have to learn for themselves; we all have that. Just from a coach's standpoint, I'm not interested, really … I'm not a big fan of the penalties. That's not something … We talk about that all the time; we never want to hurt our team and put them in position and put them 15 yards back unnecessarily. So, that's the main thing that we talk about."
This ultimately didn't affect the outcome of the game last year, but in talking to some players after that game in Buffalo, there were some concerns about what the defensive line was doing holding-wise with the pulling action that you guys like to do. I think there was at least one flag called on them. With the offense that you guys like to run, was that something you brought up with the NFL? Is that something you're concerned about this year? (Jonas Shaffer) "Are you talking about the defensive holding keeping the linemen off the 'backers and all of that?" (Reporter: "Yes; guys like [Patrick] Mekari weren't allowed to get to the second level.") "You know, it's probably just better that I just stay out of it, right now, publicly. There are a lot of little things like that that are really week-to-week things that you may or may not talk to the League about. Different teams have different ways of doing things. I probably just want to stay out of that conversation."
There was an NFL Network report that the Houston Texans are interviewing assistant head coach/pass coordinator/ wide receivers coach David Culley. Are you aware of that, and can you confirm that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I am. I was informed of that this morning. I talked to [assistant head coach/pass coordinator/wide receivers coach] David [Culley] about that. David's focus is obviously, as he emphasized to me, 100% on this team and this game. That's where he's spending all his time today and going forward this week, but he is excited about it. Obviously, it's a great job. It's a great opportunity there. They have a heck of an organization. I do believe that David Culley would be a tremendous hire for any team; maybe, especially the Texans with Deshaun Watson. I'm really excited for him and everything, but I would say our focus is definitely staying on the [Buffalo] Bills."
Are there any concerns working on a short week here and having to play on Saturday? Or are you pretty OK with it, considering what you've dealt with all season? (Todd Karpovich) "It's just part of how the playoffs work. It's something that you just know is a possibility, depending on how it shakes out with the seeding and all of that. So, you just don't worry about it. We have had, as you know … I think you were referring to the number of short weeks that we had in a row there. So, we're ready. We have a plan. We have our pace on that, and we'll be ready to go on Saturday night."
As we start to talk about the Buffalo Bills, obviously, they throw to WR Stefon Diggs a ton. He found a way to keep being more and more productive as the season went along, even though everybody knew they were going to throw to him. When you watch him on tape, why is he able to do that? What really jumps out? (Childs Walker) "He's just really good, that's the thing. He's just really, really, really good at what he does – that's probably where it starts. He's fast. He can run routes. He's not just a deep guy, or a crossing-route guy; he can run a little stop [and] turn routes. They target him on every kind of route. He has a nice supporting cast around him; it's a good group of receivers, an emerging tight end, a threat and good running backs to go with, obviously, Josh Allen. He can make all of those throws, and he does a great job of standing in the pocket. He extends. He runs out right and left. He makes throws, and he takes off running right, left, or middle. So, I think it's the combination of their team. They're very well-coached, obviously, and creative. [Head coach] Sean McDermott does a great job. I think that they know what they're doing, and they play good fundamental football. It's built around Josh [Allen] for sure, but Stefon [Diggs] is a big part of it. He's a threat in a lot of different kind of ways; probably the versatility and the talent are the two things that jump out."
I'm curious, what went into the decision making with about four minutes left in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-2. You're up four [points] and you keep K Justin Tucker on the sideline and decide to play for the first down there. (Bo Smolka) "We thought we had a chance there to get it – that was the biggest thing. We felt like … I think it would've been a seven-point lead. Am I right about that?" (Reporter: "You were up four [points] at the time.") "Right, so if we kick it right there, it's [a] seven [-point lead], which is what we ended up doing with the penalty. But I just felt like with their offense and our offense … I thought we were going pretty good. I felt like we had a good play-call and had a real good chance to get it, which we ultimately did, except we got it called back. The idea of going up … Taking more time off the clock and getting seven [points] or taking more time off the clock and still getting the three [points] was really appealing at that time. Four minutes is a long time. So, that was the thought. [It was] pretty aggressive, but I thought it was the right call."
You and the Buffalo Bills both obviously took quarterbacks in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Do you remember at all, did you study QB Josh Allen much or think about him much coming out? What do you kind of think of sort of the way he's blossomed this year? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes, I watched him a lot, actually. He's a guy that most of us here really, really liked. Just the arm talent, the ability, the athleticism and the strength. He's just a big, strong guy. And then you heard about his story; I really liked his story and what he overcame to get to where he was at. He kind of came up the hard road and the underestimated road. I always kind of like those kinds of guys, for sure. But I've had the chance to talk to him a few times outside of football, at least one time outside of football since he's been with the Bills. I just think he's a great guy. He's just a great guy. [He's] a great, young man. [He's] a tough competitor, man. This guy is a real competitor. So, yes – we did look at him, and we really liked him."
I know you said that obviously you don't want the taunting penalty for the logo stuff, but in talking with players, it seemed like they really took to heart the Week 11 pre-game confrontation with some of the Titans' players, and all that was kind of in defense of you. As a coach, do you have a greater level of understanding or appreciation knowing that your players did that for you? (Daniel Oyefusi) "Yes, that's a fair observation. It's not something we've talked about. We didn't talk about it all week. I never brought it up in a team meeting or anything like that, and really not since it happened – not even after the game. But the fact that the guys … I just think it's a very connected team. It's a team that really cares about one another. They have a real strong faith, and faith is the most powerful thing there is. There's great power in faith, and belief, and trust, and these guys have that. So, if that's part of it, then that's part of it. We all make our choices, and we all live with our choices and stand by them. So, am I upset? Are you asking me if I'm upset about it? No, I'm not upset about it. I'm looking at the Bills right now, and we're moving forward. I love our guys' heart, I love their energy, I love their spirit; I love what they're all about. I love their character. So, that's the premise and the principle that I understand about these guys, so that's what we're going with."
Can you talk a little bit about FB Patrick Ricard? It seems like he's the type of guy who no matter what you guys ask him to do, he can find a way to do it. And how big was it for him to get involved in that drive in the second half as a receiver? (Cliff Brown) "Yes, that's a great point – it really is. We have an award called the 'Brown Shirt Award' for the guy who does the dirty work and the tough jobs, and he's definitely been a winner of that every year. He does that, and he's a physical player. I know opponents and coaches respect him. I thought it was a great job by [offensive coordinator] Coach [Greg] Roman. Pat [Ricard] can catch the ball, and he can catch and get up field; as everybody saw, he's done it before. That's something [where] the way they were playing the defense, that area of the field became an opportunity for us. I thought coaches did a great job of recognizing that and getting him [involved]. And we've had those plays in, and they are part of the offense. And getting to those plays, and then, of course, Lamar [Jackson] and Pat executing them; that was huge for us. Those were big plays for us in the game."
You always talk about the importance of every play, and there was quite a bit of game left, but the final play of the first quarter, you're in a third-and-7, you're down ten points. How impressive was that connection from QB Lamar Jackson to TE Mark Andrews, not just in terms of the significance of it, but also the degree of difficulty? (Luke Jones) "The early one, rolling to the right on the sideline?" (Reporter: "Yes, on the sideline for 17.") Yes, that was about as good a play as you're ever going to see. That's a hard throw to make – 'A.' Full speed to your right, a lot of times, that throw will sail right out of bounds, right? So, Lamar [Jackson] has got a really great ability to get himself squared up and get the ball on target, on the move. He does it both ways – left and right. Then, Mark [Andrews], to understand the situation, to time it up the right way on the scramble drill, get back downhill and to make that catch with a guy draped all over him and stay in bounds, you're right; that was kind of a turning point. We needed that to keep things going, because we really hadn't done anything up until that point. So, those two guys making that play – and that's what it was; two guys making a play – was huge for us."
We obviously talked to you right after the big win – all the emotion involved – and you said it may be the best win you've ever been associated with. Given that and everything that was involved in yesterday's win, how much did you actually think about that game and everything that went into it, maybe last night or on the way back, before you turned the page to the Bills? (Shawn Stepner) "Right, probably like anybody would. I haven't really tried to sort it all out yet. I don't know if I will. But just the experience of it … The experience of this whole 2020 year, and our individual experience with it as a team, going back to last year, the playoff loss and the different things we went through; collectively, as a team, that's our shared experience as a football team, and our fans are a part of that, too. Yes, I just think it's worth just kind of dwelling on a little, but right now, we just don't have time to do it. So, I did it, and I was talking to my wife and daughter about it a little bit last night, and we moved on; we had a show to watch. And then after that, we just get ready for the Bills."
The way the defense is playing as a whole, do you get the sense – every game stands on its own – but that this unit is playing with a lot of confidence and kind of getting things rolling playing together? (Ryan Mink) "I do see that. I just feel like, as you're saying; playing together, communication has been excellent. Our coaches, of course [defensive coordinator] Don [Martindale], and [defensive line coach] Joe Cullen, and [pass defense coordinator] Chris [Hewitt], and [linebackers coach] Mike [Macdonald], and [outside linebackers coach] Drew [Wilkins], and all of our coaches, have done a great job of making sure we're on the same page, and our players have done that, too. We've really worked on that in practice. Communication is everything, especially in our system. So, they've done a great job of that. And then, to see the way we played our technique. The way we played with our eyes, our hands, our feet, our spacing; all of that was really, really impressive in the game."
You talked a little bit about DE Derek Wolfe and his leadership, and he talked to us yesterday about how excited he was to be playing on a winning team. Did you get that feeling of just how happy he is to be part of this thing, coming from a bad team in Denver to a winner here [with] a bunch of guys who he really respects and loves? (David Ginsburg) "Right. Yes, I think he had a lot of positives in Denver, too – as we've had different conversations. But he's been great. You're exactly right. He's just in a great place now. He was always a great fit here, and I know he understands that he's a great fit here. He's a guy who, really, we tried to get here in the draft. He did his visit, and I remember … Because we were talking about Cincinnati; my wife graduated from there, so we kind of had that in common, [and] I coached there. And when he came for his visit, we really hit it off, and I think we both thought it was going to happen, and in the back of my mind, after you watch him all those years, I was always kind of hoping we'd get him here. I just credit [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] for getting that done, ultimately. You see what a great fit he is. So, he's just done a great job. And yes, it's good to hear that. You always appreciate that when players feel that way."
Looking at some of the analytics, you guys are still No. 1 in the NFL in blitz-rate. It's not as aggressive as it was last year, but I think you guys have done well without blitzing. I know you want your defense to be in an aggressive, attacking mindset, but with how, maybe, you throttled it back a little bit in the second half Sunday and still got the pressure that you did and still had the great coverage as you did, what does that mean for the versatility of this defense and what it can do going forward? (Jonas Shaffer) "The versatility is a great point, and that's true. We've got guys who can get to the quarterback. We've got Matt [Judon], of course, who's always done a good job, and gets there, and got there in the game. 'Yan' [Yannick Ngakoue] did a great job. He brings it. He's always a major threat rushing the passer. I think the key for those guys is to be able to play it all. That's kind of how we're built. So, rush the passer, set the edge, stop the run, play the crack-sweep, run to the ball, drop, understand the zone and the man drops. We did a lot of that yesterday, too, where we would bring a linebacker and drop both ends – things like that."
Yesterday, falling behind in the first quarter, 10-0, was a similar script to the last couple of postseason games. A lot of young quarterbacks might have not been able to bounce back. What does this say about QB Lamar Jackson and his development and growth to face a similar situation and this time lead the team back? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, it says a lot. It's just his character, and his competitiveness and his mental toughness, and, of course, his ability to play the game. So, it says everything. It's one of those things that Shawn [Stepner; Reporter – WMAR] is talking about; I just feel like, it's one of those things, is it worth considering? I don't know how to express it right now; I'll leave that to you guys. But I agree with that."
If I'm not mistaken, yesterday was the first game where there were no injury-related inactives, and they were all healthy guys. How did you get out of that game health-wise, and how are you shaping up for Saturday? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We got out of it well. There was nothing out of there that looks like it's major, and everything looks like we should have everybody for next week. So, hopefully … You don't know for sure. That can always change, but we're looking good right now."
For an 8:15 p.m. night game, how does that affect the energy of the team, waiting around all day, especially in cold Buffalo, as opposed to a 1 p.m. game? (Donna Jean Rumbley) "It's different. We try to pace ourselves and understand what time we're playing, and we'll do a few things during the week and with our travel to accommodate that. Guys love playing at night, too. They love playing at 1 p.m., and they love playing at night. All eyes are on you at night, a little bit, and it's playoffs and Divisional Round, you're playing a great football team at a great venue. So, we're excited about it. We'd play it at any time. That's a good question. There are factors there that come into play."