THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Wild Card vs. Chargers
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
Did you get the jacket for free, or did you have to pay DB/LB Anthony Levine Sr. for that?_ (Jonas Shaffer)"I received this jacket from a person very dear to me. It was a Christmas gift. So yes, I love it. I'm one of the few male species with a marsupial pouch."(laughter)_
I've been talking to the players who were on the 2014 team and are still on this team. Obviously, K Justin Tucker, P Sam Koch and LS Morgan Cox are three of those, and they've been together even longer than that. How important do you think their enduring stability as a group has been? _(Childs Walker) _"I've said this many times, but I don't take that group for granted. The fact that they are performing at such a high level, individually, is important, but the way they work together also is extremely important to us. The leadership they provide, the stability they provide for all of our special teams, year after year, is a very big deal. We're blessed to have those three guys playing at the level they're playing, and also, their consistency over the years has been really important to us. It's not something that we take for granted. It's not something that we really want to change. We need those guys every week, and they've come through. I have great respect for them, great personal relationships with all of them. They feel that way about each other, and it's an enduring thing we stand on every week. Our core players know that, too. They know they're playing with these guys, and they know what to expect week by week."
People talk about the successful formula of the playoffs: run game, defense and good special teams. Of course, special teams is important all year long. But when it comes to the playoffs, and the weather turns bad, do you feel like it takes on even more importance? (Ryan Mink)"When the weather is a day like we have today, and we get to play in Baltimore this weekend – which is really important for us – this is something that we have planned for all year long. We practice this way. We go outside and practice our specialists, regardless of what the weather is like. We anticipate with the kind of players we get. We like to have guys that can perform in the winter and bad weather, because that's, in our view, the time of the year that you're really keyed up for. You're trying to get to this point. Per your question about our special teams' role and all that, I think this time of the year is the time of the year for complementary football. This is the time of the year when the special teams can help the offense by getting good field position, the special teams can help the defense by getting a good pooch punt and getting inside the 10-yard line. It's also a time of the year, which I've kind of reviewed with our players the other day, just going back over our history of our playoff experience this [time of] year, if one particular phase has a problem, the other team can fix it. I know there are many examples you can all think of, but that's where team football comes in. John Harbaugh, when he arrived here, put three big words on the wall: 'Team, Team, Team.' That's the epitome of it."
P Sam Koch's punt at the end of that game, right before the Browns' final drive, was a really important punt and was overlooked. Can you talk a little bit about that? (Ryan Mink)"Yes, that was huge. It wasn't overlooked by us, I can assure you. We had a talk about that at the very next time. We talked about how important that play was at that moment and stepping up when the game was on the line and delivering a 50-yard net punt. It was just not Sam, it was the coverage. Maurice Canady made an excellent play to get right in front of that ball and redirect it. Anthony Levine [Sr.] was down there like a third gunner and made the play, with other guys converging. There could've been six guys making that tackle. Our guys stepped up at that moment in time. Going back to the complementary football aspect – then the defense stepped up. That's a huge part of it."
When WR/RS Chris Moore went down, it looked like you had both RB/WR Ty Montgomery and WR Willie Snead IV returning kicks. How would you assess how they did?_ (Aaron Kasinitz)_"Well, they're two completely different scenarios. We played them two completely different ways. The game situation was vastly different, so we played them differently. We're thankful Chris practiced yesterday. We're looking forward to having him back."
Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale
Opening statement:"Obviously, we're really excited after that win last weekend. The group came together right there at the end and finished the game. I was just really happy. I think the most joyous thing you see as a coach is when you see them celebrating in the locker room afterwards, because that's what it's all about. We've been preaching the power of 'we' all year long, and they saw it come to fruition there in the last four plays of Cleveland. So now, we're on to another challenge, and we're just going to keep trying to roll on."
Is there a fine line to walk when you have a lot of success against a team so close, and you want to stay true to who you are as a defense, but you know you probably have to show them more wrinkles? Is that tough to navigate when you're game-planning?_ (Jeff Zrebiec)_"I think that's true – it's a fine line. It's also one of those games where we know it could have gone either way. It's just the series of events that I talk about all the time. Most of the time I talk about the series of events in a negative way, well it's also in a positive way of a series of events during that game and how it progresses throughout the game. So, in the playoffs, you just take it one play at a time. I know it sounds like a cliché, and it is, but that's what the playoffs are. Whatever works, we're going to keep calling it, and hopefully we have the same success. But like I said the last time we played them: We're going against a Hall of Fame quarterback. We know he's going to make some adjustments, as well. It's going to be a great challenge. It's going to be fun to watch he and Eric [Weddle] battle it out again, obviously, for much higher stakes. We'll see where it takes us."
Ever since you've gotten hired, you've talked about being aggressive and having an aggressive mentality. When you get down to the end of the game and you call four blitzes, for you, was that, "Hey, this is what we've always been, and this is what we're going to do at the biggest moment of the season?" (Garrett Downing)"Now that I've had a chance to reflect on it, it all starts with 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh]. I've always talked to you about that, about how we're just advancing his plan, his vision on defense. The other thing I can attribute that to on those last four plays is we have 'Win the Game Thursday' meetings as a defensive staff. Our staff is phenomenal; the defensive staff is phenomenal. We hash it out, we have healthy conversations or some really good arguments – however you want to say it. So, when we got into that situation, we already knew what we were going to call and what he had to call. Every situation is different; every quarterback is different that you're playing against. We talk those out on Thursday nights so we're not sitting there on Monday saying, 'Ugh, we should've…' You know? That's the whole thing I talked to the defense about: Don't have any shoulda, coulda, wouldas in your career. I see you going down that path. Don't come up to me 10 years later saying, 'Man, I shoulda, coulda, woulda.' Don't have any of those. Obviously, you saw the enthusiasm, the excitement of the guys, and we didn't have any Sunday."
ESPN put up a graphic that said you guys were at your best when sending blitzers and you're at the other end of the spectrum, in terms of productivity, when you weren't. Do the splits between when you're blitzing and not surprise you from Sunday's game?_ (Jonas Shaffer) _"Against him? No, he was in a groove there. He was chucking it around; we all saw it. There were some plays that they were reviewing – I mean, come on – that he made and the throws he made and catches they made that you just say, 'Hey, we have to play the next down.' So no, that doesn't surprise me at all. Not against Baker Mayfield, no."
What does this season mean to you after what happened in Denver? When you took this job in January, you talked about redemption. Here you have the No. 1 defense in the NFL. (David Ginsburg)"I think that's a good question. I haven't thought about [it]. I haven't sat back and reflected on that. I think it's a really good question. We're just looking forward to this game on Sunday and to keep it rolling, because we have such a great group and a great room full of people in there. We don't want it to end. We're really excited about the challenge. So, I haven't even thought about that. But I mean, you asked me – yes, it feels a lot better. (laughter)
How have you seen LB C.J. Mosley grow? He was a Pro Bowler as a rookie, so how have you seen him grow from then to now?_ (Aaron Kasinitz)_ "I joke around with him about it, and it's the truth. I think if you watch him play you can see it. When they come in as rookies, they're obviously really young. I think he's playing full-grown man, old man football now, if you will. He's playing very physical. I think that sets the tempo for our defense. He's done everything well since he's been here, and he just keeps getting better at it."
Was it significant to see him make the game-sealing play? You guys are so close. (Garrett Downing)"I really didn't care who made the play. I was just like, 'Make a play!' (laughter) But it was cool, it was cool. Good for him."
There were a few breakdowns in the secondary, guys running free. It was described to me as communication mishaps. Is that football or… (Pete Gilbert) "I think it was uncharacteristic. It's like guys just started popping up out of the ground wide open. I think that was uncharacteristic of how we played. Like I said, it's the power of 'we.' We all take responsibility for it, and we're in the process of fixing what happened, and we'll move on."
What do you expect from a guy like OLB Terrell Suggs, who's back in the playoffs after all these years? (Shawn Stepner)"I expect him to be Terrell Suggs, and that's a lot of fun to watch. It really is. Like I've said before, his leadership goes unmatched in our room and for our team. I can't wait to see him play."
I know your focus is on this game, but there's a lot of chatter about you and the possibility of getting calls about head coaching vacancies. Is that something you aspire to do, ultimately? _(Ryan Mink) _"I think all of that is flattering – I really do. [David Ginsburg] talked about the difference this time around. It's really 'we,' that whole defensive staff. Anybody [who's] talking about me is talking about 'we' and that whole defensive staff room. Yes, of course you do. If you're worth a salt as an assistant, I think everyone wants to be a head coach. It's just something that if it happens, it happens; if it doesn't, it doesn't. I told John [Harbaugh] this the other day when we were sitting there talking. I said, 'I'm 55. However long you want to go, I'd love to just be the D-coordinator here and do it with you.' That's how I feel."
There's the old adage of, "Defense wins championships." Do you feel like that's still the case? (Jamison Hensley)"Sure, of course. I'm a defensive coordinator, so of course I'm going to say that." (laughter) ("Reporter: "Is it a bigger challenge though in today's offensive-heavy league?") "Without a doubt it's a bigger challenge. It is a bigger challenge, but I think we talked about that last week. I think you're starting to see it come back now, because in December you have to play real football. So, you're starting to see that."
You've mentioned the S Eric Weddle versus QB Philip Rivers dynamic. It's a risky way to play when you're disguising coverages. How do you as a defensive coordinator balance letting Eric do his thing while being structured? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I trust him. He has a lot of experience, obviously. I've referred to him before as a football savant. He knows what bothers Philip, we know what bothers Philip, Philip knows what bothers Weddle. So, that's the fun challenge to watch. Philip knows what bothers us. Trust me, this guy is a competitor – you've all seen it. I'm talking about Rivers – and same thing with Weddle. That's the great thing about this sport is just the excitement going into this game. I'll tell you what will help – the same thing that helped us against Cleveland. That crowd was the loudest I've ever heard it. I don't know about you guys up there in the press box, but it was loud. That's what was cool about it was it was loud, and at the most important time of the game, all the guys were locked in. We knew what we were going to call. There's no perfect call; there's just 11 guys doing their job perfectly. It was cool. It was cool to see."
At the same time, does it make playing defense harder – especially in a defense like yours where you're making some calls and other players are calling things out – when the crowd is so loud?_ (Ryan Mink)_"Yes, I think that might've affected us a bit too early. I think that did, but don't worry – I'm not ever saying be quiet. I'm never going to say that, because it affects the offense a lot more than it affects the defense; that's why I loved it. The whole city of Baltimore seemed like they were screaming, and from what I hear from phone calls and texts, they were – even the ones that weren't there in the stadium."
A couple weeks ago, you saw QB Philip Rivers engage in some back-and-forth with some of your players. (Ed Lee) "And me."(laughter) (Reporter: "Do you say anything to your guys about toeing the line and not going overboard?")"No, because he doesn't go overboard. He's a competitor just like everybody else is on that field. That's how he gets himself going. It's hard to go back and forth with him when he doesn't cuss. 'Dag gum it!' I mean, woah, Phil! You got me there! You know what I mean?(laughter)I love the guy. I love the competitor." (Reporter: "What did he say to you?") "We'll talk about that later. I'll tell you what he said at the end. He said, 'Wink, we always do this, don't we?' I said, 'Yeah, I'll see you in a couple weeks.' (laughter)
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"All right, let's wrap up the last game, a heck of a ball game. Man alive! Our O-line played really well, our backs played well, Lamar [Jackson] played well, our receivers did a heck of a job, and tight ends are playing really well. Look, I told the guys, 'Congratulations. You've earned where you're at.' Because, in this league, you get what you earn, period. So, we're right in the middle of our preparation. Guys are working hard and preparing hard. Now, this next ball game, [the Chargers] are very good at all three levels. The line, they have a couple pass rushers, very good inside. The linebacking crew, very active. And, the cover guys, very active, very aggressive. All three levels read and react very quickly, and [they are] a physical crew, so the preparation in this type of game will be key."
Does the message for QB Lamar Jackson change for the playoffs from "get up and get out" to "get up and score?" (Ryan Mink) "That's always … Some people think they're Superman, and he's kind of one of those, so it's sort of been that way all season. Look, between the numbers, get as much as you can, get down – of course, unless, you think you can score. That's the general rule. And then, outside the numbers, get up and get out, unless you think you can score. So, that's kind of been that way all year, and he's learning. He'll do a better job as we go of taking care of his body and keeping hits off. I will tell you, he's so athletic that he doesn't take all that many hard ones. He maneuvers pretty good that way."
What do you see from the chemistry between QB Lamar Jackson and TE Mark Andrews? (Shawn Stepner) "It's been fantastic. Mark Andrews is a heck of a player. So is Hayden [Hurst]. That tight end group with all of them put together just has been excellent. So, all of them are very good. They've hooked up quite a few times down the stretch here." (Reporter: "Specifically Andrews, it looks like [Jackson] is kind of developing a little something more with him.") "I'd say that's true, yes, two rookies hooking up. Is that what you want? Where are you going with this, here?" (laughter) (Reporter: "Why do you think that might be?") "Why? Rookies, they practice together, same group for much of the year. Both of them elevated themselves at a certain point, yes. There are lot of reasons for that."
You have three veteran receivers that have embraced different roles with you not passing as much as you were previously. Is that a tough sell to those guys? Is that something you constantly have to remind them, or I don't want to say, boost their egos? (Jeff Zrebiec)(laughs)"I don't know 'constantly,' but the first few weeks, I think we discussed it. Geez, I thought I had … I thought I made it kind of crystal clear, and I obviously didn't. (laughter) But the line, of course, they love it! And then the receivers, 'What are we doing?' These types of things. But, what a selfless group; all they want to do is win. We have them in important positions. We've thrown the ball, what, 23.5 times a game, something like that? Right around there, and going into it, when Lamar [Jackson] had his first start, I was at a 20-25-type thing. Look, situations will dictate more, and sometimes maybe a touch less, but the situations will dictate some of that, and the receivers understand all of that."
Last time you played the Chargers, I think there were two trips inside their 10-yard line when you got just three points. It's something that's happened frequently lately, are short field goals. What do you attribute to the struggles in the red zone like that? (Bo Smolka)"We have to do better there. We have to do better, period. I have to do better. We have to do better. We have to be precise. We've put the ball on the ground a few times down the stretch here and have overcome that, but then all of the sudden, we have the long-yardage issue in the red zone. [It's] very difficult to overcome those in the red zone. So, we have to be better at that. I have to be better."
How much do you think experience matters, especially in the playoffs, for a quarterback? (Ryan Mink)"I'll tell you, experience matters. There's no substitute for experience. Now, sometimes, it's the quality of experience as well. So, [Lamar Jackson] has had some pretty good experiences going. Man alive, look at all the things he's done – a very mature young man for that age in many, many ways. And, he's a very confident guy. He's taken every game in stride, and he's very well-prepared. James Urban [quarterbacks coach] has done just a heck of a job, and Greg [Roman, assistant head coach/tight ends] has done just an absolute great job with the run stuff with Lamar, and so Lamar has handled it just beautifully."
Obviously, the running game has excelled since QB Lamar Jackson took over. Do you think there is a merit to the talking point that it is easier to stop it the second time you've played it? (Jonas Shaffer) "Every game is its own entity, period. [The Chargers] are very good at what they do. They're skilled. They're well-coached. They're disciplined. They make it hard. They're really good on defense, and that's the way I perceive this group that we're playing. So, they'll do a couple of things during the game – we'll do a few things – because of the last ball game. But, every game is its own entity. So, I would say that's my answer."
Is that a Missoula "M" on your hat? (Pete Gilbert)"Oh, man alive! You guys have to take care of me. I'm making an excuse. I wore the wrong hat, men. Do we have a Ravens hat?" (laughter)
What's the significance of assistant head coach/tight ends coach Greg Roman to your running game and assisting you with the passing game as well? He has to work off of some of the things that you all have done early on in the season. What can you explain about that? (Kyle Andrews) "Yes, I've mentioned that before. Greg has done a great, great job, especially down here, down the stretch. He's done a fantastic job. [We] work well together; the whole staff works well. [He's a] valuable, valuable member of our coaching staff."
DT Michael Pierce
On defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale's attitude and approach:"He's a fiery guy, very passionate about the job he took on, the role he took on – great leader. Most importantly, he's aggressive, so we don't sit back. We like to attack, and that's something he's done a great job of from OTAs on to now. Even the game-winning play that C.J. [Mosley] made, we blitzed. So, that was a big thing for us, just being aggressive and making sure our personnel does well in matching up, matching up our guys, and he's done a great job of that."
On playing against Chargers QB Philip Rivers and taking the trash-talk:"It's fun, man! I enjoy it! He bumps people after you hit him. He's a fiery guy, great to compete against. You like those kinds of guys. He'll talk with you. He'll bump you, so it's fun, especially when you get him on the ground like 'Z' [Za'Darius Smith] did. We hit him a couple times, and he was for it, and he's a great competitor. We love playing against those kinds of guys."
On trying to contain QB Philip Rivers after Rivers has had time to learn from the previous matchup:"Oh, most definitely. He's an explosive guy, a future Hall of Famer in most everybody's opinion, so he's definitely going to fix some things that he did, especially protection-wise – those kinds of things. So, we have to be on our Ps and Qs We know that, everybody who's played him. He can light you up in a heartbeat, so we have to get to him like we did the first time, most definitely."
On finishing the regular season as the No. 1 defense:"Honestly, it doesn't mean much until we finish our goal, which is to win the Super Bowl. But, to end the regular season No. 1 is something that we all put on the board that we dream of. It's awesome, but at the end of the day, the goal is to win the Super Bowl. We'll relish in that when that's done."
On what he looks forward to for playing in his first playoff game:"The energy. That's something you just, coming in as a rookie, you hear 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] preach about, you heard [former defensive coordinator] Dean Pees, everybody who has been in the playoffs said, 'It's a whole new energy.' I'm starting to feel that at practice, and I'm sure the stadium will reflect that, too."