Special Teams Coach Chris Horton
Opening statement:"Good morning. Obviously, we should just start with the recap of the game and address the obvious: the 92-yard kickoff return. [It was a] very disappointing play. Really, I think that's something that when you really watch the tape and you analyze it, it really starts with me. I think we could have just made a better call there, and then, like I talked about last week, when you put that ball in play, our guys have to go cover. I think they feel the same way I feel – very disappointed in that, because we're way better than that. And we understand that, and we'll continue to go out, get better, practice. Moving forward looking at Seattle, we know the challenges that lie before us. It's a good special teams unit. Again, I think our guys ... After last week, we'll make sure that we're ready to play. I'll get them right."
What do you remember about S Bennett Jackson from the summer? Is he a guy that could step in and play on special teams? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"Bringing Bennett [Jackson] back, I think, was a great idea. He spent time with us, he knows our system, and when he was here, he played well for us. So, he'll get an opportunity to really fill in there, fill some holes for some guys that are down right now. We're looking forward to having him in there and letting him get out there and play. He's been a good addition for us."
What goes into the decision to either let the guy return a kickoff or not? And what are the analytics involved in that? _(Peter Schmuck) _"When that happens, I think really, the decision goes out. I talk with 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] before the game about what we want to get done, and then we just roll from there. Obviously, if we can kick it out, we'll definitely do that, but then there are sometimes we want to put the ball in play. Again, that's a decision that leans on me nine times out of 10, or I'll go through the head coach about it."
Obviously, you liked the end result, but were you happy with the execution on the onside kick? Was WR Jaleel Scott a little aggressive there, even though the kick wasn't going to go 10 yards? How would you sum up how your guys handled that play? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"Obviously, they recovered the ball short of 10 yards, so it was good. I think, with a little bit of coaching … When you look at the sequence of that game and kind of how that thing happened, you lose Maurice [Canady] who is the starting there. Then you lose DeShon [Elliott] who was his backup, and you have to go to a guy like Jaleel [Scott], who is his backup. So, you're going down to the third guy, and what's really important is that those guys, when they don't take those reps in practice, that they're paying attention to it, because you never know when your opportunity is going to come up. I think this week we spent a little time really preparing, going back through those situations and seeing how we handled those situations."
A lot of people talk about how the crowd noise in a place like Seattle affects the offense. Are there ways that affects special teams also? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"I think this is a place where it's loud, even when their special teams are out there, so we've stressed really overcommunicating, just like the offense. When we're on the punt team – because we do a lot of cadence stuff – we have to make sure that we overcommunicate. So yes, it could have a little impact, but we're going to make sure that we're prepared for it. We have the noise out here [in practice], and we're handling those things the right way."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "Starting off from last week, I was really proud of how we executed the gameplan. That was a determining factor in our win, how hard our guys played across the board. Obviously, we have another challenge this week."
Going up against another mobile quarterback like Russell Wilson, is this another week kind of like with QB Patrick Mahomes, where you're keying on keeping him in the pocket? What's the key with that? (Daniel Oyefusi) "It's just like all the other quarterbacks that we've played before. You can say keep him in the pocket, and there are times that you think you have him in the pocket, and then he shakes you, and he gets out of the pocket. And he's extending plays better than he ever has. It's been mentioned before: He's playing at an MVP level, and I agree with that. It's sort of like playing against Steph Curry in basketball, if you will. You can pick him up from half court, and he's going to try to drive by you when you're saying 'keep him in the pocket,' or you can slack off, and he's going to pull up and hit a three. He's just playing at a really high level right now, and I don't argue with anybody that's saying he's playing at an MVP level."
What was your reaction when you guys got CB Marcus Peters? Have you gotten a chance to talk to him and start the process of acclimating him to the defense?_ (Jeff Zrebiec)_"Yes. Obviously, my reaction, first, was very excited like everybody else was. Anytime you get a first-round draft choice added to your defense at this time of year … All the accolades go to Eric [DeCosta] and those guys up there getting that trade done for us. It makes us a better defense. It makes us more flexible. The second part of your question, he came in last night. Chris [Hewitt, defensive backs coach] and Jessie [Minter, assistant defensive backs coach] met with him for three hours, and he's a really smart football player. We're really excited that we have him."
What has impressed you, as far as when you see CB Marcus Peters on the field and the things that he can do to help the defense when he's out there? (Jamison Hensley)"He has [eight] more interceptions in four-[plus] years than any other [player] in the league, so his quickness, his route awareness, his eyes, in zone coverage and in man, and his playmaking ability is what has impressed us."
Did you study CB Marcus Peters a lot coming out of the draft? I know you like linebackers. (Jeff Zrebiec) "I can't tell that lie. I didn't study him in the draft. (laughter) But obviously, when we knew there were some things going on, we looked at him, and all of those things jump out at you."
What would the challenge be for CB Marcus Peters to be ready to play on Sunday, and how can you guys help him with that?_ (Aaron Kasinitz)"It's football. He's ready to go. There are maybe a couple of different things, terminology-wise, that he has to get used to. He said he'd let me know by Friday if he's ready to go with the whole thing, and I said, 'Just lie to me and tell me that you are, and we're just going to play you.'" _(laughter)
People have said, correct me if I'm wrong, that CB Marcus Peters has been at his best when he's played man-to-man. CB Marlon Humphrey has also done a great job shadowing guys. Do those two skillsets change how you want to play in the secondary? (Jonas Shaffer) "It makes them more flexible, like I said. I don't know about the man-to-man part and all that stuff. He's just a good football player. And he's a really good corner, a Pro Bowl corner. It helps us, flexibility-wise, on what we want to do."
In terms of moving around CB Brandon Carr and getting CB Jimmy Smith back, does that give you more flexibility in terms of moving those guys around in the secondary? (Andrew Gillis)"Yes, it does. Yes, it does. You see the smile. Yes, it does." (laughter)
You talked about how happy you were on Sunday, but have you been impressed overall with the way your guys have dealt with all the change, the injuries, new guys coming in?_ (Childs Walker) _"Yes, we hit on that earlier. We said that adversity is just an experience, it's never the final act. What's helped us is, John [Harbaugh] charged us two years ago now, or a year-and-a-half ago, with a system that makes it easy to implement new guys that come in, and that's helped us. We have great teachers, as far as assistant coaches. And how fast these guys have been able to pick it up – the Josh Bynes and the Marcus Peters – those guys that come in, it makes sense to them. Kudos to John for making us do that to simplify the package. I remember last year, the talk was that they're playing fast and free. What we've done is just really simplified the language of it. We're able to do a lot of different things and plug and place people rapidly into the system."
How have you seen S Earl Thomas III grow in his comfort level in this defense, and how much do you sense in him his desire to make a big play? (Ryan Mink) "That's who Earl Thomas, is a game-changing-play type of guy, obviously. So, that's no different whenever he plays on Sunday. His comfort level is … You can see it in his level of play, especially the last three games – it's really taken off, in my opinion. It's one of those things that, obviously, you want to talk about him going back to Seattle and everything else. The leader that he is, he's calming our guys down because they want to play so well for him going back to Seattle, because they know the importance of it, as it is with any player when they go back to a team that they just left. It's really nice to have Earl Thomas, as well as Marcus Peters in the back end."
Not to be gameplan specific to Sunday, but what goes into the decision of having a cornerback shadow another receiver? Would you prefer, in a perfect world, not having to do that? I know in the past, they've talked about, "Can you give up the coverage a little bit?" How do you decide? What goes into that decision? (Jeff Zrebiec) "First of all, I know you're watching a lot of tape now, because this is the second question you've hit me with on those, which is great. It's just the opposite. If you do it the right way, they can disguise what coverage you're in. The game has become a game of matchups in the NFL, just like it is in the NBA. That's why I put the Steph Curry thing with Russell Wilson, because what I said earlier about it giving us flexibility … The more corners and cover guys that you have, it makes everybody better. It makes us better up front. It makes us better at safety. It makes us better everywhere. So, that part is exciting. Obviously, like you said earlier in your question, I'm not going to tell Pete Carroll or anybody else how we're doing that. They're just going to have to wait and see."
What makes CB Marlon Humphrey so good at shadowing different guys. Is it his physicality to match bigger guys and the speed he can cover little guys with? What makes him so good? (Ryan Mink) "You answered your own question when you said it. It's one of those things that … He's playing at a high level right now. He has been through training camp. That's been the talk the whole time, is he's physical. There aren't many corners in the league that when we talk about our goals on Saturday morning … We have our goals. We have our gameplan musts. We have our bullets. On Saturday, I talk to them as individuals and say, 'OK, tell us what you're going to bring to this game.' There aren't many corners that say, 'I want to have a game-changing hit. I want to have a tackle for loss.' There aren't many corners in the league that do that, and Marlon [Humphrey] does. You can see that in his play."
Your defense last season was among the most blitz-heavy in the league. This year, it seems like the stats say you've done even more. Was that a concerted effort coming into this season, or has circumstance dictated that? (Jonas Shaffer) "I think it all depends on the gameplan; I really do. It depends on the gameplan. We like to pressure, there's no doubt about that, but it's gameplan-specific on how we do it, whether it's simulated, whether it's … We like to have moving parts."