WEDNESDAY AVAILABILITY: DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF vs. TITANS
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "We had three great days last week, and so far ... I told the defense last Friday, I think it was our best Friday practice that we've had, and we're locked and loaded. We had a great day yesterday, and [we'll] just try to continue it all the way up to the game."
They filled the [head coach] job at the Giants. Did you interview for that? I believe you did. Was it a good experience? And what are your feelings after they picked someone else? (David Ginsburg)"It was a great experience. It wasn't just a good one. It was a great one. They're good people there. I talked to [president and chief executive officer] John Mara, and it went really well. The thing of it is, like I told you beforehand when the head coaching stuff came up, it would have to be a one-of-a-kind-type job, just not any job, to leave this place, because I said before, we have the best owner. We have the best head coach. We have the best personnel, and most importantly, we have the best group of players assembled in that locker room that lift each other up. And when you prepare to go do something like that for an interview, it's like you're playing on house money. It really is, because of how much we love it here, and I also know that you just can't snap your fingers and create that type of culture that we have here now. But no, it was a great visit. I was telling my wife, by the end of the interview, it was … I'm sitting there talking with John Mara down at the Four Seasons, it was just like going out to Challedon and playing golf with Dale Fogle by the end. It was really a good experience for me. Am I disappointed about it? Sure. I think that anytime you interview for something, you obviously have interest in that job. I'm not going to act like I didn't have interest in that job. But like I said, I felt like I was playing on house money, and look where I'm still standing."
There's been a lot of talk about the timing of interviews and whether teams that are still playing whether it affects those candidates. They kind of get the short end of it, because teams want to hire coaches. They don't want to wait. Was it a distraction at all? And how did you kind of go about preparing? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It really wasn't, because like I said, it was on my day off. So, that was my reference to [Dale] Fogle. We would have been out at Challedon if we could have been out there. But it wasn't a distraction, because we worked last week on three different teams. So, we've been prepared, and we're ahead of it right now. So, we're looking forward to this game on Saturday."
You saw what RB Derrick Henry did Saturday night and what kind of problem he presents. How do you go about – without giving away game plan, obviously – how do you go about slowing him down?_ (Ken Weinman)_"He's like one of those guys that the kids create on Madden. You shouldn't be that big and be able to run like he runs. Obviously, we're going to have to bring our lunch pail, work hat and just go play football with him, because that's what Mike Vrabel is doing with him. They're just running the ball."
But the last time you faced the Titans you actually had a pretty good success rate. (Jamison Hensley) "We were OK. We were OK." (Reporter: "What do you think the key was that day?") "I think it's just going to be man-on-man football. He's a talented back. I think adding Ryan Tannehill has done wonders for that offense, because he's the guy we all thought he was. They finally got him in a system that he's operating really well out of. Analytics tell you the most efficient play is the play-action pass, and he's doing that really well. So, it's one of those deals you go into [and say], 'Hey, let's stop the run. Let's stop the pass. Let's stop the screens. Let's stop this.' It's just – we have to go play football. It's playoff football."
How relevant is that game [against the Titans] from a year ago? It's a different quarterback, a lot of the same offensive line and then, obviously, RB Derrick Henry. (Pete Gilbert) "I think you can put it in your own words with that. I think every Sunday it's any given Sunday. This is playoff football. We're going to expect their best, and I hope they expect ours."
You touched on QB Ryan Tannehill a little bit. They have, obviously, been a different team since he became the starting quarterback. What are some of things that you see that he's doing well? People talk a lot about how well he throws against the blitz. Do you see that also as something he does well? (Cliff Brown) "He's playing quarterback, and the thing that I see that he does well is how efficient he is in the red zone, because he can extend plays with his feet. Here we go again talking about those types of quarterbacks, but he's playing at a high level."
It looked like RB Derrick Henry – I mean, they run everything, they run everywhere – but he had a lot of success on the edges against the Patriots. Is there a message that you send to those edge setters this week that, "Hey, the utmost importance is to drive him inside."? (Ryan Mink)"Right, it's like I said – it's playoff football. They're going to have their scheme runs. They're going to try him on the edge. They're going to try to run him straight downhill. Like I said, he's a big man that carries the football. For all those of you that played football, he's that guy that had to wear the red stripe on his helmet, because he didn't make weight." (laughter)
In past years you had LB C.J. Mosley, LB Ray Lewis going back that far. This year the inside linebackers have rotated so much. Does that affect your run defense? And how does that rotation work? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I think since what, Week 5, we've had close to, if not, the best run defense in the league. So, I think with those guys rotating, it keeps fresh bodies out there, and they play fast. So, the effect ... I don't think there's any effect that you just put on the linebackers. Also, getting the two tackles [Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams] that we have has helped us, as well. The best way I can answer it is look at the first time we played Cleveland; look at the second time we played Cleveland."
What strikes you the most about WR A.J. Brown when you look at his tape? (Pete Gilbert) "I said it the other day watching it: He's a young Anquan Boldin. He can catch, and we need to tackle the talent. That's for sure."
I don't know if you saw the clip of Wink Martindale, the game show host. He said you had his blessing to use his name and that he wanted some tickets. (Ryan Mink) "We offered. We sent an email to his people. (laughter) So, we offered. It's up to him if he wants to go. I think it'd be great." (laughter)
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement:"Good morning. The coaches and players are working hard, getting ready to face this tough Titans defense. They're well-coached, fundamentally sound. They wouldn't be here if they weren't. They have a lot of good players. Starting with the front, [Jurrell] Casey can be a real game-wrecker. The linebackers are extremely active. You saw them on the goal line last week against New England, the impact they had on the game. And the secondary is playing at a high level. No. 31 [Kevin Byard], he's an outstanding, ball-hawking safety, and they have good cover corners. So, we're very excited about this, excited to be here, and we have some more time. We need to use that time to the best of our advantage for Saturday night's game."
Does it help you guys at all that so many people in this building are so familiar with Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees, or is that just kind of noise at this point? (Childs Walker) "It's more about what you see on the tape. Everybody evolves. Dean [Pees] is a very good coach, and he's been around for a long time. They're not doing exactly what they did when he was here, so you have to trust the tape. Trust your eyes."
John Harbaugh said that you guys were looking back at the Super Bowl. How valuable is that to you, looking back at that tape when you faced [then-Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees] then? (Ryan Mink) "It's just like any other game, really. The most relevant games are right now, 2019 and 2020. So, that's really what we're focusing on."
How was your interview? (Pete Gilbert)"I'm focused on the game, focused on our preparations for the game. Today is a normal Thursday for us, so we have a lot of third-down, short-yardage, goal-line work to do."
What have you seen from QB Lamar Jackson and his mentality this week at practice and the last week? (Ryan Mink) "Same as we always see – just really diligent, energy, working his way through things like you expect him to and hope he does. He comes to work every day with a great attitude, lots of energy, and he's a great leader for us and a lot of fun to coach. We kind of have our claws dug into our process right now, so he's doing what he normally does."
Independent of RB Mark Ingram II's health, RB Gus Edwards is someone who carried the ball last year and split carries over the course of this season. How prepared do you think he is in the event that he has a big workload on Sunday and throughout the postseason? (Garrett Downing)"He's very prepared for that. We love our backs, and Gus [Edwards] is obviously a very important part of that group. I think he would love lots of action, like you want him to. He'll be ready. We really don't have to skip a beat."
How concerned are you about RB Mark Ingram II's status? (Shawn Stepner)"It's day-to-day, so we'll see, but that's how it is in this league. You just have to be ready to adapt and adjust as it happens, like in the course of a game. It happened a couple weeks ago against Cleveland, so we had to make some adjustments there."
I know you were in a different role, but what do you recall from last year's playoff game, and what can you kind of learn from that? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Every game is a good, valuable learning experience. I think it really kind of helped shape our season this year. But as it stands right now, it really means nothing. All that matters is this game and moving forward." (Reporter: "You said it helped shape your season, how so?") "I think so. We had a chance to kind of evaluate what we were doing and see how it worked in that game and see what we can do better. So, I definitely think it helped set us on a course for what we've done this year." (Reporter: "Are you talking about when you went to work rebuilding the offense through the course of the offseason?")"No question, yes. Anytime you fall short, you always want to look at it with a critical eye and make some adjustments that you think might help you moving forward. That was definitely an example of that."
It sounds like we're going to have rain here on Saturday. Does it help you guys at all that you've had a number of wet games this year, you've been through that? (Childs Walker)"Is this Baltimore or Seattle? (laughter) Yes, we've been in several of those games, and I definitely think it helps, especially for younger players. Guys that have been around for a while, [when] it's a rainy day … But all that experience helps. Everybody learns a little bit about how to make subtle adjustments in those weather conditions."
You've had one major change on the offensive line. A lot of times, when you have to change out centers, you kind of notice the difference. But with C Patrick Mekari, what has stood out about him? It seems like, from our viewpoint, it's been pretty seamless. (Jamison Hensley)"The whole offensive line … It was tough to lose Matt [Skura], but like we said, those things happen. Thankfully, Pat [Mekari] had been preparing very diligently, as he always does, for that opportunity. It arose, and he was ready for it. So, Pat is doing an excellent job. He has a great approach, and he's definitely the kind of guy that you want – as is Matt Skura – directing traffic up front. It doesn't [hurt] that he has Marshal [Yanda] next to him. That's a real benefit for the whole line, but I think that's really helpful, as well."
Any time we've brought up the playoff game last year to QB Lamar Jackson, he kind of says, "That's in the past. I don't really want to talk about it." Was that ever a game you reviewed with him, and can you tell how much it sort of ate at him, the way he played early in that game? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Early in the offseason, we definitely took some things from that game and emphasized them, positives and things we could work on. But that game is ancient history. It's in the books. We're moving forward. So, it really has no relevance."
FB/DL Patrick Ricard hasn't gotten a lot of the spotlight this year. What element does he bring to the offense, and why has he been deserving of his larger role this year? (Tom Schad) "It's a good question, in the sense that Pat [Ricard] is a very unique player. I don't think people see players like Pat Ricard on a week-to-week basis. How many fullbacks are 305 pounds? So, in that sense, he brings a different element that just doesn't exist, and he's been very instrumental in us running and passing the football. So, he's a really, really dependable weapon who really studies an offensive gameplan, a defensive gameplan and a special teams gameplan every week. And it's a credit to him that he's able to master all of those on a week-in and week-out basis. But he's a Pro Bowl fullback. Whoever said the fullback is dead is wrong."
You mentioned Dean Pees' defensive evolving. People say, "A Greg Roman offense likes to run the ball. A Greg Roman offensive likes to use tight ends." How do you characterize a Dean Pees defense? (Bo Smolka) "Just fundamentally sound, play hard, well-coached fundamentally, and just rock-solid defense. I think that says a lot, and that's what a lot of people try to become. So, that's what's really characterized him over the years."
QB Robert Griffin III talked about how you've done a good job of presenting new challenges every week to opponents. How much did the bye week off help you come up with some new, fresh ideas on the fly as you enter the playoffs? (Ryan Mink)"We come up with new, fresh ideas every week. The bye week was definitely a good time to do that. It gave us some extra time, as you mentioned. In a game, we mainly use, what, 20 percent, roughly, of what we're prepared to call. So, some of those new ideas are actually old ideas. We just haven't run them, yet. So, we've been sharpening up some of those, for example. And there are a few new things, as well, as there usually is. You have to keep the glass full."
Special Teams Coach Chris Horton
Opening statement: "Good morning. Good to see everyone, as usual. It's been a great week-and-a-half of practice for us. Our guys are out there, we're working hard, and we're really getting ready for this game. Looking forward to what's in front of us, we have a lot to build on from our last game. So, I know our guys are going to be ready to play. We're going to go play against a really good football team, and like I said, looking forward to Saturday night."
Do you use what happened in that Houston-Buffalo game with the confusion in the end zone about giving yourself up, do you use that as a teaching point this week to your returners? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Definitely. We just kind of instruct our guys that if that ball is going to go in the end zone, just let it hit. Because once it hits in the end zone, it's a dead play. That way, you don't put yourself in those situations. Obviously, if you catch it, just go ahead and take a knee. That way, all the confusion is out of it. Again, if the ball is going in the end zone, we'll just let it hit in the end zone. So, our guys know we don't put ourselves in those situations."
Assistant special teams coach Randy Brown, when we talked to him last week, said that M&T Bank is the toughest stadium to kick in. Do you agree with that, and how does that affect how you guys manage the game in a playoff game? (Aaron Kasinitz)"If Randy [Brown] said that, I definitely agree with it, because he studies those kicking patterns. He studies that weather. Over the course of the last [four] years, kickers are 0-6 from 50-plus [yards] in there. So, it is [difficult]. It is, with those boards, with those wind patterns changing and things like that, it is a little tougher place to kick. So, going into it, Tennessee, they have a new kicker [who] hasn't attempted a field goal yet this season. He has kicked some PATs. So, it'll be interesting to see how they approach it."
Do you guys approach them or [Titans K Greg Joseph] any differently because of that, that he hasn't hit a field goal? (Ryan Mink) "We're going to approach it the same way. They'll probably be looking into it, seeing how far they can kick and things like that. We'll get a good feel for that early on in the game, but we won't approach it any differently."
TE Nick Boyle
On the difference preparing for last year's playoff game compared to this year: "You can tell, through this whole year, I think we've evolved from last year – everyone's comfort level with the offense, with our relationships, everything. You can just tell it's on a whole new level. So, we're excited to go out there. Obviously, last year was not where we wanted to be in the playoffs in how it ended. So, we're excited to go out there and put our best foot forward."
On if he feels that if they lose the playoff game, the Ravens will be remembered for their loss rather than their 14-2 season:"We're not worried about that. We're worried about … In the regular season, we did well, but that's over now. The only thing that matters is winning this game, or else it's over. So, we have to go out there and put our best game forward no matter what happened before. How many games we won in a row doesn't matter. Go out there and win this game and keep playing."
On QB Lamar Jackson being unafraid to talk about going to the Super Bowl and the confidence that brings to the team: "It trickles down to all of us. It's cool how he said that, and now we're playing for that. His confidence trickles down to everyone else. He's our leader on the offense. He's been everything to us. This offseason, he's done an awesome job – and the fact that he said that, the fact that he's always a competitor and he's going to go out there and do whatever it takes for us to win."
On what stood out to him going against current Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees' defense in practice while he was with the Ravens: "All defenses are kind of similar. Once you line up, I'm just assessing three different spots from my standpoint. So, I don't think about it as Dean Pees. I'm thinking about it as Kamalei [Correa] is over there, just the players I have to block and the players I have to go against, pretty much like every other week."
S Chuck Clark
On what he saw from the Titans in their Wild Card game against the Patriots:"They were able to run the ball and get that run game going. Once you're able to do that, that opens up so much for your offense."
On if RB Derrick Henry reminds him of anyone he's had to tackle:"When you think about it, no. But yes, he's a big running back. When you think about it during the week, you're like, 'How am I going to get him on the ground?' But when you're out there in the game, there isn't anything you can think about. You just have to go out there and get him on the ground."
On the key to the defense's success during this 12-game win streak: "I feel like that's just getting out there and playing good. At the beginning, we weren't, and then we talked about playing good, but you actually have to go out there and do it. And when we're out there, we communicate well together as a unit. We know where everybody is lined up and in the right spot, and we go and ball."
On what changes with playoff football: "Any game can be the game that advances you or the one that sends you home, so you have to win."
On if there's a different atmosphere and intensity in the locker room and at practice this week:"Definitely, we're definitely trying to ramp it up, and like I said, all eyes on Saturday trying to go get one win."
On what he expects, in terms of the atmosphere at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday night: "They're going to be turned up for us, definitely, and we want them to be loud."
On the pressure of this playoff game after the best regular season in franchise history: "Yes, it's something in the back of our minds. We think about it, but no, we're just going out there; we're going to go get one win. That's all that matters at the end of the day, one win."
On the confidence he has in QB Lamar Jackson and the offense: "He's doing great on the offensive side, and as long as they score and we do our part, we're going to be alright."