WEDNESDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: DOLPHINS – WEEK 14
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see you guys. Thanks for being here. Just finished up a good practice, and we're obviously deep into our preparations for Miami and looking forward to Sunday."
John, the last two games [Miami] has given up a lot of rushing yards, but before that they were a really good rushing defense. Do you think that's a more formidable group than what we've seen the last couple of weeks against the run? I'm sure you guys review tape of the whole season; did you see earlier in the season when they were tough against the run? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think when you evaluate a defense, you evaluate the body of work. There's going to be up and down games, schemes and different things like that, and a lot of times those things happen with big plays [and] make a difference. So, they're a very good defense, no question about it."
John, have they changed their scheme at all since earlier in the season? (Mike Preston) "No. They're running the same scheme. It's a 4-3 defense, over and under front. [It is] very similar to what we've seen from the Bengals over the years. Their coordinator came from Cincinnati. [They bring] a lot of pressure, especially [in] base defense. [It's a] very good defense."
John, with QB Ryan Tannehill, how tough has he been to stop with all the things he does moving around and also with their spread formation? (Aaron Wilson) "They're running an offense very similar to what you see in Philadelphia. It's a spread-option offense. The coordinator was [in Philadelphia], so it has been a challenge for us. It's not really an offense we've seen a lot of over the last few years, so we're putting a lot of work in trying to figure out what we're going to do. And [Ryan] Tannehill does a great job with it. He does the reads well, as far as the option stuff. He can scramble around. He can make plays with his feet. He has a heck of an arm. He has a cannon for an arm. So, he has been running it pretty darn well."
Was there an emphasis on getting the short passing … There are a lot of short completions it looks like. How much of a factor will tackling be, especially in the secondary? (Jamison Hensley) "Tackling is … How much of a factor will tackling be?" (Reporter: "By the secondary I'm talking about, because of the short passes.") "How much of a factor will tackling be? It will always be a huge factor by the secondary, by the linebackers, by the D-line. You have to tackle the short [passes]. In the NFL, you're going to always get a controlled passing game. Everybody is going to drop it down, even a team that pushes the ball upfield like we saw last week that's not there to drop it down to the checkdown. So, you have to tackle the short passing game like it's the run game. You have to come up, and you have to make plays on the ball carrier. Much of their passing game is run-after-the-catch, which is to your point, so that's going to be really important for us."
Is WR Torrey Smith making progress, as well as WR Marlon Brown? (Aaron Wilson) "Yes."
**John, since we spoke on Monday, Miami added itself as another 7-5 team in this jumbled AFC. Do you look at that, and does that make this game a little bit more important – you start December, the big stretch? *(Dave Ginsburg) *"I don't think it really does, because there are so many teams in the mix right now. You just have to win. The teams that win are going to be the teams that come, and it's going to be six teams. You just have to win [against] whoever you're playing no matter what the records are."
When you talk about their option in the passing game, will you be able to stay in your similar base defense in the run game and still be able to stop what they do? Are you guys anticipating having to change anything to defend that? (Jon Meoli) "No, you don't change your whole structure of your defense. We have our calls, and we'll apply them to their plays just like you do every week. It's just that their plays are a little different than what we've seen."
*Who is simulating those on the practice field? Do you have QB Tyrod Taylor? *(Jon Meoli) "Tyrod [Taylor] is our quarterback. Yes, he's our look-team quarterback. He always is, not just because it's an option deal. He takes the vast majority of those reps every week."
John, WR LaQuan Williams, you just felt like his experience in special teams that it's important to get him back? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes. [LaQuan Williams] was just the best option we had out there right now to bring back, and of course LaQuan … The nice thing about having LaQuan there is if we do need another guy [from] the practice squad [to play], now he has a chance. He's sitting right there. He's practicing for us. He has played a lot of football for us, so he would know what to do. He also knows how to practice and how we do things, so that helps a lot. And he was in good shape, to his credit. He was prepared, so we were able to bring him back. Of course we got [Phillip] Supernaw back as well. You probably saw that. We're excited to have the opportunity to bring him back. We're a little thin at tight end with just the two tight ends on the active roster, so that really helps us to have him back."
QB Joe Flacco
On how he feels with a 7-5 record: "I think we've come out of most of the games recently – pretty much all the games – [saying], 'Man, that was a big game,' whether we won it, whether it was a big game, a big win, or whether we ended up losing it and came out saying, 'That was a big game, man. We missed an opportunity there.' And the bottom line is that I think they're all like that. This is just another one of them. It happens to be against one of the teams that's in that fight and wants to get in that spot, one of those spots. We still have four games. It's a long road ahead, and the biggest thing is to just focus on this one, focus on this team. They're playing well. We're going down to their place, obviously, and it's a big one. It's important, and I think that's all we can focus on right now."
On whether the experience of being in the playoff hunt is helpful for the rest of this season: "I think so. The bottom line is our team is a lot … From year to year, the team is a lot different. It really is. But you do have guys that have been in these situations in the past, and you do have your core group of guys here that have been here and been in those tight situations. We made the playoffs a lot of years, and we didn't get in until that last game – winning, winning, winning. And whether it was winning the division or securing a Wild Card spot, a lot of the times – maybe all but one year – it took until the last game of the season. And like you said, we were in it last year. We had 16 meaningful games, and it's awesome. That's what it's all about. Obviously, we'd like to be sitting a little bit better than we are right now, but we're not, and you have to forget about that. You have to put it in the past, go out there and play. And I think that's when you give yourself the best chance of going out there and playing well is just putting everything else behind you and not letting it sit in your mind too often – the good, the bad. Just get past it, move on and play the way that we have been, and I think things will go our way."
On the key to being a good team in December: "There are a lot of things to it. You're dealing with a lot of things. It's late in the season, so one of the biggest things is you're usually dealing with guys that are beat up and guys that can't play because they're injured. And what kind of team do you have? How many guys do you have that you can call on and really count on playing well? I think we have that. I think we have a good schedule set up [and] in place for us to be as healthy as we can this time of the year and go out there and be fresh on Sundays. Those kind of things matter, just like we were just talking about the fact that we have played in a lot of meaningful games this time of the year. That helps, too."
On whether he likes playing December football in Miami: "Of course – definitely. When you see Miami is on your schedule, first you hope that you're playing in Miami, and second you hope that it's late in the season, because if it's in September, you're not really getting anything out of that. So, the fact that we're playing them in December is not lost on me yet."
On playing in warmer weather: "To be honest with you, we've played down there a pretty good amount. I don't know if we've played them up here. Maybe once? We've dealt with it pretty good. We've played there maybe early or mid-season. We've played there in the playoffs where we had to deal with having it be pretty cold up here and not [cold] down there. For three hours on a Sunday, I think you can deal with it and go out there and play pretty well." (laughter)
On Miami's pass defense: "I think they have a good combination of being able to get after the quarterback and guys on the back end that are athletic and can sit back there and read a QB's eyes and really jump on things or look at the receiver and jump routes. Because they are able to get some pressure off the edges, they're counting on that ball coming out, and they have guys back there that are pretty good athletes and can make plays on the ball. So, those two things working together are pretty good."
On whether this is as good as he has felt about the running game: "Yes, there are a lot of good things about it. One of the good things about it is early in a game if we come out and we're only getting three yards here, two yards here, by the end of the game, we're hitting them and we're getting some yards, and you can tell that we're getting stronger and stronger as the game goes on. And we have a guy [Justin Forsett] back there that's running the ball really well right now, and I definitely feel really good about it."
On whether it is frustrating that all of the offensive elements have not come together in a game:"I don't know about that. Listen, last two games – with the help of the defense – we've put up [points] in the mid-30s, and we'd like to … We had chances. The one thing I can say is we've had chances to put more points on the board. And whether a penalty here or mistake here has held us back from that, those are the things we're working on correcting and not happening. But the bottom line is we're getting down there. We're moving the football. And when you do that, you're giving yourself a lot of chances and good things are going to happen. And I think they have been happening. And I think if we continue to do it and do it and do it, then we'll get even better at making them happen once we put ourselves in position."
On whether Miami is the best defense they have seen on film this season: "It's tough to say until you get out there on Sunday. You can watch as much film as you want, and that's where you put your game plan together based off of what you feel they're going to be and what you feel like you can do versus them, and then you go out there. But until you get out there on Sunday and you can really feel what it's like being in that pocket and how physical it is and all that, it's tough to really get a good feel."
On if he feels this is a character building game for the team: "I think if we go down there and we win on Sunday, then there's no doubt that we'll be saying something like that. But then the next one is going to be just as important and the next one and the next one. So, I think every game you're building character and you're proving something to yourself, and that's the most important thing no matter if you win or lose. You're building some kind of … You're building yourself up, and you're either hardening yourself, getting tougher or you're gaining that confidence to go out there and do it in some kind of way. So yes, it's a big one, and I think it'll go a long way in a lot of different ways. Mentally, it'll definitely be one of those."
On how confident he is in the receivers despite some injuries: "We have a good group of guys out there. [They are] physical, can catch the ball and can run. So, I don't have any worries with that."
On whether he will have time to enjoy the beach in Miami: "No, no. (laughter) The best we can hope for is going out and catching a good meal and getting back in those meetings." (Reporter: "And you can't catch that meal at the beach.") *"No." *(laughter)
RB Justin Forsett
On his thoughts going up against Miami's run defense:"I think they are probably one of the best defenses we've faced thus far – fast, physical bunch. The front seven is very impressive. They have some playmakers and some top notch guys up there. So, we are going to have our work cut out for us."
On the Ravens hoping to gain momentum with a win against the Dolphins:"It's very important. I feel like this game coming up is a playoff game for us; so will be the other games we'll play in the month of December. So, it is important for us to go out and get this 'W.'"
*On how Miami's defense has allowed almost 400 yards rushing over the last few weeks: *"Every team is different. I'm sure with the Jets and some of the other teams that they played, they weren't expecting certain things. But for us, we just have to go out and our mindset has to be balanced – go out there and try to make our presence known with the running game. But watching them on film, I don't want to fall into the trap of thinking that this thing is going to be easy and we are going to be able to run all day. I know that they are a physical bunch. I know that they are athletic and they have a lot of playmakers over there, so I am anticipating a tough game."
On if he is OK physically after missing Wednesday's practice:"I missed a couple [this season]. Well, not a couple, but I think maybe one before. But [this was] just resting up – regular soreness, especially coming into December, just trying to take care of the body and take care of the little nicks and knacks I've gotten over the course of the year."
On whether missing practice will jeopardize his availability this weekend:"No. No, I don't think so."
On going from Baltimore's cold weather to Miami's warm climate for the game:"I'm OK with playing in 80-degree weather. I have no complaints with that. I grew up in Florida, so I'm excited to get back into that weather. I don't have to worry about wiping ice off my window. So, I'm good."* (laughter)*
On if he has to hydrate more during the week to prepare for Miami temperatures:"Of course you want to hydrate every game, but going down there, it is hot. I think it's going to be 78 or 80 – [that is] what they are saying – so it won't be too bad. I'm not really worried about that."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On staying loose while still knowing what's at stake for the season and if he feels the team has to win out:"Yeah, we do [have to win out]. Do not be mistaken by our jokish gander. We understand we have some business ahead of us. We're going to approach our business like so, but we're not going to change who we are."
On the challenges QB Ryan Tannehill presents to the Ravens' defense:"It's always going to be difficult when you have a quarterback that can do both, run and throw. Tannehill has proven himself in this league, and it's also showed this year. He has 7 wins out of 12, so that speaks a lot. And we definitely have our hands full, but we're going to prepare."
On if Miami could prove to be a turning point game for the season:"I think so. I think it has the potential to be, absolutely. They're rolling. They're coming off an emotional win and we're coming off an emotional loss, so it definitely could be that – a momentum swing – tremendously."
On balancing pass rush responsibilities with keeping containment against the read option:"You pretty much just have to read your keys. It's all in preparation. You have to know where you're vulnerable at, and even with that you have to play run and pass, but that's just like every play. We're not making too big of a deal about it."
On how much the pass rush puts on its shoulders to help out the secondary:"You have to have a good, effective pass rush every game. This is the NFL. There hasn't been [an] extra point of emphasis, regardless. Injuries happen in the NFL, so we happen to look at it like that. As you can clearly see, we have guys in this locker room that really love to get after the passer. That's a key part of our game, and we're going to continue to do so."
CB/RS Lardarius Webb
On the key to facing Miami's shorter passing attack:"They are a deep team. Mike Wallace, that's what he does. That's why Pittsburgh brought him in the league. That's why they brought him there, because he's dynamic at that – when he's going deep. He's a good receiver and does a lot of other things, but when he's going deep, he's a monster. In the back end, we have to just have a great game plan going into this, good communication in the back end between all of us and just basically step our game up in the back end, including myself. We have to cover better. We cannot let the ball get over our head. We have to compete, including myself. One thing about this week [is] we're going to come and we're going to compete all game. So, me and my boys, we are doing everything we can to get prepared for the game this week. The coaches are doing a nice job of feeding it to us. So, we're ready to get to the game. [We] take it one day at a time, and guys in the back end know what we have to do."
On how tough it is to brush off a game like last week's loss to San Diego:"It's hard for that day, at least for those 24 hours. A lot of guys kind of take it to heart. They didn't want it to end up on us, I would say. I didn't want the game to end up on the secondary, which it did. So, we take a day to get over it, but you have to let it go. As a DB, you have to have a short memory. So for my guys, me, Danny Gorrer, Anthony Levine – we have to let it go. 'They made some plays, yeah. Let's line back up and keep competing, man.' I'm sorry the game ended that way. I tell the guys, we get together in a group, but we can be better. And we're going to be better."
On how much continuity plays into the secondary's performance:"In the back end, we have a lot of starting-caliber safeties. I can start naming all of them, and I think all our safeties can be back there starting. But there is so much talent, the coaches just make ways to shuffle them around, give them different packages, because we have so much talent in the back end. We have to get everything together, be on the same page, I would say. It doesn't matter who is in there. They are all good; they all can play in the NFL. So, we just have to be on the same page in the back end – it doesn't matter who is in there – and play ball."
On the mentality in the back end right now:"The mentality is to get better – now. We don't have [much] time. We have to go to work. We just got through going to work. We have to be a stronghold on this team. If we get our stuff together in the back end, then we will be a hell of a defense."
On how QB Ryan Tannehill has developed as a starting quarterback:"He's grown a lot. When he was young, he would just make throws – just throw it up, really not reading it, just make a throw. Now, he's going through progressions. The coaches know what his strengths are. So, he's playing better. He can just go out and play ball. He doesn't have to do all that thinking. When you're not thinking, you're playing a lot faster. He has all the wide receivers to throw the ball to, [plus] some tight ends. He has some weapons. He has a weapon at running back who he can hand the ball off [to]. So, they're not putting all the pressure on Tannehill, so that's what makes him so dangerous."
On how confident he is the back end will improve against the Dolphins:"I'm very confident. My guys, we're ready. We know what happened last week. Yeah, it hurt us; it hurt us to death. But hey, we have to come back. We're ready to play. We are going to be there for our defense."
On having confidence in CB/RS Asa Jackson and what he expects from him when he returns:"I have the same amount of confidence that I did without him, but Asa is a game-changer. It's awesome to have him back. Before he went down, he was making plays. He was in the lineup. We are all excited to see a guy come back from an injury. I've been through that. And it's just exciting to see him on the field, having fun, smile on his face and doing what Asa does. And he makes plays."
On the difficulty coming off a back injury and how he has looked at his season:"There have been a lot of ups and a lot of downs. But hey, man, adversity – you have to just put that stuff behind you, you have to keep fighting. I've been through things when I have been down. That's just my career. You just have to keep fighting, and that's what I'm telling my boys in the back end. Stuff is going to happen in this league, every week is not going to go your way, but you come back the next day and you have to be ready to fight. And my boys are going to be ready to fight."
On the mentality of the secondary in stopping the option:"We just have to be a sound defense to stop the option. [Ryan] Tannehill does keep the ball. He runs; he's an athlete. So we just have to have a sound defense on the same page to stop that option. The guys up front, they can handle that. I believe in them."
On if his injury this season has been the toughest one for him because he had such high expectations for himself this year:"Every season I've had things that were tough during each year. [I have had] things that I've learned from each year. I guess it's just part of playing ball. Each year you're going to learn something different. I would say this year I learned and am still in the learning process of some things. But, in the end, when you learn those things while going through that learning process, you have to just keep fighting, keep competing, keep practicing, keep studying as hard [as you can] and just keep pushing a lot and pushing the guys around me. So, we will be fine."
On what he has learned this year and is in the process of learning:"Different things, different things. One thing is [to] keep fighting. You're going to have those up and down days, but just keep fighting. That's my thing."
On the last time he can remember that he felt totally healthy for an extended period of time:"I feel good now. I felt good as we are coming past this last month. I feel awesome. I'm just happy to be on the field. I'm just ready to go out and make more plays for my defense."