QB Joe Flacco
On what he remembers about TE Dennis Pitta's mentality right after the injury happened in July:"I remember feeling pretty bad about it, and then when I did see him for the first time, I remember him being very upbeat and just himself. So, that kind of put me at ease with it. I think it put a lot of people at ease when they went over and saw him or heard how he was doing and kind of realized that he had a pretty good outlook on it. It made everybody feel a little bit better about it, so he handled it really well."
On what it means to have Pitta back on the field:"He's a good player. It's tough to put into words, but he knows how to get open. He catches the ball. He's going to get better and better. This was a crazy game. It's tough to see a lot of the things that he does, because some of the route-running was taken away and all of that. But he catches the football, he's in the right place, he runs routes, and he knows how to get open. He gives you very good indicators, and when you have my vantage point, that helps me out a lot."
On if the receiving corps is starting to take shape towards what he expected to have at the beginning of the year with Pitta and WR Jacoby Jones returning to health:"Yes, no doubt about it. Obviously, you lose Dennis at the very beginning of training camp, and it's not something that you really account for. We adjusted and we worked through it, and anytime you have somebody like that go down, it's going to affect you in some way, and I think we're now starting to get everybody healthy. It's definitely at the corps that we kind of pictured, and now we've just got to make it work."
On if he's surprised at the struggles the team has had on the road this season, and if he can pinpoint anything in particular to being the difference-maker:"It's just a lot of things. We're just not playing well enough consistently, and turnovers are always a big part of that. But we've put ourselves in a lot of bad situations. We haven't kept ourselves on the field – converting first downs, turnovers – we haven't scored touchdowns at times when we've needed to consistently enough. It's been a combination of things. We always tend to play a little bit better at home in the regular season, for whatever reason; I don't really know why that is. So, yes, I'm always a little bit surprised when our record away is so much different than our record at home. But, going down the stretch here, I have all the confidence in the world that we'll get it going and we'll play some good games away."
On if there is a reason he's played some of his best football in the fourth quarter of games this season:"I don't know. We've put ourselves in a lot of situations in the fourth quarter to have to come back on teams and have to play well to win football games. We've probably spent a lot of time feeling games out, and then all the sudden gotten ourselves into situations where we just have to let it go and see what happens. And I think it's just kind of turned out that way."
On if the key is to not think about what is at stake in those situations:"I think we've had so much experience in tight games, and in big, meaningful games, that when we do get in situations where we have to play well down in the crunch time, the situation isn't too big for us. We're able to relax and just play football as we always would, whereas if you're not in those situations a lot and you start to think about the consequences of what happens if you don't do what you should do, that's when the situation can get too big and can overwhelm some people. But like I said, I think because we've been in those situations so many times, as a whole, we have guys that react really well to it."
On playing against the Lions' tough defense:"Anytime you have experience and have a lot of guys with experience, it helps. We have guys that have a lot of experience; we have guys that don't. Guys are learning through this process. I haven't played in Detroit before. I'm sure it's a pretty crazy place to play. With these guys playing well, with these guys in the playoff hunt, with a good football team, it should be a pretty crazy place to play. We're going to have to go in there and handle our business early so we can get this thing rolling."
On looking forward to a climate-controlled setting, in light of recent games in bad weather: "I never make a big deal about playing outside, but every time you go into a dome and you start warming up, you realize how awesome it is to be able to throw the ball inside. It won't have too much of an effect on the outcome of the game. As a quarterback, you always want great conditions, and a dome obviously presents that, but we're still going to have to go play fundamental football and take care of business."
On adjusting to the snowy conditions during the Minnesota game: "In the first half, there was an adjustment period. I didn't necessarily think that we adjusted greatly. I actually came off the field after I threw the interception on the first drive and thought the offenses would have a pretty good advantage. It didn't prove that way, obviously. There was no pass rush; they couldn't really break on things. I think in order to take that away, we were hitting some things in front of them, and they couldn't really react to it quick enough. In order to take that away, they moved up on us a little bit and took the 6-yard route away by just playing inside that zone. Rather than run by them at times early in the game, we probably didn't try to do that enough. Then we came out in the second half, and the game was pretty normal. Obviously, it was a little bit different than a perfect-weather game, but it was a more of a normal-tempo football game. They did a great job clearing off the field, and you were able to run around pretty decently."
On if he expected Pitta to be in sync with him instantaneously: "I never really thought about it. You get out there, and you throw some routes to him, and it all just comes back to you."
On if he expected Pitta to play as much as he did in his return: "Yes. I didn't really think too much about that either. I think they decided on a timeline for him to come back, [and] they targeted that game. I assume he felt good about it during practice all week and was ready to go. I assumed that he was going to be in there and giving us his normal role."
On throwing the ball to WR Marlon Brown in a crucial situation: "It's just what you have to do. Marlon [Brown] is a great player. I'm not thinking back there, 'Who is in this position? Can I trust this guy?' If I was thinking that – if that was going through my head – I'd have all the confidence in the world, and he'd be a guy that I'd pick out. He is a great football player. He has got a lot of things going for him, and he's getting better and better each week."
On if he still considers players a rookie after 13 games of experience:"You're always getting better, and you're always adjusting. There's so much that goes on in this league that you're always kind of adapting and learning. When you've been involved in some of the games that he's been in, and you've handled it the way he's handled it, you can't really look at him as a rookie anymore."
On how close he thinks the passing offense is to breaking out: "I feel like we're close, and not just because of two minutes in a football game. The last handful of weeks, we've really been starting to break through and get to the point where we're giving ourselves opportunities to put points on the board. That's all that you can ask for is to get down into the [red] zone where you're giving yourself opportunities. As long as you give yourself a lot of opportunities, you're going to put some points on the board. I think we're starting to break through to the point where we're going to start scoring touchdowns and start capitalizing on a little bit more of those opportunities than we have been."
On if the offense will capitalize on more scoring chances with Pitta now playing:"He definitely helps. He brings everything together in a way that really helps us out. He'll force defenses to think about some things, and that always helps, too."
On CB Jimmy Smith's improvement this year: "He's so much more sure of what he's doing. He's not afraid to be wrong. He's not second-guessing himself [thinking], 'Should I have done this, or should I have done that?' He's just going out there and playing. I think because of that, his ball skills have improved so much. He's reacting to those things so much better because he's not thinking in his head, 'What happens if I don't make the play.' He has confidence, he's very sure of himself, and a lot of the basic things that his talent allows him to do … He's freed up, and those things are just starting to come out."
On if Smith has built up his confidence with more in-game experience: "I think that always helps. Not that there was no confidence [for him] before that. You're confident, but in order to keep feeding that confidence and really have it, you have to go out there, and you have to continue to prove to yourself that you can do it at every level, every week, against the best. I think he's been able to do that, and he's really starting to step his game up."
On Brown being a tall target in the red zone: "It always helps when you get a good guy who can run and catch. It's just a little bit extra that he's big. It's funny about him that I didn't realize how tall he is. It wasn't until the first couple of weeks of the season when I was standing next to him that I realized how big he is. Torrey [Smith] is shorter than Jacoby [Jones] and shorter than Marlon [Brown], and for some reason, I view him as being taller. I don't know why that is. Maybe he gives that appearance of being a little bit longer. Marlon [Brown] is a big person, and I sometimes even take it for granted. I think that's just an added bonus when you get a good receiver. It's an added bonus that he is as big as he is."
On what it means to know that he can lead a scoring drive in 45 seconds:"I think we always knew if that was called on us that we were going to have to do it. We made some good plays. The first play … You know in those situations that you have to get a couple chunks – at least one big chunk. We were able to do that from the very beginning. The first play we were able to get a big chunk across the middle to Marlon [Brown], and that got us rolling. I think if he keeps his feet there, he probably scores. I am kind of happy he didn't score knowing the way the game turned out and how it was going at that point. You need chunks, and we've got guys that can give that to us just because of how much our guys on the outside can stretch the field. You know at any point, you can hit a play. Whether you threw it long to get it to him, or you gave it to him in the intermediate area and let those guys run with it, they're dangerous with the ball in their hands. We always have the ability to come back and strike quick."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On what he said to TE Dennis Pitta after he caught a touchdown pass: "I can't remember what I said. I'm pretty [sure] it was something highly emotional. I think he probably remembers, but I was just glad, and I'm just happy to see him back out there doing what he does best, and that is helping us win games. So, it was good to have the tight end back out there."* *
On if he is one of the guys who screams, "Throw the ball to Dennis" in the red zone: "Throw it to Dennis [Pitta], give it to Ray Rice. I'm always cheering my teammates on, as long as we score, as long as the end result [is good]. But to see him do it in his first game back had to have been pretty awesome for him, and not only that, for our team."
On if having gone through a serious injury made him feel more empathy for Pitta's comeback: "Most definitely, but especially with the guys that you are close to. Me and Dennis [Pitta], everybody knows I'm his biggest fan, especially on this team. Just to see him back out there and knowing what he came [back] from – he got hurt on the first day of camp – just to see him every day just work back, it's good to see. It was flattering to see him go through it, and we just cheered him and on and supported him. He got out there, he caught a couple balls, and he even caught a go-ahead touchdown for us, so it was really good."
On the key to finishing games as a defense: "I don't know. I would definitely say just kind of embrace the moment. When your number is called, and when it is time for you to make a play, just to make it. I think that is pretty much it. It's a standard that, even though it has happened to us a couple times … But you don't want to play phenomenally the whole game, and then it comes down to one or two drives, and the play is not there. I think it's definitely just embracing the moment and sticking together as a unit."* *
On if the Vikings scoring a couple touchdowns quickly upset the defense: "Definitely, but you've got to ask yourselves why things happen. I always say, 'Smart people don't make the same mistakes; they make new ones.' We definitely don't want to put ourselves through that [or] put our fans through that ever again. But it also could be a good thing. It could mean we may have a four-leaf clover stuck somewhere around this team for us to win the way we did and for the events to happen the way they did. Maybe this is the start of something, so we've just got to see. But we've got a big one this week on Monday night in Detroit."
On if he has fond memories of the last time he was in Detroit: "I remember the 22 penalties. Did I get thrown out of that game? I did get thrown out of that game. I had a lot of 'malice in my heart.' (laughter) I think I head-butted a ref. (laughter) *I remember it was either six or nine goal-line stands. I remember one of our guys hit the crowd with the 'X-pac,' expletive; you all know what that is. I remember Kevin Jones having an altercation – not like a physical one, but a football altercation with one of our safeties. It was an interesting day. It was an interesting day. But that was the past, and we don't ever want to see that side of us again."* **
On if those memories will pop up when he steps into Ford Field Monday night: "No, they won't come back at all. Like I said, that was then, this is now. But wow, time sure does fly. *(laughter) *It's been a minute; it's been a minute."
On how critical the pass rush will be in stopping WR Calvin Johnson: "'Megatron' – anytime somebody has a nickname like that … The kid is real. The kid is real. He is probably arguably the best receiver in the game. It's going to take all 11 guys, especially tending to him. The pass rush is going to be key; running the ball is going to be key. They do a lot of things with him, [and] he ends up in a lot of places. But it's also fun [when] you get to play against a guy like that. I think we're definitely looking forward to the challenge, and not only that, but it's going to be a big stage, and this guy has a tendency of having big games on big stages. We'll get to see how we fare."* *
On if he has any words of wisdom for CB Jimmy Smith in terms of covering Johnson: "Jimmy [Smith] doesn't need any words of wisdom. Jimmy has been focused all year. With the exception of Week 1, Jimmy Smith has been playing lights out for us. I guess it is kind of like with the pitcher with the no-hitter; you don't talk about. We're just going to let Jimmy be Jimmy. He is going to play, and the front four – us – we're going to do a good job in making sure he doesn't have to cover him for long periods of time. But other than that, I think Jimmy will be ready."
On if he has noticed any difference in Smith this season: "He has [come on strong]. He has been the corner that we all knew was there. Everybody can see the difference. He has been playing lights out for us, and you've got to tip your hat off to the kid just for staying at it and just the work he's been putting in. We're all proud of Jimmy, but we're not satisfied yet. He has got to finish out these next three games and [some] in January."* *
On the team's road record this year: "There is no disrespect calling a spade a spade. But the season isn't over yet. We still have two on the road, and we need these two. I guess we'll have an answer for that question come the end of the season. But as of right now, we're not too much worried about it. We've got to go to Detroit, come home against New England, and then we go to Cincinnati. But first thing is first, and we've got to handle Detroit."