HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
Let me just say a few things about the game I guess and how we felt it went. Going in we were thinking that if we could have a one possession game going into the fourth quarter that we’d be in great shape. As it turned out, we start the fourth quarter and were down six. They had a drive, we had some opportunities to stop them, they got a first-and-goal at the one. We stopped them on three plays trying to get in, held them to a field goal. We were only down nine points with about 10 minutes left in the game. We get the ball with a chance again. We’re visualizing us scoring one way or another and we have a one possession game going with five minutes left in the game. We get the ball, we have one first down. I think the second one we went for it on fourth-and-one; we converted it. That was our thinking that we needed points to get it to one possession again. Unfortunately, around the 45-yard line we have a fumble. We turned the ball over there, gave them the short field, and that’s where they obviously scored. We still had a chance down about 16 with four or five minutes left, but obviously we didn’t rally there to get back in it. The point to that and the point to the team was that for all the things that went on until that fourth quarter, we were right there. We had a great opportunity to put them in a situation where they have a one possession lead with the ball in their hands, and if we could have gotten a stop and made a play, that’s how you beat that football team at their place with as well as they’re playing. We did a lot of good stuff to get there. I thought, like I said, we played hard, we played physical. I thought we played until the end. I don’t think there was complaining or any of that going on. I thought guys were into it. I thought they believed that they could win that football game until the last four, five minutes when it became obvious we weren’t going to. That’s how it fell. That’s how I kind of talked to the team about it today because that’s how this league is, how close it is. A play right there in the last eight minutes of the game could have made a totally different outcome.
(on the team’s time of possession)
Well, it’s always a factor. That’s why defensively your strategy was to play with the two groups of guys, the linebackers and the D-line, so we had enough guys activated to where we wouldn’t tire out knowing that they weren’t going to throw or we weren’t going to get balls over the top. They weren’t going to get those plays on us; they were going to have to earn their way down the field. I thought we put up a great fight on the goal line quite often, not just the one I referred to in the third, fourth quarter. The first drive on a fourth-and-one, they had to get us on a pick play. The next time down there on the one-yard line we held them to a field goal. Because of those stops down there, that ate up a lot of time on the clock. They were moving the ball down methodically, but we stiffened down there and made it hard for them to get it in. It ended up taking a lot more plays. It was taking them four downs to get the ball in the end zone, it was taking four downs to get first downs, so there is a lot of that going on which led to the time of possession getting lopsided—plus the fact that we scored on I think our fourth play of the opening drive and we scored on one play after the kickoff return. Even though those are great plays, it does put the defense right back out there. Luckily, we kept guys semi-fresh throughout the process knowing that it was going to be that type of game.
(on whether poor performance dictated a four-man linebacker rotation)
No. Just because of what we talked about earlier, it was more about the reps. We didn’t expect 90 reps or 91 reps, but we thought there would be a lot…on the field you can’t substitute. If they’re not substituting their guys, you’re not substituting yours. You’re going to have guys stuck out there for long periods of time, so we wanted all four linebackers being comfortable playing so we could rest guys so that they couldn’t take advantage of us maybe being tired. We did the same thing with the D-line. It had nothing to do with how the guys were playing. It was more about the amount of reps we knew they were probably going to have to play.
He did fine. Again, he may have had one or two things, but nothing that was…for a first time out there playing defense, we thought he was solid.
(on whether he talked to the league office today)
I haven’t talked to them yet about those things. A lot of that is it doesn’t take you back by any means. It actually makes you feel worse to find out some of these calls shouldn’t have been made. It’s more of for teaching so that I can teach Bernard (Pollard) and we can talk about why he needs to do better than what he did, why they threw the flag. Now I think the flag comes out just because you hit someone hard. It’s just a reaction now, but we’ll hear about that later. I haven’t talked to them yet about that and some of the calls, the one that hurt us, the Vern (
I think it was a good hit. For me watching the game, it wasn’t defenseless. The guy had the ball, was trying to pull it in, and he (Bernard Pollard) hits him. He adjusted his aiming, he pulled his head out of it, he hit him with his shoulder. We’re assuming if he’s not doing the right thing then we need to educate ourselves on what he could have done there.
(on Bernard Pollard’s personal foul before halftime)
I never got the whole thing on that. It was more of dialogue, more of talking about the play before that. There was a penalty on something, and I think it was more of a discussion. The official I guess didn’t like the discussion and threw the flag. Luckily, that penalty didn’t hurt us because he kicked it through the end zone which they were doing anyway. You got to be smart. I didn’t get the full story of exactly what irritated the official. We didn’t think it was anything enough for that, but obviously they did.
(on Pollard’s passion)
I think you want that. You want a guy that loves what he does, has a passion for his job. That’s contagious to some degree. It’s a fine line there (because) you have to be able to control that passion and not have plays that hurt the football team. He truly understands that. That play happened. Do you want him to play it any differently? Do we want him to be physical? Do you want that guy that can make a difference in how he hits someone? That’s the game there. You’re hoping that’s within the rules. I like his passion for the game, the energy he brings, but you just got to play smart within it because there are times in the season when he let it get the best of him while he’s competing. For guys like him that were brought up in the league when that’s how it was and now you’re changing the game the last two years, it’s a hard thing to do. I think he’s still transitioning through that, trying to do the right thing, trying to pull off on the hit, trying to hit a guy differently. It’s a little harder on the older guys than it is the younger guys. I think that’s what you’re seeing across the league. They’re adjusting, they realize they need to adjust their game. Everyone understands about the players’ safety, and it’s important to all of us, but the adjustment process is not easy.
(on whether referees target Pollard)
I don’t think anyone deliberately is looking for him to do something, but I think there’s no doubt they’re aware of him. They’re aware of guys when they go into games just like when we tell them, ‘Hey, watch for this, watch for that.’ I’m sure the guys on the other team are saying, ‘Hey, watch (Bernard) Pollard. He’s going to take some shots.’ Just like with us as coaches, myself will say, ‘Watch so and so. He’s holding. Watch these pick plays.’ You talk to these officials about it all the time during the week to build up so they’re looking for those things. Does that affect them? I don’t know. It’s not just for guys like him; it’s for all kinds of schemes that another team might have to take advantage of a situation. If we think it’s not getting called enough, we’ll at least bring it to their attention.
(on whether Von Miller’s hit on
It was to me. I think that is disturbing because that was unnecessary. They flagged it which was the right thing. Luckily, our quarterback wasn’t hurt.
(on whether Miller should be fined for his hit on Fitzpatrick)
I hope they will. I hope they take a look and realize, just like I said that it was unnecessary and there were other ways to hit him in that situation. That’s what the league does; they look at those kinds of hits and make the decision on if there is anything warranted past that. I know he’s a great football player, but in the heat of the battle, guys make plays where they could have lowered the target or done whatever. Hopefully it’s consistent throughout the league.
(on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s performance)
We didn’t have a lot of reps. We had 50-something plays because of what we just talked about on the other side of the ball. We did score quickly on a couple. Even
(on the Broncos covering
They did do it. I thought in spots they did a nice job. I think there’s some mistakes he made, like all players do, with his route running. There were times when there may have been a pressure where we couldn’t get him the ball that he was open. It was a combination of that and not having as many opportunities as he has had the last few weeks with targets. It was a combination of all of those.
(on whether Kendall Wright is suffering from injuries)
The last thing he ever wants to talk about is his ankle or shoulder. He’s got a lot going on, but he’s as tough as they come. It’s hard to get him not to play in practice all week. I know those things are bothering him, but that’s not why he doesn’t make catches or do his thing. That’s the last thing he would use as an excuse by any means.
I think he understand the situation. I talked to him on Friday, on Saturday when we realized our situation on defense about using more linebackers. That affects your 53-man roster when you do that, when you have all your guys up. We knew
He (Delanie Walker) wasn’t ready. I think he’s ready now. I think he’ll be playing now. He goes through his last exam tomorrow, and we assume he’ll be fine. (Craig) Stevens only played a dozen plays, so his confidence grew. I think we can play him a lot more the next three weeks. We should have him back at full health I hope this week and same thing with Delanie.
(on his job security)
Well, we have three games to go. We have a lot of football to play. That’s not a concern right now. Those are thing to me that are end of the season once we play our last game I’ll have an opportunity to speak on how we move forward as a football team just like last year and the year before that. I’ve had the same discussion every year when the season ends, so I would assume I’ll have that same discussion when the season ends. Let’s see how these last three play out, what our situation is when all the results are in. I’ll have a chance to talk with everybody then and say, ‘Hey, here’s what happened, here’s how we go forward, here’s the plan,’ and then the decision is made like it has been every year. That’s something in three weeks we’ll figure out.
(on the importance of finishing 8-8)
I think we got to be 8-8. I’m not worried about my job for 8-8, but it’s more about we need to be 8-8. We’ve worked too hard. At this point, that’s the best we can do, so that’s obviously what our goal is at this point to win these three games. (We need) to finish these three games and feel good about ourselves. We’re not happy with 8-8, but we need to finish these three. It’s not about to save this or to save that, it’s to help this team going forward to next year. There’s still a lot of great things that can be done, there’s a lot of players playing well. We’re obviously not mathematically out of it yet as far as being officially out of the playoffs. We understand the longshot and what our situation is, but we need to win our three games for all of us. We’re not playing for any other reasons but to go 8-8. We’ll let it play out from there.
(on communicating with Tommy Smith)
I’ve talked to him. We talk just about each game. We’ll talk about the game and move forward, just keep on the same page and what’s happening. It’s been fine.
(on the players still being onboard)
When I played or I coach now, as a line coach, a head coach, a player…I know you have to ask those questions, but I thought it was one that was unnecessary because if you play in this league and you’re an NFL player, you’re not going to decide, ‘Well, we’re not in the playoffs, so I’m not going to play hard anymore; because I’m not happy with the situation, I’m going to play differently.’ The expectation is for these guys to play their best these next three weeks. I couldn’t even imagine a guy thinking he’s not going to give his best because of his record. You almost want to push harder when things aren’t going well. They’re pros. It’s important for them to finish strong, play well. Nothing good happens when you don’t play your best or work your hardest. They know that, so it’s important for a lot of reasons for these guys to play their best. We all want to be 8-8. We’re not happy where we’re at, but the best way to do it is to finish up strong, play your best. It tells a lot about yourself, your character. I don’t think it’s in these guys’ DNA not to play their best football every Sunday. I know we’re going to see that. I’m not worried about that. I know you’re going to see them at their best. Hopefully that’ll mean we win all three games, but I don’t buy into that philosophy. I just don’t see that. I didn’t like when people asked me it when I played.
(on whether the team needs personnel changes in the offseason)
A group never stays the same from year-to-year no matter what team you’re on, the Super Bowl team. From the worst team to the best team, teams don’t stay together because of contracts and free agency and all those things. I think in general we’re in a much better situation than we were a year ago as far as the base of this team, the core of this team I should say. Wait until we finish the season to see what our wins and losses are. Teams could have the same record but are going in different directions. I think this team is going in a very positive direction going into next year. We’re not happy about it, and the results aren’t there with the wins yet. If we win these three, we’re 8-8 and obviously better than last year as far as our record goes. I think you see the way we compete. It’s a different type of team than we had a year ago. There’s some spots where we have to get better at without a doubt. There’s some spots where we had young players playing that will be better next year just because they’re going through the growing pains. We obviously have an issue at quarterback with our quarterback being hurt the last two years. We know that’s something that has to get better with Jake (Locker) and whatever ends up happening. As you go down the list, there are some things that need to be done next year. That’s talk for next year, but a lot of good things are in place. We’ve got some good, young football players that are having some of their best years this year that you can build around, so I think there is a reason for the fact we’re in a much better situation than we were a year ago even though the wins and losses aren’t as substantial as we hoped they would be at this point.
(on dealing with injuries this season)
You can always make a case for the poor old Titans, but we want to win. There are definitely some things that hurt us this year, there’s no doubt. Look at any teams that has lost their quarterback: it’s hard, it creates issues when you have to make that change. Nothing against Ryan (Fitzpatrick), but it’s different when you have to make that transition from one quarterback to the next quarterback. Throughout the year the tight ends, the offensive line, we’ve had issues that come up and create problems, but it’s things we can overcome. That’s why for me there’s some good things going on. Our defense is much better, but yesterday was a tough day against a good football team. It doesn’t mean our football team all of a sudden is worse. We were all bragging on the defense up until last week. Well, Peyton (Manning) had a pretty good day in some areas. This is still a football team that’s playing a lot better on defense than we were a year ago. Offensively, I think you’re seeing Kendall (Wright) step up, you’re seeing Justin Hunter getting better every week, you have Delanie Walker who has come in and done a very good job at tight end, you have two rookie offensive linemen that are going to be here for a long time. It’s a good group to watch develop, so I think you have a lot of good pieces of the puzzle. If we end up winning these three, I think we’ll be happy that we hung in there and got to 8-8. We want to be in the playoffs, we all want that. Back to my point earlier, we’re heading in the right direction. As much as it doesn’t seem that way at times, you can make a leap fast. If we get the thing at quarterback and some spots, we’ll be fine.
It’s something you have to wait on until the season is over. He has a long road with rehab. If you know anyone that can come back from rehab, he has shown us he can. That’s tough decisions for the offseason. As you know in this league, many things change from year to year. You know how I feel about him, you know how I believe in him, you know how we felt when he was 3-1 and on his way. That did hurt a lot when he got hurt. I’m still hoping that he can have a great career in this league by overcoming another injury.
(on whether others believe in Jake Locker)
This is future talk, so I’ll leave it to January, February to kind of really feel what our options are. Just like anything, you want to know what Jake’s (Locker) situation will be, when will he actually be healthy, when will he actually be practicing, what other options do you have in the meantime? Is there a better idea? Is there a better way to go forward? Is there someone available? There’s all those things. You’re always going to consider all that what ifs even though you’re happy with what you have. When you have someone that unfortunately is not healthy right now, as a team you have to consider everything—just like you would with the head coach, the assistant coaches. As you know when the season ends, the first thing is the head coach then it’s the coaching staff then it’s free agency. You have a lot of time to worry about that stuff. Nothing is going to happen in free agency until March. The draft isn’t until May. There’s a long ways before you decide about building your team back. Those are things we’ll have plenty of time to think about. If you’re a good team, a thorough team, you’re going to consider all the options and make a decision. It’s not an indictment on the player; you do it with everybody.
(on injuries sustained during the game)
No. We got through it pretty healthy.
(on what happened to
I don’t know. Nothing that was a problem as far as going forward. He got nicked.