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Coach Munchak's Monday Press Conference

Posted Sep 25, 2012

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on if the plays the team did make outweigh the plays they could have made to have the game end sooner)

Well I think that’s the fun for the players on Monday, to see the things we did well, start with that. The fact that we did make plays, we talked about the fact that we had to make some. We haven’t been making those the first two games. All three phases were part of those five plays that were over 60 yards. I thought that was encouraging to see that we are capable of making the big play, but then we have to be capable of putting the game away when we had the opportunity. When we do make those plays, if we get the lead, you can’t have things happen. You have to execute the onside kick. You can’t have a roughing the passer after you end the game again. (Alterraun) Verner had his second pick in the last couple minutes of the game and the game is over there. Because of a bad decision by Akeem (Ayers), we have to play 20 more snaps. All of a sudden, all kinds of craziness happens. Those are the things when you watch the tape, you learn from other guys’ mistakes and what they did, realize we have to execute. We could have easily lost that game as we all know. That’s how the league is. As excited as we were, we could have walked away with a loss because we didn’t execute certain parts of the game—the last play, the Hail Mary, didn’t execute that. They made their plays when they had to, which made it a very interesting game. Luckily we made ours at the end.

(on the proper execution of the onside kick)

The onside kick is you catch the onside kick. You block the guy that is free, that made the reception. Even if you don’t recover the onside kick, you’re probably just out-of-bounds if the guy is blocked, the guy that recovered it. We failed at that. It’s good the fact you can win the game and then have a chance to learn from your mistakes. It’s much easier that way. It’s something you practice all the time. You practice these things all the time, but unfortunately it’s never really game speed. It’s not the stress of the situation. I think it’s a good example for the young guys. They realize how important that play is. You can work 59 minutes and in this case, overtime, and maybe lose a game over a play like that or the Hail Mary play. Luckily we’re going to learn from that on the winning side.

(on what should have happened with coverage on the Hail Mary play)

You’re supposed to box out. If you can catch it, catch it. If you can get up there and you got it, take it. If not, you’re obviously trying to knock it down, not up, and you box out. Everyone has a role there. We didn’t execute that, and we’re lucky we got away with not executing that.

(on what Akeem Ayers should have done when knocking the ball down)

I don’t know if he would have done a whole lot different. It’s hard to tell. I’m not going to sit here and say what he could have done. He’s trying to make a play, he’s trying to knock it down to the ground. He didn’t quite get it, I think the way he wanted, where he didn’t get enough of the ball that he thought he was going to get. Having said that, some guys were watching. You have to kind of get in that area like a box-out, knowing that the ball is going to bounce off something if it doesn’t come right down to the ground at a feverish pitch, if it’s not hit down real hard. Obviously, you would like that ball hit hard enough to where it can’t be caught, that it’s going down at the ground that way or we caught it or we have someone there defending the free guy that made the catch. All those things, like I said, are things that you practice that play, you talk about it, you do it on a Friday, you do it on a Saturday. But again, it’s not game speed. There’s no way to simulate that until it happens in the heat of battle. I saw that play happen in four or five other games, and it was a non-issue. It was just the way our game went, I guess, that it was going to be a lot of craziness happening, a lot of guys making plays on both sides of the ball in all phases of the game. Luckily we overcame it.

(on the status of Jared Cook’s shoulder)

Sore, shoulder’s sore. Right before the half, he fell on his shoulder there. Getting checked out today, but again, still feel good about him playing next week.

(on the status of Kenny Britt’s ankle)

He’s having it checked out today, same thing. He played through it a little bit. It just got sore by the time we got to the fourth hour into the overtime. It got sore and he stiffened up, so we got him out. Again, we’ll know more about him today. Limited in practice kind of thing, but hopefully he’ll be ready by the weekend.

(on how Rob Bironas tweaked his ankle)

He got tweaked a little bit early. That’s been an ankle that he’s had in the past. He’s fine. He’ll be fine.

(on how Craig Stevens’ role changed when Jared Cook went out of the game)

Because of the three-receiver set, he played a lot more. He got put in some situations where he hadn’t even practiced in a while because (Jared) Cook usually takes all of those reps in practice because practiced they are limited in some cases. With the quarterback, you’re trying to get that fit. He did a nice job. He’s one of those guys that just does his job quietly. He made some big catches for us and blocked well. We feel like that play down the middle, he held onto the ball there when he got hit. He’s a very good tight end, and he got to show some of the things he can do. Quarterbacks trust him. He catches the ball for five yards and then he turns up the field and gets a 17-yard gain. That’s what you want from your guy, and that’s what he did.

(on if Colin McCarthy might return this week)

We hope so. He’s doing a lot more with the rehab as far as on the field now, running a little bit, doing things like that. It’s just a matter of how he progresses the next three or four days as he’s doing football-like activities.

(on if he hopes the game will be a springboard for Jake Locker and the rest of the team)

I just think the way he is controlling the huddle, the line of scrimmage, the way he is adjusting to what defenses are doing. He knew that this team liked to pass rush, and he got them four times on the hard count. That really took away some of (the Lions’) aggressiveness when you can do that as a quarterback. He’s not just so caught up in what he’s doing, he’s aware of the game within the game and how those things make a difference. He’s checking plays, he sees a cover-zero blitz, he’s going to other things. He’s aware of what’s going on around him. That’s fun to watch a young guy be able to do all those things already. When you start having success throwing the ball and you see the receivers—Nate (Washington’s) catch is an unbelievable catch. You see him going and making a play on a ball. The confidence starts growing between both the receiver and the quarterback. He’ll throw the tough ball in there if he trusts that you’ll catch it or break it up or make a play on the ball. I think you’re seeing that develop as they learn each other’s body language when it comes to running. Obviously, they’re going to be fooled at times. The better that Jake (Locker) can read what (Jared) Cook is going to do on his route or what Nate (Washington) is going to do or Kenny (Britt). You see that getting better. You see them on the sidelines talking and adjusting. Jake is taking charge of that. He’s the one over there talking to them, telling them what he wants to do along with obviously, their coaches. I think it’s fun to watch. When you have success, of course he’s going to continue to get better. The more you play, the more he’ll grow. I think it’s fun to see some of the things he’s advancing in already. He knows he’ll improve in a lot of ways, a lot more as he plays more. This is a good win for him. You just want to get a win when it’s your first one. This is a good one for him to get. He made a lot of good decisions other than when we dropped the ball early on fumble. Having two turnovers hurt us again. That’s why we have to be careful with the ball. I think he made good decisions when throwing the ball, no picks, really handled most of it well.

(on how he feels about getting 12 additional yards on the penalty enforced in overtime)

I don’t feel any guilt. In fact that series, one of our runs—our feel on that was one of (Chris Johnson’s) runs was probably a two-yard loss, they gave us an eight-yard loss. His progress we feel stopped before he got slung back six or seven yards. So we lost six or seven there ourselves we feel. That cuts it down to four or five I guess. I thought the catch, I’m not sure about that whole thing there with the catch, and the decision on was that a catch or not on (Craig) Stevens. We feel we lost a big play there, so it all evens out. 

(on having both Kendall Wright and Kenny Britt on the field on offense)

They’re still learning, they have a long way to go. Kenny (Britt) hasn’t played in this, it’s his first couple games of the year. He’s still really getting familiar with the offense. This offense he learned last year during training camp, and he’s played a couple games in it and hadn’t played with Jake (Locker) before. There’s a long way to go in that relationship I would think. But it’s good to see them make some big plays. I think our first third down was to Kenny on third-and-three, and he converts it on a good catch, a run-after catch. You want to see your top guys, Kendall Wright make catches and make plays for you. That’s why we brought him here, that’s why we drafted him, that’s why we were excited about Kendall in the draft. We thought he could come in and help us this year. We mentioned that quite a few times after we made the decision to pick him. We want to continue to see him grow and be a big part of what we’re doing. Hopefully he and Jake and that group can be together a long time.

(on why he switched to the pairing of Jordan Babineaux and Michael Griffin at safety)

Just during the week of practice…we consider a lot of things. Like I said, decisions aren’t made, it probably was not until Friday of the week. I think Friday after practice, that after watching and thinking through and talking and going through the last couple weeks that we thought we’d go that direction in this type of game, put (Jordan) Babineaux in there and get him more reps. Like I said, it’s going to be ever-changing in different positions. Last week at this time, we weren’t really leaning that way. As we studied the film more and got into Wednesday, Thursday and what was the best fit, we decided to make the change.

(on if it’s Jordan Babineaux’s job moving forward)

I think it’s going to be a weekly thing. I think it’s going to be this is how we think is the best way to start this game, here’s what we’re doing going forward.

(on if he’s comfortable with how deep the safeties are playing)

I think yesterday was a different type of game because of that. I think we’re playing deeper because of the receivers we were playing against. To me, for most of the game until then, we held them to five field goals. We didn’t give up the big plays. That to me was huge for our defense so we got off the field on third down. They were 25 percent conversion on third down which was a big difference than our other games. We made stops on third down to get off the field and save four points per drive almost when they did drive the ball and make some plays. The plan, it worked for us yesterday, other than obviously the ending. Once we got the lead, it should have been over if we executed, which we did execute, we just had the penalty. The game should have been over with the interception in the end zone so we avoid all the rest of the game that happened. I think we did what we needed to do yesterday to win the football game and how we played our players.

(on if switching players around at safety might hurt their chemistry on the field)

Well (Jordan) Babineaux and (Michael) Griffin have played before. Last year they were together all year. They know each other well. I’m not as concerned for that. (Robert) Johnson came in and probably played about 20 or 25 snaps, in that area. He’s still part of what we’re doing. It’s not like, OK, he’s going to sit on the bench for a while. Chemistry is important, but you’re trying to find the right mix of guys that can be productive. We gave up yards yesterday, but the good thing is for the most part, what we were doing, until it got a little nuts, crazy there at the end there was we held them to field goals, like we hoped we would. It’s a work in progress, we’re a young defense. We’re a young defense trying to find consistency. We’re three games in. We have a great challenge this weekend.

(on if the run blocking is the same as when he coached the offensive line)

There are a lot of similarities. Again, it’s a lot of similarities to most teams we play and what we’re doing. It hasn’t changed—zone play, inside zone, outside zone, some counters, some hand backs, it’s all the same.

(on if he’s more encouraged by the Chris Johnson and the run game after Sunday’s win)

The first third down run, third-and-two, he got a 12-yard run. So we were productive there in the third-and-two early in the game. The first couple of runs were four, four, 12. We had a couple other runs there that were 11 and 10 (yards). The negative run, like I said, the one zone run was his, the last one was probably the only run he didn’t run well. He probably should have taken it for one yard, and it would have been second-and-nine instead of the loss we ended up getting off of that. A couple of the plays were some trick plays, the hand-back play where he lost seven, he loss six on one with the same thing—the receiver missed a block at the point of attack on a cracked play which was unfortunate. Three of those runs weren’t really anything to do with Chris (Johnson). I think if we ran the ball more, he would have run better. I just think we chose not to at times in the game because we thought we were moving the ball well, so we stuck with what we thought would get us a victory in that game, the way it was going, the way Jake (Locker) was playing, the way the receivers were catching it, the way we were staying on the field. I think it was possible that we could have run more, which I think would have allowed (Johnson) to be more productive running.

(on if the offense now runs more through passing than running)

I think we’re going to do whatever, like I said before, which I think most teams do. We’re going to start a game out with what we think is best to help us win. We thought against that defense with the size of the guys and the front seven, where their strength was, that the smartest thing to do is to do exactly what we did—throw the ball a little bit, spread it around, tire them out, discourage them a little bit, hard count them, do some screens, just kind of mix it up and then get to the run, which we did.

(on if Jake Locker checked the touchdown throw to Jared Cook)

No, that was just a called pass.

(on his thoughts about how Akeem Ayers has settled in his second year)

We excited about him. Sometimes you are wondering if you’re asking some young guys to do a lot. He’s rushing, he’s a nickel, he’s playing SAM backer, he’s playing nickel linebacker, he’s playing some defensive end at times, he’s on some rush packages. You’re going to have some spots where he gets caught into spots where he’s not looking as good as he can. But to me, he had the biggest sack of the game. He sacks the quarterback and he gets the ball back for us, and that game changed. The only sack of the game was his. He outran the lineman around the edge and sacks the quarterback. He had a ton of tackles; he was in on a lot of plays. They ran a lot of plays, so he was out there for every one of them. I’m real excited about him. That’s the beauty of him, he can do so much. I think he’s a mismatch in some cases rushing the quarterback. I think he does that well. He’s a physical linebacker. He’s the type of guy we needed. I still think losing Colin (McCarthy) has hurt us as much as any injury just because we’ve been shuffling guys. You talk about chemistry and getting guys together, you lose your captain and your main guy there. I think that kind of made it harder on that group of linebackers. I think he’s done well. I’m looking forward to seeing him keep progressing. He has big-play capability, we feel. I thought the sack was one. We wish he didn’t have the penalty, but other than that, I think he played pretty well.

(on if Akeem Ayers has lined up at defensive end much this season)

He’s put his hand down not a ton, some, more in the three-down package. We’ve used him more in that way where we can move him around where it’s more unpredictable where he’ll be. I think you’ve probably seen more of that. In preseason, I think he did play a little of the four-down look. He’s capable of doing both. We’re just trying to find the best place to put him and move him around. Jerry (Gray) has been moving him around every week where he’s in a different package, where he can be our fourth rusher in some cases.

(on if he’s concerned about the potential of the replacement officials costing the team a game)

For us, really, the obvious answer is there’s nothing we can do about who is officiating games, just go out there. It’s the same for everybody. So just go out there and play the game, and don’t get caught up in all that. I think to worry about it as a coach or a player does you no good. Like I said, we’ve sat here before since I’ve been a player, and you complain about officials no matter who is out there. Someone is going to feel that they’re getting a bad call or they didn’t get enough calls, or that call hurt us. It’s not like the dialogue has changed a lot. It’s always going to be in any sport. Fans, players and coaches are going to have a call that really hurt them in a game. We can’t control any of that, and I just think you go out there and play. That’s what we’ve been doing.

(on if taking a stand against the replacement officials would make a difference)

If you have an opinion like that, you give them a call and tell them. I don’t think this is the forum for it. We talk to the officials every week. After every game you talk to the head of the officials in New York, you can talk about a lot of plays. As a head coach, last year was the first time I had a chance to do all of that. After every game, you can have a (maximum) of 10 plays you can talk about. So I’ve had dialogue every Monday and Tuesday usually over plays that happened in games last year, this year. It hasn’t changed, there are still calls you question and wonder about. You get their opinion on why they called what they called, and they try to see that we’re all on the same page. Really all you’re looking for is consistency. Whoever is calling the game, to me, it’s just about being consistent, just like in basketball, in any sport. If they’re calling it on that side, if they’re looking for…Some officials, no matter who is doing the game, sometimes they call holding, sometimes they don’t. If you’re not going to call it, don’t call it for either side. That’s kind of how I am in games last year, this year. Whoever is calling the game if you’re calling the tackle being back a little bit, then call their tackle too. That’s really all you’re looking for. Just like balls and strikes, if that’s a ball, it should be a ball for everybody, high strike zone, low strike zone. It’s the same thing, every umpire is different. Same thing when you get officials. I think that’s what players are doing, they’re adjusting to what they’re realizing they can do or not do. That’s how you play the game. You don’t worry about the officials, you just go out and play your game, do your job and the rest will work its way out. They are smart enough to know what they can and can’t do once the game starts.

(on if players might be pushing it a little bit with the replacement officials)

I don’t know. I just think guys are playing. I think guys are saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to play.’ The story is becoming bigger than it needs to. Guys play hard, guys want to win. I don’t think there’s much more to it than that. I think people are jumping on the story if there are any mistakes. Maybe you’re trying to jump on it as hard as you can, that’s just I guess human nature for people. For me, that’s not something we talk about here hardly at all.

(on if league officials have admitted to wrong calls when he speaks with them)

Last year, the year before, they’ll always admit to calls that they missed. As a head coach, I want to call and see stuff. Maybe a certain call should have been overturned, should I challenge? I’ll call a lot of times, I’ll say last year because last year was the regular officials. I’d call every week with two or three plays I was wondering, if I challenged this, what would you guys have done? So I’d know if I missed something or didn’t miss something, and they’ll tell me what they thought or what they would have called. Same thing, I’d send a thing of 10, they would come back and say, some weeks, ‘Hey, we missed four. We missed four or five of those calls. Those five holding calls, we should have called.’ So they’ll tell you. They’re grading their guys; they want to get it right. At least then, we know what they’re looking for on film. So yes, they will admit that they made mistakes. If it’s a big play, they call and tell you that they missed it. There are no secrets. We don’t have to agree with each other, but they’re going to tell me, ‘Here’s how we see it in New York, we watched it. Hey, look at the TV copy.’ They’ll send you a clip. They’ll say, ‘See this clip here? Here’s why we didn’t call that holding. Here’s why we called that late hit. Here’s why we did that.’ That’s what we’re looking for, so I can educate our guys on this is why they’re calling that hit on the quarterback, this is why they’re calling that, so we don’t do it again. I guess sometimes when you interpret rules, everyone interprets them differently. So when you actually see a picture of what the interpretation is, that’s probably the best way to do it. A lot of times, the league sends around videos to show your players of, ‘Hey, this is what we’re calling pass interference. This is what holding is. Here’s what the late hit on the quarterback is. I think it’s very helpful.

(on if short completions are an acceptable tradeoff for not giving up the big play on defense)

I’m just going by last week. We won the game yesterday; we kept them out of the end zone. They had a guy that’s a pretty special receiver, so we were making sure that nothing over the top happened. We won the football game. Next week will be different. Whatever philosophy we think we need to have, we’ll employ.

(on if despite the win, he needs to let players know that there are areas to improve upon)

I think reality hits fast when they watch the tape. I think it’s always that way, win or lose. When we lost the last couple weeks, everyone was down, everyone was upset. Everyone thought, ‘Oh man. Are we going to win a football game?’ When you watch the tape, even though you don’t win, there is a lot more encouraging things on the tape than you thought. You realize there was a couple plays, even those games everyone assumed that we got hammered because the score said so, they’re just loses. We lost the football game, doesn’t matter if it is by one or whatever. There is still a lot of good stuff that we realize, if I had done this or if I had thrown it here, if I had done this, this game is totally different. I think when you win, it’s not any different. There is still a lot of good stuff; obviously we won the football game. But like we’ve already discussed here, there are plenty of reasons we could have lost the game because we didn’t execute this or this. The good thing is we overcame that because we made enough big plays to win the football game. That’s why you don’t worry about them being too high or too low. You talk about that all the time, the 24-hour rule. I think you don’t have to say that. I think they understand that in this league. They know who we’re playing next week, and they understand the challenge of that. You feel good about coming to work on Wednesday because you finally won one and you’re heading in the right direction. Now we have to go out and prove it again, and play much better this Sunday, or we’re not going to win.

(on if the Texans are conceivably the best team that the Titans have faced)

I haven’t really studied them yet. Obviously, they’re—I mean, we’ve been playing some good football teams. Every week we’ve been playing playoff teams. We know Houston is in our division, so we know them. Obviously, they’re 3-0, so they’re one of the better teams that’s off to a great start, and that’s going to be a great football game. We need it to be for us to win.

(on how productive Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has been in a 3-4 scheme)

I liked him when he came out. He plays hard, he’s got a great motor, he fits that system perfectly. I was upset when they got him because I knew we were going to face him twice a year. The guy makes plays. He fits that scheme perfectly, probably better than most do, but we’re going to have our hands full with him this week and when we play them in the future. He reminds me of (San Francisco’s Justin Smith). He’s one of the guys that stands out as being a stud in that system, which is a very similar system.

(on if he saw the hit that Texans quarterback Matt Schaub took during Sunday’s game)

I didn’t see it, no.

(on if the unpredictability of football is a great thing or a stressor)

You think you know how they’re going to respond. You prepare like you think you know exactly what you’re going to get, and then, like you all say, well, how come, when the game is over, when you’re at the press conference, it’s OK, how come…?, it looked like, depending on how we played, you never know exactly what you’re going to get because of how the ball is going to bounce. I think that’s the challenge every week, just like this week, going on the road to Houston, we know what type of team they are. We know what type of game it’s going to be. It’s just a matter of how we come out. If we come out playing well, we could have ourselves a great football game. If we don’t, we know it could be a long day like the first two were. So, that’s the challenge we’re going to have this week of getting ready for the problems we are presented.

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