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Coach Munchak's Monday Press Conference

Posted Sep 18, 2012

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on if there are any positives to take away from the loss)

There always is. I think what stood out to me watching the tape was probably the defensive side of the ball in the first half. I thought especially the guys up front brought a lot of pressure. I think we had three sacks in the first half, we hit (Philip Rivers) probably four or five times. He fumbled the ball twice, he threw an interception. I think they rushed for less than two yards a carry in the first half, so there are a lot of good things. We didn’t convert on third down. Like I mentioned yesterday, didn’t stop them, that’s where we struggled. It wasn’t for lack of effort as far as what was going on around him. I think that was encouraging to watch. I think we ended up with four sacks on the game. I think we hit him probably about another six to eight times. Those things were good to watch, that’s encouraging to see that going forward. The run game, again, especially in the third quarter, I thought we did a great job on that. I think we just wore down. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t stay on the field, so our defense was out there quite a bit that fourth quarter. All of a sudden, you saw them break some runs. That was the unfortunate part of the game at the end there—that the defense was out there for 80 plays. That’s the stuff we have to stop from happening.

(on if the offense needs to be simplified)

I don’t think things are that complicated. I think it’s that we came out on the road, they put a drive together, like I mentioned, and converted three or four third-down situations, third-and-11, they score from the 11. We make two great plays on that. I think it was that, and we answered with the turnover. I think that unfortunately put us in a hole right off the bat, and they convert that to a touchdown, so it’s 14-0 there. I think that just kind of got us a little bit out of the offense. We tried to get back in it. It seemed like it was hard to do. We kind of got in the same spot we got in last week in the second half, where we were in more of a two-minute type of mode, just trying to get some momentum going. Like I said, you talk to the players, the score was what it was, but I think there were plenty of opportunities in that game for us to get back in it, especially right before halftime when it was 17-3, right after (Alterraun) Verner’s pick when we drove down. We had the chance to get a touchdown, had to settle for a field goal, that was disappointing. Then we had the ball two more times with great field position, and we couldn’t convert on a third-and-one or a third-and-five. When our defense was playing well and did get five or six stops in a row where they got off the field without giving up points on third down, the offense couldn’t get us back in the game. It could have easily been 17-10 at the half, and it’s a whole different game. Those are the things that as you’re watching tape, those opportunities, even in the second half when we were down by two scores. The long throw when Jake (Locker) got out of the pocket to Taylor (Thompson), if we make a play there, we’re down 24-17 late in the third quarter. Even though the game wasn’t played as well as we would have liked—it was sloppy in a lot of ways, we didn’t play anywhere near what we’re capable of playing—it just shows you that you’re still a play or two away from making that thing competitive and giving us a chance to win in the fourth quarter. You don’t want to be in that position, but unfortunately the last two weeks, that’s the position we put ourselves. We have to find a way to get out of that.

(on how he thinks Jake Locker has performed in his first two starts)

First I’d say we’re not looking to make any changes right now. I thought Jake (Locker), the first game played pretty well, pretty solid. Obviously, he threw one interception that game, he threw one interception the second game. You wished he threw that ball away. After that when he did get pressured and to avoid sacks, he did throw the ball out-of-bounds and got rid of it to avoid a negative play. He made the one mistake early in the game. For me, I mentioned it to the team today, us and the Chargers opened up on offense with the same run. We both ran the exact same run on our first play. I think we got two yards, they got three. Our second play we threw the pick. Their second play we pressured the quarterback, he got hit and just threw it out of his hands. That should have been picked. If their guys didn’t tip it, we would have picked off his first pass. That’s how close things are. Again, not a good decision, throw it away, but their quarterback made a lot of bad decisions too throughout the game. But we just didn’t capitalize the way they did to us. That was a bad play by him, and then really again, after that there was pressure, he had to get out of the pocket quite a few times. He made some good throws under pressure. Like I said, we just couldn’t make enough plays to stay on the field. That’s been our problem really the last two games on offense and really throughout training camp. I think a lot of times, just talking about sustaining drives, and it seems like we’ve been struggling throughout training camp and preseason games and these two games. Would it be different if Matt (Hasselbeck) was in there? I don’t necessarily think so. There’s no way I can answer that question, obviously. Everyone can just assume it’d be different. I just don’t know to what extent it’d be different that way. Like I said, we have to play better, it doesn’t matter who is playing, we just have to play better.

(on if there is more pressure on Jake Locker’s shoulders with the running game’s slow start)

Well the running game especially, you want to be a complete offense. You want to be well balanced, and we haven’t been well balanced. Again, CJ (Chris Johnson) had whatever he had yesterday—eight carries. Not a very balanced offense when you run the ball as little as we have been the last two weeks. It puts more pressure on (Jake Locker), we feel he can handle that. We’d rather not make him have to deal with that. If we’re going to start having success, we’re going to have to fix that. Right now, it’s been a struggle.

(on how surprised he is that the offensive line is getting overpowered)

We’re not playing as well as we should play. That’s the easiest way to say it. I don’t know about being overpowered—not being efficient, not being successful at times, not being consistent is the bottom line for an offensive line. It’s got to be play-in and play-out, you have to do a good job. When you’re not winning, you’re not running the ball. That’s what you want to be able to do, you want to have opportunities to do that. Again, eight carries is hard. If you look at their first eight carries, I’ll guarantee you they had 20 yards rushing. They converted third downs, so they got a lot more opportunities to run the football. We’re not getting that opportunity right now, so it is what it is. We have to convert on third downs and stay on the field, that will help the quarterback. That’s going to help the whole offense, but we’re not doing that right now. Everything is going to look bad. Until we win and turn that around, it’s going to be the same.

(on if he feels he needs to shake things up with who is starting)

I think if you have a better answer, yes. You’re always looking to put the best guys on the field. I think we’ve done that. I think we’ve had the best guys on the field. Are we playing the best we can play? No, we’re not. But that doesn’t mean that there is someone that we’re not playing that is better than what we have out there. We have 53 guys to win with, and that’s not going to change much in the next 14 weeks. We better just play better.

(on the mood of Sunday night’s plane ride back to Nashville)

I think guys were just quiet. You’re trying to take in…It’s a long flight back, obviously, after being on the west coast. Quiet, tired. I’m sure the defensive guys were pretty tired—they played quite a bit. You’re disappointed; you’re trying to take in what happened. It’s hard to really realize everything that happened when you’re playing the game until you get a chance to watch it today. After they watch it today, you get a better understanding. That’s probably a good thing. I think on Mondays it’s a good thing, because they get a chance to watch the tape, see how they did, what they could have done better, as a team how we played on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. It helps them leave here on Monday with a better understanding of really, like I mentioned earlier, how much closer we were at times in that game to making it much more of a game than it was and what work we have to do individually to try to get better. They were obviously upset, they should be. We need to play much better than we’ve been playing, they know that. We need to coach better than we’ve been coaching. We’re all on this. It’s not just 53 players, it’s 20 other guys including myself on this staff that need to find a way to get us more prepared to play.

(on why the team isn’t making plays at this point)

That’s what this league comes down to, is guys making plays. So when it’s your opportunity to make the play, make a catch, catch the football. If you’re supposed to make the throw, you make the throw. It’s not a game where there’s never a chance, like you start the game and you’re never in it, it’s over. My point is that there are plenty of opportunities in there when it’s third-and-five to convert the third-and-five. So we didn’t, and they did. Which means they’re making plays, and we’re not, that’s all. It just means there are plenty of opportunities throughout that game. Even though that game was one-sided, it seemed to be a lot of the time, that there were windows of opportunity for us to make that thing a much closer game, similar to what the Giants did. They turned the ball over a bunch in the first half, they found a way to win the game in the second half because they took advantage of their opportunities. Right now, we’re not. There are plays to be made, we’re just not making them like we should. So give credit to the team we’re playing against also. They’re either hitting us and we’re dropping the ball, or they’re putting pressure on us when someone is open, so we can’t make the throw. The ball is being tipped, and we’re not quite making the play. A fumble is on the ground, and we’re not covering it, the other team is. So those things happen sometimes. You create your own luck, but there are plays that have been there to be made, and we’re just not making them. You’d wish we’d make more than we’re making to give us a chance to stay on the field .When you stay on the field, you have a chance to have good things happen. As an offense, we’re not staying on the field, and so we’re not getting the opportunities that San Diego got this week or the Patriots got the week before on their offense. Again, you have to earn that right. We’re not earning it.

(on the difficulty with covering tight ends)

It’s hard to answer a blanket statement like that at that position. I’ll just go by the game yesterday. There were times where we, obviously, had communication problems and blew some coverage. There were times where guys made good catches. It was a combination of things. There’s not one thing that’s going on, but yeah, their guys made plays. Their guys made plays when they had to. Sometimes, again, it was mental mistakes, it was communication mistakes, it was them out-executing us.

(on if players are preparing the right way)

Well, we’re just not being successful. We’re being — guys are working hard. They’re out there and their intention, obviously, is to play well, and a lot of guys are playing well. Like I mentioned, the defensive line yesterday, I though (Derrick) Morgan played well, I thought (Kamerion) Wimbley was playing well, but Wimbley has a 15-yard penalty on one of his plays because the decision was to hit the quarterback a little too late. That created a first down. That was a third down that we got off the field. So is he playing hard and trying to do his best? He certainly is, but he made his one mistake. It could be someone jumping, if it’s a play action, if it looks like they’re going to run the ball, someone makes a play. The intention is to do the right thing. They’re working hard and they’re studying and working hard in practice, but when it comes to game time, they’re not executing to the level they need to execute to do what we need to do on every play. I think those are the things that are happening on Sundays. It’s not necessarily that we’re not prepared or preparing the right way, it’s just a matter of on Sunday, we’re not executing the way we need to.

(on if he is seeing more growing pains out of Jake Locker than he expected) 

I don’t know if there’s any expectation at all. Everyone wants to blame it on that. I just look at it as we wanted to win with him. I didn’t think we were going to lose five games and then, there was no standard of what we were going to go by. Our thought was, if we didn’t think he could help us win these two games, he wouldn’t have started, so I’ll just leave it at that. Does he make a mistake because he’s a rookie or because it’s his first year starting? I don’t know. Does he throw a bad ball because it’s the first time he’s playing on the road? I don’t know. I don’t buy into any of that stuff. Some other people might, but I don’t. If he misses the throw, he misses the throw. It’s not because he’s a first-year or second-year player. He needs to make the throw. Will he play better (with more experience)? Definitely. The more you play, the more comfortable you get with our receivers, the system, that’s definitely true, just like with any position. He’s starting for a reason: we feel like we can win with him. We still feel that way going forward. We’re 0-2. Obviously, the quarterback position is a real important position. We all know that. He needs to play better, we all need to play better. We need to coach better, but we didn’t lay it off as we’re only going to win ‘x’ amount of games because we have a young quarterback, or he wouldn’t be starting.

(on if it is fair to compare Jake Locker to other first-year starting quarterbacks)

Yeah, you’re entitled to compare him to anyone you want.

(on if he is happy with the combination of Michael Griffin and Robert Johnson at safety)

Yeah, I think it’s, we started those two games the same way at safety, and I’m sure that we’ll continue that way going into this week. Obviously, when you’re not winning, and you’re 0-2, you’re going to look at everything. Everything always seems worse than it really is. It’s not as hard to fix things as you may think, so as far as that combination, yeah, we’re going to plan on moving forward, and if we feel there’s a better way to do things, we’ll do that, but for right now, obviously, we feel we’re doing it the best way we should.

(on how Jordan Babineaux fell out of a starting spot)

I just think it was an accumulation of his play during training camp. They started liking the combination the more we worked those guys, (Robert) Johnson together with (Michael) Griffin in preseason. In training camp practices we thought they looked good and they played well together. (Jordan) Babineaux started the Seattle game, which was the first one. Then we compared that versus when we made the change the next week. We liked the way Griffin was playing, we liked the way Griff and Johnson were playing together, when they were together. That combination outperformed the other, so that’s why we went that way.

(on if there is a point where he would switch back to Michael Griffin and Jordan Babineaux)

There’s always a possibility of anything happening. At any position, when you’re not winning, if you continue to lose there are all types of things that could happen, I guess. But for right now, no, we’re not making any changes right now. (Jordan) Babineaux is still on the field in certain packages, so it’s not like he’s not playing at all. So there may be certain weeks where that’s a better fit, maybe he starts playing better and we look at the combination differently. As coaches, what we have to try to do is always put the best guys out there. What we’re asking to do, we have the best combination out there right now.

(on if Lavelle Hawkins is the new return man)

No, not necessarily. That was something we knew he always could do. We usually had him do it in the preseason in the past years, so we always had another guy that could do it besides Marc (Mariani). He had the ankle bothering him most of training camp, so he didn’t really get many opportunities at it. He had been working on it hard at practice, and we thought along the way here last week, this week we’d give him an opportunity to return a couple. He obviously did a good job.

(on if he expects the defensive backs to be more aggressive with replacement referees often hesitating to call pass interference)

We got one called on us the first drive. They called Jason (McCourty) on one right off the bat. It’s like anything, you don’t want to start learning bad technique because you’re getting away with stuff. Within the game you have to realize what’s being called and what’s not being called, and maybe adjust, just like offensive linemen do. They don’t intentionally hold someone, but they know if they’re letting things go on a little more, they may try to do a little bit more. So there are definitely things that aren’t being called during games.

(on how much more concerned he is after Week 2)

We’re disappointed. Everyone should be—we are, the fans are, the team is. We knew the start was tough. We knew we were playing some good football teams. We know we have another good football team coming in this weekend. We knew all that. But obviously we thought we’d play better, and win one or two of these games. So that’s disappointing that we’re starting off not playing the way we thought we would. So does that mean we panic? No, definitely not. We’ve got too much work ahead of us this season. There’s too much football to be played yet. I’ve been around it, a lot of people have been around it that have played in this league long enough to know how quickly you can change a lot of things by getting a win—how important just getting that first win could be to an organization, to a team. That’s how we have to look at it. We have to work hard, come back, learn from the tape we just watched. We know we’ve got a great opponent, a great quarterback coming in here on Sunday. We have a great challenge each Sunday. We have to play much better at home and get the fans behind us again and win a big football game.

(on when Chris Johnson’s starting spot might be in jeopardy)

You guys are trying to bench everybody after two games. Do you have any coaching questions? Next week that will be the next thing—when are we going to make a change at the coaching spot? We have to get a spark. At some point we have to get something going, we have to start making plays. He’s a guy that we expect to do that. Unfortunately, it’s been more in the passing game than the running game after two games. Like I said, he had eight carries yesterday. We have a lot of work to do, but it’s not all CJ (Chris Johnson), so we’re not going to bench a running back over where we are right now on offense. We’d have to bench a lot of people if I was going to bench them by how we’re playing. We don’t have enough guys to back up and play if we’re going to go by our production so far as a team. We’re not losing confidence in anybody. Like I said, we’ve still got a long, long way to go. One week can change these questions dramatically. We need to go out and play better.

(on how players should handle losing)

Everyone handles things differently. I don’t think there’s any one way for guys to deal with it. I think the bottom line, what you want, is when they come in here (on Monday), I could hear a pin drop when I walked in this meeting room at one o’clock. They realize the seriousness of it. This is their profession. This is important to them, so when we’re in this building and we’re about to watch tape, you’ve got their full attention. They don’t feel good about it. They get embarrassed by not playing their best, by not playing well. They’re professionals. They’re pros at what they do. They put their work out there. Everyone gets to see how they’re playing. Everyone gets to watch that tape. Everyone sees the highlights all week. They’re part of a team that’s 0-2. They’re not very happy with that, and now it’s just about what are we going to do about that. Are we going to come back on Wednesday feeling sorry for ourselves, or are we going to come back Wednesday working harder than we possibly have the last two weeks and get better at the details and the technique, and then on Sunday, find a way to win. They don’t want to be 0-2, so, that feeling has to go away at some point because you kind of have to get that 24-hour thing and learn from what you did and accept what’s going on. As far as if you’re making mistakes or you’re not making the plays you should make, do you need to change your routine if it’s something that you’re not doing during the week that maybe you need to do that you haven’t been doing? If you keep doing the same things the same way, you get the same results, so, do we need to make some changes in some of the things you’re doing that way as an individual player and as a team. So I think they’ll handle it differently. You want them to come in Wednesday and you want them to start loosening up somewhere. Otherwise, it’s way too tight, and you won’t be able to play at well. I think we all handle it differently, but (Monday) was very obvious how they all felt, and I think that’s a good thing to see.

(on how much more Kenny Britt and Nate Washington will play this week)

I’m assuming Nate (Washington) is over the hump with his leg, so he should be OK as far as practicing on Wednesday. Kenny (Britt) got through it pretty well for playing about 19 plays, which is what we thought and talked about him doing, so that worked out this week there. It’s just a matter of getting—I’m sure he’s sore—and then have another day for practice and then so he can start running more routes and doing different things that he couldn’t do this weekend, so hopefully he’ll continue to add to that number as we go.

(on the status of Javon Ringer, Mike Otto, Sen’Derrick Marks and Colin McCarthy)

(Javon) Ringer should be practicing this week; (Mike) Otto should be practicing this week. (Sen’Derrick) Marks should—obviously, he practiced some last week, so he should be ready to go on Wednesday. (Colin) McCarthy is probably the only one that we don’t know about yet until we get into the week.

(on if he will use the bench as a way to communicate with players)

Yeah, I think if there’s a position where it merits it, yes. I think the other side of it is bad too. If I decide I’m just going to bench a guy and put in a guy that’s worse than he is, then we’re worse off. You have to be smart. I would never do it—I wouldn’t do it to set an example to the team. I’d only do it if it were necessary to do. If someone deserved not to be starting, there was someone that could start better, that was not playing that we thought could help us play better, then I think it makes sense, but to do it for—if you do it for the right reason, then I think it’s real good. I don’t think there’s any—we’re playing our best players. Are they playing their best right now? Obviously not. We’re 0-2. We can definitely all play better, every one of us. At some point is there a chance where a younger player gets a chance to play? We’ll see. It depends on the position, but that’s kind of hard, then you’re going back to putting a lesser-experienced guy in and you have to get him up-to-date, so there are a lot of issues than making a real quick change, depending on what position it is.

(on if the team is lacking leadership because Matt Hasselbeck is not the starter and the departure of Cortland Finnegan)

Like I said last week, it hurt us last week when (Colin) McCarthy got hurt. For being a young guy, I thought, he was a guy on our defense that they looked to, so they obviously voted for captain for him and Jason McCourty. I still think Jason is doing a good job on the defensive side, and I think losing McCarthy definitely hurt us last week when that happened early in the game in the opener and then not having him this week. I think that stuff makes a difference during a game, especially a game like (Sunday) when you’re on the field quite a bit. That could help. Is that the reason we didn’t play as well, no, but there’s a spot where that definitely helps, and on the offensive side of the ball, Matt (Hasselbeck) is still with us. He may not be on the field, but he’s on the sideline, he’s still heavily involved. He’s in the locker room speaking up, he’s in the meeting rooms. (Steve) Hutchinson has done a nice job. He’s one of our captains the same way, so Jake’s not carrying that burden of having to do everything as a quarterback and captain, so I think we have a good mixture of guys—(Jared Cook) has been speaking—we have a lot of guys that feel comfortable in the role, so that’s growing, which is good to see. That’s what will keep us together as you fight through losing two games in a row as a team and not have guys (start) pointing fingers or things like that. I don’t see any of that going on right now. I see guys concerned that we have to play better. I think they take it on themselves that it’s up to them individually and it starts with them, the fact they have to play better, and as a group, we’ll be better. It’s just unfortunate you have to have these kinds of conversations two weeks into the season. You know, you’re not always playing your best when the season starts, but obviously, we all thought we’d be playing much better than we are right now.

(on if familiarity with the Lions’ coaching staff members who are former Titans assistant coaches helps this week’s preparations)

Gunther Cunningham helped run the defense, the coordinator, so we’re familiar with him. We’ve played against Gunther’s defenses quite a bit, so yeah, it helps on that side of the ball, just like they feel familiar with what we do. That adds to it, I think, us knowing each other, and obviously Jim (Schwartz) had a great coaching career here with us, with the Titans, and we know he’s doing a great job as a head coach. I think it will be an interesting week once we get into that week.

(on if there is potential for Colin McCarthy to be sidelined for a couple more weeks)

Yeah, it’s just going to depend on—they’ve been keeping him in the (walking) boot for that reason, so it will all depend on how he is on Wednesday and Thursday.

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