HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on establishing the run game going forward)
Those were the things that were a big difference yesterday and why we stayed on the field and why we won.
He was solid, again, I think for the first time playing in quite some time. He’s smart, he’s been around the game a lot, and it was good to have him next to Chance (Warmack) for that reason on the road. I think he came in like he usually does and was pretty solid. He was tough in some of the pass games early. They have some good football players, but I thought he settled down and had some nice blocks on some of the nice runs CJ (
We were concerned more about the shoulder. His strength wasn’t what we hoped it would be by the end of the week. He’s kind of been able to overcome the ankle and the leg soreness even though in our opinion it’s been hard for him to play at the level that he wants to play at, needs to play at for us to be successful. That’s been something he’s been dealing with since the season started in Pittsburgh. He’s been kind of fighting through it, and when the shoulder happened in the San Francisco game, that was more concerning because of the strength. So, we thought we’d rest him. Now we’ll see where he’s at for this week.
(on Chris Johnson initiating a players-only meeting with the offensive line)
You know, I think he’d like to have them both back. Again, we took a little risk there before half. We could have just tried to run the ball and punt and all that other stuff, but we have confidence in him and the offense. We threw a screen which got a first down. We threw another high percentage pass, (and the interception) was a high percentage call. He ran it wrong which surprised us, and it ended up an interception. Luckily, the defense held them, and it didn’t cost us points there. But, that was unlike him on that play. Even the second one down the field when Nate (Washington) would hopefully have been able to break it up if he didn’t trip. I don’t know if that was a penalty or not there, but he got caught up. It looked worse than it was, but we didn’t think he would make that throw. It probably should have went to the back especially at that time in the game where we just had a big play there I think with Kendall (Wright). We came back with another play-action — which was there for us — to get some extra yards, and we ended up turning it over. Those are some things we’ve been able to avoid as an offense, and luckily, our defense, on both the sudden changes, didn’t give up any points. That’s one of the big differences with our defense from this year to last year is the mental toughness of that mentality of going out there after having a short field and then (holding them) to no points and actually getting a turnover right back to us the second time. We’re lucky we got away with that.
(on whether the interception intended for
It was (on) the quarterback, and (Jake Locker) knew it. He let it slip out of his hands. Those ones before half, that’s that whole thing—we have to have confidence we can do that. We don’t want to be conservative. We have to be smart with what the situation in the game is, but we just felt we got to the point where (Jake Locker) can make safe decisions going forward. It was one of those games where the passing game never really got going—it was almost like Pittsburgh in our opener. He made some good throws, made some big plays with Kendall (Wright) and with Damian (Williams) in the second half (against the Rams). There were big plays for us, and the running game is what really made it happen. It’s been awhile since we’ve been able to do that, so it was good to see that phase of the game do so well.
(on returning to action against familiar AFC opponents)
Well, the Jaguars have a new staff from when we played them last year. So, they’re a little different than they have been, but the familiarity with the players helps. Again, you’re getting in to what you want — this is the meat of the deal with two division games in 10 days. You win the next one then the next one becomes an even bigger game. We know we have to make our move, and yesterday was part of that. We needed that in a big way, and we got it. Now it’s Jacksonville.
(on guarding against slip ups with the Jaguars)
I think it’s something (to be concerned with). Believe me, players are well aware of that. I think going back to when they grew up playing football, (the players) all probably have a story of that happening to them or them doing it to someone else with, ‘Hey, we haven’t won a game all year and we played this team and we beat them.’ They all have those stories. I had them when I played, and, as you said, we all lived one two years ago. We had already beaten Indy once when they were 0-13, and they ended up beating us and Houston back-to-back. In this league, there’s great players on every football team. I think you learn, I think people understand that can happen. I mean, (players saw it) yesterday with Seattle losing 21-0 to a team that hadn’t won a football game. So, they don’t have to look too far to be reminded of how fast things can change from Sunday to Sunday. That won’t be why we don’t play well. These guys are highly motivated to come in and get to 5-4, and we’re not going to cut corners or anything like that. We’re not good enough to do those types of things when we’re 4-4. We need to have our best effort if we’re going to win this one and have to play Indy next. We have to be getting better every Sunday, or it’s not going to happen.
I think George (Wilson) did fine. Part of the thing was we played a little softer, we played a little deeper, so we didn’t get things over the top when we were making the different changes out there. I think we were just being a little smart there for this game with him playing a new position that he hadn’t played. But, George plays well. George is a smart football player, and he’s a big part of this team on special teams and on defense. He did fine. With Griff (Michael
Griffin), there’s a good chance he’ll be practicing all week, and I would assume he’d play next week.
(on having success with the screen game yesterday)
In the last three weeks (we’ve had more success), and I think last game we got one against San
Francisco. We’ve called screens, but I think we’re just getting better at them. It’s a challenge because screens can look really bad, or they can look really good. I think lately they’ve been looking better. We have a lot of different people between the tight ends...I mean, yesterday
(on the coaches’ health and proactive measures they take to prevent problems)
Well, that’s a concern. You always hear about the hours (the coaches) work, and they do. We are concerned about coaches’ health. I think we do a good job here. They get physicals, me included, every year, a complete physical. We encourage guys to work out during the season because, again, it helps you mentally and physically when guys work out. We got a good group—you may not know it from looking at some of them—but they’re all actually in pretty good shape, and they do work out. You always seem like you don’t have time to (work out), but you have time to do it. I encourage it, and most of the coaches on a daily basis or X amount of times a week get some activity other than just walking on the field or working in practice. Sometimes you come up with your best ideas when you’re working out; you’re on the treadmill, on the bike. You probably know that, too. Sometimes your mind gets to really focus on, solves a lot of problems going for a walk or going for a run or things like that because you can kind of get away from the distractions. So, it’s another way to work out. We’re very aware of that, and it’s important.
(on whether recent health scares among NFL coaches are on his mind)
It was with John’s (Fox) when I heard about John’s when we arrived in St. Louis and hearing that it was more of a problem he probably knew he had that he was aware of. Unfortunately, he put off having the procedure done. Luckily, it was something they were aware of, and it sounds like hopefully everything’s going to go well—I’m sure it will. I think yesterday was a little scarier (with Gary Kubiak). I don’t really know what happened yet or what they’re saying was the cause, but that’s a little scarier. You realize it’s football, but it’s still life. Things can happy to everybody. It isn’t just, ‘Hey, wait until the season’s over. Let it happen in February and March.’ Your body is telling you something. I haven’t heard any more about his at all, so hopefully everything’s going to work out fine.
(on the mental pressure coaches face)
I don’t think you really think about it while you’re going through it until something like this happens. I think you realize this is football season, this is how it goes, everyone does it. That’s why things like exercise and eating right is important for everybody. I think it kind of wakes you up and makes you refocus on the fact these things can happen. It’s important to take care of yourself no matter what your profession is. Hopefully, again, everything is going to work out fine for both of those guys.
(on setting coaches’ working hours)
I wish we had a CBA that could put that together for us. Again, that’s the thing about the league—there’s no set rules (about when a coach can leave). A coach can leave right now. I mean, I could have coaches try to leave right now, right here at 2 o’clock. They may have to sneak out and leave the lights on like they’re coming back, but there’s no rule. We don’t punch a time clock. There’s a workload they know they have to do, and they have to figure out how to get it done. Some guys are more efficient than others. Some guys are smarter than others. It’s like any job: if you can get your job done, then you don’t need to sit in the office. I don’t make guys hang around and say, ‘Hey, you’re here until 10 o’clock tonight to prove to me you’re a good football coach.’ If you get your job done, move on. We all have responsibilities depending on what you coach. It’s not like it used to be—guys aren’t sleeping in their offices or here 24/7. It’s not like it was at one time. Even when I first started coaching there was a lot of that still going on. That’s changed a lot because guys can take things home with them. You got iPads now, and you can take things home with you. There’s ways to do things where you can take a break, go home and see your family, get your work done. There’s a lot of ways to do it.
(on the misconception coaches need to put in longer hours after a loss)
I think the key word is work smarter, work more efficiently. Matter of fact, just because you’re working those hours doesn’t mean you’re working smart—that’s not going to make you a better team. I think it’s how you use your time because we don’t practice any longer if we lost by two touchdowns. We wouldn’t be practicing any longer than we would practice if we won by two touchdowns. We may be practicing a different way of doing things, we may focus on different types of drills, and I may have to re-examine what exactly we’re doing out there for our two-and-a-half hours in that practice session. You’re not going to add time to it; it’s more or less are we working on the right stuff? Are we doing the right thing? Do we need to change our philosophy? You got to re-think those things more so than the time element. We just need to work harder—maybe we’re cutting corners, maybe re-evaluate everything and see if there’s a better way to do it. A lot of times it’s sticking with what you believe in and just doing it better. You just can’t give up on something because it didn’t work one Sunday. Hang in there and you get the payoff just like the run game. All of a sudden there it is. We’ve been saying we thought it was getting better and better, but we just didn’t have the proof. I think you see one game doesn’t solve all the problems, but it shows us we’re heading in the right direction.
(on the saying that you never want to be the first guy to leave the building)
I’m sure there is, but, like I said, guys know what they have to do. I tell these guys all the time that we’re not looking to see what time guys come in the morning, but usually it’s seven. If the players are here, we’re starting at a certain time—their responsibilities make them be here. It takes so long to do certain things. Some coaches have to wait for the coordinator to give out practice sheets with what they’re going to do, so it forces their hand with what they have to. It’s just all part of it. It’s a routine. Once you get in a routine you figure out where you can steal time to work out, maybe where you can get out of here for a couple hours, maybe where you can come in earlier. Some coaches like to leave here for dinner, and they come in at five in the morning, 4:30 in the morning and do their work before practice. There’s ways to do things if it’s needed because of family or something else.
(on player hazing)
I just think there’s limits to everything. I think it’s just how we define what that is. Obviously, we give guys haircuts—I assume that’s hazing I’m sure, but we’ve done that. I mean, there’s things that are done more for fun, but I think there’s limits on everything you can do. I don’t know exactly what happened in Miami, but it’s more of when you’re a rookie coming in and kind of going through the same thing you did when you were a rookie. It’s more about having fun with it not crossing the line with it and taking it too far. I think it always seems like you can do that with everything. I think there’s nothing wrong with having some fun with the younger players and make them sing and make them do things and having fun with them. It’s kind of how they feel they’re part of something. We’ve done things like that, but that’s been about the extent of it.
(on players policing one another)
I think that’s what you want to have. You hope that the players know when enough is enough. Everyone doesn’t respond the same way to something. There’s something you may do that may not offend me, but it may offend my teammate. So, I think you have to understand immediately when to pull back and when it’s not appreciated or whatever may be going on or something just being said. Just like when I’m coaching someone—I could really get on this one guy, but if I did that to this guy sitting over here, you’re going to have a problem. As a coach, you have to be smart to know how I can even coach a player. I think my style of coaching may change by who I’m coaching. I think it’s the same way in the locker room; they get to know who can handle what and what’s crossing the line and what’s not. It makes sense, and they police it. I’ve never seen a problem in all the years I’ve been around the league as far as with that. I think guys adjust real quickly when they realize someone got offended by something. When you have a bunch of guys in the locker room, you’re going to have some fun, things are going to happen. You’ve all played sports, any sport you play in is the same deal. At some point, again, you have enough leaders to realize, ‘Hey, that’s enough of that. Move on.’
(on the importance of having good team leaders who can mitigate bad behavior or bullying)
I mean, you’d hope there’s common sense involved here. We’re here to win football games in our case, so you don’t want players that are making other players uncomfortable. You don’t want that, and obviously if it’s going on, I would think you’d hear about it rather quickly either with someone working in the building seeing it, me seeing it, a coach seeing it where it crosses the line. I don’t think it happens very often. I think guys make sure it doesn’t cross the line. No one wants to be treated unfairly, so I would think that’s something that gets policed rather quickly.
(on whether he addresses hazing with the team)
I’ve never had to as far as someone crossing the line. I’ve never had a situation where someone crossed the line by doing that. It’s more or less we will say what’s going to be allowed and not allowed. We all have them sing here in front of the team. I’m sure all 20 rookies at some point don’t like to stand on this box and sing a song to the players, but they all do it. I mean, we have things we do to have fun, but I’ve never had to address them over crossing the line.
He’s doing pretty well. It’s hard to tell. I know he’d hope to play this weekend. He’s in the process now of seeing how quickly he can start practicing. I’m not quite sure, but he’s doing well. We know he’ll be back soon. It’s just a matter of will he be ready for this game. Then the question is, ‘OK, you play a game on Sunday, and it’s a short week.’ So, you have to evaluate what’s best for him. Can he play on a Sunday and come back and play on a Thursday. We just want him healthy, and he’s close, so we’ll have to wait and see.
I think Colin’s (McCarthy) getting better every week he’s been playing. He’s been playing physical. I think he’s been playing confident. I think it’s a good situation for us because at linebacker, again, we’ve had trouble keeping them healthy. I think Colin is starting to feel really good about what he’s been asked to do and running things out there. I think it’s going to be a good situation for us when Moise (Fokou) is healthy.
(on moving guys around at the linebacker positions)
I think we just wanted to get some more versatility out there because of Moise (Fokou) being out and having some more options with (
That’s a lot of sacks. I’m happy he’s excited. He obviously wants to beat (Keith) Millard. I think Millard has got the record as defensive tackles, and Keith’s trying to help him get there. I’m excited about how he’s playing I thought from the day we got him here we got a very good football player. Last year, he was limited a little bit because of the health and the elbow and all those things that slowed him down with the pass rush. I think this year, yesterday, he played very well. He was rushing the quarterback, two, three other times he could have had a couple other sacks. He’s playing well in the run game. He’s a complete player and loves to play. I’d love to see him get (the record). That would be great stuff for us. He works on it every day, and he’s been having a great year.
(on whether Jurrell Casey is the team’s most consistent pass rusher)
I would think so. I just think he has a really good feel for the game. The guy he’s playing against, he sets him up pretty well by how he aligns and what he does. He plays the game within the game pretty well I think. Him and (Derrick) Morgan, now that Morgan is back playing, and I thought that one sack was Morgan. He did a great job containing the quarterback and the quarterback moved back inside and (Jurrell) Casey gets a sack. The second one Casey beats the guard clean and knocks the ball out and Morgan recovers it. Now that Morgan’s back in there, we feel that side can do some great stuff for us. They’ll complement each other in a big way by running stunts and doing things together. Hopefully that will help them going forward, but (Casey) has been the most consistent—week in and week out—lineman that we have.
(on his postgame handshake with Jeff Fisher)
I don’t think there’s any set way anything has to happen. I think that game was decided in the last 10 seconds. That was a game we both wanted to win for a lot of reasons first and foremost we both needed it and for the team to win. We had lost three in a row and they lost some tough ones, so I think it was that. If the game had been decided well in advance and the Titans had already had a three touchdown lead, I think it would have been a lot different for both of us. I think it’s hard. When we’ve lost some games like that it’s hard to run over and say, ‘Hey, congratulations. Good luck the rest of the year, and we’ll catch up later in the year.’ There’s not much more to be said really. That’s about the most (I say) no matter who I know. It’s just one of those things where it’s the moment where you just went through a tough loss, one of us did. I wouldn’t expect anything. I wasn’t offended by anything, and I don’t think he was. I don’t think either one of us thought anything of it.
(on Kenny Britt’s snap count)
I think it just depends on how the game goes. Like this game, we stayed out of a lot of three wide receivers. You saw (Craig) Stevens played about 35 snaps. He’s been playing 12 snaps, and he probably had his best game of the year. They were putting eight guys in the box every snap, and if we wanted to run the ball, we needed bigger guys in the game. So, we went with two tight ends, two back formations. We didn’t have as many three wide receiver sets; we had a lot of one wide receiver sets. That’s going to limit him in a big way from reps. (Justin) Hunter was in that package more, and Hunter had two big catches. He caught a third-and-five, and he had another third-and-one catch for us. That was good to see him get that opportunity.
He has. He’s a guy that gets open. If I was a quarterback, I’d be looking at him every snap probably. He’s special. I think he’s a guy that’s just going to get better and better. He’s hard to cover, he’s a tough matchup, and he’s quick. He gets off press really quick, and he’s hard to cover. He’s developed into a great weapon for us.
I didn’t know that. It’s unfortunate because I know those streaks are something that you don’t think about during the game, but after that (you’re disappointed). Just like Griff (Michael Griffin)—he has a hundred and something games without missing a game. Last year (Michael) Roos had his first miss. Those things are tough. During the game you’re not thinking about it, but afterward you’re disappointed that we couldn’t get him the ball.
(on Michael Griffin wanting to play against the Rams)
He was ready to play. He was fighting me on Friday telling me he was ready to go. He wasn’t ready to go though, so we did the right thing. He knew it I think. I told him he could start another 100 and get this one going. Hopefully he’ll be back next week.
(on what needs to improve in order to become a playoff contender)
You know, I think it’s going to be what we did yesterday; we have to be able to run the football. If we run the football like that and control a game like that (we will be a contender) even though we didn’t do a lot of things well in certain parts of the game with the two turnovers. That’s our formula to win. If we can stay healthy and have the guys we have now…this is how we thought we’d win this season. We just need to get the offensive line healthy. That’s probably the main thing to get the right tackle thing worked out. We just have to continue to get better like we are. If we can run the ball like that and control the line of scrimmage and get CJ (Chris Johnson) running like that, him and Shonn (Greene), it’ll open up a lot of things for us on the offensive side of the ball. The defense is just continue to do what we’ve been doing with turnovers and hanging together and realizing, ‘Hey, you know what? Some Sundays they’re going to put some yards on the board and some days they may throw it on us. Some weeks they may be able to throw it on us.’ When we needed a stop, Jurrell (Casey) gets a sack and strips the ball. If you’re in situational football like that, you always like to make plays like we’re doing. Even though the stats may not be what you want in certain categories, we’re going to win a lot of games. We lost games because we didn’t make those plays, and now we are winning games by making the plays here at the end.
(on the importance of not overlooking Jacksonville)
I think they’re very much aware that they’re playing both these games in the next 10 days because we’ve talked about it last week about these three games. This window of opportunity is right now with these three games in really this 10-day, 11-day period. This is where we got to make our move, and so they understood that going in. I think they should always understand exactly what’s in front of them and why you can’t keep hoping for a window to come. This is the opportunity; opportunities don’t just keep coming. Our opportunity is now, and we went out and played like that yesterday I felt. They understand that. Now it’s two more to go, but obviously you can only play one at a time. Our focus will definitely be on Sunday. We have to get to 5-4. I don’t think there would be any reason they would be considering anything past that. They will have plenty of time to worry about the next one.
(on how players are holding up after Sunday)Just soreness.
He’s been sore. Again, he had a nice game in there. It was a very physical game. I think he had the elbow that one time, his shoulder another time. That’s life in the trenches I guess, but he should be fine for Sunday.
(on whether David Stewart will play against the Jaguars)
I think so. I think the week off is going to help him a lot, and then we just got to see if that means he can practice more than he has been because that’s important.