HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on not overlooking the Jaguars)
I think it’s something we’ve already mentioned back on Monday about what’s ahead, and that’s it. Now it’s preparing for them, watching them on tape, getting to know them a little better since they have made changes, personnel changes, and their schemes are different from last year when we played them. So, it’s preparing for a division opponent. We’re 0-1 in the division, and we have to get a division win. This is the next one up, and their situation is what it is. To me, there’s a lot of things; they’re starting over, they’re looking at it as a new season. I’ve been in that position before as a player and as a coach. We’ve come out and won a lot of games after being in a bad spot, so we’re not even thinking about that. We need to play well. We need to pick up where we left off last week and play better in a lot of areas if we’re going to win.
(on the Jaguars this year versus last season)
Well, I think defensively they’re not a lot different. They’re a little bit like Seattle based because of the head coach. They’re a four-down front, so there’s not a lot of differences that way. What’s hurt them this year is just them getting injured. As we know firsthand, when the quarterback gets hurt or you’re changing quarterback, it takes away a lot of continuity on offense. They lost their best receiver, they lost their left tackle. I mean, there’s a lot to overcome. It takes a while, sometimes it takes a few weeks, part of your season to kind of recover from that on offense. On defense, I just feel like (it’s) kind of what happened to our defense last year. They play well then all of a sudden they can’t hold it for four quarters because they’re getting behind in the scoreboard. All of a sudden, teams get some nice runs, and (the defense) ends up breaking down as the game goes on. They haven’t been able to run the ball as often as they’d like because they’ve been behind, and we know that that’s their strength with that running back they have. We know all that, so we understand what’s going to happen. If we don’t play well, we’re going to see—just like last week—40 runs against a back that gets stronger as the game goes on if you give him that many opportunities. It’s going to be a really good challenge for us.
(on similarities between Rams running back Zac Stacy and Maurice Jones-Drew)
Yes it is because they get downhill fast, hit the A-gap, and stay square. (Maurice) Jones-Drew is even heavier it seems like. He’s a tough back. I’ve always loved the way he runs. They’ve had good days against us; we know that, our defense knows that, and we know the last couple weeks we haven’t stopped the run how we’d like to. We understand what’s going to happen on Sunday.
(on improving against the run)
We’ve got to tackle better at the point. Really for a lot of it you look at the numbers of the game. If we don’t have that one big run, the quarterback run, we had three yards a carry or less for a lot of the carries. But, we allowed the big run for 35 yards, and the quarterback did get out of there for 20 yards. That’s probably the thing that has hurt us more the last two or three weeks, the quarterback running the football. That’s kind of kept drives alive which has made it harder for us. It’s right there, it’s all fixable, it’s something we could do very easily. We’ve done it this year; we’ve just got to do a better job of swarming and tackling and getting them on the ground.
I just think players come into their own the more you play. He’s a smart player, he’s seeing things quicker, and he’s always studied film well. Earlier in the season he got a lot of opportunities—balls came his way, bounced the right way. Heck, he missed a couple in one of those games against Kansas City (when) he had his hands on the ball. He’s playing well. Him and Jason (McCourty) are playing very well at corner I feel. They’re both tackling pretty well, too. We need him to have a great second half also.
(on whether Alterraun Verner is better suited to play man-to-man coverage)
I think against certain receivers (he is). I think Jerry’s (Gray) done a nice job last week of playing more zone because of the speed. They had so much speed last week, and we were concerned about getting (blown) by, so we had to be a little more aware of that, play a little deeper and softer than we had been to avoid a big play last week. I think the matchups have been favorable earlier in the season for him. He’s done a great job, and hopefully the second half of the season will be the same.
Well, that’s where he’s at—you’re exactly right. I think him being hurt kind of set him back a little bit because I thought he was coming on this year, like you were saying, about being on the quarterback and creating other sacks. Even though he may not have gotten the sack, he was creating the quarterback to flush out there. Like last week, the first sack (Jurrell) Casey had was (Derrick) Morgan doing a great job of forcing the quarterback back to him. Then on the fumble, he’s there to recover the fumble on Jurrell’s sack. So, he’s right around the action. He’s real close to it. I think missing the two weeks when he got hurt, missing two and a half games really hurt him a little bit—same with Jake (Locker). When you miss, you get out of that flow for a little while. Now he’s back into it. He needs to play these next eight weeks, and we need him to finish plays. He’s there, and he’s got to close and finish them. I know he can’t be too anxious because he is rushing well, he’s a guy we count on, and we need him to step up this week.
(on getting off to a fast start against Jacksonville)
It’s like any game, you want to do that every Sunday, fast start, fast start. This week we had a fast start then we disappeared for a while. After the first drive we thought we were going to be unstoppable all day, but we kind of didn’t show back up until the third quarter. I mean, you always want that. Again, against a team that has been having some bad luck and things aren’t going their way, there’s no doubt it’s more of a mindset there. It’s important. Like you said, our biggest thing is not letting them run the ball 40 times. If we get a lead, get some points on the board, it takes away from some of the things they may want to do against us. If we don’t score points and keep it close, it’s going to be exactly the kind of game they can win. We got to play good.
(on coming out stronger after halftime this year)
I just think a lot of it’s the players, having different players from year-to-year, how they respond, how this group responds. I think at halftime there’s a lot more confidence. I thought in the game last week when it was 7-7 you would have thought we were down by a few touchdowns (because of) the way we felt—we weren’t playing at our level that we’ve been playing at. Just to hear the players talk and how they felt is a different mentality altogether on this team than what we had a year ago. It makes a difference when they go out in the second half.
(on the defense making red zone improvements)
We got to get stops obviously, but if you can stop the running game down there, that to me is the bottom line. Just like last week when the (Rams) couldn’t stop our running game and we were four-for-four. When we couldn’t run the ball well, our red zone wasn’t very effective. So, that’s really the key to me is the run game on both sides. If we can continue to run like we did last week, then our numbers will continue to get better like they have. It’s the same thing on the other side—it’s stopping the run game down there and making them throw it.