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Coach Munchak's Oct. 14 Press Conference

Posted Oct 14, 2013

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on whether there is a correlation between Jake Locker’s absence and the stunted running game)

I don’t know. I think when you have a running quarterback it does change things a little bit. No, I just think it’s something that we’ve played a lot of good teams again. We’ve been playing some very good defenses — I think five of the top six or seven defenses we faced. We got to play better. Again, we knew coming in when you lose a quarterback, you lose your leader, you lose your best player. Other guys got to step up, and we thought we’d run the ball better. We knew that was going to be important. We obviously know we have to do a better job there that we need to give Fitz (Ryan Fitzpatrick) a little help that way in both of these games. We haven’t done that to the degree we need to.

(on there being no middle ground with Chris Johnson and the importance of running efficiently)

Well, you know what, it’s tough because we start the game and snap the ball high on the (shotgun formation) play. We hand him the ball, and he gets a five-yard loss because the play was out of sync. That happens twice — two of his runs were in shotgun snapping the ball, and the play never gets started. I think he had minus nine yards on two carries, and you’re kind of fighting uphill from there. I think we have to realize you can’t bank on the big run coming. Obviously, we haven’t had one yet as far as in CJ (Chris Johnson) terms what that is. For us, we’re more concerned with the efficient runs. Like I said, after the Pittsburgh game or after the first two, three weeks when we’re 3-1, we were efficiently getting third-and-one, fourth-and-one plays like that. So, you can live with the fact you’re getting more three yards, four yards because we were running into nine guys in the box. You’re running into some tough looks; you’re not going to have success all the time doing that, and we didn’t mind that because we were efficient with our run game. We were staying on the field, we were controlling the game, we were controlling the clock, and all those things were to our advantage. The last two weeks that hasn’t happened. We got stopped on third-and-one. We got stopped on fourth-and-one at the goal line, and that’s the part that’s hard to take. Because we’re not converting things we’re not staying on the field. We’re not getting to wear the defense down at all, so they’re fresh coming out every time. You can see the difference with our defense, right? When they’re fresh, they stop everybody. When they’re not, when we throw a pick and they go back for a second series back-to-back, we don’t play as well. That’s the problem is that the last couple weeks—we’re not making the (opponents’) defenses work hard enough. You have to be able to do that by converting even if it’s in the pass game to convert a third down to stay on the field so we can get to that run game stuff. We’ve hurt ourselves. It’s our own fault the last two weeks that we’re not getting ourselves an opportunity. They’re good groups, good teams we’re playing against, but you have to have a chance to beat down some of these guys. You’re not going to just get a big run. You have to earn it, and we’re not earning it.

(on whether there is a combination of players not doing well)

Yeah. We could go through the game and sit there and say, ‘Well, here’s the tight end. Look at these nine guys that blocked and this last guy, the tight end, was on his guy and tried his best, but he missed the cut blocker. (Andy) Levitre missed the cut blocker. Hey, Delanie (Walker) missed it right here.’ I mean, eight other guys are doing a good job and you have one guy, and that guy’s making a tackle. When you’re not getting things going, that’s kind of what’s happening. We’re not creating a big enough push where you can run away from that extra guy that’s free or whatever it is. It’s a combination of things. You can’t single out one person; if you can single out one person, it’s easy: you fix it. It’s easy to do that. I wish it was that. I wish we could say, ‘Well, it’s this guy. Let’s get rid of him; let’s change him.’ It’s a combination of things from play calling…it’s on us as coaches with play calling. We have to continue to find other things to call, maybe it’s when it’s called. It’s also executing (with) the running back and all of us. It’s not an easy answer. I know people want an easy answer. I wish I had an easy answer. This is a tough one because then it’s figuring out how do you fix it. That’s what we’re all wondering about, and next it’s how does this change for San Francisco. They’re another good defense from what I hear, so it’s going to be another good challenge. We’re going to have to look at how the best way is to go about that over the next few couple days as far as what we can do to make it different this Sunday.

(on whether it’s harder to run play-action when the running game isn’t doing well)

Well, it makes it hard, but you know what, they’re still there. Again, it’s just making good decisions with the ball. They’re still respecting the run game, but you’d think they wouldn’t. You’d think they’d say, ‘Hey, let’s play two high. Let’s not have the eighth guy in the box.’ That’s not how it is (because) they don’t want it to get going. If we put three receivers out there, they’re still in their base defense because they figure that’s (the running game) our lifeline. If we get the running game going, all of a sudden all kinds of doors open. You know, I’d do the same thing personally, but that’s what we’re getting. Play-action is still there because you’re still getting one-on-ones, so if they’re covered you have to be able to dump it down to the back and let him go like we did last week when CJ (Chris Johnson) went 50 yards. Those are the things we have to be able (to do) like find the back because everyone’s dropping back eight yards, nine yards; you have to be able to take advantage of those things. It’s not just one thing. That’ll get first downs. That’s a run to me. When you dump it off to him, that’s second-and-four, second-and-two. We’re not getting those either. We’re not executing there, too, so that gets kind of hidden in the deal with the run game, the pass game. Those are the things in the game within the game that we have to do better.

(on the timeline for return with Jake Locker and Shonn Greene)

You know, he’s (Jake Locker) going to be able to do more this week. He’s doing well. Him and Shonn (Greene) and those guys starting today (will) be a lot more active. Now it’s just us seeing how they handle more activity. I think the rest part and the light stuff is over and now he can get more into real football stuff. It’s a matter of seeing how quickly he progresses without pain. (It’s) the same with Shonn Greene. We’ll see where Shonn is this week with running and how he handles, how his knee responds to more football activity. So, the next couple days we’ll get a better feel for where those two guys are in terms of how they can help us win.

(on whether there is a possibility Jake Locker will play Sunday)

I mean, he’s got a lot to prove before he could come out and be our quarterback. He’d have to come out here and…practice Wednesday, Thursday, and he’d have to be out there.

(on Shonn Greene as a difference maker)

Well, I think he’ll help us without a doubt. That’s why he’s here, that’s why we were excited about bringing him over because of the type of runner he is. He’s like the guy when you saw (Marshawn) Lynch run when you see a guy that’s heavy like that, runs through, makes plays. He’s a different type of runner, and that’s the whole thing with that combination. You have that and all of a sudden (CJ) Chris Johnson is hitting you. Just like when we had LenDale (White), it’s a lot different, a lot harder for a defense when they’re dealing with different types of runners at different times on different plays. We feel he does add a lot to our offense that’s missing that we were excited about back in March when we signed him. Unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance to see that because he got hurt so early in the Pittsburgh game. We think having him back will be a big plus for us. It won’t solve all of our problems by any means, but I think it’s going to help us in a real positive way to move chains and stay on the field.

(on whether Jake Locker will practice this week)

Well, I think it’s a matter of how he does, how he feels. We’re not going to limit him by any means. We’re not going to say, ‘Well, geez, if he can stand up, he can play.’ It’s more of he’ll come out like the rest of these guys do, and (we’ll) see if he has setbacks and how he does when he’s throwing, moving around. Those are the things he can start doing now, and it’s just a matter of seeing how he does and where we go from there just like we would with Shonn (Greene) and anyone else.

(on whether Jake Locker can officially be ruled out Sunday)

I think there’s always a chance. I don’t think we’re going to sit here (and say no) like in the first two weeks when we knew he wasn’t allowed to do football activities where you rule him out. We’re not going to rule him (Jake Locker) out until…again, it’s a process. The odds aren’t great by any means, but I think as you start to move forward in your rehab you just wait and see how it works out.

(on the importance of completing a deep pass)

I think all of that helps in a game. We had spots in the last few weeks where we had some good plays, some good throws. Just getting first downs, staying on the field (helps). It seems like the last couple weeks it’s been hard for us to maintain some long drives. We only had one three-and-out yesterday, and a week ago we had five of them. But, again, that first drive, we settled for three because we lost track of where the sticks were. You know, it should be first-and-10, and instead we’re kicking a field goal on fourth-and-one. We just had a lot of things happen in the game within the game that we wish could turn out different to give us more opportunities. There were plenty of opportunities. It was 10-10 when that ball was on the ground. It was as much ours as theirs. I mean, the game changes dramatically there. We have a lot to fix. We have a lot to get better at, but there were plenty of opportunities to win this game, the game last week. I think that’s what’s hard for us as a team because we know we’re much better than we’re sitting right now with our record. We played a 6-0 team and a 5-1 team the last two weeks, and we’re frustrated because we left too many plays on the field where we could have won either one of those games. That’s how this league is. When you’re a good team like we feel we’re becoming, these are the games you’re going to have every Sunday against good football teams. We have to start winning them, and it comes by making plays when they present themselves.

(on his mindset when Darius Reynaud carried the ball on third-and-one)

The way that whole thing transpired was that we knew before the series that Jackie (Battle) had kind of tweaked his neck a little bit on a blocking play on special teams. So, we know that (Darius) Reynaud was up on certain situations. On third down if we were passing, we probably would have went with (Collin) Mooney because he’s better in protection and understands them well. CJ (Chris Johnson) has three good runs, and the fourth one is a screen. Then, at the time, we knew it was third-and-short, and they called the play in immediately. So, I knew the play was in. I heard it, and they were confident in the play because we’d run it a couple times earlier in the game and actually had some success with that play twice. We didn’t know CJ at the time had any issues at all. Obviously, we saw the screen and the play was called. Once the play was called, I started talking to the official about wanting a measurement. I went into that world because they had gotten one on their third-and-one that they probably shouldn’t have gotten, so I thought they’d return the favor and give us one so we could slow things down a second. They (the refs) moved the ball and once a ref moves the ball, you can’t get a measurement. So, they refused the measurement. The guy came back to tell me you can’t have a measurement. Meanwhile, the play is going on. So, yes, it crossed my mind then. The play was in, they liked the play. I mean, he (Darius Reynaud) runs in practice all the time. He runs those plays every day, so I wasn’t concerned that he wasn’t up to the task. Obviously, it didn’t work, so I wish I called a timeout or re-thought what we wanted to do there. Again, I thought they were ready to execute it. He’s very capable of making that play if we blocked it better.

(on whether he thought about going for in on fourth-and-one after Darius Reynaud’s no-gain)

No, (not) if you can’t get third-and-one. I thought about it. When we didn’t get the third-and-one, I thought their defense is playing too good right here. I didn’t want to give the ball up right there. I thought we could pin them back with a kick. I’d love to have another chance at it, but for me right there, no. As well as they were playing, it was 10-10. It wasn’t worth me giving them a shorter field. I thought just pin them back. Again, after you get stuffed on a third-and-one, it’s kind of hard to come back on fourth-and-one. You’re kind of forced to pass it, so I thought it wasn’t the place to do it.

(on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s decision making)

Well, I think any quarterback, anyone’s not happy when you throw some interceptions. He’s thrown a couple in each game, so I know he wants those back. Like I said, we’re putting more pressure on his shoulders than we need to as an offense. Like we talked earlier about the running game part, we’d like that to be better with guys not having some drops like they’ve had both games in some situations…After the turnover we got the ball back, and we had that drop. We were up 10-7, and that was a big drop that could have been a big play for us that helps the quarterback, helps the offense. We didn’t do that. The play he threw the pick in the fourth

quarter, that was one I’m sure that he wishes he hadn’t thrown.

(on containing mobile quarterbacks)

They’re going to get some yards. To say you’re going to shut them down completely is the goal. I thought we didn’t get hurt really for most of the game. He got out a couple of times and made some plays. They converted the third downs, which weren’t many. I thought we’re doing a good job of that. We were contesting everything which is what you want to do as a defense. I think we felt confident we could stop him. He made a big play on the broken play, the one play that he threw back to (Marshawn) Lynch. Somehow he saw him, but most quarterbacks won’t locate that under pressure. He did. We had pressure on him, but we missed the pressure which, again, a guy like that can hurt you then, and he did. It’s going to be a challenge next week also. That’s why Jake (Locker) is such a weapon, even Fitzy (Ryan Fitzpatrick). He’s had some good runs the last few games. He had the first first down. He saw it was wide open and took off and ran. So, he’s made some good decisions about running the football, which has been good. You can see how hard it is for a defense because our defense alone did such a good job of staying in the rushing lanes. When you stay in your rush lanes, you take away from the rush you want to run. So, you’re giving up on pass rush because this quarterback can hurt you so bad, and that takes the defensive line to be willing to do that. I thought for the most part we did well there. We had a couple where we let him get outside, and he made some plays with his legs. But, we kept ourselves in position to win that football game defensively.

(on getting more production from tight ends)

We’ve been in a lot of three wides (wide receiver sets), so they haven’t played much in those packages. It’s been exclusively Delanie (Walker) for the most part so far this year. In some of those sets we’re running, a lot of times those guys (Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson) are blockers because it is play action and they’re part of the run sell. But, they’re very capable. Stevens the last couple years—especially two years ago—had some nice catches. He did a nice job last year. It’s something where we need to get them more involved there. Those are like runs to me like I’ve talked about before with dumping to the tight ends toward the third and fourth quarter. I think Delanie had some of those five and six-yard throws that give you second-and-three. We need to get more of that, obviously, in our offense to help us especially when your run game is not where you want it to be. Those things will help us a lot if we can get some yards out of those.

(on determining the right number of snaps for Kenny Britt)

Well, that’s what we’re still working on. That’s a work in progress I think because, again, as we all know, he went from starting to not starting to playing on the three wide receiver package that cut his reps in half. Last week in that package, he had a bunch of drops that were big time in big situations. That’s why he’s out there for the reason you said; we see him as a very talented guy that can make plays for you. But, you reach a point where when he’s not making the plays that are there, you have to start giving someone else an opportunity like (Damian) Williams. The week before against the Jets he (Damiam) catches five balls that were all thrown to him. He made all five catches, so you’re sitting there saying after the game last week that if Damian’s in there and makes all those catches, you win the football game. So, Damian earned the right to be the third wide receiver. He was a starter in that package, and then you go from there. You figure out how to fit (Britt) in depending on how the game’s going and how the receivers are doing. That’s the hard part. That is the challenge because in the back of our minds, this guy is very talented, and he’s a very good football player. That’s why we suit him up every week; that’s why we want him to play on offense. Again, he had that one catch at the end where we’d like to give him more opportunities to get into that because we feel there are games he can help us, and we want to give him that chance to do that. We know we need guys to make plays, so that is a delicate situation every week to try and get guys the touches they need. You wish he had more. You’re always going to say one week he had too many or too little, so it’s kind of find out how the flow of a game is going. Again, we had 52 plays yesterday. That’s not enough. We need to have 70 or 75 to where he maybe does get 10 or 15 more snaps and we do more things than we did this game, this weekend. But, it’s tough because, again, he’s a talented guy that we’re not getting the things we know he can do out of him.

(on Kenny Britt working his way back into the mix)

Well, it’s like we said, the question was asked after he got half the reps why he’s even out there at all to catch the balls we threw at him a week ago. That’s the tough part. He caught a ball, the one ball thrown at him. I think the more we get him out there and he continues to catch it, the more you’ll start seeing him out there. Our goal is to keep him in the mix, without a doubt, otherwise we wouldn’t suit him up. If we didn’t think he could help us, he wouldn’t be dressed out. We feel he can definitely help us win football games. We believe in him, and we’ve been saying that. That’s why he’s been part of the offense since we’ve gotten started. How we get him in there, how he gets reps, is by staying on the field longer and having opportunities and subbing him in there more and let him go make a play—let him get open, let him show he can beat a guy one-on-one, give him opportunities to do those things, and get him in there more.

(on whether this Sunday’s game against the 49ers is a must-win)

Yeah, I think so. I think it’s just important. It’s the next one, so it’s the most important. I think we feel that we need to win a football game against a good football team. Losing two in a row is really unsettling because we know we could win both of these games. This is a team that’s going to come in here not feeling sorry for us and feeling like they can come in here and get a win. They’re a very talented football team as we all know, so it’s going to be a great challenge at home. We’re going to need the crowd noise to help our defense. This is a game I think these guys realize (is a must-win) especially with a week off, you don’t want to have to lose a game going into that where obviously this could be three (losses) in a row. I think this adds to the challenge, the week, that we don’t want to be there. You don’t want to be in that position, so we got to have a great week and play well on Sunday or it’s going to be that feeling.

(on Brett Kern’s second dropped punt)

At that time, no. We talked to him about it, and basically (he said), ‘I dropped it. There was nothing else going on. Obviously, I lost concentration for some reason and did something I shouldn’t do.’ Luckily, it didn’t hurt us. Luckily, we overcame that one.

(on injuries sustained Sunday)

Moise (Fokou) is the main one with the knee. I think Jackie’s (Battle) going to be OK. Jackie’s neck was sore as he came out as you know. I think he’ll be OK this week. That’s about it.

(on Moise Fokou’s injury)

I’m not sure. (It’s) sprained. We’ll find out today to what degree, how he is. He was playing well, had a really good game going yesterday when that happened, so we’re hoping for the best there.

(on whether an ACL injury can be ruled out with Moise Fokou)

He has nothing major. If he has anything, it’s week-to-week.

(on getting “back to basics”)

It should be. We should be better than we are. It just seems like we can’t get it consistently done. Again, give credit to the defense. Like I said, if it was Andy (Levitre) every time, it would be easy; we could fix Andy, and we’d go away from Andy. But, that’s not the case. It’s him and then it’s someone else. I think it’s just a work in progress unfortunately. I hate to say that because I thought we’d be playing much better by this point in the season even though we’re still in the first half of the season. We got to play better, but it isn’t complicated stuff. I wish it was. I wish I could say, ‘Man, we’re doing this and we invented this new play and they just don’t get it yet.’ I mean, it’s pretty much you block that guy and you block that guy. That’s how most teams are as much as they want to kid you that they have all these great schemes. It’s not that complicated, and unfortunately, we’re not winning enough of those one-on-one battles.

(on whether the crowd noise at CenturyLink Field had an impact on the team’s performance)

They did well. To be honest with you, I don’t think it was really a big thing considering it was a game on the road, (just like) Pittsburgh, Houston…no doubt.  They pump in the noise and pump in the extra music in between series, so it appears, obviously, amped up a lot more. When the play’s going on, it’s like most places, it’s like playing here in Nashville. Our crowd here is just as loud as their crowd; (they) make it just as much an advantage. We jumped twice, but that’s on the silent count thing. It’s not because of the crowd noise. It’s because of the fact on the road you have to be watching the ball, watching the helmet, not listening to a cadence. You have that every week. I thought they handled it well overall other than those couple of times. It’s definitely a factor. When you go on the road it affects offense, there’s no doubt about that, especially the offensive line, the quarterback. I don’t think this one cost us anything, but it hurt us a couple times. We had some high snaps which is part of the noise, I don’t know. We had two offsides, illegal procedures, and one hurt us when we were in field goal range right before the half. That one hurt us.

(on growing pains with the offensive line)

Well, like you said, don’t get frustrated with it. We’re not happy we’re not doing better. These guys are working, so you’ve got that. We’ve got some good things to work with, so I think you have to remember that. Coaches always get impatient. You want it right now, and fans want it right now. Obviously, you want to win every game you play in. Some things we’re doing well (like) protections and things. Some things we’re doing well that we’re really proud of. I think (Ryan Fitzpatrick) got sacked twice, and he wasn’t hit very much that game. We’re doing well there, but as far as what we want to do, we’re not controlling the line of scrimmage. We got to do a better job—Bruce (Matthews) and myself—with these younger players and put them in better situations every week and know this thing is going to turn. We feel we’ve got a group that’s going to be good for a long time together, and we’re not seeing it all right now. We’re getting there, but not at a fast enough place. I think when we get all our ducks in a row, (when we get) our quarterback back, Shonn (Greene) back in there, (David) Stewart back in there, (we’ll be fine). There’s some things out there that hopefully will come together in the second half of the season, and you’ll see a much better group.

(on the impact of Jake Locker’s absence and whether issues would be minimalized if he was playing)

Well, we obviously assume it all would’ve been. The way he was playing going into the Jets game was with a lot of confidence. He was emerging really as the leader and the type of player we saw here in practice. Now, he was starting to show that Sunday on the field. So, he was our guy, he was the guy we were used to. Anytime you lose the quarterback, it’s going to affect the football team (whether you) like it or not. We’d like to say it’s not going to affect it, but obviously it has. I don’t think we’re playing as well as we were playing with him during the season, even during preseason. So, when he gets back I think you’ll see it elevate. Right now, there’s no excuse there. You have to find a way to win. We can with Ryan (Fitzpatrick), we just aren’t playing as well. Unfortunately, it’s somehow affected us a little bit. Again, we’re playing two good teams, so who knows what would have happened no matter who would have been there. I think you always like to think if your starting quarterback’s available these results would have been different these last two games.

(on the team’s poor performance with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the backup)

You know, I guess you’re always hoping (to do better) because I’ve seen guys go out there and have success. When (Neil) O’Donnell was here, he stepped in. I saw that happen and thought, ‘Man, this guy does a great job.’ He made guys think, ‘Geez, I wonder who their (starter) is. Is O’Donnell better than (Steve) McNair because he went 4-1?’ That’s what you want to be thinking. You want to have your other quarterback, your backup quarterback, go in and have (guys) think, ‘Geez, this guy is pretty good. They haven’t lost a step.’ That’s what we were all hoping would happen. It’s not only his fault it didn’t happen. As an offense, it’s not happening yet. That’s the frustrating part I think for that—that we’re not playing better with him. Do we expect him to play better? Sure. I think he wishes he was playing better. Again, the group around him, it takes 11 of us (and) the coaching staff. Believe me, the coaching staff isn’t immune to what’s going on here. I mean, we need to coach better. We need to do it all, too. We’re all in this together, but as an offense, you can’t score six points and win on the road. That’s the bottom line for this whole thing. Like it or not, even though there’s a lot of positives out there, we just got to get better.

(on whether Jake Locker will be the starter when he comes back)

Exactly. When he’s ready, he’ll play. If he’s ready to suit up, he’ll be ready to start.

(on whether Jake Locker will be back after the bye week)

I would think it would be. We wouldn’t rush Jake (Locker) by any means. He’s going to be here a long time, playing football in this city a long time, hopefully with a lot of championships. We wouldn’t do anything foolish. We wouldn’t put him out there unless he felt like he was ready to play. Obviously, (we assume) it would be later rather than sooner.

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