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Coach Munchak's Tuesday Press Conference

Posted Dec 18, 2012

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on working off of a win)

I think it’s good for all of us, good for everyone in this building. Not just the coaches and the players, but everyone associated with the Titans. It’s been a tough patch the last so many weeks of things not going our way and not playing well enough to win. I think last night was just a feeling of relief, playing hard, not always playing our best or making all the plays that were there, but hanging together for four quarters. It was interesting all the way to the end, and winning a football game. It was exactly what we needed, and helps you build on the next one.

(on not scoring off of turnovers)

Three of them were in a position about midfield or so, where we wished we could have done more with the ball. Again, you have to give them credit for that, too. They’re a pretty good defense, they covered us pretty well. There weren’t a lot of wide-open things we missed. We hurt ourselves with penalties on those drives when we did get the ball back where we had some holding calls where all of a sudden we had second-and-20, put ourselves in bad spots like that unfortunately, after the defense gave us a shorter field. It’s all those things. In the past, I think we’ve done a better job of it. This game, again, the good thing is we didn’t turn the ball over on our side. We didn’t give them any short fields other than obviously, on a couple of the punts. For the most part, the offense, even though we weren’t as effective as we’d like to be, I think the thing Jake (Locker) did a great job of is we didn’t turn the ball over. When things weren’t there, he didn’t force things. We were backed up in the end zone, he took a sack rather than trying to force a ball somewhere and get the ball out of his hands. As we all know, a week ago, we didn’t do it that way. It cost us 10 points a couple weeks ago because we were trying to force plays. I thought Dowell (Loggains) and the staff did a good job of making that point, that you have to realize what kind of game you’re in. The Jets aren’t scoring a lot of points. I’m sure they’re having the same conversation on their side of the ball, ‘Don’t make mistakes with the ball.’ Now they did, and we didn’t. I think that’s a huge difference for us, from one week to the next. Last week, we made some bad decisions with the ball, lost the game. It was a big part of why we lost. This week, we didn’t do that. Yes, we could have scored more points, maybe, but the bottom line is we didn’t hurt ourselves in situations where we could have just because they had great coverage or guys weren’t open or there was pressure on the quarterback. Jake didn’t make bad decisions with the ball. He ran, he tried to buy time, he tried to do things, but he didn’t force things. I think that’s what kept us in the game and gave our defense a chance to help us win the football game, which they did.

(on watching the tape of the game)

Like I said, we started the game off and drove down the field, gave ourselves an opportunity on third-and-one, and we don’t convert on a play. Jake (Locker) keeps it, and maybe we get the first down, but he made a 30-yard completion, a 15-yard completion, we got a nine-yard run, so things were good there. Again, third-and-one, we make a mistake, we don’t get the play, and then we get a field goal blocked. That’s the thing, we’re not consistently doing things well. That’s the part that’s hard. You’re watching it, and like I said, the good thing is we made enough plays and the defense got five turnovers and four sacks and made their day miserable also on their offensive side of the ball. We had that part working, which allowed us to win the football game. Definitely, you’re going to watch the tape. Like I always say, win or lose, there are always a lot of things to correct on both sides. When we sit here and have lost the last three weeks, we’ve said, ‘There are a lot of good things happening. Guys are playing hard, guys are making plays. We just didn’t make enough plays.’ Yesterday, we made enough to win even though we’ll sit here and say, ‘Man, we could have won by two touchdowns.’ Well, we won is all that matters right now. We need to figure out for the next game how to score more points and build off of that. You’d rather build it off of, ‘At least we found a way to win the football game and made enough plays at the end to win.’ We made it hard on ourselves, but we won.

(on getting big plays from playmakers)

You talk about that all the time. We had the Hall of Fame weekend this weekend, and we had the guys come back here in town. I think it was Kenny Houston that said right here and addressed the team, that great players have to make great plays. The guys that have been given the talent that the team is counting on have to step up. I think, like you said, they did. (Chris Johnson) had a 94-yard run. That’s the longest run in franchise history. You can knock everything else we did, but the bottom line is he’s the only back in NFL history to have that many runs over 80 yards. He stepped up when he had to. Jake (Locker), like you said, finished a drive off with a sweep for a touchdown. He made a play there. He made a play when they went up 10-7 and we were looking like we weren’t doing much on offense. All of a sudden, we come down and we didn’t have a third down. We complete balls for 15 yards, 20 yards, 15 yards, he runs in for a touchdown. A lot of guys had great blocks on that play. I think you see signs of that, of what we’re capable of doing. We’re just obviously not doing it every series. Sometimes that is our own doing and sometimes that’s the defense we’re playing against. Sometimes, it’s just getting some unfortunate calls by officials with penalties. Sometimes we’re guilty, sometimes we’re not, but that’s not falling our way either. It’s just a little bit of everything in there. It was exciting to see those guys make plays. The defense, like you mentioned, (Michael) Griffin having two picks. I think we have more interceptions than we had last year already with two games left. We have more sacks than we had last year with two games left. We had four more sacks yesterday. Guys were pressuring the quarterback, they were all around him. He threw bad balls because he was getting hit and because he was getting pressured, he was getting sacked. Linebackers did a good job adding when they had to and hitting pretty hard when they got in there free. I thought (Derrick) Morgan, again, played well, had another sack. He’s hitting the quarterbacks. He gave that tackle all he could handle all day long. I think you’re seeing a lot of good stuff going on, good winning going on. We talked about Morgan last week with seven hits in a game on a quarterback. As a line coach, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that happen. I know no one ever hit our quarterback, one guy six times in one game. He’s done a lot of good things even though the wins aren’t what we want this year. There are a lot of good things developing here as we finish up.

(on Kendall Wright wanting to come back in after his rib injury)

He just loves to play. He’s hard to keep out of anything. Even in practice, he’s running scout team, he’s running our plays, he’s running the scout team plays. He’s getting as many reps as he can. He just loves playing and that shows, his energy during the game. We’ll find out today how bad his injury is.

(on how severe Kendall Wright’s injury is)

He ran out there yesterday. I think when he thought he was going to play some more, he ran out and he ran about four or five yards onto the field, and he felt the pain and turned around came back out. I think he realized that he reached a point there that he couldn’t go back in. They’re looking at it today. A lot of that is going to be, those are pretty painful, obviously. We need to see how much of that he can handle. It’s hard to play that position and catch a ball, knowing you’re going to get hit. It’s something we’ll look at today and tomorrow and find out where he’s at.

(on if Kendall Wright has met his expectations as a rookie)

I don’t know what the stats are, but I know on third down for a while, he was leading the league in third-down catches. I know he was leading us in receptions for a while. I think he’s going to be a big part of this offense for a long time to come. We hoped that when we drafted him. Sometimes you draft a first-rounder and they don’t come on right away. We felt that he contributed from Day One, we thought he would, he has. There are a lot of things he can do, there are a lot of things he hasn’t had a chance to do yet in this offense. I think he’ll be fun to watch going forward, and hopefully, he won’t be done, but we’ll see how that goes the next couple of weeks.

(on if playing with a rib injury depends on pain tolerance)

That’s a big part of it. I think that, and deciding about getting hit on it, how much you can protect him. Playing a position, unlike offensive line or something, where guys aren’t really trying to hit you, that position, obviously, there’s a good chance he’ll get hit quite a bit. I think that’s a factor also. Then the pain, usually the first step is can you even pick your hands up and catch a ball without having a problem?

(on Kevin Matthews’ injury)

He’ll be out, he has a high ankle. The offensive line, for whatever reason this year, just can’t keep the group healthy. Kyle DeVan went in, Kevin (Matthews) did it right in the first quarter. If you watch it on tape, it looks really bad. I don’t know how he got up off of that. They taped it, and he went back in for the next series, and that’s when it got caught in the pile. He has a high ankle, and probably with two weeks left, he won’t get a chance to play. Kyle went in, I thought, and did a really nice job for a guy that hasn’t played in a while with that group, trying to communicate all those things they were seeing up front. He went in and did a pretty good job for us.

(on if the defense has blitzed more the last few weeks)

I think both. I think Jerry (Gray) has been calling the blitzes, I think they are just knowing when to blitz, learn how to disguise things better, that’s a big part of it. You get an offensive lineman to turn his head, now you come. You have to play to get that. You can’t go to a chalkboard and teach that. You have to play, and you have to get a feel for the game. When you’re blitzing, it’s one thing. Even when you blitz, you have to learn how to beat the guy, you hit the right gap and defeat the guy. A lot of it is understanding the game within the game. I think that’s what you’re seeing those guys do better of, is understanding, ‘If I wait this split-second more, this guy is going to turn his head. Bam, I’m gone.’ Zach Brown started playing, he didn’t have a feel for that. Now all of a sudden, he’s getting a feel for that phase of the game. He still has a lot of things to learn, just like Akeem (Ayers) does, the young linebackers. I think they’re picking up on certain things and getting better at them. When you have guys with that kind of speed that they have and that kind of strength, they can be special. I think you’re seeing some of those type of plays that they can make. They have a lot of growing left. These guys are going to be a lot better than they are now. I think you’re seeing signs of it. They both had a sack yesterday I think, and Zach recovered the fumble at the end of the game to win it and seal the victory. You’re going to see these guys make a lot of football plays over the years.

(on if he’s pleased with the overall progress of the defense the last few weeks)

I think Jerry (Gray) has to be happy with how they weathered the storm of all the things that they were being told was going wrong, the points being scored. We knew it wasn’t all the defense, it was turnovers, it was the offense. It was a lot of things that were leading to statistically things looking worse than they were. We obviously weren’t playing as well as we needed to play on either side of the ball. I think watching these young guys get better, like we just talked about, the linebackers, the defensive line. I think the corners have been playing well most of the year, making plays for us. I think the last six weeks, we’re in the top five for least points allowed.  I think we’re in the top group for sacks per game.  Third down I think we’re in the top five for the lowest number of third-down conversions. In that group, we played the Texans, we played the Colts in that group, so we’ve played some good offenses. The defense has done a nice job of keeping us in some football games.

(on if playing the Packers will be a good challenge for the Titans defense)

Yeah, I think it’s going to be a fun challenge. I think it’s what the defensive guys love, go against the best. We feel like we’re getting some momentum of our own a little bit, getting a feel for what we’re trying to do as a defense. It’s been hard not having (Colin) McCarthy.  I think we’ve struggled to adjust with that early, especially with having young linebackers. Him missing most of the season really with different injuries, that’s hurt us. Even though (Will) Witherspoon and (Tim) Shaw have stepped in and done a fine job, it’s still different when you don’t have your team captain and a guy you were counting on to be one of your big playmakers. This will be a fun challenge on Sunday for them. A great quarterback, a great offensive system, we’ll be challenged quite a bit there on how to shut that down. The best thing that can help is our offense. If offensively, we can control the ball and help keep them off the field, kind of like when we played Peyton Manning all of those years. It’s that type of offense where you want your offense to stay on the field, so you can help the defense.

(on if Colin McCarthy has a chance to play on Sunday)

We assume he does, yes. He worked out pretty hard yesterday before the game and handled that very well. He’s just excited to come back and play two games and be part of the end of the season, so he can put the injury stuff behind him. We’re hoping he can play this week, and we’ll know more probably tomorrow or the next day.

(on the status of Damian Williams)

Same thing, he’s going to work out tomorrow as far as starting to do individual work and see where he’s at and see where his hamstring is. It’s difficult, you’re going somewhere pretty cold to play the game, so hamstrings and things like that can be harder to loosen up once we get there. We’ll see where he’s at, he’s another one that is going to be questionable right now.

(on getting the team ready for the weather in Green Bay)

I think we’re actually going to fly up there tomorrow and practice for a few days, so you can take away all the excuses of not being ready. There is not much you can do, you just go up there and play, just like when it’s hot. If you’re going somewhere where it’s really warm in September, there isn’t a whole lot you can do really to prepare for it, especially when it’s in the 50s and 60s here in Nashville. I think it’s just something that you don’t get caught up in the weather, you’re still making plays and getting there and just getting used to the environment once you get there.

(on if he’d like to see a game where Jake Locker puts everything together)

I’d like to see the offense put a game (together). Going back to Detroit when he threw for 400 yards, I’d like to see it more balanced. I don’t want to see it where Jake (Locker) has to throw for 300 yards. I’d like to see it like Miami. He threw it for 200, we ran it for 150. The pressure was never on one phase. The running game worked and the passing game was working, where it wasn’t like yesterday where we had third-and-20 and third-and-15 and third –and-18 and all of that stuff that we created because of penalties and because of some of the sacks we took. I’d like to see us play a game where we control the ball and put ourselves in makeable situations where we can get some good drives going throughout the game. We haven’t done that, and there’s no doubt. That’s maybe hard and frustrating, but again, we’re working on it. Like you said, there’s nothing better than finishing strong, and not just on the offensive side, but obviously, as a team. Special teams, we need to step up and make some plays there and get us better field position at times like we were back in the beginning of the season, all three phases. The defense is definitely trending in the right direction with turnovers and getting sacks and keeping points off the board, which is great to see. But now, we just need to see all three phases work together, which unfortunately, we haven’t had in as many games as you’d like.

(on why Jake Locker is so effective throwing on the run)

I don’t know, sure it’s a combination of things, of comfort, of buying time, of letting things develop more and you have a chance for a receiver to maybe make better separation, a better feel for what’s happening there when you’re actually on the move. We obviously feel that he’s good at both, but I think it just buys more time to make a decision. Like I said, you can buy a receiver more time to get open, also. Then you put a threat on the defense when a quarterback is moving. They have to start making a decision about what they’re going to do about that. That’s a strain for a defense, because Jake (Locker) can run, which he has. He’s been successful doing that. That’s something you have to be able to do. You watch teams that have a quarterback like Jake. You need to move him. Just because you move him, it doesn’t mean they can’t throw out of the pocket, it just means you frustrate a defense. The defense sits there in their room. When (Jim) Washburn was here, you’d see him sitting in his room, he knows, ‘Okay, he’s going to get seven steps all day long.’ They’re going to revise everything, their line stunts, their games, their blitzes, because of where that quarterback is going to set up most of the time. When you take that quarterback and he has launch points all over the place, well then now you start taking away things that defense is going to do. They’re going to be very unlikely to overload blitz and do things like that if you’re moving the quarterback, because if they guess wrong, they’re going to give up a huge play. That’s why you continue to move him. It opens things up, it buys more time to make a throw. It’s a phase of the game you’ll always have when you have a quarterback like him like we’ve had with other quarterbacks we’ve had here. You’ll see us doing both.

(on if there is a limit to how much Jake Locker is going to throw on the move)

I think you’re going to be smart. Defenses, if they realize that’s all you do and that’s all you’re good at, they’re going to take that away and make you just stay in the pocket or they’re going to try to stop the run. You have to be smart on how you formation things to get what you want as an offense, where we’re running the ball or we’re running, passing, rolling out, so they can’t shut down what we’re trying to do. That’s the chess match of it. We’re not going to do it 20 times a game. I think yesterday, he may have rolled out eight times max.  Heck, a lot of guys do it 10, 12, 14 times a game depending on who you’re playing. Heck, the Texans probably roll out a dozen times a game with a quarterback who’s out of that pocket. Just because of the nature of the beast of the way the defenses are these days, it’s hard to sit in the pocket all day and make a living.

(on the expectation level for Jake Locker as a second-year QB should be greater than rookies)

I think that’s just a media-driven thing. I think everyone is not in the same circumstance, not in the same situation, not on the same team, not surrounded by the same personnel, so it’s like saying when (Ben) Roethlisberger was a first-round pick and went to Pittsburgh, he won the Super Bowl that year. Well, he went to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they were pretty good that year, so are you going to evaluate him versus maybe someone who went to a 2-14 team? So, I think it’s, you’ve got to look at a lot of factors other than just that. I think we’re more concerned with how Jake is fitting with what we’re doing, who we’re surrounding him with. We understand the situation we’re in. I don’t know what Washington’s situation is and what talent they have around (Robert Griffin III) and why he’s doing what he’s doing. I’m sure he’s a very special quarterback, but for us, it’s more of how we win with our guy, what kind of support do we have around him, what kind of system are we going to run and how do we get to winning this division with Jake Locker as our quarterback, so that’s what we’re working on. There’s no pressure for us. I don’t think he sees it that way either. It’s no different than us looking at the Texans; they won the division, we didn’t. We want to win the division, so what do we need to do about that to change that and that’s what we’re working on right now until we play them again next year. That’s the same thing to me as the quarterback, we’ve got to find ways to get better.

(on the number of penalties in Monday’s game)

Luckily, we haven’t really had a major problem with penalties this year, with that in certain games, but (Monday), yeah, I thought, you know, it’s hard, like I said, we had three holding calls. You’re going to get those, depending on what they’re looking at. It doesn’t mean you like them. The things you don’t want to have is like Sen’Derrick (Marks) jumping offsides twice and one of our guys lining up offsides. That stuff shouldn’t happen. Sen’Derrick obviously thought he saw the center move something or his hip or thought he saw a tell, thought he saw the quarterback move his hands, so he jumped. It worked for him on two of their other plays, so he got caught. He’s got to be smarter than that, especially—we overcame both of those, but the pass interference stuff, the hitting the quarterback that we didn’t necessarily agree with. Special teams, yeah, we had a couple that were definitely penalties where we hit guys in the back, making bad decisions, that’s part of growing up, I guess. I mean, they know what they’re supposed to do, and unfortunately, sometimes in the heat of battle sometimes guys don’t make the right decision. They think they have a good angle and they end up not having it, and if we’re going to be consistent, we’ve got to clean that up.

(on what happened on Brett Kern’s two sub-par punts)

I didn’t talk to him in general, but obviously he had a couple balls that he didn’t hit the way he’d like to hit them. I’m not sure what factored into that. Just like a quarterback, if he doesn’t make the throw you want, then you go back and look at it. I think he felt there was some pressure. They were definitely getting close. I think protection wasn’t great on the punts, especially on that last one. That doesn’t mean that’s why he missed it. That’s not an excuse not to hit it better than that, but it definitely affected him in some way, just like a quarterback does when people look at, all of a sudden the quarterback’s arm is getting hit or something happened that affected the throw. It’s an incomplete pass and it goes on his stats, but unfortunately those are factors of why that happened. Unfortunately for him, the first one, that he didn’t hit as well, I think he just didn’t hit it well. The last one, I think it was some pressure, or he felt some pressure, and I think he was worried about getting out of there quicker than he had to so he didn’t get it blocked, and he mis-hit it.

(on what happened on the blocked field goal attempt)

There was pressure up the middle. That big boy we had in here (for a pre-draft visit), (Muhammad) Wilkerson came in, and he’s about 6-foot-7 or so. He’s got long arms, so he’s a guy we knew that he’s a guy that’s had success this year, and he got some push and got his hand up and got a piece of it.

(on if he’s watched film on Packers rookie CB Casey Hayward this year)

I haven’t watched him that much, no. I liked him coming out of college quite a bit.

(on what impressed him about Casey Hayward when he was coming out of college)

Just his work ethic, how he played, the obvious stuff coming out of college, but other than that, I haven’t really watched him much this year.

(on if there was an issue with Rob Bironas getting on the field in time for the field goal attempt)

Yeah, I think he thought, I mean, yeah he went out there at the same time. There was nothing wrong that way. I think maybe he was warming up, hit another kick (into the practice net), with it being early in the game and he was out there in plenty of time. That didn’t factor into us making or missing the kick.

(on the status of Scott Solomon)

He’s planning on playing this week. We just don’t know. He’s going to be questionable. We’ll have to wait and see how he works out tomorrow and the next day, with this being a short week for everybody. (Wednesday) will be the same type of workout, and we’ll see how he is Thursday.

(on if the plan will be to stick with Kyle DeVan at center)

We haven’t decided for sure if that’s the best (plan). Now, we know that Kevin (Matthews) is definitely not going to be available, we’re not sure exactly what we’re going to do there.

(on if the team will shift Fernando Velasco back to center from left guard)

We could. We’re just going to take a look at, you know, look at who we’re playing against the next couple of weeks because now it’s going to be a two-week move, just like it was to move Fernando (Velasco) out there once we knew it was going to be long-term because (Steve) Hutchinson, once we knew Hutchinson was out for good, then we were going to move Kevin (Matthews) back in there to start. We figured the best way to do that obviously was to put Kevin back at center and move Fernando. Now, we have a two-week deal, and deciding what the best set up is for the next two weeks, we’re going to take a look and see if that’s, we may do that yes, but we haven’t decided for sure if we’re going to go that way or not.

(on Kyle DeVan’s approach and attitude while being released and re-joining the team and getting the opportunity to play)

That’s why we’re glad he’s here. He’s smart. He’s going to be a coach. I mean, he’s already in the building and all of them refer to him as a coach. He was helping as a grad assistant out at Oregon State. That’s where he’s been, so he’s been around the game, loves the game, is really smart. He’s played, so he’s comfortable, he’s confident in what he can do. He knows his limitations. That’s why we want a guy that can handle what happened last night. Not many guys can run in who were a grad assistant in college for the last month or so and can come in and play in a Monday Night Football game, and his second play, we had a 94-yard touchdown run, so that’s quite a story for him, quite an accomplishment for him. They tried to go to a style of defense where they covered him up so they could get him one-on-one more in pass and run situations, and he handled himself well. He didn’t hurt us and did a nice, solid job, and that’s the kind of guys you have to find when these things happen. Unfortunately, we’re having a run on injuries on the offensive line. It’s hard to find help, and believe me, it can be ugly. I’ve watched a lot of tape on teams that have lost players and it can really just tear everything down completely. It’s a credit to (offensive line coach) Bruce (Matthews) and to the guys as how they’re handling this adjustment of losing four offensive linemen to injured reserve, losing Kevin, now that’s five guys you’re losing. That’s not easy to do and still survive to where the quarterback is still standing, so that’s a credit to that and to Kyle (Monday) night.

(on Michael Griffin’s performance)

Yeah, I think, when you get two picks you’re in the right spot. You’re covering right. The ball, sometimes those things go your way. It did (Monday) night. He had the big pick at the end there that really sealed that thing so it didn’t put us in a bad spot late in the game. It was big. I thought he had some nice tackles, and that always works hand-in-hand. When the guys around you are playing better, it helps you play better. When guys are hitting their gaps right, all of a sudden, when (Michael) Griffin comes up, when he’s got to make his tackle, the gap he’s got to protect is so much smaller because guys are doing their job. When guys aren’t doing their job, all of a sudden, it’s the size of a truck, the hole, and all of a sudden, you may look silly, missing a tackle because you have so much area to cover, so I think because the guys around him are playing better also, those guys are now having the opportunity to play better and aren’t being asked to do too much. I think that’s why the defense in general is playing better, because it’s not just one guy. I think they’re playing better as a group and doing their jobs better as a group. Because of that, now, you’re seeing individual guys start to step up and make plays because they’re not trying to do too much. That’s what you wish had happened earlier in the season, and now, I think you’re seeing it go the right direction, and I think it’s going to be a great challenge this weekend to see where we’re at.

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