HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on facing Andrew Luck the second time around)
Hopefully, it’s going to make a difference. Watching him on tape and what he’s been able to do, especially late in games, for a young quarterback, he’s done a great job for them. In the game a couple days ago, beating Detroit the way they did, the way our game went, we felt we had the game in our hands and then we’re putting up points on the board, and he has two big drives at the end to beat us. You have to realize that no matter how the game is going for him, he can be throwing picks and he can be not playing well, and in the fourth quarter or late in the game, he comes on and makes some great throws and gets out of a lot trouble. He takes a lot of hits, he’s been sacked a lot, but it doesn’t take him out of his game. That’s a credit to him and obviously, the organization, for how well he’s playing. I think he’s the guy that’s making, obviously, the huge difference in how they’re doing this year.
(on if Andrew Luck’s ability to orchestrate game-winning drives is still a step
I think our team needs to take a step, it’s not necessarily just him. We needed to win that game last time, and we had our chance there with two, three minutes left in the game and we had the ball. Same thing happened in Jacksonville, we had the ball. The last time we played Indy it was Matt (Hasselbeck). Jake (Locker) was the Jacksonville game. Those are things as a team, two games we felt we had a chance to win and we didn’t win. That’s been the difference for them all year. They’ve found a way to win football games, and that’s why they’re 8-4. It’s going to be a great challenge to play them in their building. I think they’re better than they were when we played them because their confidence has grown since we’ve last seen them. We all know what we need to do. We just have to take care of ourselves and play better than we have been playing and see how it all shakes out.
(on what is key during two-minute situations)
I think Jake (Locker) did a lot of it last week. I think he rose up, he made plays with his legs. They both do the same thing. (Andrew) Luck isn’t thought of as a runner, but he does a great job eluding problems, made a great decision at the end of the game against (Detroit). He threw a two-yard pass for a touchdown. A lot of quarterbacks would have rifled that into the end zone, thinking you have to score a touchdown, where he threw a three-yarder and they ran it in. The thing is, you need help. You need guys making catches and plays when you’re trying to bring a team back. Their team is rallying in that way, where it’s not just the quarterback making plays, it’s the whole team making plays. I think that’s the difference between us and them. We’ll have a guy rally here or there, but we’re not all rallying together. We’re not all making the plays that are there, whether it be receiver or offensive lineman, whatever it is. We’re not making the plays as a group to finish games and they are.
(on if he thinks that the loss to Indy in October may have altered the course of the season for the Titans)
I think it hurt us, there’s no doubt about it. We could have been 4-4 at that point, after coming off of Pittsburgh and Buffalo and playing two big games. We were lackadaisical in that game. I thought we blew a lot of chances on offense in that game to put points on the board. We had three long drives and got field goals. That cost us in that game. I don’t think it put us in a funk or anything, but I think when you look back, there’s no doubt that game was a game we all felt we should have won. We didn’t, so it doesn’t matter. Then obviously, the Jacksonville game is another one that we were right there, had a chance to win it and didn’t. That’s what’s hard to take, you’re sitting at 6-6 and who knows. That’s how this league is, it’s a play here, a play there. Teams that are like we are, 4-8, could sit here and say we should be 6-6 or better than that, but we’re not. When you watch tape, you realize you’re not as far off as 4-8 tells you that you are. You’re that close to two games where you’re 6-6, and now you’re right in the middle of playoffs for the Wild Card. We didn’t win those two games, and now we have to deal with that. The only way we can is by winning this week.
(on how much more comfortable Andrew Luck looks since that game)
I think he looks the same. I just think he has always looked that way. Like I said, I think people knew this when he was in college, how special he was going to be. He’s a big, strong quarterback that’s hard to bring down. That’s what’s hard to believe, he’s been hit that many times and sacked a lot, but there’s a lot he’s gotten out of trouble. His offensive line has the same problem, they have injuries also. They’ve had some guys hurt this past game. I think they’ve been scrambling with the roster, so that’s why he’s been getting hit a lot. Like I said, in our game, we had him numerous times in that game, where that game would have been over. Heck, the Detroit game, they sacked him, the ball is out, they’re up by 12. Somehow, he recovered it. If Detroit recovers on the five, the game is over. He’s making plays in a lot of ways. Even when it’s a bad play, he’s making some good out of it. They have it going on right now and we’ll see. It’s going to be a great challenge for us. He gives you a chance. He threw a ball right at (Colin) McCarthy that should have been a touchdown for us last time. We dropped the ball, and that’s a touchdown. If we had done that, it would have been a touchdown the other way. That’s kind of what is going on. He’ll give us a chance, and when he does make that mistake or two, we have to capitalize on it. We had the one pick on him last time, and we could have had a few more. We have to make plays when he makes mistakes.
(on the status of the offensive line for Sunday)
I think (Michael) Roos will be fine. He’s sore, but he’s doing the walk thru part of practices. He should be practicing, I would think, by Friday, so we’re assuming he’s going to be OK come Sunday, but that’s it. (Steve) Hutchinson will be out. Obviously, David (Stewart) is already out. We’re going to have to shuffle it around a little bit. That’s what this league is all about. We’ve had to do more of it this year on the offensive line than we probably have in a long time. Last time we played Indianapolis, Roos didn’t play, and that’s when Leroy (Harris) got hurt in the first quarter, so we had two offensive linemen in that game, two backups in that game playing. It’s going to be similar this weekend.
We might actually get to play him this time. We’ve had fun with that. He’s a great kid. He’s a guy that has experience. Obviously, he played at Indy when he did play. He’s smart. He becomes our swing guy now that can play the three spots in the middle if we have to go that way. He’s a guy that knows our system, at least he’s familiar with us. It’s hard this time of year, a lot of teams are finding out, you’re scrambling for guys. There are not a lot of guys that are available this late in the season that can come in and help you on a Sunday. We’re lucky we have him and we’ll move Kevin (Matthews) up and (Mike) Otto again and go from there.
(on if they’ve had a regular Saturday meeting with Kyle DeVan each week)
I pretty much let them know the night before, we talk. I always let them know what’s going on with our personnel moves and who’s on the roster. I always want them to know who’s in the room because I’ve been on teams as a player and a coach where there would be guys on our team for three weeks, and I wouldn’t even know that we made changes because so much happens this time of year. Especially if you’re on offense and this happened on defense, and vice versa. I think it’s good that these guys always know what’s going on with the team and what changes we’re making and that kind of thing in team meetings. That’s why I think the guys are more aware of that. Weekly, that means you’re saying Kyle (DeVan) is back and we’re doing this and we’re doing that. Saturday night, I’m telling them, ‘Hey, we moved up
(on if Kyle DeVan has a good attitude about going back and forth)
He knows when we brought him in, we’re not going to suit him up. We’re leasing him for two days to bring up a practice squad guy that we need for the game. It works well for all of us, we’re getting the practice time and he gets paid the same. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get the uniform on Sunday, which I know he wants to do. He understood it, it’s better than the alternative of not being here. Because he hung in there with us, now he is dressing up. One guy gets a tweak in the game, he’s playing. A lot of players get there different routes, this is his route right now. Like you said, he’s been real good about it. We’re glad we have someone that’s a smart player like him in the wings if need be.
(on how Jake Locker’s game has progressed this year)
Again, it’s almost better to wait until the season’s over and see how it all ends up for him because of the way the season went early with him getting hurt and missing six games. I think each game is a little different. I think this past week was the fact that he was trying to do too much early, which was probably the first time he’s done that maybe since preseason, then come on strong in the last quarter and a half to where we needed him to do that, gave us a chance on a few of those drives to get us within a score of the game and all of a sudden, make the game interesting. That was all good to see. He took it running, making plays, penalties would bring us back, and he throws a touchdown pass on first-and-20 the next play. He kept overcoming some bad things that happened. I think it’s just another thing he went through. Obviously, we want to win those football games. We’ll see how the next four weeks go. Obviously, we’re happy the direction he’s going. Like I said earlier, it’s really about us all pulling together. It’s like we’re not all playing good at the same time. Guys are getting open and maybe he’s not seeing them early or we’re not protecting the way we should. Then the game wears on, and all of a sudden, he’s got his game going, and guys aren’t maybe quite catching it the right way or maybe there’s pressure. On offense, we’re just kind of there right now, where you see a lot of good things. You see glimpses of some real good football and some real good plays, but when you’re 4-8, there’s something going wrong. It’s that we’re not putting it together all at the same time, like I mentioned that Indianapolis seems to be doing late in games.
(on if Jake Locker has been good at not making the same mistake twice)
I think that’s what he’s good at. I think on the sidelines he doesn’t get mad at himself. I think he just gets mad that he’s missing plays. He does a good job of wanting to know exactly what happened. He wants the truth, he wants to know, ‘How can I fix that? How can I keep that from happening again?’ When you watch the tape with him, he’s the same way. He takes more responsibility than he probably should. That goes with quarterbacks, I guess. That’s a reason why he’s going to be a real good one. You can’t do it by yourself. He has to be more consistent throughout all four quarters, but we all have to be with him so that we can have some of these games be great finishes instead of not being.
(on how much
That’s why I think he’s been helpful to us, and why he’s been able to help quicker than maybe he would have if he didn’t have that kind of experience. I think it’s helped him at the tight end position also. The toughness, we’re having him whamming people. He’s blocking linebackers. When I saw he’s blocking linebackers, he’s blocking them like a fullback would with running full speed at a linebacker, which is a lot different than a normal tight end does. I think he understands those collisions and that part of the game. A lot of tight ends aren’t used to that kind of life and don’t really embrace it. I think that’s something he’s got a great feel for. He allows us a lot of versatility that way. That’s why he’s been playing more in certain games, especially when we’re running the ball more, he’s in there. He hasn’t had a chance to catch the ball the way we think he’s able to, just because he hasn’t had the opportunities. He had a drop in the game, which was unfortunate. It was a play, again, that he probably could have gotten eight to 10 yards on a gimme, but dropped it. That’s the stuff he’s got to clean up. In preseason, he had a couple other ones like that. He’s fit in like we thought he would or hoped he would. Now it’s just a matter of seeing if he can continue to improve.
(on if it’s a surprise that he’s one of the main special teams tacklers)
We didn’t know for sure how quickly he’d do on them. Like you said, because of his background, you thought he had a better chance than most offensive players. That’s where we had trouble here in the past, we haven’t had a lot of offensive guys playing special teams. He does, (Craig) Stevens does, (Jared) Cook does a little bit. All the tight ends really help quite a bit. He stepped up, he’s had some big blocks. We all remember the return against Detroit where he had a huge block. He’s had other good blocks, he’s had some nice tackles. He’s missed some tackles, but he’s a guy that’s going to be a good help on special teams.
Yeah, really when (Lavelle) Hawkins isn’t dressing up and Damian (Williams) is hurt now, you kind of got to lean on that spot. We know that Kendall (Wright) can do it, but again, your receivers are hurting. You have to be smart on that. Right now, I think he stills gives us our best chance to make something happen on returns.
(on if he’s hoping that Darius Reynaud’s decision-making with returns will improve)He made a decision, the kickoff return part he did better. He kept a couple that we asked him to. We have to be smart about coaching him up on that. Like I mentioned, the kickoff return, because he was having some success early, we were giving him the benefit of the doubt. It was a feel thing, it was where it’s kicked, you’re getting momentum as you’re catching it. Even though it may be seven yards, go ahead and bring it out, we may tell him beforehand, just because we needed a spark somewhere. Even on those ones he brought out against Jacksonville, he was at the 15 or 16, it wasn’t like it was inside the 10. It was worth the risk of maybe getting a bigger play. The punt, the first one again, I guess he’s got to learn how to read the rotation of the ball and probably think that the ball would have bounced in, whereas the other one dropped on the two. That was the hard part, he caught one and didn’t catch the other one, it lands on the two and stays in. The other ones, twice they put it inside the five, he caught the one. He made the one bad decision on a fair catch. That’s something you have to do. It’s his first year doing it. That goes with it. You wish he wouldn’t have done that, but he knows that and next time I’m sure he’ll make a better decision.