John Harbaugh's Monday pressser
"This is a surprise. Kevin [Byrne, senior VP of public and community relations] said, ‘There will be an award later, so make sure you shave.' So, I did. If you see any blood, you'll understand why. We're moving fast here. (laughter) Thank you very much, Coach [Al Cantello, Navy's cross country coach who presented Harbaugh with the award]. It's a tremendous honor. I have been given a little bit of the details, and Coach [Mike]Krzyzewski has talked about this award at length. This is something that means a lot personally and for our family. My dad and I were just talking about it. I think my dad had some clinics with Coach Stagg here back in his younger days. (laughter) No, he's not quite that old. It's been said – Knute Rockne said – ‘All football runs through Coach Amos Alonso Stagg,' and he innovated so many things, including the jersey number [and] reverses, which we ran one yesterday. Maybe we did it in his honor. And there were all kinds of other plays. The huddle – there are just a number of things that Coach Stagg changed in football. I believe the forward pass as well. It's a great honor, but more for what the award is for and the foundation. Thank you very much. It means so much for a coach and the son of a coach and for our family, too, to be involved with such an award. So, thank you very much; it will be treasured.
"OK, that's what you guys were here for, right? (laughter) As far as the game, before we get started … So many things went on in that game. There will be so many things to talk about here that we should talk about regarding our football team and where we're at developmentally as a team. But the thing that stands out the most is the fact that our guys, in a knockdown, drag-out fight as a football game, found a way to win the game and overcame much adversity, overcame a valiant effort [and] overcame some of our own mistakes. There's always going to be that back and forth in a football game like that. Punches were thrown both ways – I mean figuratively – and our guys held strong at the end, especially after the challenging situation at the end of regulation. When you think you have the game at hand, the emotional challenge there is something that many teams would not have been able to withstand, and our guys did. Our guys took that shot and came back out, laced the gloves back up and went to work in overtime to try to find a way to win that game. For that, I'm very proud of our guys. It speaks to their character and something that every Ravens fan should be proud of."
Speaking of the fans, based on their reaction, there seemed to be a big sigh of relief when the game was over. Fans and players will react differently, but when you got together with the team today, did you sense anything different in their usual Monday demeanor?
"No. I'm not sure what difference there would be in terms of … What are you referring to specifically?" (Reporter: "Were the players breathing a collective sigh of relief after the win?") "Winning is always good. That makes a big difference. Our guys are very serious; they are very focused. They look at themselves first. Our guys take responsibility. Our guys are thumb pointers. They look at themselves first. Our guys are excited about the win, proud of the victory, [and] at the same time recognize where we can get better. In some areas we have much more room for improvement than other areas. But we can get better in every area."
In terms of clock management, is there room for improvement there in terms of letting the clock run down a little more before snapping the football? Or, did you feel that was normal?
"I thought that was good. You have to make a decision really, when you want to go in your four-minute mode and when you want to milk the clock completely down. And what happens when you get out of a rhythm, when you go into the four-minute mode, you change your rhythm. And when you get out of rhythm, sometimes you do things like jumping offsides. They know the snap count, because you've run the clock down, so they can get off on your snap count. They don't have to determine [that]. They know when you are going to snap the ball, so they get a great takeoff, and it's much harder to execute under those circumstances. If you get into that four-minute mode too much, and you milk the clock all the way down too much, you have less chance of being successful. The best clock manager is converting first downs. When you convert first downs, that's when you're going to run the most time off the clock. So, you've got to balance that with rhythm. We decided we were not going to go on the clock in the four-minute mode with 10 or 11 minutes left in the game; it just wouldn't be smart. So, we were taking the thing down under 15, 12 and 10 seconds throughout the fourth quarter, and to take it all the way down, you'd make it tough on your offense to convert first downs."
The data over the last four weeks shows the running game struggling. Is there anything you see when you and Jim Caldwell watch the tape that the fans or the media don't see that suggests the run game is improving in certain areas?
"We need to get better with our run game. We gained a few more yards, but that, to me, is negligible because we're not as successful as we need to be. We're not even close. We talked about the reasons for it; it's not one thing. If it was one thing, you'd either be able to fix it or you'd have to throw your hands up and say it's something you can't fix because you don't have the answer. Neither one of those is true. The answers are there, and it's not just the run game. It's the pass game that ties into it as well. But, the bottom line is we've got to block better. We've got to get guys blocked better in terms of making sure that we get hats on hats all the time. We've got to continue to improve in that area, but there's individual accountability for that, and within these walls when we have our meetings, we look really hard at that. And guys probably take more blame than they should. But we are all going to be held accountable – every individual player and coach, as well as the collective. But, collectively it's got to improve."
You've said it's not just one thing with the running game. You've been willing to change things up. Has there been any thought of making Bernard Pierce the featured back over Ray Rice for a game or two?
"Both of those guys are going to play. I think that would be just … What would that mean, you know? One guy is a featured back by definition? Both of those guys are going to get a large number of carries, and I think whichever guy is playing better should get more carries as we go forward. But, Bernard [Pierce] has had his hamstring issues the last five weeks, which he seems to be coming out of. Ray [Rice] has had his hip issue since the second game, and he seems to be coming out of that. Both of those guys seem to be getting healthier. That's a plus for us. Both those guys have got to play for us and play well. You can't have one back carrying the ball 35 times nowadays. And we don't need to do that. We think we have two very good backs. So, I don't think that would be the solution."
Do you attribute Ray Rice coming off this hip injury as to why he just doesn't seem to be the old Ray Rice we're used to seeing?
"You've got to look at the numbers, and definitely, it's not the same. There's no doubt about that. So, what is it? It's injury or it's not as much room to run, or it's both. His health has been a factor, no doubt about it. He's working hard to become healthier. That's important. That's a hip flexor. That's a muscle injury, and it's hard to predict exactly what impact that has, but you've got to assume it's had an impact."
Losing streaks are kind of like the snowball rolling down the hill, and you stopped that momentum yesterday. How big of a relief was that for you?
"I'm not into that measurement, in all honesty. It was important to win. It was important to win the week before and the week before that. But it was really important to win that game, and we were able to do that, and it meant a lot. It's important to win the next game."
What went into the decision to have Lardarius Webb playing on the inside in the nickel when we haven't really seen him do that this year? What do you think makes him so successful in that spot?
"He plays well wherever he's at, but he'sa really good blitzer. He does a great job covering inside routes. A lot of it had to do with our scheme in that game. Whether we'll do that again next week, I don't know. It had to do with the coverages we were playing and the way we were trying to match up their numerous talented receivers, starting with A.J. Green. He's always played well in there. Maybe he's a little healthier, as well, so you feel a little more comfortable putting him in there now as opposed to earlier in the season."
How is Haloti Ngata doing today? He was able to go back into the game. Was he sore?
"You'll have to ask him how he feels that way, but we didn't have anything that looks to be major injury-wise." Do you expect Jacoby Jones' role to continue to grow? He's been back for four games now, and he's been playing more, but he has yet to pass Marlon Brown in terms of playing time.
"We're not really counting reps right now. We want to play those guys as much as we can. Those guys, in my mind, are playing a maximum amount of reps right now. We're trying to roll Deonte [Thompson] in, too, because the fresher you can keep your receivers with the situation that we have right now, the better off you'll be. So, we want to play all those guys. In terms of production, yes, we'd love to see Jacoby [Jones] make some big plays. He had a couple catches where he had a chance to go, and they got him on a shoestring tackle there. That's important for us."
Vontaze Burfict alleged that a member of the coaching staff shoved him. Did you see or hear anything about that yesterday?
"Yes, I heard him allege it. That's all I heard. I don't take too much stock in that stuff. I thought our guys did a great job conducting themselves in that game with great poise and great class in spite of some of the stuff that went on."
You ran a play with Tyrod Taylor, and it was so successful. Are we going to see that more and more as the weeks go on?
"Perhaps, perhaps. It's an option for us."
Why was it important to do some of that stuff yesterday? Haloti Ngata was in there on the goal line, and there were just some new wrinkles. Why was it important to introduce some of that stuff?
"We've got to find ways to create some plays, obviously. You try to use your guys. We've got some guys with some specific talents that we're going to try to find ways to get them out there on the field and do that. We've done that in the past here, and it's important for us to do that."
When you look at the film, the lack of explosive plays yesterday – there wasn't a play over 19 yards – how does that affect your offense in trying to get some sort of rhythm going and not being able to open up the field in that fashion?
"We've had big plays throughout the course of the year. That's really been one of the better things we've done this year, and that's something that's important for us. If anything, we haven't been consistent with our plays. Our per-play yardage yesterday was really low, and that's because we had no big plays, really, to speak of – nothing over 20 yards. We've got to be able to do that. We've got to be explosive. We've got speed out there at certain positions, and we've got to be able to take advantage of it."
It seemed like it wasn't a perfect game on special teams, but there were a lot fewer mistakes. It looked like Sam Koch was punting the ball better, and you covered well. Were you pleased to see that improvement?
"I thought the coverage was really excellent. That was good. We had a couple different guys active, changed a few guys around as far as where we placed guys. We've gotten healthy with the linebackers now with Jameel [McClain] and Josh [Bynes] in there. That really helps our punt team. We think we have two excellent gunners with Chykie [Brown] and Jeromy [Miles], so that helps us. We were at our best, probably, yesterday in that way. We were close on a couple returns. I thought we played relatively penalty-free, especially compared to the opponent. It was good."
The Bears have ruled out Jay Cutler; Mark Trestman said that today. He won't play because of a high ankle sprain. [What are] your thoughts on Josh McCown and by not having Cutler out there, and also Charles Tillman? (Aaron Wilson) "I don't have any thoughts on that right now that I would share or probably will all week."
After watching the tape, what did you think of Jimmy Smith's performance, and can you just talk about the progression he's made this year?
"Jimmy [Smith] played very well; the whole secondary did. Jimmy does continue to improve. I was watching the film with my dad, and that's one of the first things that jumped out at him. I thought the corners, especially, played with really good technique, both in press and in off [coverage]. Lateral spacing and all that was really good. Jimmy, yes, has taken some steps forward, just like we thought he would."
John, with Justin Tucker being such a young kicker [and] the composure that he has, is that unusual, especially for being so young?
"I would have to say yes. You guys have watched kickers; you have watched these guys. Everybody can make that evaluation. He's special that way."
I know you don't want to give away too much regarding the Bears, but can you just tell us your overall thoughts on them? I do remember at the White House, someone [President Barack Obama] said they would be rooting for them against you guys.
"Thank you for that reminder. No thoughts specifically on the Bears at this time, for the public record. We appreciate the President and the fact that he's a huge football fan and sports fan. I'm sure he'll be watching this game very closely,and we'll do our best to disappoint him." (laughter)
John, did you just figure DeAngelo Tyson was the better fit for that game than Brandon Williams? What went into that decision?
"We'll we play the best player, and the best player is the guy who is playing the best. DeAngelo [Tyson] has been practicing extremely well the last two or three weeks, and he earned the right to play. He made the most of it; that's a good observation."
How has Bernard Scott progressed in his time here picking things up in the offense? Is he someone who could be active in the coming weeks?
"[He's] progressed very well and could be active in the coming weeks. We just have to make a decision to activate three runners and balance that with other needs. Who would be the other person deactivated? That would be a decision that we'd have to make – game plan-wise and that sort of thing."
I know the numbers are what they are. Just as far as what you've seen from Joe [Flacco] in the last couple of weeks on film, once you got a chance to get back and break that down…
"There are a lot of things, and mostly positive. [There are] certain things that he has to do better – Joe will be the first to tell you that. You'll get a chance to ask him that. Those are things that we all look at. Take the flip side; we don't win without Joe making tremendous plays. The fact that he's made plays out of the pocket the last few weeks – the plays he made to score the first touchdown and the plays he made in overtime – there are no better plays being made outside the pocket than that. That's something that Joe is doing really well. He's been moving around with his eyes downfield – scramble plays – [with] guys getting open; that's been really big for us. That's something that we haven't done a lot of in the past, as far as our receivers doing a great job downfield. They've really improved on that, and Joe has made the most of that. That was the difference in the game yesterday in the end."
Ed Dickson had a couple of catches, and Dallas Clark had a touchdown catch. Are you encouraged that maybe the tight end position can continue to give you the production that you're looking for?
"I sure hope so. That's something that's going to be up to those guys. They're going to have to get that done. We need more production from our tight ends, and it was good to see Ed step up. [He] made the huge catch at the end of the game. The other thing about Ed, and I mentioned it last week, he's been blocking really well, too. So, Ed, he's been doing some good things, but we need more and more production from our tight ends. That would be very important for us."
What have you seen from Eugene Monroe the last few weeks? Since he's been in there, how has he come along and how has he played?
"I've seen a lot of good, and a little bit of not so good. Eugene is very talented, a tremendously hard worker, very conscientious and really intelligent. Those are good qualities for an offensive lineman. He's one of the better athletes that you're going to see at tackle in the National Football League, and he's done a lot of good things. But as he gets more knowledgeable in terms of what we're doing, he's only going to be better, and he needs to be – just like all of us."
John, you guys solved the problem of starting fast, and then in the third and fourth quarter seemed to struggle. Did you, watching the film, see any missed opportunities in the third and fourth? Or was it just not executing well enough?
"Both. We get in a situation there starting at the end of the second quarter and through the third quarter where we had five possessions, where we were at midfield or got ourselves to midfield. Field position was a big plus for us throughout the course of the game, because of our special teams and our defense. And that's something that we need to take advantage of. If we get any points, if we can punch ourselves into field goal range there, we have a chance to pretty much salt that game away in the third quarter. So, that was missed opportunities for sure. One thing or another, that lull there, we've got to break that. You don't have to go down there and score on all five of them, but if you can score on one or two or three of them, that's the game. We need to be able to do that. That's a great point."
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