What do you think is the biggest thing keeping the offense from being effective in the red zone?
We’re just not making plays. We’re finding ways to shoot ourselves in the foot. Penalties have shown up there. Inefficient runs last week, we had a minus-five run because we missed a block. It’s a little bit of everything. There’s no one issue. It’s just we’ve got to be better, and when the opportunities present themselves we’ve got to make the plays. In the last two games, we had a couple catches that potentially are points. And we’ve just got to do a better job across the board.
Is there any frustration on your part that you haven’t had that execution at times?
No. I’m frustrated that we’ve got two wins. We all work too hard to come out on the losing end too many times. It’s a results business. But we are working hard. I said it last week, I feel like we’re on the cusp of being pretty good. We’ve had a lot of moving parts, not that anybody else hasn’t, but we’ve had to overcome and mix-and-match a little bit. But I do feel like we’re close to playing the way we need to play to have a chance to win on a weekly basis.
Do you feel like if you had nine offensive linemen active last week you would have needed all nine of them?
[Laughs] Hey, it was a scramble again. Some of those scrambles were happening during series, which always makes it interesting. But the guys – I thought
Do you have a feel for what you might have on the offensive line this week?
We’re still working through it, but Ramon [Foster] was out there. That was a good sign. I don’t know that he’s out of the woods yet, but as the week goes on we’ll know a little clearer. We’ve got to have everybody ready, obviously, the way things have gone.
Did you see anything different out of
I thought Mike went in and did a good job, which is what we expect from him. He didn’t get a lot of reps out there, except on card teams where he’s not doing our calls or some of our things. He’s not really playing left tackle. All of his reps for the most part were at tight end, and he did a good job there. When he had to go in at tackle, he did a good job there. And that’s his job.
It’s kind of the same issue. We’re not making plays at critical times, so to speak. Last week we had a ‘go’ on the first play of the game and we got a chance to make a big play [on it] that we didn’t make. Those aren’t necessarily high percentage completions, but we believe they’re going to be pretty good for us on a week-to-week basis. I’ve kind of done my own research, knowing that we need to start better. There’s no real tangible start-better plans. It’s emphasis, talking to the guys, making sure everybody understands what we’re trying to get done, and then try to get the things that give you a chance to have success. We do a lot of that work during the week. We, as a staff, kind of come up with how we want to start the game. Situationally that could change, obviously, if you get the ball on your own one or something or in the red. Those are generally the plays that we think – we’re not a feel-out the defense type of team, which I know some West Coast guys do. They’re showing you every formation they’ve got to see how you’re going to play to it. I’ve never really believed in that. I believe in you better run your best plays because you may not have another chance. We’re running what we think are our best runs and passes. We’ve had some success but it’s generally – as I went through the research and in Tennessee we went down the field and had a chance to score, but we fumbled the ball into the end zone. Other than that, it’s the second or third series before we get going. We’ve got to just keep trying to dig and figure out what gives us the best chance to get out of the gates a little better. That being said, it’s who scores the most points in the end. It doesn’t matter whether those points come in the beginning, middle or end. You’ve got to score more points than the opponent, and that’s the bottom line. We need to be up in the 20s and 30s more than we are in the teens. That’s the bottom line when it’s all said and done.
When you talk about research, is it going back and looking at film, talking to some of the players? What is it?
My personal research is just going back through our games, which I do on a quarterly basis generally. It’s self-scout and what I do every week, but I wanted to go back through every game and look. You do that so you don’t give away any tendencies and a lot of little things – just to try to get a visual for what’s happening. How we start games is, as a staff, as a group, we sit on Friday after we’ve seen all the practices and we come up again with what we think are our best runs and passes, give us the best chance to move the chains, make a big play here and there, protect our linemen – there are a lot of variables that go into that. It’s easy when you’ve got a bunch of young guys playing up front and you call five men out drop backs right out of the gate. They’re not going to be real happy with you. There’s a lot that goes into it. Who do we have where? Who do we need to look out for? Who do we need to protect? What are the matchups that we can win? Then, we’ve got to make that happen. It’s definitely not an exact science. Then Saturday night, I sit down with Ben Roethlisberger and we go through them again. I’ll talk to him today and say, ‘Give me your favorites in each area, what should start the game, third-down, red zone.’ That’s a weekly process.
Is the opening script basically 10 plays?
Yeah, generally 10. Again, here are the first 15, first 10. There are a lot of people doing it for a lot of different reasons, but I’ve just always believed – [Bill] Parcells wouldn’t let us have a first 10, and if he caught us sneaking a first 10 he was after us. As I’ve got into the coordinator business, I do think the players like the night before to hear and be able to think through those first couple. The crowd is going and the energy and adrenaline is up. You like to give them just a little heads up, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re thinking,’ so they’ve got a chance to mentally go through it and go through the process before it actually happens.
If you’re starting with your best plays and you guys have been ineffective, you’re 28th in the league in scoring in the first quarter, can that have an adverse effect and snowball on an offense?
No, because I think that as we review everything, there are reasons things have gone the way they’ve gone. It’s not the same reason every time. Where it has an adverse effect for me is coming back and calling what I know is a good play again when you have something bad or not so good happen. That’s what play callers kind of have to wrestle with all game long is you know something is good and somebody missed the block, so it was a loss or a sack. It doesn’t make it a bad play. You’ve just got to execute it a little better.
Does New England’s hurry-up offense concern you?
Yeah, mostly because of who it’s in the hands of. Their quarterback is an expert at it, really. They’ve been doing it for a while. I think they do it more now. He and Peyton Manning are just extremely smart guys. They are going to put their team in the right position. They are going to get the right routes called and adjusted. That’s just another weapon that they have. We are preparing for it. I think our guys are ready for it. They use it, and you never know when it’s coming. They do a great job of it. We will have to defend it. It’s a challenge but I think our guys will do okay.
Do they get the snap off even quicker than Baltimore?
I will say this. I think that New England gets it off quickly as anyone I’ve seen. When you look up there on the clock, a lot of time there is 26, 28 or 30 seconds still left on the play clock. They are moving pretty fast.
Are you thinking, stop Tom Brady or stop the run?
Well, I think you have to stop their offense. That never involves stopping any one thing. We always like to stop the run and make people throw, but I don’t know if that is exactly the thing you want to do with Tom Brady. [Smiles] They are pretty well balanced. In the last three games, they’ve been getting up there in the low 30s in points per game. We have to keep them under that for sure. We’ve played him before. He’s played us. We are looking forward to the challenge. I wouldn’t say you wave either one against these guys. They are pretty balanced.
Is that a little different for them?
I’ll tell you he’s thrown the ball the last two games, but they do run the ball quite good. They’ve been behind a little bit. I think Miami got ahead of them, and I think they lost the week before. But I would say he threw the ball 50 times in those two games. You better be ready to stop Brady if you play New England.
What does it mean for him to get Rob Gronkowski back?
In the first game, he targeted him 17 times. That means he threw the ball at him 17 times. The next one, it was only about 11. That’s 28 times in two games. You don’t have to be a genius to see that he likes that guy. I think any of us would. He’s a great catcher and has a size advantage on everybody. They’ve been better since he’s been back. He is going to look for him. We have to keep him from controlling the game.
Re: Progress in run defense and then took a step back last week:
We just went the wrong way at the wrong time. That’s for sure. There was a whole lot of field, and if you let that guy have an open field, you aren’t going to catch him. Overall, even with that run, they were just around five yards per rush, and he got 100 yards on that run. Really, they didn’t get much the rest of the game but they got that, and that goes into the statistics and should. I think we are making progress there. I think we are making progress as a defense. We have to make our bad plays, be of the 16-18-yard variety and not over 30 and 50. That particular run went 93 yards. That’s the difference right now between us getting over the top and getting those numbers where we need them to be.
I think Jarvis is on schedule for a first-year linebacker. I don’t think he’s further ahead or behind where James Harrison was,
I think that Vince is doing a good job. He’s getting better every week. That’s what we are looking for from both of those young guys. They are playing a lot of football for us. The faster they get to be a veteran – we are getting close to the halfway mark, which you can’t call them rookies, but they are first-year men. They are both really good men and are working hard. They both are going to be fine.
Do you keep Jarvis involved with say 10-15 snaps per game?
More than that. Jarvis is a playmaker. I’ve got to find ways to put him in where he can make plays. Again, I don’t think he is any further behind or ahead than any of my first year linebackers that we’ve had at the outside linebacking position. I’m looking for good things from Jarvis.
Re: Brady and Manning always getting their players in the right positions:
They have all that experience. Of course they have a tremendous skill level. They are tremendous quarterbacks in any era. They are just great. If you look at their record, their win-or-loss record will tell you what kind of quarterbacks they are. I think Brady is tremendously talented everywhere from the shoulders up, particularly. I just like him. And people talk about Peyton all the time running the offense, but Brady does the same thing for them.
Re: Red zone defense not playing up to its usual standards in previous years:
You always want to be better in everything. I don’t think the red zone has been a particular negative for us. It was against the Raiders. Had we forced them to a field goal in either of those trips down, we probably would have won the game. That’s why the red zone is so important. We will see where we are at the end of the year. I think our guys play pretty good. I think they understand the problems down there. We will just have to see.