There are a lot of them. Some of them are painful. Some are good memories, some obviously are bad. There have been a lot of great games between these two teams.
Did you ever have any doubts this season that
No, I know the work ethic he puts in and the competitor that he is, the teammate and everything that is Heath Miller. There was never a doubt that he would be back and as good as ever, in my mind.
How is the Ravens defense different without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed?
Well, they’re obviously younger. They’ve got some young guys doing some really good things, but they still have [Terrell Suggs] and Elvis [Dumervil] over there. They still have some guys that can wreak some havoc and this is going to be another week and another tough test for us.
If you had to pinpoint one thing, what has helped you avoid the sacks the last couple weeks?
Gosh, I don’t know if it’s one thing. The line has been doing a great job of blocking. When we do the no-huddle, the ball can get out a little bit quicker because it uses shorter passes if I see things, or I check to a run. If you told me one thing, I’d say the play of the line. I thought they’ve been doing great.
Mike Tomlin alluded yesterday to spreading the field and empty sets as a counter to the rush. Does that just give you more options to get rid of the ball?
Yeah, it gives you more options. It usually makes defenses have to declare who’s blitzing and who’s not because you’ve got five guys out and they’ve got to cover some people. Typically, it’s easier to identify and to get the ball out quicker when you’ve got five choices. You can send a couple of them deep and a couple of them short, so that you can kind of have the time and the decisions to make.
Baltimore is a sack-driven defense. Do you feel you guys are in good position to handle that?
I hope so. It’s the guys up front, me, the receivers, tight ends – it’s on all of us. Sacks, I know it goes to the line, but it’s not on them. It’s on me as much as them, and running backs picking up blitzes, wide receivers seeing hots and sights. It’s going to be a big test, especially being on the road where it’s loud and they’re rowdy, they’ve got the field turf – it’s going to be a tough test for us.
Have you been surprised by the play of
He’s done a great job. If I said he surprised me, then I would’ve said my expectations for him were low. He’s been playing well. He’s been playing to the level of expectations for me and a lot of people. Last week in the Cleveland game they brought a corner blitz and he popped right out and picked it up like it was nothing. Just really proud of the work that he’s put in both on and off the field because he’s a very cerebral player as well.
A while back, you were one of the few who sounded words of caution about the rookie quarterback class from last year and a lot of those guys have struggled. What did you see or why did you see it that way?
I just think that the media is so quick to put these guys on pedestals, and it’s hard, it’s hard work being a quarterback in this league. It’s nothing against them. I just always want those guys to – I wish that people would back off giving them so much hype because it’s hard. Once you can prove it a couple years in the league, then you should start getting that stuff. Defensive coordinators are so good and defenses are so good that they’re going to figure you out eventually. You’ve got guys upstairs like Coach [Dick] LeBeau and you’re going to tell me a one-year guy is going to be able outwit Coach LeBeau and be better than him? It’s nothing against those guys, it’s just the level of expectation that is put on them early.
Did you run into that in your second year with defensive coordinators making adjustments?
The first time around, the first time you see a player, you don’t know what to expect. They can catch defenses off guard. The second time around and the second time you play a team in the season, it’s tougher than the first time. Yeah, defenses adjust to the player, I believe.
Do games sometimes, in terms of battle of wits, come down to more than you against the defense on the field? It’s you against the defensive coordinator, like you had to outthink Ray Horton last week.
I think the game of football is a chess match between coordinators. We’re just pawns playing it and trying to do what they tell us to do. That’s why the no-huddle is effective, in my opinion, because I’m calling things as I see them out there, whereas offensive coordinators call off of tendency and off of what they think is going to happen. Same thing for a defense, and obviously audibles can happen and things. But it’s not easy being the coordinator and we just, as players, try and go out and execute to the best of our abilities.
You mentioned the crowd noise. How does that impact what you can do in the no-huddle?
It will be a factor. It was loud in Cleveland, too. It definitely is a factor. We’ll have to figure out how to communicate, whether we do it and we’ll call a muddle huddle where the line kind of turns around and it will look like a huddle, but it will be the same mode of no-huddle. [It is] just being alert for audibles and checks and stuff, that everybody hears me and is on the same page.
You’ve been a part of hot streaks in the past. Does this feel like one?
Honestly, we’re 0-0 right now. We don’t even know what the last game was. We’re looking forward to this one game because that’s all that matters and that’s the only thing we can control. The focus is on this. There’s no hot streak, there’s no win streak, there’s no [losing] streak. We’re looking for our first win this week.
Does this game have a playoff do-or-die feel to it?
Every game does because we’re trying to get that one win. I’m going to tell you guys that I’m just going to keep answering the same way. We’re just trying to get one win. That’s all that matters.
With defenses knowing you’re going to be in the no-huddle, do you find them to trying to disguise things a little more?
A little bit. When you get veteran crafty guys – last week D’Qwell Jackson, who’s been in the league a long time, their Mike linebacker, he was kind of sitting back at times not calling a defense and knowing that I was calling some dummy stuff. Just mixing up dummy signals and dummy calls so that they don’t wait or they can declare early. But you get a guy like that who is a veteran guy that knows what’s going on, then they’re going to sit back and try to play the chess game. It goes from coordinator chess game to usually Mike linebacker-quarterback chess game.
Baltimore has a few of those guys.
They do, and the crazy thing about it is one of their best ones is probably Suggs. I don’t think he’s calling their defense, but he’s been around, he hears calls and he’s a smart player. He’s a guy that I’ll have to be alert for trying to listen in on the calls.
Is Le’Veon Bell getting better every week?
In what ways?
In all ways, honestly. He’s a guy that is communicating back there next to me. I’m not having to [ask] him every time a play is called, “Do you know what you have?” I’m fully comfortable that he knows what he’s got. Even to the point where he’s getting a little too comfortable at times where he’s telling me how much time is on the play clock and things like that. [Laughs] I have to tell him, “I see it. Don’t worry about it bud.” But that is just the awareness that he has and you see the growth and the maturation. I think it’s great. I think it’s good for him.
Is it rare for a rookie to have that much awareness?
I think so, especially a guy that you ask to be an every-down guy. If it was just a third-down back or someone that was just coming in every once and a while and their job was to be a third-down guy, then maybe not so much. But as a guy that’s your every-down running back, I think he’s doing a great job with things.
What are your thoughts on having to go on the road on a short week?
It’s tough. Two back-to-back road games, they have back-to-back home games, it’s just the way it is. It’s the NFL.