Coach Lewis: "We have to play better earlier in the game.”

Coach Lewis Monday press conference following loss to Chargers.

Initial comments …

“Not a lot changes after watching the video of yesterday. The opportunities we had and the errors we had with some people took away opportunities for us. That ends up being the difference in the football game. In a close football game, you have to make every opportunity, every play you can make. Certainly you don’t want to take away opportunities from yourself, and unfortunately we put ourselves in those positions a couple of times, which prevented points and first downs. Obviously we have to have a better start defensively and not allow the two scores early in the game. We settled down, played and continued to grind on third downs, but there were some where we need to find a way to get off the field. Maybe then we’d take away one or two of those field goals they got in the second half.

Offensively, just more consistency. We had a couple times where we allowed pressure on our quarterback, and our quarterback was taken down. Those things are huge in the football game. We had two other procedure penalties, not only on the goal line but the others as well, it sets you back. It sometimes makes the down-and-distance insurmountable.”

QB Jeff Driskel had a TD called back yesterday, after it was determined he gave himself up by diving head-first toward the goal line. I imagine that wasn’t necessarily the intent of the rule change. Is there a process to massage and adapt that a little bit?

“Good luck (laughs). It’s an unintended consequence of the change. That’s what happens when people don’t think about all of the parts of it. The quarterback has an opportunity to protect himself by sliding or throwing the ball away. But now, basically any runner — not just the quarterback, but any runner diving for the goal line — would be down when the body part hits. I don’t think that’s been enforced very often.”

After watching the film, in what ways did you see Driskel take some steps this week?

“Even early in the game, he ran for a third down, No. 1. I think with the run-pass options, he did a nice job. We have to continue to get him to play on time but not ahead of time, if that makes sense, and to let things develop and go. He has to trust everyone around him to be in the right spots. Those guys have to do a good job of him communicating with them, and them seeing the communication, understanding it and then executing it for him, so they don’t leave him hanging out there by himself. Obviously this week with a new opponent, he needs to continue to develop that way.”

On the play clock on the two-point conversion attempt in the second half, it looked like you had a lot of moving parts and time started to run low quickly. Is that as a result of an inexperienced quarterback?

“We just have to understand it’s a 25-second clock. I’m running down there thinking, ‘Do I need to call timeout?’ It looked like maybe they’d get it off. Obviously I don’t want to waste a timeout in that situation either, but if we needed it to score, then maybe it was worth taking. They were configured right, and he got it off. Because I’m dealing with other things, I don’t remember why it took us so long to get lined up. I’m not sure.”

You’ve said that sometimes the defense needs to get ‘punched in the mouth’ before they settle down. What do you guys need to do to get them adjusted?

“I don’t know. We have to figure it out though. We have to play better earlier in the game.”

The defense responded well after the Chargers’ first two drives of the game and played like they have in past seasons…

“They need to play like that all the time. We need to play like that all the time. We need to get our jobs done, run, get to the football and tackle.”

How do you think the offensive line played as a unit?

“We need to have more consistency. That’s the thing we’d hope for. They played very physical, and that was key in the game. Hopefully, we continue to build upon that, just being consistent throughout. But they were very physical.”

How do you think your defensive front played?

“We had some plays early in the game where we weren’t where we needed to be, and that cost us. But then they settled down, and we were able to get pressure on the quarterback in a number of different ways, and that was big. Carlos (DE Carlos Dunlap) had some batted balls and a sack, and Sam Hubbard had a sack taken away between Carlos and him because of the offside call. We just can’t have those kinds of mistakes. Sam Hubbard with all the (positive) things he did yesterday, he had a lot of action in the football game.”

How do you keep guys up in the locker room during a slump like this?

“These guys are professionals, so they’re playing for their futures all the time. That’s what their opportunity is — they’re playing for their future, and that’s what this is all about. Every week, they have to go out there and compete against whoever the opponent is, based on that. They’re all vying for what’s ahead.”

Do you get a sense of how bad this team needs a win?

“We need a win, then everything is better. What you did last week doesn’t gain anything. We have to go back and do it better, find a new way, find a better way. We have to find a way to make more plays and keep them from scoring points, and for us to score a little more. We have to figure it out. We have to do a better job and not fall down in other areas. We eliminated penalties in special teams, where a week ago we had penalties that set us back. We have to continue to grow. The young guys that are getting opportunities have to continue to do it the right way. We didn’t get Alex (Bengals WR Alex Erickson) loose in the kickoff returns we had yesterday. If we do a better job of executing those, maybe we create better field position. We did a good job in the punt game and continue with that. Randy (K Randy Bullock) had a good day yesterday, until the end (onside kick attempt). We just have to do a better job.”

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