Initial comments ...
“Much like we knew yesterday, there are a lot of things we can do better throughout the course of the football game. The good part about today is that you have a chance to make a lot of corrections. Hopefully we can continue to move forward and do some things better in all three phases. Offensively, we had a lot of production yesterday but still left plays out there. Defensively, we have to play better and continue to make sure we get off the field in those critical third-down situations. We’ve faced some fourth-down situations and have done okay (laughs). We have to get off the field on third-down. On special teams, we had two negative plays, which created field position for their offense.”
Do you look at fourth-down stops as if they are turnovers?
“Not necessarily as turnovers. As a coach, they go into your third-down (category), but they’re not necessarily turnovers. Sometimes it depends on where the field position is when it occurs. Some of the stops have been closer to midfield than others.”
Is it kind of like fumbling the ball on third-down?
“You’re grasping (laughs).”
How difficult are fourth-down decisions? Colts head coach Frank Reich is getting grilled for his decision to go for it on fourth down in overtime. You’ve made fourth downs your villain ...
“You can write their story for them (laughs). Someone may be asking, ‘Why did you go for it on fourth-down?’ Well, you go for it because you expect to make the conversion. Those are decisions you have to make. We were facing one backed up yesterday, with around to three minutes left in the game and two timeouts. Those things happen. If I say, ‘Let’s punt it here,’ you guys would say, ‘Why didn’t you go for it there?’ If we go for it on fourth down and don’t make it, we give them the ball around the 30-yard line and would pretty much seal our fate. We tell the players to not worry about the situation, just execute what’s called. We just have to move forward in those situations and do what we can to stop them, or get the first-down.”
Did your offense play about as perfect as they could in the first half?
“No, we left some things out there that we could’ve been better at. The quarterback (Andy Dalton) is playing really well. When given the opportunity, he is getting the ball in other guys’ hands. He’s doing a nice job.”
Was the screen pass to HB Mark Walton one of the plays you left out there? It looked like that play was set up well ...
“It could’ve been another big play. We had a couple of big plays, one going down the other way later in the fourth quarter. We had a couple of other wide receiver screens, but that had a chance to be a big play. The timing of it could’ve worked out better.”
Does finishing games, particularly for a young team, have to be learned? How do you teach teams to finish like that?
“We’re teaching them to finish all the time. It’s always an emphasis, whether it’s the first quarter or the fourth quarter. We just have to stay on point and stay on task. One play in the first quarter is just as important as a play in the fourth quarter. You have to stay true to that.”
We’ve been in this room quite a few times in recent seasons after games where you weren’t able to finish. Do you feel like there’s been a difference this year where this group has learned how to finish?
"We talk about this all the time. In the NFL, all of your great players have to play great. Right now, we are getting that. That’s key. Our other guys are growing up around it, because they want to be like, ‘Look at me too.’ Those guys are gaining confidence with the ability to make plays. That’s been good.”
Is there one thing both offensively and defensively that leads to success in the red zone? Is there one thing that sticks out to you?
“Take care of the football and don’t turn it over. Are you talking specifically about the red zone?”
Yes, in the red zone. What do you have to do to be successful offensively and defensively in the red zone?
“To be successful in the red zone on offense, No. 1, you need to be able to run the football, or at least have the threat of running the football. That gives you more opportunities. Defensively, it comes down a lot of times to tackling.”
QB Andy Dalton has had pretty good success in the fourth quarter. What is it about his demeanor and style that plays into that?
“That it doesn’t change. He comes to the sideline and he understands the situation all the time. He just has it handled. He has great qualities that way.”
Is he flat with his emotions all the time?
“It doesn’t change. That’s a good thing to have at the end of the game. I think the poise that he shows comes throughout the rest of the group. That’s what you have to have. We have to be poised at the end of the game. We have to be able to hang in there and play that much better. It’s important- every pass set, route, depth, every opportunity to catch the football and to win (my race) against coverage ‘I have to race to win against coverage.’ I think everybody understands that.”
Do you think his personality makes the media underestimate him?
“I don’t know. I don’t write things about his personality. I’ll let you comment on that.”
Do you think the hit on Mark Walton is comparable to the hit S Shawn Williams made that got him ejected in Game 1 at Indianapolis? Do you both think they should have been flagged?
“I think that was flagged, (Mark Walton hit).”
Do you think it should have been an ejection?
“The difference was the explanation. With Shawn’s (play) he had time and the ability to do something different. It wasn’t necessarily a bang-bang play. He was running across the field and had the time and ability to do it the correct way.”
What was your take on DE Carl Lawson’s roughing the passer penalty? Did you talk to the league about it?
“No. I didn’t even put it in. You have to stay off the quarterback’s head, plain and simple.”
Did you submit the Mark Walton hit to the league for review?
“He was flagged.”
Does it matter to you if the opposing player gets ejected or not?
“I don’t want to see him ejected. It’s not what the people came to see. They didn’t come to the game to see players get ejected.”
Well, they are seeing it a lot lately ...
What do you have to do to correct the defense’s mistakes on third down?
“I think I’ve talked about that earlier. I think I opened up with that.”
It’s more than one thing, obviously?
“We have to play better.”
Is this as unfortunate of a string of injuries involving a player as you have seen in your career with TE Tyler Eifert?
“I would imagine. It’s a shame. I told him yesterday, ‘you’re good at this’. He said, ‘I do it all the time, don’t I? I really do it the right way.’ He will fight back. But it’s a shame.”
Was it a clean broken ankle?
“I don’t know that.”
It just looked so bad ...
“Until they get it back in place. That’s the unfortunate part of an ankle (injury), things like that.”
What was your mindset going out on the field to check on Eifert?
“I was trying to have Tyler breathe and to calm him. He was in some pain initially for a bit there. He just wanted to know when everything was back in place the right way. He just wanted to know how severe it was. I said ‘they’re going to put you in an air cast and go from there.’”
Do you think LB Vontaze Burfict coming back from suspension can help fix the defense on third downs?
“Vontaze is just joining the football team. Vontaze is just going to be one player. We have to play better. I don’t even know if he will see a third down, (laughs).”
Will he see a first down?
Do you expect him to play this week against Miami?
Is there an adjustment period for guys on the defense with him back in the fold?
“He’s going to do his job.”
WR Tyler Boyd has evolved into a big time player... To see him produce big on third and fourth down is huge isn’t it?
“He really is doing a good job. He’s using his speed, size, quickness and craftiness- all those things that he has. Obviously, he has the ability to make contested catches and to run with the football. He’s playing with great confidence. He’s making plays vertically and plays underneath. He’s having to run through a lot of grabbing and tugging (from defensive backs). He’s creating those penalties as well. We have to keep having everyone evolve and move forward without Tyler Eifert. Tyler was always a big weapon on third down for us in the passing game. The other guys have to continue to press forward and will come forward.”
Is there an art for WRs to beat grabbing and holding from DBs? TE Tyler Kroft got grabbed pretty serious ...
“It seemed to be, (laughs).”
What did Boyd need to do in the classroom to make that next step?
“Last year, when he got injured and he had to sit and watch. I think that was a big part. I think that that was great for him. I think when you take a step back and have a chance to evaluate things. Then when he got an opportunity to suit up again, I thought he practiced differently. A part of coming back is going out there on the practice field and showing ‘I am healthy and ready to go.’ I thought he did those things and used it as a catalyst. We have a lot of belief in Tyler. With number 12 (Mohamed Sanu) on the other side yesterday and with Tyler, they were the last two guys we have picked to play that spot (starting WR), both played at a pretty high level.”
HB Joe Mixon looked healthy running down to congratulate A.J. Green after his game winning touchdown? What was your take on his enthusiastic reaction?
“We just have to keep him back on the sideline, that’s all. Joe has had that exuberance ever since he has been here. He had that this spring at Oklahoma when Orlando Brown, Baker Mayfield, and Mark Andrews were all working out (Pro Day for the Draft). He had the towel and the water bottle. That was what he was doing and that’s Joe. I encourage him to never lose that quality. If you want to ascend to the type of player you can be in the NFL you want to keep that exuberance and camaraderie with your teammates. Its big, winning is important to him.”
Is there going to be a new don’t tackle your teammates rule?
“I didn’t know he tackled him. A.J. was already on the ground, wasn’t he? I was just reminding guys we were going for two, (laughs).”
You could have used Mixon on the two point conversation try ...
“I wish he would’ve been able to be, (laughs). It would have had a better outcome.”
Do you think he will play on Sunday?
“An infatuate we’ll see.”
WR Alex Erickson is a jack of all trades and can do a little bit of everything. He’s a guy that does it the way you want, when you want?
“He does. He’s a really good football player and he’s an intelligent, smart football player. In three plus seasons now he rarely has made one of those errors that you expect him not to make. That’s been rare. Even as a young player he had the maturity beyond his years. He is a really important part of everything that we do.”