ML:“After watching the tape of the game, you come away being disappointed in the missed opportunities. I thought the Ravens played a pretty sound football game. We made some mistakes that really hurt us. We left some plays out there offensively and obviously didn’t defend some things correctly on defense. We did not have as sound a showing on special teams as we need to have. We didn’t punt the football very well, and we had a critical error in the punt return game with the penalty. There were some things that are easily fixable; they need to be done better. We left some opportunities out there in the punt return game as well.
“We had some production offensively. We need to be a little bit more consistent with running the football. We know they are going to zig and zag and make an occasional play, but we need to make sure on the ones that we’re making that we’re doing a better job of finishing with our pad level, and working the ball down the field in that way. In the passing game, we had some opportunities that we did not come up with, as far as catches. We’ve got to be more consistent in that way. Defensively, we had to do a better job in the secondary, no doubt. We can’t allow the plays that we gave up yesterday. They really made a big difference in the football game and hurt us.”
Have you sent anything into the league for clarification or stating your disagreement in reference to Jermaine Gresham’s TD that was overturned?
ML: “Only for clarification. I think Jermaine performed a second act in reaching the ball. He got two feet clearly down, and performed a second act of reaching the ball. So only that. I don’t see how you can overturn it, not being conclusive. With the second act, you’re talking about a time differential and how long is long enough. In other words, my feet are down in the field of play on one end of the end zone. I’ve crossed the plane of the end zone with the ball in possession, now how long do I have to hold it before somebody can knock me down? So those are the things; that’s all. It’s no big deal. It’s over, it’s not going to change.”
It first happened with Calvin Johnson a year ago vs. Chicago, now it came up again. You have to figure that something like this will happen again, right?
ML: “It’s not even close to the same as the Calvin Johnson situation.”
Is there anything about the rule that you don’t like?
ML: “No. The rule is not going to change. The rule is easy to understand. Hand the ball to the official, or you’re subject to what happened. It’s very clean-cut.”
It looked like he broke the plane of the end zone. When you break that plane, it’s supposed to be a TD and the play is supposed to be over, right?
ML: “If you’re a runner in the field of play, yes. That’s what has to be determined. Did he have possession in the field of play, and then break the plane with the ball in possession, reaching the ball as a second act, then getting knocked to the ground? That’s the only clarity that needs to be done. If we had been on FOX, then we could have had Mike Pereira (FOX rules analyst and former NFL VP of officiating) right there (laughs).”
Mike Pereira talked about it yesterday, saying that there wasn’t indisputable evidence. Have you seen an angle that clearly shows indisputable evidence that Gresham let go of the ball?
ML: “Have I? No.”
On the network’s broadcast, there wasn’t really a clear angle:
ML: “Is that what Mike said?
ML: “Then I agree with Mike. I don’t see how it could be conclusive enough to overturn it after they ruled it a touchdown. I can see how, if they ruled it an incompletion, it wouldn’t be conclusive enough (to overturn that call). But anyway, that’s water under the bridge. We have a new bridge to climb this week.”
Last year, the competition committee did look at that rule and actually reworded the language to try to provide more clarity:
ML: “We tried to make it a rule that both the officials and the fans could understand. The term that’s always used in our meetings is, ‘Those 50 guys in the bar.’ It’s whether they can understand what it is. That’s why I said it clearly: if you hand the ball to the official, you don’t have to worry about it. So maintain the ball through (the catch) and hand it to the official. I can remember it coming up at the Senior Bowl. We had these guys that wanted to showboat and put the ball in one hand. Well, you’re going to lose the ball like that. Let’s make sure we tuck the ball away, hand the ball to the official at the conclusion of the play when we go to the ground, and we’ll know we have a catch.”
But certainly a runner doesn’t have to do that, right?
ML: “That’s different. Yeah. Because you have had possession of the football. The ground can’t cause a fumble, that’s the difference.”
But it can cause an incompletion?
ML: “It can cause an incompletion.”
But it looked like he had possession:
ML: “If you judge that as possession. It’s a time and judgment thing.”
So what they’re trying to do is eliminate the gray area. But when what your eyes and common sense tell you one thing and the rule tells you another, is that a problem?
ML: “The rule tells you common sense. Hand the ball to the official. You have to maintain (possession) through the ground.”
So don’t use the ball to break your fall, tuck it into your body instead?
Still, with the ’50 guys in the bar’ example that you gave, 49 of them still don’t understand the rule after what happened yesterday in your game, as well a similar situation in the San Francisco game:
ML: “Right. I don’t know the San Francisco play you’re referring to, but yes, some of them become a different. And they all get lumped into the same thing. I had a zillion text messages saying that Andy Dalton got horse-collared on the last play, but there’s no such thing as a horse collar on a quarterback in the pocket. So there are some things that unfortunately even the announcers doing our games don’t know, with the ins and outs of the rules. They bring up the speculation on TV, and that causes the groundswell. We wish, for clarification purposes, everybody could understand the rules a little better.”
Do you think more gray area is starting to exist because of better technology?
ML: “High definition TV, slow motion – there’s a lot of things that cause gray area. The whole thing now is with the timing of plays – when the ball was incomplete, when it’s gone out of bounds, the run-off on a long field goal. That’s because now we’re advanced technologically, and it’s a very human game to have technology interjected into it.”
The competition committee has tried extensively to try to define when someone is a receiver, as opposed to when they are a runner. It’s looked at for one or two specific instances, like when a receiver is defenseless. Has that definition started to bleed into other areas and interpretations, like when someone is a receiver and when is he a runner?
ML: “Yeah. I learned a lot of big words – unintended consequences (laughs). But that happens in some of this, yes. Because then, the interpretations are taken a little further. But again, we’ve wasted eight minutes on something we’re not going to get back (laughs). I understand that we’re trying to clarify it for everybody to understand – the readers, our fans – but we’ll do a better job of catching it, then we won’t have to worry about it.
“It’s a shame because we did a lot of good things in this football game, but there were some things that we have to do much better. That’s apparent. We got off to a good start, we had a good drive. Our quarterback moved well in the pocket, he found receivers, he threw the ball away, he ran. He did things we’ve been asking him to grow and do. He extended series, he extended downs, he gave us more opportunities. We had guys drop a ball, then come back and make big plays. We had a lot of those kinds of things happen. So there’s a lot of growth there. When we set out this season, we said we had to do these things correctly. We had to play good defense, which means you don’t give up explosive plays. We gave up explosive plays and we got our butt beat. We had to play sound on special teams and we had to control field position. Yesterday we didn’t, and we got our butt beat. We couldn’t turn the ball over. Yesterday we did, and we got beat. So the things we started out saying in July (when players reported to training camp) couldn’t have been more apparent after yesterday’s loss.”
Was Andy Dalton’s INT at the end of the second quarter a matter of trusting the receiver too much, or was it a poor decision?
ML: “You try to do something, and you go back again and try to understand that maybe is there another way to do it. Do you run for it? But he’s got the ball in his hands and he makes pretty good decisions. Every time he goes out there, the one good thing about him is that he learns from it and comes back and makes a better play the next time.”
At the end of the game, during the last couple of plays, there were some communication issues. What can be learned by that experience?
ML: “You have to go through it experience-wise and make sure we aren’t repetitive in the same errors.”
You had a timeout left at the end. Could you have used that to calm things down?
ML: “We had a timeout on third down.
But there was one left:
ML: “Yeah, but don’t you want to have one left with 30 seconds left and the ball on the 17-yard line? If you convert and get a pass interference penalty or some kind of penalty you want to have a timeout left in your pocket with that much time left. There was no reason to burn a timeout.”
It was fourth down and you had to score. You couldn’t kick a field goal, so you left the field with a timeout:
ML: “It doesn’t matter. We left the field with 30 seconds left, too, so there was plenty of time to score if something happens on the play and we get a penalty. We didn’t have a communication problem to keep us from running a play. We just have to do it better.”
You were able to score on runs on the first two red-zone possessions. What did you see out of the running game in the red zone?
ML: “At the start of the season, we were running every play in the red zone. That’s why some of these passes we’ve been running lately have been effective, because we did a great job early in the year and were effective at running the football in there, or at least attempting to run the football. I thought our guys did a good job yesterday. Every time you’re playing a different team, so you have to do what you think is going to be effective and allow us the best opportunity to score on that particular possession.”
Baltimore is the third-best team in the NFL in red-zone defense, yet you ran right at them. That has to say something about what the offense can do when it’s being consistent, right?
ML: “We did a good job in scoring those two touchdowns in that way. I think it was a good job up front. The back (Cedric Benson) was on a good track, and there was probably a lot of respect paid to the things we had been doing in the past. So it all works together.”
Andy Dalton has been successful both times he has run the up-tempo offense – at Denver, and yesterday at Baltimore. He seems very comfortable in that situation:
ML: “He’s very comfortable in that situation and did a good job. But when you go into that no-huddle-type of offense, you limit a lot of things that you’re able to do. But when we do things like that he is very comfortable.”
What did you think of Adam Jones’ play yesterday?
ML: “I thought he really tried hard to do things the way we would like him to do them – technically – in his first opportunity to really play a lot. I was really pleased with that, and I think as time goes on he has an opportunity to get better and better.”
How much progress is Taylor Mays making?
ML: “Taylor, since he has come back from his injury, is really learning how to do things in the way of (defensive coordinator) Mike Zimmer and (defensive backs) coach (Kevin) Coyle and myself. You’re kind of breaking a wild bronco at times, but he’s getting broke, and pretty soon he’ll be ready for prime time totally. He works at it hard and he hears what the coaches are asking him to do better and better, so he’s getting more opportunities. He’s made plays on special teams, and is getting a chance to play. He got some defensive snaps again yesterday. He’s hearing the message and he’s getting rewarded with more opportunity. I think that’s a good thing for him. He’s obviously very young, but he’s a very talented player.”
Geno Atkins has 5.5 sacks, which is tied for the NFL lead among defensive tackles:
ML: “Geno has really come in and done the things we hoped he would. A year ago, he had a good kickoff to his rookie season, and he’s come back and followed it up now as a starting defensive tackle. He’s done a great job.”
As we sit here on Monday, do you think you will have A.J. Green back this week?
ML: “What’s my word? ‘We’ll see.’ A very enthusiastic ‘we’ll see.”
The margin of error for this team when mistakes are made has been very small. Is that a sign of youth or just a matter of the way the league works?
ML: “They roll in together and cost you the game. But one play goes either way and you win the game, which we know. We’ve had some of those plays roll the other way, and they’ve helped us win the game. I think it’s the level of ability on the football team. That’s the fun part of it. It’s the level of ability that gives you (a chance) to make that play and win the game, as opposed to you having no chance to make that play. We have the chance to make the play and win every game we play. That’s the fun of where we are. To continually take those steps and not regress with that. We have to keep pushing the envelope with it.”
This team has shown a lot of fight this season with their ability to fight back from large deficits. It’s nice knowing that you have a team that will fight through every situation, and that you’re never really out of it:
ML: “Well there were some plays made that were negative plays. We threw an interception where we don’t do things right offensively in a couple of spots, and we have a guy come from behind and strip the football. We have our quarterback dive in the pile and our offensive tackle dive in the pile. We don’t come up with it but we have an opportunity to repossess the football there. We don’t get lined up right on defense, they throw a slant in the situation and we tackle the guy by the hair.
“We’ve got 65 flags coming from all over, and everybody in the stands throws a flag except the back judge, because he says he grabbed his hair. We come back and intercept the football two plays later. But we get the guy on the ground, and prevent another score by hustling and getting the guy on the ground. We don’t fit a run correctly and have two or three guys make a huge error – can’t do it – but we get the guy on the ground. We run him down, get him down on the ground and they get three points.
“We saw a transition of 11 points in those two plays, plus whatever opportunity they had at the end of the first half. That’s the possibility of maybe a 14-point swing just by hustling. Those are the things that I pointed out to our football team today. The offense, defense and special teams will make the corrections they need to make, but what I want to show is when we don’t quite do it right, what our response is. That’s what’s key – we don’t worry about it, we move forward and we go on and make the next great play. We did that in those plays.”
The only lull of the game was in the second quarter, when you were outscored 14-0:
ML: “We’ve got to fix the second quarter. We’re winning these other ones, but we have to fix the second quarter a little bit.”