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Coach Munchak's Monday Press Conference

Posted Nov 12, 2012

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on if there was an added energy with Jake Locker in at quarterback)

We thought it was good. We hoped going into the game, it would be that way. I thought we saw that in practice on Thursday when we were out how competing against the defense that he was playing without worrying about the injury. He played fearless, I think, which was probably what we were hoping we’d see. He got sacked early on a mental error by one of the players. He took that, no problem. Like we said, he made plays without thinking about his shoulder, the time he tripped over (Chris Johnson), and he gets up and runs for 20-some yards. On a fourth-and-two, they had our routes covered, and he goes and converts a first down. Then it’s third-and-one and they have our play covered, and he makes two guys miss and gets a first down. We didn’t know how much of that he’d do. This is a game where those things came up. That’s what he’s capable of doing. Just like in the Detroit game, he throw for almost 400 yards that day because that’s what we needed. I think he’s that kind of quarterback, that every week can be a different type of game the way he’s plays it. He’s exciting to watch. I think it is contagious when you have a guy like that running around, making plays.

(on if turnovers are very important to this team)

I think for all teams they are. That’s usually the one stat that holds true most times, especially when it’s a big number like ours was two weeks ago and how Miami’s was yesterday. They had four, we don’t have any. That usually means we win and they lose, and they did. That’s something that you’re always trying to avoid. Three of the last four games we didn’t have a turnover. That’s what we’ll continue to do, especially on the road like we did yesterday. Our defense got four which was huge, and set the tempo for the game. When (Jason) McCourty pulled out that ball on (Reggie) Bush, and we got the ball at the 22-yard line, that was a huge play. The fact that we turned around and got seven points on them was big. It went our way yesterday, and guys made plays. It was fun to watch.

(on Jason McCourty’s ability to create turnovers)

I think most of the turnovers we’ve had, we’ll say we never have enough, we need more. We got four yesterday, and I think we’ve had nine all year. They’ve been hard to come by for us, and we’ve been giving up the ball too much on offense at times. He’s made some big plays, Jason (McCourty) has. He made a great play in the end zone on a ball too. He’s just had a good, solid year. He has been a guy that in Buffalo and Pittsburgh and this game, has come up and made plays for us.

(on the team’s ability to rally)

I told them after the game, we’re proud of them. Again, it’s 3-6 and coming off the two weeks we did, one game we thought we should have won and one game we turned the ball over and gave it away. I thought the way they handled the whole week was good. I thought practice was solid all week. I thought they realized if anything was going to change what happened, it was going to be us, it was going to be them. They came out Sunday, I thought, ready to play, which I think they do every week. They played hard, and things went our way early. We took advantage of all of our situations. You saw the confidence growing throughout the game. They had fun. You have fun when you’re winning and making plays on offense and defense. It was fun to watch that. Like we said, they get a break, but we have six games to go. We know we have to win most of them if we’re going to have a chance at playing any more games than the 16. That’s how we’re going to have to focus it. Can we build off that game last week when we play Jacksonville and come out and play the same way on the road again?

(on if they learned anything from the Bears’ ability to force turnovers)

Maybe when you see it right in front of you, when our defense sees some other team strip us and create those kind of plays and see firsthand how it deflates you or how it changes the game. I don’t know. I would assume you see something, you realize, ‘You know what? We need to be doing more of that.’ You hope, like we said, when something bad like that happens to you, you hope something good came out of it. Maybe that did, maybe that did for the defensive guys and maybe for the offense, realizing, ‘You know what? I need to hold onto this thing a little tighter.’ We’re not a big fumbling team, but for some reason, that game we were. It was a combination of them and us, I guess, in that game. Hopefully that’s some of the positives that came out of losing a game like that last week.

(on when he would prefer to have a bye week)

I think the middle of the season is usually a good way to go. We’ve had them all. I definitely like it early. I like it Week 8, Week 9. We’re in Week 10, which is fine. As a head coach, I think you have to decide what kind of off-week you’re going to do. The later, the harder to do an awful lot of physical work this week. Having that eight, nine, 10, I would rather just because it gives you a…For us as coaches, we can kind of watch and look back and self-scout and see really what we’ve been doing well. We have a lot of material, a lot of work to look at which can give some tendencies of really what we are doing well, what we are struggling at, what we can kind of tweak here for the last six games.

(on the schedule for this week and if the players need to get away a little bit)

I think so to some degree. Players are finishing up today, they’re still here. We’re done, we’re not going to do anything until next Monday as far as the football team goes. Coaches will be here. Like I said, we’re going to work on, self-scout us, see what our tendencies are, spend a lot of time over the next couple of days on those kind of things of what we’re doing, how other teams look at us as an offense, defense, special teams. Then you kind of look at what we’re doing, what plays have been effective for us, what personnel, what groupings. You look at all those things over the next couple of days. When the players come back on Monday, we’ll kind of present to them things we think we need to improve upon. We can watch some tapes with them, show them what we’re talking about, maybe route concepts that we want to change. It could be on defense, should we blitz more? We’re having more success with the blitz. Are we more successful with three-man rush or four-man rush? You start looking at all of those things. Sometimes you lose focus when you’re going from week to week. It’s hard to keep up sometimes with what’s really working. You don’t realize some things. This gives us a chance to go back and look at the last 10 weeks and see what we need to change, what we need to adjust, what we’re doing better, maybe some plays we’re not doing enough of. We’ll do that as a coaching staff. Then Monday when they come back, we’ll have a good, competitive practice with pads on Monday. We thought that was better to get a great work day when they get back in town a week from today and have a good offense versus defense-type of day and work on situations we think we need to work on, then have a Tuesday off and start a normal game week.

(on the NFLPA rules regarding bye weeks)

You have to give them at least four days off in a row. Over the weekend, you have to give them Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday as a minimum. You can go Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It has to be four days in a row including the weekend, is the general rule of thumb there. I didn’t want to go into next week. I wanted them back on Monday because I want to have that workout on Monday. For me as a player, if you had me come in and work Wednesday of this week or Thursday…Again, we have a lot of guys that are hurt, that wouldn’t be able to practice anyway, so you’re not going to get the work you want. I felt if I was going to pick a day to have a great practice, I’d rather have it next Monday than Wednesday. All the guys’ minds are on where they’re going, what they’re doing. It’s not necessarily on us getting better. What you’re trying to achieve in that practice, I think if you do it next Monday, you get fresher guys, healthier. Everyone is kind of one the healthy side. You can get some great work in on Monday and get back in your normal routine of Tuesday off and then start working for Jacksonville on Wednesday.

(on if he hopes the time off will give Colin McCarthy more time to heal)

It should help him. I thought last week, this game he probably felt a lot better than he had the last two games. He played better, made plays in this game. I thought, overall, even though he had a scare there where he thought he reinjured it, he didn’t luckily. I think this helps him a lot. He’s got a lot of nagging stuff. It’s great for Jake (Locker) to play one game and have some success, and then have a chance to get into a routine of an off week and getting treatment. He got through it pretty well. In that regard, it’s good for those guys. The guys that are injured obviously have to get treatment, and they’ll be here in town. You can go away and get away from it, unless you’re injured.

(on if he’s not worried that the bye week will slow the team’s momentum)

If they handle themselves right, and they have. We had a mini break after the Pittsburgh game and we came back and went to Buffalo and played pretty well. We had a small break where we had the three days off there. This is a little bigger than that. I think it’s just something we need, mentally and physically because of what we’ve been through. I’m glad we won it because we needed it. It will be a lot easier to mentally be more positive when we do come back. I think we will be fine. I think the fact that you’re 4-6 and not far from being in the pile. We know we have to win three, four games in a row to kind of get it where we need to get it. That’s not going to be easy to do. Hopefully, we use it to a positive.

(on how confident he is that the recent successes in the run game will continue)

I think we feel that way. I felt coming into the Miami game, we felt very confident that we could run the ball, and we did. Again, we’ve been playing good defenses. We knew it’d be a challenge. I think the confidence has gotten a lot better with the whole scheme itself. I think Bruce Matthews and (John) Zernhelt, the tight ends coach, have done a really good job of staying consistent and not letting the lack of success the first three, four weeks have us change things and have us throw technique out the window and think we have to do something drastically different because we’re not getting the results we want. I think they hung together and followed what they believed in. I think (Chris Johnson) was the same way. He believed in what we were doing. He knew if he had more opportunities, like we try to preach. All we need is more opportunities, which we finally got in certain games. I think confidence grew, and CJ takes a run in the game yesterday that may have been a four-yard loss in Week 1, and it was a (17)-yard touchdown in Week 10. That’s the difference. Other runs, instead of having a minus run, we’re getting plus-three. You’re not seeing us have minus runs. That’s what killed us. CJ had eight carries for 16 yards in some of those games, but it was because he had five-minus runs. They were like minus-six, minus-five, minus-four. You just can’t win football games doing that. I think that was our biggest problem. I think a lot of the blocking wasn’t as bad as people thought it was. We just said, ‘Hey, we just have to be patient.’ We did that. What you saw is what we’re going to have to be the next six weeks.

(on if he scaled the playbook down for Jake Locker)

No, he’s a smart guy. He felt comfortable doing just about everything. I think Chris (Palmer) did a good job sticking with things we thought he was good at. Again, the game was what it was, so he didn’t have to throw the ball as much as he had to last time he played. When you run the ball well, it takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback, and the play-action was there. He was smart, you come out after your first game of not playing. He threw about four balls away when nobody was open. He could have forced things in there and created a turnover. He could have felt, ‘I have to make a play here, I have to do something.’ He didn’t do any of those things, I thought, which is rare for a quarterback who hasn’t played in five weeks. You thought he would have done some of those. There were a couple balls that were short, that he wished he had back. That one to (Darius Reynaud) could have been a possible big play early, and he underthrew it. But other than that, like I said, he made really good decisions. He handled the run game very well, checking us in and out of plays. They were blitzing off both edges. We caught them in blitzes quite often with big runs because he got us in the right play. He handled himself very well there. The protections, same way, he knew where to go, that play to (Jared) Cook and then cover zero came after them. He sat in there, the protection was good, him and Cook read it right and we scored a huge touchdown coming out of halftime. He did a lot of things very well, even though statistically…Two touchdowns was good, no turnovers is huge, and he threw away balls when he should have.

(on if Jake Locker had an MRI on Monday)

No, he felt good. You’re watching the tape with him, I think he didn’t even realize some of the times he got hit pretty good. I think he thought getting up, it was no big deal. I think he just played that way. I think that’s why he played well. He wasn’t concerned for his shoulder. I think he played with a lot of confidence. Our doctors did a good job, I think, of making sure he was healthy. His confidence was very strong on his shoulder, so he played that way. It was fun to watch him not be real concerned. You can call a game and not worry about it when you see the quarterback handle himself so well.

(on if he considered taking Chris Johnson out earlier than he did)

He wanted to stay in. Again, there have been too many games where we haven’t been able to run the football, or haven’t had the chances. He had a shot to run 20-plus times, and I think he wanted to get a feel for what that felt like. We were going to take him out a series earlier, and he said, ‘Why don’t you give me one more series?’ We said that’s fine because we wanted to run some plays he hadn’t run in a while, a counter and some other things that he wanted to get a chance to run. I think it’s exciting that guys want to keep playing, and he wants to have success. Like I said, those first four or five weeks, he was only getting eight or 10 carries. We weren’t going to overdo it by any means, but I thought it worked out well. I think he had 22 or 23 carries.

(on if it seems like Chris Johnson is running any harder)

I don’t think it has anything to do…I think he could have had these same yards in the beginning of the season if we had the same opportunities. Schedules fall different ways, games end up certain ways, but we felt coming out of camp, that we’d be playing better. It wasn’t all (Chris Johnson), obviously. We probably weren’t blocking as well coming out of camp as we are now. We’re getting a feel for what we’re trying to do, I think. It’s showing the last six weeks, I think, as far as the running game being much better, I think, as good as any running game out there. I think when the season ends, that will prove out. He’s running good. On the third down, he ran hard, got a first down. He put his head down and getting the extra yards. The big runs are coming, but they’re not something he’s looking to do every snap. I think when you run the ball a lot, then you’re not pressing as much. You’re not concerned for, ‘Man, I’m only going to get 10 touches, I have to do something special.’ He knows he’s going to get 15 to 20 to 25 runs now, so I think his mindset is a lot different. He’s just running more relaxed and confidently.

(on if the team re-established itself as a run-first team)

Well, I think we’ll show or do whatever we think it takes to stay on the field. If you can run, believe me, it opens up a lot. It opens up the play-action game, which you saw with Matt (Hasselbeck) and Jake (Locker) the last few weeks have some good completions there, but I mean we could come out in a game like we did with Jake against Detroit and throw it six times in a row. He was 5-for-5 in that game, and we did the same thing with Matt, depending on who we were playing against. I think our philosophy is similar. We’ll get the run in there and get it rolling, but depending on who we’re playing, we maybe go for a different approach in the first quarter but eventually the goal would be to get, I guess, 25 carries and take over the game somewhere.

(on if the coaches tell Darius Reynaud not to return deep kickoffs)

It’s kind of more of a feel for if he’s catching it going forward versus going back. He has a decent knack for it. I think there’s maybe one game where we told him not to bring it out if it’s pass five (yards deep in the end zone) because of the timing and what was going on in the game, but overall, he’s making good decisions on that. He did a good job yesterday with his punt returns, getting us, I think 14 yards per punt return, which was real good and very helpful for the offense. He got about 10 or 12 plays on offense. I thought he did great on that run at the end. I thought he would break that run at the end, the way he hit that hole at the end of the game like that, I thought he was through there and he got about a 10 or a 12-yard run there, and he can catch. He won a one-on-one matchup and we had a chance to make a play and Jake missed him. So, he brings another weapon to the offense when (Chris Johnson) needs a rest and he’s learning the protections pretty well, which is another big thing. I think he’s another dimension here that we didn’t have before.

(on the number of passes defensed in Sunday’s game)

No, I just think we, it was guys had confidence. We were jumping receivers more than we had in the past. I think when you start off making, you know, the defense, the ball bounces your way a little bit and you get more confident in what you’re doing, and that lets you play more aggressively. We hadn’t had that go our way in a while, especially on defense. It seemed the balls were bouncing the other way, and all of a sudden, early in that game, things kind of went our way, and the offense took advantage of the situation. The guy who makes the plays for us on defense is (Colin) McCarthy. Since he’s been here, he kind of has a knack for knocking it out or (recovering a fumble) or getting an interception for a touchdown, and he’s been hurt since the first game. I think our defense has really missed him. We’ve said that, and I think yesterday you saw more of what we thought it would be like early in the season, so hopefully, that’s something we can build on as a defense. You’re not always going to get four turnovers in every game, but that’s the kind of plays we need to believe we can make. That’s what that kind of game does for you. You realize that’s where those plays are, ‘Hey, I could pull that ball out. Akeem (Ayers) bats a ball, now maybe, we bat more balls and some of them go our way.’ That’s what you’re hoping comes out of that in the final six weeks.

(on if that was the best the linebackers have played this season)

As a young group, I think overall, because they made plays. All three of them had interceptions, and like I said, Akeem (Ayers) batted the other one, and overall, probably yes, I mean, as a team obviously we won 37-3. That’s by far the best we’ve played on offense and defense on the road, especially all year. Every game we’ve won has been a nail-biter. We lost a nail-biter, and the game has fallen apart on us in the third and fourth quarter in the other games. That was fun to watch from start to finish. It felt like we were in total control of the game.

(on what he tells the team with its position in the AFC standings)

I think they see that on their own. They’ll watch games next week. They’re aware of what’s going on and the good thing is there are a lot of teams with four and five and six losses. We’re still, a lot has to happen our way, but all we can control is to keep winning, and we haven’t won more than two in a row this year, so we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We get that, but it’s never over. I think that’s what gives you encouragement, and we’re working hard and heading in the right direction, and we’ve just got to see how this thing goes. We have Jacksonville there, we play them twice, we’ve got a bunch of games in the division, so anything is possible, and I think when you go out there and play a game like (Sunday), I think you get that feeling that, ‘You know what? It is better than we thought, and we can make these kind of plays, and if we do that kind of thing every week, good things are going to happen.’ So I think it’s just a confidence builder. We needed it, no doubt about that, and we’ll see how we respond in the next game.

(on if last week’s statement by owner Bud Adams helped on Sunday)

I always say it’s hard to tell. Evaluate that, like I said, I think we were just concentrating more on how we felt as a team. We knew that wasn’t us that went out there (against Chicago) and turned the ball over (four) times in the first half and gave the game away. So, I think there was enough on ourselves that with everyone else piling on, we knew how everyone else felt about it. Obviously, I know how I felt, how the coaches felt, how the general manager felt. We assumed we knew how the owner felt, and so, no, I think it was we were all unhappy with how things went. We knew we had to make something happen differently, and in this league when you don’t, there’s consequences at some point, at the end of the season or whatever, as a player, as a coach, so I don’t think you ever worry about that. I think that all takes care of itself. If we don’t win or if people are unhappy at the end of the year, then whatever happens, happens, so don’t worry about that. Let’s just go play hard every week. This week, we’ll just see what we’re about. I think that’s the mentality they took, and because these guys, if you’re on a football team, this is the only year they’re going to be together. This group, no matter win or lose, there’s going to be 10 or 15 new guys on this team next year, so I think they’ve got to realize this is one of those, ‘Enjoy this opportunity. Let’s see what we can still accomplish here as a team because this team will be different next year. It’s the way the league works, so let’s make the best of it,’ and they did that on Sunday.

(on if Titans will take advantage of the opportunity to rest, heal and be ready to go for the final six games)

Yeah, and that’s the best move, and they’re happy about it, obviously. I mean I told them the schedule back when we were 3-4. I wanted to give them a heads up on what our thinking was and what my plan was and explain to them why we were doing what we are doing, so they wouldn’t have to be worrying about it, so they could make their plans, and the coaches knew exactly what our plan was. That made the most sense. Now, it’s, they’re going to enjoy that, and I think most of them are just hoping they wouldn’t have any nicks or bruises where they’d have to stay in town (for treatments), and not everyone leaves. I think a lot of guys have family here, so I’m sure a lot of guys will, it’s nice to be in town when you don’t have to work, too, there’s nothing wrong with that, so a lot of these guys will take off. I’m sure the younger guys will try to go home and visit family or go back to their colleges and do some things like that, which is good. They’ve just got to be safe and be smart, and we’ll get back to work next Monday.

(on his assessment of Kenny Britt’s play through 10 games)

That’s something that it’s a work in progress. You’re coming off an ACL, and then coming off hurting the other knee and then the ankle, so I think he’s, you know, and that’s something that we’ll get a chance to look more at this week as coaches to kind of see if we’re using him the right way. We’re already watching his reps, as far as in games, so we’re not overworking him because he has different soreness every week that he’s been playing through and practicing through. He hasn’t missed any practices. He takes every rep we give him. We have to kind of push him off the field because he wants to do more and more and more, so I think that’s something that we’ll look at to see if we’re using him the best way we possibly can. I mean, he had a huge third-down catch yesterday—two third-down catches, one on that first drive (of the second half) where it was a third-and-3, and he caught a slant when they blitzed us; had another Cover Zero blitz, and he beat his guy one-on-one to give us a big first down. He caught the other ball, you know, when Jake was scrambling, trying to make a play. (Locker) lofted one up to him, and I think (Britt) waited so long for that ball to come down, I think he was afraid he was going to drop it, but he made a big play on that. That was another third down, third-and-1, so he made two big plays yesterday, even though, statistically, we didn’t have huge numbers throwing, but we made very important plays that kept drives going, and he’s been doing that for us every week. He had one drop, and that’s stuff he’s got to continue to work on. He had a drop early on on third-and-2, I think, so yeah, we’re happy he’s out there. With him out there, we’re a better football team, and we’ve just got to keep finding ways to use him.

(on the combination of Sen’Derrick Marks and Jurrell Casey at defensive tackle)

They’re doing well. Sen’Derrick (Marks) had a sack yesterday. You see us keeping him in more a little bit on third down because he’s rushing better, and he’s getting a feel for the game. Those guys, they get stronger as they play. Usually, you want to keep them fresh, you take them out, but those two guys are always fighting to stay in. They want more reps. They’ve done a nice job. They were a big part of why we held them to 50 yards rushing. They didn’t get pushed around; they contained their gaps. Those guys are having fun. (Jurrell) Casey is finally starting to feel healthy. He’s been hurt the whole year because he got hurt in the Arizona game back in the preseason, had the big old elbow deal on his arm, so he’s been limited, but again, he’s been showing up and playing every day, so yeah, they’ll just get better, and you mix Mike Martin in, and I think it’s a nice mixture.

(on Taylor Thompson’s improvement as a blocker)

Yeah, he’s done well, and I think that’s a big part of it. The tight ends, they don’t get the blame or the success they should get. That group, I think those guys, they’re a huge part of why we’re running the ball well. (Craig) Stevens, no one blocks, there’s not a better blocking tight end in football than him. We’ve been moving him around; we’ve put him in the backfield, the line of scrimmage, and the same thing with Taylor (Thompson). Taylor is doing a lot of things that we didn’t have before. We had a third tight end that can do a lot of things, and that opens up a lot of lanes. He’s been pulling, he’s been trapping, he’s lead (blocking) on the (weakside) linebacker, on the (middle) linebacker, he doesn’t avoid collisions. I mean I don’t think he knew what he signed up for when we drafted him, but he’s doing a great job. The three tight ends, (Jared) Cook was in yesterday on a bunch of our runs when we hit some nice runs, those guys are a big part of why (Chris Johnson) is running the ball well.

(on if Taylor Thompson developed his blocking skills quicker than he thought)

I think he has. I think John Zernhelt, the tight end coach, has done a great job with him. He’s a sponge, he wants to learn his route running, he wants to do it the right way. When we drafted him, we didn’t know how quickly he’d be able to help us, but we figured he’d help in the rotation. He’s obviously progressed quicker than we thought, especially in the run game where he still has a lot to learn, but he’ll get a lot better. He’s a good-sized kid, physical. They’re hard to find. He can be athletic, he can read the block in the backfield, fit in the A-gap, the B-gap, the C-gap without losing his block. Some guys just can’t do that. He does a nice job with that. When you mix him in with the fullback, with Quinn (Johnson), from play-to-play we change up our blocking. Even though it’s the same, it looks different to the defense and it gives them some problems. Now we have two or three guys that can do those kind of things. It’s helped us a lot.

(on which players will be sticking around over the break)

Guys that didn’t play in the game, obviously, Al (Afalava), Xavier (Adibi), (Byron) Stingily, his back’s been sore, those three guys. The only two that didn’t play in the game because of the injury were those two guys, and then Stingily’s back. From the game, there are guys that are sore, but no one that’s bad. They’ll hang around the next couple of days. I think (Jamie) Harper had an ankle on that fumble play where they called him down. They’ll be checking on his ankle, seeing where he’s at, nothing serious there. We got through the game pretty good. (Colin) McCarthy is in pretty good shape. Again, he’ll just be doing maintenance, so he can do that here, or wherever he may be, that’s no big deal. Some guys will hang around the next couple of days just to get treatment, and then they’ll take off for the weekend. Fortunately, the list is on the injured reserve side. Those guys have already been established. We got through this game pretty good.

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