ML: “After looking at the videotape of the game, the up-front guys, the receivers, tight ends and backs in the running game, did a good job for most of the football game. Our protection was not as sharp as we felt like we needed to be. Defensively, in the first half, we did a very good job of tackling and doing what we needed to do. In the second half, we needed to tackle with our arms better and get the ball carrier or receiver on the ground. Too many times, we were coming in and not wrapping up well enough. We’ve got to do that. They got too much extra yardage after we got the play. Those are areas that we really need to continue to improve on. We did an excellent job defensively on third down.
“Offensively, we did a good job on third down. We won the explosive part of the game, we won the takeaway part of the game. Those are key elements. And we won the red zone part of the game. A crucial area going forward will be our ability to continue to be very, very sound in the protection phase for the offense, with clean pockets.”
Coming into the game, Oakland led the NFL in yards-after-catch. You seemed to do a good job of holding that down in the first half, but it slipped a bit in the second:
ML: “If you look at the yards-after-catch teams, and I’ve looked at that for a few years, it generally doesn’t equate to much. You get your yards-after-catch on screen passes and slants and things like that. If you run a lot of wide-receiver screens and those sorts of things, then your guys will tend to have more yards after the catch. When you look at the top 10 teams in that, generally at the end of the year, about four of them have winning records. But yes, it’s important to get the ball carrier on the ground, regardless of whether he’s catching it or running it.”
The last three games, your secondary has shut out some of the opposition’s best wide receivers – Victor Cruz (NYG), Dwayne Bowe (K.C.) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (Oak.):
ML: “We go into it knowing the strength of the opposing football team. Mike (defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer) does a nice job of trying to eliminate the strength. Our players understand it. We have to be consistent with those things all the time. We knew that the vertical passing game was a big strength of the Oakland Raiders – we couldn’t allow any vertical plays. The guys (in the secondary) did a good job of that, as well as the guys up front. It takes both groups playing well together to make that work, as well as the guys underneath in zone coverages.”
ML: “Adam had a focus this week because he felt like they’d be coming at him. He had a good focus. He had two good days of practice, and he played a good game yesterday. Now comes a new week, so we’ve got to go back and do the same things. Focus back in and get ready to play again and have great practice, great focus and great understanding of the opponent – the formations, the personnel, the splits. Then, use the technique you’ve been coached to do every day.”
Your opponents will try to take away an impact player like
ML: “I don’t get the feeling we’re getting much of that. Geno plays a spot in there where you can work into the slides and things like that. Our guys up front need to continue to have a good understanding of the different protection schemes and how they unfold during a game, based on personnel, formation and the situation. Those are things that go into game-planning all the time.”
Is the recent success in the running game just a matter of everything clicking and everybody being comfortable?
ML: “In the last three or four weeks, we’ve had an eight-to-10-yard gain, or more, being brought back by penalties. We have to keep eliminating that and just continue to be on the same page with everybody else and not have the one-guy error or the one-guy mistake that leads to minus plays. The guys are doing a good job of seeing the look together through the same eyes, coming off the football together in unison and getting the hats and their heads and our feet and our pad level all in the right spot as much as we can.”
The Raiders seemed to be undisciplined in some of their defensive fits, allowing you guys to gash them for a couple of big plays:
ML: “That was good execution on the third-and-1 snap (
Have you ever seen a guy get stopped at the half-yard line on two long runs?
ML: “No, that’s a new one. The first time he tries to out-run him and gets pushed out barely. The second time he kind of buried himself and tried to run through him. It was a good job by Benny on both.”
What do you need to do in December to have this team win? There have been some struggles in December in recent years for this team:
ML: “I just know we need to be better in December than we were in November. That’s my study. A very quick study.”
How do you do that?
ML: “Just keep playing. If there were a journal on how to do it, I think it would be a best-seller. Everybody would have it. At least it would be in 31 other places, I’m sure.”
Is December football different than November football?
ML: “I think it is. There’s more urgency. We’ve been in 11 football games, 12 weeks. Two weeks of training camp, four preseason games. So we’ve had 19 weeks of football thus far. The anticipation comes down to these last five now, and what they mean, and how important they are. We’re in OK position. We’re not in great position, but we’re in OK position. And we’ve got to improve upon it each and every week.
Do you think this team is better equipped to handle that than maybe some of your past clubs?
ML: “We’ll get to prove that one way or another. I can’t tell you that.”
What’s the difference between this three-game winning streak and the one from earlier this season?
ML: “In those three games we won (earlier in the year), I don’t remember there being necessarily a game that we put away, in any of the three. I almost came in here after those games, except for maybe the Jacksonville game, feeling like it wasn’t a win, even though we won it. You can’t lose sight of how hard it is to win a game in the NFL week in and week out. We just have to continue to have a sense of finish, and when we get the opportunity, we need to close out games. Whether it be first downs, whether it be third-down stops, turnovers, sacks – whatever it may be, we have to continue to do that. We have a little better understanding of what it takes to do that, and now we have to go prove it and execute it. But talking about it in here or in that (locker) room doesn’t matter. We have to go do it.”
ML: “I don't think that's changed throughout any of it. I just know that there's no do-overs. There's a sense of that, that you don't get any more mulligans or do-overs. We've got to get it right.”
How much has this team rallied around
ML: “I think it's done well.”
Do you think it shows in their play on the field?
ML: “Their play is hopefully a byproduct of the reinforcement of their abilities that I gave them, the empowerment of their abilities, and the ‘at-a-boys’ to move forward but take it all in control, take control of it all.”
You guys have won three straight by at least 18 points, which is something this franchise hasn’t done since 1976. Have you ever been involved with another team that won three in a row so lopsidedly?
ML: “I don't, but I remember when I was on the other side of those (laughs). I remember those (losses), but I don't remember the wins.”
Do you envision a suspension for Andrew Whitworth, due to his role in the fight yesterday?
Whitworth’s job is to protect Andy Dalton, so he did his job, right?
ML: “No, he did something we can't have happen. We can't have that. No way around it.”
But ultimately, it's good that he stood up for his QB, right?
ML: “There is no ultimately. We were in a bad situation. We don't want to make a bad situation worse.”
Does that play into your frequent message of not reacting to the other team?
Did the officials essentially light the fire with how they handled the fumble/inadvertent whistle on the previous play?
ML: “They did what they felt like they needed to do. Obviously it worked out eventually to our advantage. Originally I did not see the play, as I said yesterday. Until I watched the TV copy a little bit ago, I thought it should have been an incomplete pass. But I do think it was ruled on the field correctly as a loose ball (fumble). There's no question the inadvertent whistle blows, and then they have to go into that part of the rule book and get into those situations.”
It didn’t appear that the official threw the bean bag, which signifies a fumble:
ML: “He did throw the bean bag. And when the ball was laying on the ground, he clearly did whistle it down. Our guys stopped, which is a good lesson for our young guys to know – we had two rookies over there. Don't stop. You don't have the grab the ball carrier and throw him to the ground, but recover the ball or just be there in position. If one of their guys picks it up, bear hug him and don't let him advance it. Lesson learned in that situation. We've had some of these lessons this year. We had what one of our players thought was a fair-catch signal and he stopped on a play. Things like that. Hopefully we can continue to learn these lessons through our play, so if they ever happen again, we’re able to react to them in a more positive manner.”
You talked last week about the Raiders game being a challenger for your interior offensive line. How did they respond?
ML: “They responded very well. They'll get another new challenge this week.”
ML: “It was personnel yesterday, and the way yesterday's plan evolved. We've got a new opponent this week, and we'll see how this week unfolds.”