Obviously not the end result you wanted, but what did you think about your performance?
"Some ups, some downs. Definitely not my best game. (I) tried to keep fighting. Starting with the first drive, kind of getting settled in, I felt like there were times where I was settled in. I felt like there were other times where I needed to play better, but I think it was not up to my standard of how I would've liked to play."
Walk us through your interception and what you saw on that play ...
"Yeah, I knew we had points, so we called basically just a slot curl concept. I felt like it was cover three, but it ended up being two-invert. I was just trying to get the ball to Ja'Marr (Chase) quickly and not go backwards, get an easy field goal. The guy just kept buzzing out there, and I made a bad read."
How much did the lack of running game compromise what you wanted to do on offense? Maybe you were in third-and-longs and third-and-not so manageable because of that?
"I think any time, as a defense, if you can make a team one-dimensional, it's definitely in the defense's favor. But that's not really my job to assess the run game. I have my run game checks. I think I was 100 percent on those, and that's kind of my role in the run game. Long answer, but yes, that does make it difficult, but that's not really my area of focus. I need to focus on being better in the pass game."
What worked on the touchdown play? How did that come about?
"Just the naked for the counter. I dumped it off to Drew (Sample), and he did a good job finishing it in the end zone."
What's it like to see Drew Sample have the year he's had after his first few years in the league?
"I think that Drew (Sample) is carving out a nice role for us. He does a lot for us on third down, does a lot in the run game and is catching more and more passes, which I think rounds out his entire game. I think everybody knew he's a really good run game tight end, and really smart and adding that to his game definitely makes him more versatile."
You talked all week about being aggressive. How do you think you managed the line between pushing the ball and making a play?
"I think that's always kind of hard to know until you watch the tape. It's hard to give a generalized answer. I think there were some where it was good to be aggressive, and I think there were some where I could have just checked it down and maybe not have taken some sacks. But I think part of me getting back into the grove of playing and stuff like that is kind of figuring out, 'OK, where is that line for me, and where is that line in this offense? What is that line I need to play on in order to give us the best chance to win the game?'"
Do you feel you were able to start establishing a chemistry with Ja'Marr Chase today on big plays striking downfield? You had the 31-yarder down the right sideline ...
"Yeah, I think any time Ja'Marr is one-on-one, I'm going to go give him a chance. I think that's what you want from your primary receiver, and I thought he did well and made some plays. Any time he's one-on-one, I'm going to give him a shot."
On the TV right after you threw the pick, your reaction showed you knew exactly what happened ...
"Yeah, I think I just made the decision too early in the play. (I should have) let the play play out, and let 17 (Trenton Thompson) decide if he was going to cover the curl or cover the guy in the flat. I kind of made the decision without really reading it out, to 'OK, let's just get the ball. They're very soft on Ja'Marr (Chase); let's just get the ball to him. Get four, get three. This is going to be a game that comes down to — it's not going to be a shootout.' So, that was kind of my thought process, and in hindsight, I guess (I should) play out the play and read it out, don't just see something pre-snap and kind of make a decision."
Does that come from your last start being in the 2019 Rose Bowl?
"Yeah, I think that's a little bit of a cop out for me to sit here and say that any interception was because I haven't played in a while. That's a cop out. I think I can read out that play and make the right decision."
Is it too early to get a sense of what is the biggest thing you'll build upon going forward from today?
"Yeah, probably a little too early. I would say there are just some things that maybe don't show up on tape, like kind of learning, 'Here's what it looks like to start a game.' And figuring out, like I said, where that line is, playing aggressive but then also knowing that this isn't going to be a 42-45 game. So, taking some of those sacks when you're trying to make the play end up hurting you in some field position stuff. I think just the overall experience I will build from. Being able to see myself on tape and critique it pretty hard will be good for me, too."
Were you dealing with a hand issue?
"I just started cramping."
How much do you think the early-down efficiency — over the course of the year, not just today — how much has that made the offense not what you need it to be when you're in second-and-longs?
"I think any time you get behind the sticks — especially in this division with all the really good defenses and really good pass rushers — it's going to be difficult. As far as an assessment on the overall first-down efficiency, I'd be lying if I had any real assessment on that, but in general that's going to really make it difficult. You look at our division and you look at the last two games, we've played against two of the best defenses in two of the first cracks at live action in the NFL for me. So, you need to stay ahead of the sticks, you need to be more efficient. Everybody plays a role in that, but I'm just going to focus on my role which is getting the ball out quicker and finding that line that I've kind of gone back to."
I know it may only seem like three yards, but as a quarterback what is your vantage point on the difference on when you're in a second-and-six or five versus a second-and-nine or eight? From an offensive standpoint, how is that different?
"The main goal is to stay out of third-and-long. Third-and-long is very difficult, especially against a defense like that. I think when you're behind the sticks on second down, there's a lot of pressure to get an efficient play on that second down. So, your play calls kind of go down. Some defenses will even start calling their third down calls on second down because they know, 'Hey, they're going to throw here.' I think that makes it difficult. Staying ahead of the sticks — like the one drive where we went down and scored — we stayed ahead of the sticks, we stayed out of third down, we had some good play action, we called a couple screens that were good. I think that's ideally how you would like an offensive drive to go. You kind of saw how efficient we were there, and that capability to be that efficient. We just have to find that efficiency consistently."
You waited so long for this moment, and now it's here. Can you appreciate that, or does the loss color over it?
"I think over the next 24 hours maybe, or at some point it will not feel like just pissed that we lost. Or maybe it will take a year or two. But I think we just lost a close game where you feel like you didn't play your best, and we didn't play well enough on offense. We only gave up 16 points on defense, and we lost. That's kind of my primary thought in my head."
You had said that you weren't one to feel the pressure of having to take over a team that's trying to achieve goals of the postseason. Do you still feel that way after a loss like today, or do you feel the weight of that a little bit more?
"I think just focusing on what I can build on from this game. All the overarching themes of a season and stuff like that ... Those kinds of storylines are big for your jobs, but for my job, it's just day-to-day and trying to consistently get better. If I do consistently get better, then good things will happen. I think just really having a narrow focus on that. There are a hundred different narratives you could run with in your head, and I think for me to play my best I have to avoid all those. That's kind of my plan of attack — avoid whatever narratives are going on, just go home and watch the film, come into meetings on Monday and just say, 'OK, where do we go from here? What do I need to do better in order to help us win?'"