Right now we're resting Kelley Washington for sure this week. He is out. Doubtful would be Rich Braham and Levi Jones. And both guys continue to be on the mend, and this would be a telling week for both. Kelley tweaked his hamstring a little bit last week. Other than that, we look to be in pretty good shape. We had a couple of guys twist their ankles yesterday.
Q: Thoughts on Toys for Tots drive at the game Sunday:ML:
We had a great day with the Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive. We had nearly 4,300 new toys and more than $50,000 in cash collected, which is about $20,000 more than was collected last year. We appreciate that. It was a great job by our fans.
Q: Thoughts on Oakland game:ML:
After watching the game, going through the tape, we were fortunate to win. We did some good things, but we can't turn the football over like that. We have to make sure we take care of the ball. Those are kinds of things we don't want to have show up in a game. And defensively, we have to be better at tackling. A couple of times on third down, we could have put them in a fourth-down situation. We need to play better on third down. On special teams, we had some flags that we don't want to have happen. We have to do a better job of that, particularly when we're running the football. We came out of the game relatively healthy. We should be in good shape preparing for the Colts.
Q: Any early scouting report on Peyton Manning and the Colts?ML:
They obviously are a good team. Until a couple of weeks ago, people were talking that maybe they were unbeatable. Now they've lost a couple, but they are still the same good football team. Unfortunately you can't win every game in the NFL. It's only been done once. We have to play good football. We have to go to their place.
Offensively, Peyton (Manning) does a great job getting them in the position to do what they do. You have to do a good job being defensively sound, and making sure you don't give up explosive plays. When they've been behind, they've done a good job coming back by making explosive plays. Offensively, we have to do a good job being balanced. We have to be our offense. We have to be balanced. That's very important. For us to win, we have to play great in all three phases.
Q: Are Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning the best quarterbacks in the league? ML:
Well, I don't know. I think Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and Steve McNair are all playing some pretty good football right now. There are some guys doing some great things. Carson continues to grow, and he's actually been able to learn and grow from watching these guys play. I think those are good models for him.
Q: With the exception of yesterday, how does Rudi Johnson so consistently avoid fumbling?ML:
I think it's his strength. You watch him play as a young man, and you see how he's always carried the ball very similarly. Somebody taught him right away how to carry it. He really has great ball security all of the time, and Jim Anderson is always harping on him about it when he doesn't. He has strong hands, strong forearms and he's able to keep that ball tucked up against his body. He uses great ball security all of the time.
Q: The third down offensive percentage has risen in recent weeks. How big of an effect does that have?ML:
I think all of the things that people were writing about, whether it be 'this guy hasn't gotten to do this much yet, or he's only carried the ball this many times, or he's only got this many catches and this many yards', that's a direct reflection of third down. When you make third downs, you stay on the field and that also helps the defense because now we're possessing the football. We're either putting them in a longer field, giving them less time or making them score more points. I think all of those things work hand-in-hand, and they make a big difference in the outcome of the game. If you can play well on third down offense and you can play good on third down defense, chances are the score will end up the way you'd like to see it.
Q: Three other wild card contenders lost Sunday:ML:
It really doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is us. Nothing around us really affects what we do. If we're a playoff team, we have to prove it by beating playoff teams. Those are the teams we're competing with. Those are the teams we get to play the next three weeks. so we know that this is what it is. We have no better opportunity than to go play, win the games, and everything else will take care of itself.
Q: Is it human nature to look ahead, and at the other scores?ML:
I don't look, and the only people that would look are those if you put it upon them. I don't think our players look. I don't look and care because it really doesn't matter. I don't root against this team or that team, because my rooting has no effect. I'm just wasting my time.
Q: What is the team's problem on third-and-long defensively?ML:
We missed a tackle on one, another time we get beat in coverage, or we bring pressure and they were able to protect it. They get the right protection and we lose a one-on-one battle in coverage. Those were the two long conversions yesterday.
Q: It was third-and-18, and they pick up 22:ML:
It is frustrating. I like to see us make some of those. We've made some of those, too, so I'm glad when it happens on the other side.
Q: You personally are getting criticized in the national media for the players' legal brushes. Do you have any response to that?ML:
Well, I'd rather address you guys, because I don't care what they say nationally. I don't think you guys attack me because I think you know what I stand for. Unfortunately, I can't hold their hands 24/7, but it is embarrassing. It's an embarrassment to our organization, to our city, and to our fans. These things socially are not right. Hopefully, our young people who are fans understand there are certain things in our society that are unacceptable. It doesn't matter what you do for a living or who you are, you've got to follow those rules and laws.
I think we should feel good around here that our local law enforcement has taken steps to get people who drink and drive off the road. I think that's a good thing for us who live here. Our guys have to understand that. You cannot drink and drive. You tarnish your image. You tarnish your reputation. It doesn't go away easily. It may be your first time, but it doesn't go away easily. Fortunately again, no one was injured (in a recent incident).
But it's still a privilege to play on this team and play in the National Football League. It ought to be accepted that way. So it's a disappointment and we've dealt with it, and we'll continue to deal with it. We obviously put ourselves at risk, because I don't have the luxury of having a plethora of guys to play with. These people put themselves at risk as far as being in the league.
Q: What does this player image problem do to you personally?ML:
Don't worry about me. All I have to worry about is what I have to deal with. I appreciate everyone worrying how I feel and so forth. Don't worry about me. Worry about me and the Indianapolis Colts because that's what I worry about. I appreciate all the thoughts and calls I get, but I'm doing fine. I'm worried about the Colts. It's unfortunate I have to spend time talking about this and that we, as a group, have had to spend time talking about this. I don't appreciate that. We have a lot of good things going on and unfortunately, these things kind of rear their ugly head and get in our way.
Q: These last three games stand out for who the opponents are. Do you look at it as a bigger motivation and challenge than Oakland, who came in at 2-10?ML:
When we got the schedule, we didn't know Oakland was going to be 2-10. When we got the schedule earlier in the year, opening up at Kansas City, then going to Pittsburgh and going into Baltimore, you don't know where those teams are going to be. And that's the way the schedule works. The great thing is, Indianapolis is fighting for their playoff seeding, Denver is fighting for their opportunity and seeding in the playoffs, and so are the Steelers at this point. So there are three teams fighting for the same things we are. We know they're going to be some great football games. If we want to be the team that we believe we are, we've got to go play and win football games.
Q: Last year you guys were in a position to have things locked up:ML:
I would rather be locked up, but we're not.
Q: But you seem to play better desperate:ML:
It's been desperate around here for a while. We like desperate and prefer it desperate.
Q: How confident were you that you could turn it around so quickly after losing five of six games?ML:
I think I answered those questions for you. We just have to keep doing things the way we're doing them. I remember Paul or Denny or somebody saying that to me, 'We're tired of hearing that.' But that's all we've done. If you're tired of hearing that, just don't show up here because that's all I'm going to tell you because that's the way it works. Just like the day everyone said Chad's not catching enough balls or Rudi hasn't carried the ball enough. Just keep playing. Unfortunately, we only have one football and we've got to slice it up the best way we can to win games. I think the thing that has proven out is our good players have stepped up and played at a high level. As a head coach, I realize what we have to do and that's put our guys in position to win the games. They've taken that responsibility on their shoulders from Willie Anderson, to the defensive guys, and all the way through. They're shouldering that responsibility and that's a good
Q: Are you a better coach this year than last year?ML:
I'm a better coach than I was 12 minutes ago.
Q: Why is that?ML:
You have an opportunity all the time to assess the situation, whether it is your team or just how things play out. It all comes through experience and you keep learning from that. You don't want to make the same error or overlook things that you've thought were probably important. If you don't get better, you're not going to be here very long, so I hope I've gotten better.
Q: Thoughts on Pro Bowl voting with players:ML:
I actually didn't address it with them at all before they did it. It's something I don't make a big deal out of. It's just part of what they have to do. I'm glad we had today to do it with extra time. Last year we had to do it on the short week. We were able to get it out of the way and move forward.
Q: Thoughts on Levi Jones and Richie Braham:ML:
With the treatment Levi's undergone, we ought to get a good understanding this week where he is. It's been frustrating for him because he thought once we had the surgery and had sufficient time to allow it to heal, rehab and get the strength back, that he would then be able to come back and play. It's not happened. He's experienced some soreness which makes it uncomfortable. So I'm hopeful this week we'll get a little bit further out of the woods.
The same goes with Richie. Richie did not have a setback last week, which was a good thing. So we'll have an opportunity this week to see where he goes. He goes from wanting to start Thursday night, to being awfully sore come Thursday morning. It's been frustrating to both guys. Obviously, I credit the rest of our team for what we've been able to do in holding these guys with us all year. That means other guys have to suck it up, take reps in practice and do other things.
We've been short in other areas for carrying basically two guys who haven't played a lot of football this year. But I think it's been good for us because they're a chunk of our backbone, and they've been there for their teammates the whole time. Levi wouldn't even go have the surgery until he was here for the game. That is a testament to what they mean to this football team.