Initial comments:** ML: "My thoughts after yesterday start with James Harrison's play on defense (a late first-quarter INT) being really a kind of a turnaround play that got things going. It set us up offensively with field position and getting the score. It got us out of the first quarter and into the second quarter, where we kind of righted our ship. And then, obviously, the special teams. The defense yesterday played very good red-zone defense. It wasn't perfect, but we were able to keep them from scoring touchdowns in those situations, and that was big. Offensively, we weren't very consistent running the football, weren't very consistent throwing the ball. Obviously we had the two miscues early on with the interceptions, and then we come back, and Andy makes great throws on the routes, great placement of the football, and we get two touchdown passes there in the second quarter. But early on it wasn't very good in any area. As we go back and watch the tape of the game, we need to keep getting better and being more consistent in the run game, and we need to be more consistent throwing the football. We weren't very good at that. Last week we had a bunch of yards and little points, and this week we had a lot of points and no yards. We've got to find the happy medium, and make first downs, and convert third downs and get the ball moving down the field."
You said yesterday some of the bumps and bruises weren't significant. Did that change or is it pretty much the same?
ML: "I feel good about things."
You said Friday you thought you would be full strength for San Diego. Is that still the case?
Since we're two-thirds into the season, how has James Harrison rubbed off on the young linebackers in that room?
ML: "His professionalism, how he prepares, how he practices, his just not wanting to ever be wrong, to make a mistake. He wants to be in the right spot and to understand what his responsibilities are, I think that rubs off. He understands that breakdowns and mental errors get you beat. Sometimes people dismiss that too easily. He doesn't dismiss that. He wants to be right."
Can you see how he's rubbed off on Vontaze Burfict?
ML: "I think he's rubbed off on them all. I don't think it's just Vontaze. He hasn't changed Vontaze in any way."
Is Vontaze as good of a football IQ guy as you've had in a long time?
ML: "He's very good."
Any concern about the 15-yard penalties he gets?
ML: "The penalty we got yesterday, his other penalties, don't lump everything into one, because you really don't know as much as you think you know. (But) the penalty yesterday, we can't have those penalties. We had two penalties yesterday on defense that hurt us. We can't have those. We've got to clean them up as a football team. This is not the WWF, and you don't get any points for retaliating. The stuff I read in the paper about it (trying to justify the penalties), it's not right.
There were those 15-yard penalties against Buffalo that the league came back and said he shouldn't have been penalized:
ML: "That's right. But you don't know what the league says, and he doesn't need to tell you, nor will I ever tell you. That's our business. It's going to stay within this house, and that's the way it's going to be. We as a football team need to clean ourselves up, and we need to do better. This is not acceptable, and it won't be acceptable, and if they don't fix it they won't play. So that's where we are with that. It's a good mood I'm in today, right? (smiles). "
Should Jabaal Sheard have been flagged for retaliating against Whitworth?
ML: "I'm not worried about that. That's not my problem. My problem is to coach our team."
How do you think Dre Kirkpatrick did yesterday?
ML: "I thought Dre did a good job until we let a ball go over our head, which you shouldn't let happen. He's good enough to be in position, he was in position, he has to go finish the play and not relax and not think that, because I think I've got the guy covered the ball's not coming there. A lesson learned. We outlived it. But he did some really good things, and he's got to keep it up."
The defense this year has not given up touchdowns after turnovers this year. Is this group as good at that as you've seen?
ML: "I've seen better, but that's their job."
What is the state of the team at the bye?
ML: "Well we're two-thirds of the way done, we've got a third left. We've got to play better. We've got to play better in every area--we've got to play better on defense, we've got to play better on first down. We've got to play better on third down on defense, and we've got to challenge receivers. We've got to contest balls, and we've got to get turnovers. Offensively, we've got to be more consistent with what we're doing. We've got to get on the right people on offense on the running game, whether it be the line, whether it be our tight ends, whether it be our receivers. We've got to block the right people, and we have to win at receiver. We didn't win very good yesterday at receiver. We've got to win. The quarterback's got to play care-free, where he can deliver the ball and know where the receiver is going to be. It can't be happenstance. He's got to know it. We've got to get back and do it right, and we're going to push hard at that. On special teams, we keep growing and getting better, and we've got to keep it up. We're going to keep coaching them hard and make sure we get every detail coached throughout. We've got to keep consistently kicking the ball with our specialists and have good ball placement, and keep covering and creating, and every time we get a chance, create space in the return game. We did a good job of that yesterday. We had one stupid penalty yesterday in the kicking game. We can't have those things. We've got to keep coaching hard to clean that up, and we've got to do it with different guys, because we can't hurt ourselves. They're giving us the ball. Let's not screw it up."
What one thing bothers you about the offense that you want to get fixed?
ML: "Just being consistent."
What was the issue on that interception for a touchdown?
ML: "We had issues on both of them. Issues happen a lot of different ways. We can't have issues. We don't need to have issues. We've got to be consistent with it, and everybody's got a fault in it."
Does it get back to the receiver not knowing?
ML: "I'm not going to elaborate. We all have to do it right. Everybody's counting on each other, and we're not throwing anybody under the bus. Unfortunately the quarterback always gets thrown under the bus anyway. We've just got to do it right."
It's such an amazing dichotomy from October to November in the offensive numbers:
ML: "We've just got to do it right. You were putting them all in the Hall of Fame, and now we've got to get them back there."
From a coaching standpoint, all you've got to do is tell them to watch your tape from October:
ML: "No, October is October. We've got to go do it in December."
The fact that they did it in October shows that they can do it:
ML: "We were making corrections then, and we've got to keep making them. We were making corrections then. We have to just keep making them long term."
What do you tell Andy going into the bye?
ML: "I tell Andy what I keep telling him all the time—you've got to get those guys to play to your standard. You've got to get them right, and it's up to you that if they're not right, you've got to make the corrections. That's what his job is. As coaches we've got to make sure that he's not having the brunt on his shoulders all the time. We've got to get him protected, we can't get him jostled around and get beaten right away. We can't get beat in protection. We are good enough to not allow pressures, so he can stand there and do his job worry-free. It takes it all together to do it right. We take ourselves out of opportunity when we get flushed out of the pocket and we've got guys wide open. It's a good time (the bye week). We've got a lot to work on, and we've got a lot to get better as a football team."
Is there an advantage to having a bye this late as opposed to Week 5, 6 or 7?
ML: "It is where it is. We have to take advantage of it. It comes at a good time for us. We've got 12-something guys that have bumps and bruises, and it looks like they'll all be ready to go when we get back. That's a good thing."
Did you ever think you would get there in one piece?
ML: "Barely. Unfortunately, we've lost a couple along the way in Geno (Atkins) and Leon (Hall). Other than that, I think we should feel pretty blessed to be where we are. We've got to go forward, and we've got to take advantage of it. We've got to take advantage of where we are, and we have to do it by coaching them harder and coaching them better, and our players continue to respond. They want to be coached. They want to do it right. We've got to understand that, and we've got to pull it out of them and keep forcing the issues."
With a two-and-a-half game lead, is it too early to talk about seeding?
ML: "I don't know what kind of lead we have, nor does it matter. We've just got to take care of ourselves. We've got five football games we need to win, and that's the key part of this. We have to finish with a strong finish."
Being 7-4, everybody can see the upside potential if things do get on the right track and everybody is doing what they're supposed to do:
ML: "That would take more in-depth thinking than I think we need to spend time worrying about. We just need to spend time worrying about who we've got to block, run routes on, isolate and so forth."
You guys had a good December last year, and the last couple of times the Decembers were not very good. Is that something you can build on down the stretch?
ML: "I don't think we get anything for it. We've just got to go through it. Like I said last night, we've just got to roll up our sleeves and go to work. That's how we'll do it."
Any update on how Leon and Geno's surgeries went?
ML: "I haven't heard how Geno's went, but I believe Geno had surgery on Thursday. Leon's went very, very well. We have a ways to go."
In a situation like that Nick Cosgray (Director of Rehabilitation/Assistant Certified Athletic Trainer) has done a good job rehabbing your guys throughout the years. But how much more important does he become now?
ML: "He's always been important. Just ask him (laughs). Obviously he's been down this road before with Leon. We know the expectations, and Leon now knows what's ahead. It's going to be new waters with Geno. We just have to convince him how important it is that we get hands on him early and get going. We believe that our people here do the best job they can for the players, as opposed to someone else's people. These are the people we trust in, and their job is to get our guys back on the field as healthy as they can and as quickly as they can. We feel it's best they are here doing it, and Nick has done a tremendous job of it. We need the same kind of outcome with these last two."