Q: What do you see from this team defensively compared to the last time you studied them on film?
JM: [There are] a few new faces, but really the same talented defense. I think they are really a physical group. They have really good, solid players at every level of the defense. They don’t give up many big plays. [They’re] difficult to run it on; pretty stingy in the run game. They do a great job at situational football – they are one of the best teams in the league on third downs, I think they are the best team in the league in red area defense. We certainly have a big challenge in front of us in terms of playing there; it is always a difficult place to play. They are well coached, as always, and they do a good job of changing up their scheme from one week to the next of giving you some different looks that maybe you haven’t practiced against. So, we’re going to have to have a great week of preparation for them. It’s always a great challenge to play Baltimore in Baltimore.
Q: LeGarrette Blount has received a good share of the carries in recent weeks. Can you talk about the production he has given you and the notion that his physical, bruising running style matches up well against the Ravens defense? Does his running style limit the number of carries you can give him?
JM: LeGarrette has done a good job with his opportunities. We’ve been rolling multiple backs certainly into the game the last so many weeks here, and he’s definitely been productive with his opportunities to carry the ball. He definitely has a style of running the ball that is downhill. [He’s] a bigger guy and certainly it’s always tougher to bring those guys down because of their size. They are all a little different. Stevan‘s [Ridley] a little different from LeGarrette, Shane [Vereen] is different than those guys and Brandon [Bolden] is a different style of runner than the other three. So, we feel good about all our backs, and that’s why they play. We’ve got a lot of guys that can contribute and move the ball in the running game. They have all shown the ability to do that and I would think that that would continue.
Q: Can you talk about the offensive line and the injuries that they have had to overcome this season?
JM: We’ve had some different guys certainly have to step up and play in their roles, and then we’ve had some guys have to change positions at times and play positions they may not have otherwise been at. I think the credit for having those guys ready and prepared, [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line] Dante [Scarnecchia] can’t get enough of that. He does a great job with them every week. I know they are ready to go and prepared to do their job and prepared to move around and handle other roles if necessary, because that’s always something you have to take into consideration when you go into a game as well. Most likely you are going to have seven linemen active for the game, so there’s definitely a chance that there could be some moving parts on game day. I think our players have responded well to the injuries that we’ve had on the line. They’ve done a good job of filling in and handling roles that we’ve asked them to handle. Again, that speaks to Dante’s work ethic. I think those guys all have a great deal of respect for him, and he has them well prepared. They deserve a lot of credit for being able to handle multiple roles and go in there and allow our offense to continue to move the ball and try to be productive.
Q: When you went back and reviewed the red zone offense from the last game, what did you come away with? If one or two plays go differently, the numbers could skew in either direction, so what was your biggest takeaway other than you simply want it to be better?
JM: Well, I mean it is really like that every week, like you said. The first two that we didn’t end up scoring touchdowns on, you end up with what I think was a third-and-four at the four and a third-and-two at the five, and those are not disadvantageous situations to be in. You just, when you get into those situations, you know it comes down to basically that play and that play alone. You know, Miami, they deserve credit. They did a good job with the way that they played us. We always go in there and try to give ourselves an opportunity to certainly score on those critical third downs in the low red zone. One of them we hit, Mike [Hoomanawanui] made a great catch, and the other two that we had down there. We weren’t able to connect on. They pressured us on the one – they brought pressure actually on both. We picked it up on one and the other one they had a free guy. You know, we worked extremely hard on that. We want to try and give ourselves as many multiple options on those plays as we can, and we can find some better solutions as we go forward and we can execute our offense down there at a high level. I know we’ve done it before, and that’s what our goal is going to be going forward.
Q: How difficult is it for you and the players on the sideline to not get caught up in the moment of a close game and keep your cool so that you can see the thing through?
JM: Well I think experience in those situations is not something that you can get without going through them. We’ve had plenty of opportunities this year to be in close games where we’ve needed to make a number of plays at the end to win the game and finish it. We’ve been fortunate to do that sometimes and sometimes we haven’t. The other team certainly deserves a lot of the credit for that. I don’t think there’s any – there’s no magic formula for that. You just understand that the situation, that’s what you’ve practiced all year for. That’s what you do a lot of your situational work in the offseason and training camp and during the course of the week for. You prepare hard, you study, you practice, you go through the film and you correct things to try and make sure you are as prepared as you possibly can [be] for those situations when they come up. If you’re prepared, you have an opportunity that the moment doesn’t kind of take you over. You know what your job is, you know what you’re going to call if you’re a coach, you know the kind of things that are going to be called if you’re a player and you know what to expect from the defense. As long as we continue to try to be prepared and be ready for those scenarios if and when they come up in the games, I think that’s the best thing you can do as a coach and a player. There’s no shortcut to your preparation, and once you get in those scenarios you hope that you feel very comfortable with the things you are going to try to do. To me, that’s the key to our execution when those scenarios come up is that our guys feel good about it and they go out there and execute under pressure and give us an opportunity to win.
Q: When you looked back at the Miami game, did get any feeling that you should have sprinkled a few more runs into the play calling after the early success that you had running the ball? And then with Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees, has he deviated at all from what you had come to know about him when he was a defensive coach with the Patriots?
JM: The Miami question, that’s a tough one because a lot of times we have multiple options in the huddle, and sometimes you end up with the perfect blend and perfect balance when you do that, and sometimes the defense, when you’re trying to get certain things against a specific look, sometimes you can get a little skewed. We certainly don’t want to take the freedom away from our quarterback to get us into a good play and we don’t want to become just a call it on the sideline team when we have a quarterback that’s capable of doing a lot of good things with our offense at the line of scrimmage. There are always things you wish – could I have done this? Or could I have done that? There’s no question that you come out of each game and you say that, whether you win by 30 points or lose by three or four. You always say, ‘Man, I could have done that better.’ I definitely make a lot of mistakes each week and I wish I was a guy that could call a perfect game every time out. That’s what I try to do each week when I prepare, and hopefully we are going to put ourselves in a situation each week to be balanced and find the perfect blend of run/pass that suites our team and give our offense the best opportunity to score each week. With Dean, Dean is a great coach. I was very fortunate to have a chance to work with him for a couple of years here, and then have had many opportunities to coach against him. His defenses are always extremely well prepared. He is very sound, and they don’t give up a lot of big plays. He is an aggressive play caller. They will come after you in critical situations and make you beat pressure, which I know means he has a lot of confidence in his defense and his scheme, his players. They are rarely out of position. You rarely see any kind of communication issues with them, which just speaks volumes about the way they are coached and the way they prepare. It will be a great challenge for us. I have a ton of respect for Dean. He has done an incredible job with their defense since he has taken over, and I know we are going to have our hands full on Sunday.