Every Monday John Harbaugh steps up to the podium to answer the media’s questions about both the game Sunday and the upcoming weeks’ game. Here were Harbaugh’s thoughts on the 31-17 win over Denver.
Harbaugh’s opening statement:“Good to see everybody. Thanks for coming. Obviously, it’s good to stand up here after a win, and I think the credit goes to our players. When you get a chance to really watch the tape and study what went on, our players won the vast majority of the one-on-one battles. And, that’s what you hope your guys can do, win the one-on-one battles. And they did that with a combination of talent, physical play and great technique. And that’s what created most of the plays. Of course, there were other situations where we didn’t quite execute as well as we wanted and give us a chance to score some points or extend some drives or get some stops in order to get a couple of returns, so those are the things we keep working on.”
When Josh McDaniels stated yesterday that the Broncos were “out-toughed, out-mentaled and out-coached,” which of those three meant the most to you? “You want me to say out-coached is my favorite? I don’t believe it. Like I said before, it was the players. The players won the game. It was one-on-one battles. I thought our guys played very smart [and] played disciplined for the most part, and they won the battles.”
Are you happy to be able to balance the offense between the run game and the passing game without establishing an identify as being one or the other? “I’ll keep saying it: We do have an identity. We’re rough, we’re tough, we’re disciplined, we’re smart, [and] we play hard. We’re good decision-makers. That’s what we’re building toward. Run or pass, who cares? The idea is to be able to do everything you do from one week to the next. I’m not sure why everybody wants to say, ‘Hey, you’re identity is that you’re a running team.’ That means you’re one-dimensional. That’s the next thing someone’s going to say. We don’t want to be one-dimensional. We want to have guys we can hand it to, guys that you can throw it to. Joe [Flacco] made some runs, which was good to see. So, we do have some guys that can make plays. We’ve got an offensive line that’s starting to play really well. It gives us a chance to be tough to defend, and that’s really the goal.”
Are you worried that the season-high eight passes defensed yesterday did not result in interceptions? “Worried? No. What’s the alternative, you don’t break them up? You let them complete them? Then I’d be worried about the fact that [our opponents] are completing too many passes. The interceptions, if that’s the question, are going to come. We had a couple that were tougher catches, but we had our hands on them. All the break-ups were one-handed break-ups where you stick the mitt in there and knock it down. So, those aren’t really ones you have a chance to intercept. But, we do need more turnovers. We got the one on the kickoff, which was good to see, and it’s something we’ll shoot for. But I don’t think you chase turnovers. That would be to the detriment of playing good defense.”
From a tackling standpoint, was yesterday the best game of the season, four quarters of tackling, getting guys to the ground? “That’s a great question. I’m not sure if I’ve compared it to the other weeks, because I think we’ve been a good tackling team most weeks, except probably for the Cleveland week. But, I do think we’re a really good tackling defense. That’s probably one of our strengths. We are a good tackling defense, and we’ve got to make sure we do that from one week to the next. That’s the difference, really, in limiting a running game. They may pop one through there and get their six or eight yards, but if you can come up and tackle them and get them on the ground, you’re going to eliminate a lot of those yards. And it goes for run after the catch, screens, everything, special teams.”
Did it change the way you think when you saw Ngata go down after that play? “It makes you hold your breath for a second. I don’t think it really changes the way you think, because you already knew there was a risk there. It just kind of draws everybody’s attention to it. I think as a coach, you can’t get scared away by public perception. I’m not going to get intimidated by the fact that fans are going to say, ‘Oh, Lardarius Webb got hurt on special teams. He should never play special teams.’ You can think that, but we’ve got to put 11 good players out there on every single play in order to win that play, because that play might be the play that makes the difference in the game. And that’s just the way football is.”
Now, lets move on to next weeks game against the Patriots.
Does playing New England twice last year make your preparation for this game like your preparation to play a division opponent? “Yes. You’re probably right, because we have a chance now to go back and include those two games in the breakdown along with the other games that we think are appropriate in terms of scheme and things like that. So, we know these guys pretty well. It’s a very good football team. Traditionally, they have done very well coming off the bye week. That’s going to be something we’ve got to factor in. [The Patriots] are very well-coached, obviously. [They are] tremendously talented, and they have a great quarterback. So, we’ve got our hands full.”
Does it make it any harder to scheme for the Patriots now that they’ve gotten rid of Randy Moss and you don’t know what this team is like without him? “That’s a great [question]. Yeah, I think with Randy you kind of knew, and pretty much people were starting to play them in a similar way. What does that mean? How are we going to defend them? Who’s the deep threat? It’s going to be Brandon Tate for sure. He can run. He’s a threat. Obviously, they feel very good about their offensive weapons or they wouldn’t have done it. And I don’t think they ever do something... No team ever does something to make themselves weaker. They feel like this is going to make them stronger short term and long term. That’s why they’ve done it, and we’ll be the first team to find out what their plan is. And they’ve got an extra week to get ready, to put that thing together, and I’m sure that’s not by coincidence.”
How important is it this week to put some hits on Tom Brady and try to take him out of his rhythm? “We’re going to try to hit every quarterback that we possibly can. We got to Kyle [Orton] a few times, but so many times we were within two steps, and we had to pull off because you have to pull off if you’re not within a step. And I thought our guys did a really good job of determining when they could hit him and when they couldn’t. I was just disappointed that we couldn’t get a little bit closer so that we could get some more hits on him. And that’s what you have to do with Tom Brady, but a lot of times the quarterback kind of dictates that. He’s got a good feel for pressure, gets the ball out - similar offenses these two weeks in a row - and it’s tough to get to him. But, that’s something that’s going to be important.”
How much of an advantage is it for New England to be coming off the bye week? “That’s the thing with them: They’ve proven [that they play well after the bye]. They have a track record after the bye. So, that’s something that we will be bucking up against, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Going into Week 6, despite a team’s win-loss record, does every team in the NFL have the same outlook for the rest of the year? “By Week 6, you start to determine, maybe, a little bit where you’re at now. It starts to shake out a little bit, and it seems like this year it’s, I guess, like most years, it’s unpredictable. You never know. And what you see now won’t be the same six weeks from now. There will be a lot of changes. They will be teams that seem like they’re down and out, and they’ll win five games in a row and they’ll be right back in it. That’s one of the great things about the National Football League. We’ve just got to take care of our business from one week to the next and let all the rest of that stuff take care of itself.”