Quarterbacks Coach Mike Sullivan, 10.27.10

Q: Given your recent history as a receivers coach, what do you tell your quarterbacks after they have an interception that is tipped off of a receiver's hands?
A: Every interception, whether it's a result of a breakdown in protection, a ball that can be caught, a poor throw, a poor position, I think of a bad metaphor we all know. They all happen, they all stink. Every interception counts and they're all bad. It doesn't matter what the result is or why they keep on throwing badly. What we're focusing on is continuing to do the various drills and knowing the strike zones with certain guys and going up and getting a little bit more to put in an accurate position under duress because it's not a world of seven-on-seven out there. There are big guys coming on the pass rush and trying to find spaces in the pocket. You have to reinforce also that when our defense is playing as well as they've been, which they've just been phenomenal, and we're fortunate to have games well in hand like in Houston and Dallas, that even if the play breaks down, it's not the coverage you were expecting, or there is an issue in protection, or whatever reason, as competitive as he (Eli) is. The greatest competitive play that he may have made in the Super Bowl was trying to make something happen when it's not there. In those situations, we may have to just punt it and then play again. A punt isn't all bad.

Q: With Eli, it seems that when a guy has a drop, he goes right back to that receiver the next play. Is that by design?
A: Yes, he's been excellent. He was when I was receivers coach, and I'm saying the same thing now. Excellent is a strong word that I can say in terms of his coaching, support, reinforcement to the receivers both from a standpoint of ‘Hey, I'm expecting this type of break' or ‘I'm anticipating this read with this look.' Also, when a guy drops a ball and Hakeem Nicks comes to mind, he'll go right back after him. He has that way about him that he has quiet confidence and poise, and he's a leader that he looks at them, and he doesn't have to say a lot of words, but he still has faith and hasn't lost confidence in him. So, he goes back and gives him another shot. He knows that he'll go back and make some plays. The Steve Smith catch was phenomenal on Monday night, that was tremendous. In terms of a throw, he was like ‘Thank you, Steve!' I think he knows those guys are going to step up for him, so he needs to support and stand behind them.

Q: It seems with quarterbacks around the league that some guys don't think that a punt isn't that bad of a thing, so they make bad decisions which result in turnovers:
A: It's a fine line. It really is a fine line. I think you're exactly right. The aggressiveness and confidence, the belief in your teammates and yourself and that you can make the play. That always has to be there, and it can't be shaken because of a bad throw or a sack, or an interception. One of the things that Eli has been tremendous about this year through seven games is that through seven games, he has great resolve and great consistency. When you look at the Indianapolis game or a similar situation, when something bad has happened, he's had consistent focus. There haven't been any valleys or any of those situations where maybe it looked like he was overly flustered. He has to continue to have that resolve. I think that as long as our defense is outstanding this year, we have been in situations this year where we have it hand, it is a situation where you don't want to lose all your aggressiveness and lose your confidence. In that situation, if it's not there, then take what you can get. There's no question that the coaches don't ever want to take away that fire or that confidence to make plays.

Q: In the preseason, you said you didn't want Eli to have those peaks and valleys. Has he been effective doing that?
A: I'm very pleased with where he's at in terms of avoiding all the valleys. You look at regardless of how things have gone in games this year, whether we won or lost the game or he is facing a lot of duress and pressure. You go back to the Indianapolis game, which was certainly a rough start, and he finished strong and kept playing. You go to the Houston game where he started off fast, had a couple things not go our way, and then he finished strong. Certainly look at Monday night, I couldn't have been more proud of him in that place and against that defense and that crowd. He started off the first six plays with two interceptions, and he comes right back in an attack mode. He is very poised, confident, and there is a spirit and energy about him that is one that is just a great equanimity in how he approaches things, and I'm sure you've seen that. There is a steadiness, a resolve. I have been pleased to see that he has that same level-headed focus. We talked a little about having that same expression. I don't care whether or not it's a touchdown pass or an interception, it's that same type of focus. Kind of like Cain Velasquez walking into the octagon or Brock Lesnar: same expression, same focus. That's where we are.

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