Q: What did you think of the way they were able to shake off the rusty start on Monday?
A: I thought it was tremendous. There was never a sense on the sidelines that we can't come back or that we've created too big of a hole for ourselves. I think that there was anger and disappointment at the way we started, the mistakes we made, but it was rather than turn into despair it kind of turned into resolve and they just came back out and did the things that we were hopeful of. After those first two catastrophes, then we came back with an 11-play drive for a touchdown, drove it a little bit, punted, then touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, which was unbelievable against what I think is one of the better defenses in the league.
Q: That has happened a few times over the last few years - sputtering at the start and then finally getting it going. Do you think that that helped, having gone through that before?
A: I think the more success you have, not that it means anything on that individual basis, but it gives you a reserve of confidence because you have experienced it before. Last time we went down there, we started off like a ball of fire - we took the opening drive - our problem there was that we were stalling in the red zone. What's nice to see is that until the last drive where we decided to play conservative and decided to kick the field goal, we were 10 for 10 over the last 10 times in the green zone, which is phenomenal, so hopefully we can continue with that and just straighten out our beginning.
Q: Is this a team that can play looser - more big plays, but more turnovers - and still be successful?
A: That's a great question. My experience has been that in the long run you're going to get bitten if you do that. It's nice to have that explosiveness, that big play capability. It's nice to know that when you fall behind you can still come back and win. I think that those are all pluses and a great foundation, but bottom line, it's hard to win when you make as many mistakes as we made in that game. Again, it's a great tribute to them that we came back and we played as well and made as many big plays. We had 14 big plays, which is almost unheard of - it's off the charts - to be able to do that in a game and then physically, to be as physically dominant as we were, which is terrific. I just think that in the long run, it's hard to fathom winning consistently like that, so we've got to be much more careful with the ball.
Q: How does it feel to have the leading rusher in the league?
A: Good. I mean, my stance has been pretty consistent. I've always thought that Ahmad could be a very good runner for us and the key has been - we've thrown the ball very well, people have to defend and honor that, and it's opened up some running game possibilities for him and he's going to take advantage of them. He's an explosive back and he's kind of representative of what we're talking about - he's one of those explosive guys, we've just got to curtail the miscues, but in terms of toughness, determination, a guy that is going to give you everything on every play, he is certainly emblematic of what you're looking for.
Q: When he was made the number one guy, were you concerned that he's not that big and he has been hurt?
A: The size is not a problem. The injury concern is certainly something that had to be taken into account, there's no question. It's still there. He's as tough as they come to overcome the problems that he's had with the two surgeries on his ankles and his feet from last year. I'm still holding my breath hopefully that he's going to be able to last the entire year. Right now, knock on wood, he's playing great football for us. Again, I think he gives you an inspirational quality because of how hard he plays - he blocks hard, he runs hard, everything he does is with great determination and effort, so I think that it's hard for his teammates to look at him and not be affected in a positive way, so that's a good thing. That's not to disparage the other guy because the other guy has gotten better and better and has played very good football for us and showed some of the speed that you don't expect a big man to have - when he turned that counter play for a touchdown for us. That was a huge play in the last game. He's played very well. I just think that in the long run it's nice to have two guys that you can count on because history has shown that one of them has been banged up and missed time, so it's nice to have both of them.
Q: With those ankle problems, do you have to watch how many times you give him the ball or do you just keep holding your breath and give it to him?
A: I mean, we're going to call our game and if that means that it looks like schematically that the run game potential is there and they're giving us a chance to run the ball, we're going to give it to him until something says that we can't, whether it's scheme or injury or what have you. I don't think it's going to be the carries. I think he's just got a history of those lower extremity problems. It's just a matter of how long he can hold up. It's not from the game - it's from the practices, the games, and just the wear and tear on him, but keep our fingers crossed. The good thing is that the other guy is going to be there to pick up any slack when it's needed.
Q: Is there any thought to giving Brandon more now so that Ahmad has more later on?
A: Yeah, I mean, I don't think that that has any bearing on it. I think it's just running around between practice and...we'll see. Right now it's working, so until something alters that, that causes us to modify what we're doing, I don't see us...we're going to ride the horse right now as long as he's galloping pretty good.
Q: Are you still looking for DJ Ware to step up and come in?
A: We'd love to see it. Between injuries and not necessarily always capitalizing on all of his opportunities, he hasn't really earned that chance, but unfortunately, history shows that we're going to need the third guy, so I think that we all feel that he has the physical potential that if the opportunity comes his way, he can do it. Hopefully if it does come his way, he can do it.
Q: He talked about the mental part of the game.
A: It's a lot of different things that just have not gone his way, whether it's an injury or a mistake or a lack of focus...it's just not played out for him the way he would have hoped or we would have liked, but we'll see.
Q: What is the line doing in run blocking that we haven't seen in a while?
A: They were maybe as physical Monday night as we've been in a long, long time, which is great and an integral part of that has been the addition of Shawn Andrews - that has given us a whole other dimension. It's like a glorified tight end, but it's a big linemen. That gives us a matchup that, in terms of the run game, comes heavily in our favor. It really gives us a distinct advantage. It kind of goes unnoticed, but Kevin Boss was outstanding in the game because we motioned him and we put a lot of our focus on whether or not he could handle Ware and you're not dominating DeMarcus Ware, but he neutralized him enough that we were able to get some fairly consistent success in the run game. Between the line, Shawn Andrews, what Kevin did, it was a good performance and I thought the runners ran hard.
Q: Have you seen anything from Duke Calhoun on Ramses Barden to get them on the field?
A: Again, it comes down to the packages that we're using. Right now I think that we're most effective with the three guys. I think that when we've asked them to do something, they've done it. Ramses made a nice play - we kind of motioned down, created an in and out and he made the catch for us. That was a big 22-yard gain and so it's not that they haven't done well, they've done reasonably well. Duke made a great block on the crack for that 22-yard gain in the last drive we had, so we're kind of weaving them in little by little and hopefully they'll continue to play well, but right now our more consistent packages have been our three wides as opposed to using four wides.
Q: Do you feel that Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks are the best one-two receivers in the entire league?
A: It's hard for me to say. It's like bragging on your own children. It's hard for me to do it, but I'm very proud of them. Hakeem has gotten better and better and has given us a great one on one threat that if people go to that scheme to either to stop the run or to double Steve - Steve is encountering a lot of doubling - he's won for us consisteny and that's what that position has to do. Steve has been playing great football and sometimes it doesn't always show up, like we talked about when Plax was there, the double coverage opens up the run game and opens up the receiving opportunities for other people. Steve is getting doubled a lot and that's opening up opportunities for both Hakeem and Mario and both of those guys are taking advantage of it. Steve's toughness and his work inside is outstanding. He had over 100 yards Monday night and he had two catches called back for another 50 yards, plus he blocked well in the running game. He's a big part of the run game success. He had a terrific game.
Q: What does he do with his body so well?
A: He's a great student of the game. He is as professional as anybody we have in terms of studying, how can he improve himself with his technique, with his ability to use - whether it's a stand or whether it's the speed or the change of speeds to get himself some separation. He does a tremendous job. He's a craftsman.