Offensive coordinator Al Saunders addresses the media. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: What are your thoughts on Monday night's offensive showing?
Coach Saunders: Gosh, we won the game. That was awesome. One of the things that Hue [Jackson] is trying to establish with this football team is accountability and a physical nature of play. We went out there feeling like we could run the football and that's what we wanted to try to establish and I think we did a very, very good job of that. 190 yards and what was really exciting was the last drive of the game when you have 3:43 left in the game and it's three-point game and you can't let that defense have the ball back and we end up going down the field, three first downs, and put the ball away so that we could kneel on the ball the last two minutes of the game. I think we established a real physical nature. I think we did a real good job of managing the game from the quarterback position. We had one turnover, which was the first play of the game. Jacoby [Ford] hadn't played the entire preseason so that was his first real bit of contact, but we felt very, very good about what we did and we have a lot to improve on as 31 other teams in the National Football League feel after their first game. We're excited about the direction we're heading.
Q: How was your first time having Darren [McFadden] in the game? What did you like from him; was it fun seeing him out there?
Coach Saunders: We liked the 150 yards of offense or 190 or however much he ran by himself, whatever that was. He's a special player; he's gifted and he brings such a dimension to any team. I've been fortunate to be around some great running backs and he's one of those guys that you put in that class. He's a young kid that has tremendous speed, tremendous potential, he catches the ball extremely well, and I think he established what he is last year and he's continuing to follow in that way this year. He's a premier back because he has that great speed, he catches the football, he's a 3-dimensional guy. He's not one of those guys that can just line up and run it. He can catch it, he can run it, and he can also block, so he's a special player.
Q: You weren't able to get the ball to the wideouts that much that game. Was that just you keeping guys in or was it something that the Broncos were throwing at you guys?
Coach Saunders: No, actually in normal down and distance situations, we were 10 for 11 passing. We just didn't do anything to put ourselves in jeopardy to push the ball down the field. It wasn't necessary at that time and we felt like going into halftime after the field goal and we established a pretty solid way of moving the football as we expect when we went in on the ground, and there was no need to push the ball down the field. If we would have been in a situation where we would have had to do that, I believe we probably could have, but it was not necessary. The important thing for a quarterback in a situation like that is to manage the game, protect the football, and don't turn it over. I thought Jason [Campbell] did a tremendous job of that.
Q: What does Buffalo like to do on defense? What challenges do they present for you?
Coach Saunders: They held Kansas City to what, seven points, a team that ended being the division champion last year and they're good. They're physical up front. They've got two young corners; they lost their starting corner and the young kid came in and played fairly well. They give us all we can handle. The backers are very physical, the defensive front, especially the two interior tackles, are very physical, run dominant guys, and it's going to be a real fist fight. It's tough playing in Buffalo. It's a long road trip for us and we're looking forward to going there and it'll be an interesting game.
Q: [Shawne] Merriman only had one tackle last week, but during the preseason, I saw a couple of games where it started to look like he's starting to come back to what he was in San Diego.
Coach Saunders: He's another special player. We went in there with Priest Holmes several years ago and Priest didn't play for three games after that after he hit him on the goal line coming out at about the five-yard line and we know what Shawne Merriman brings to a team. He's a tremendously gifted player and he's an intelligent guy. He's played in the league a lot of years and he adds another dimension to that defense that we would prefer not to see. He's special.
Q: Have you had a fullback quite like [Marcel] Reece?
Coach Saunders: Tony Richardson was a pretty good player for us, but Reece is a little different because he has such a great ability to catch a football. He's a converted wide receiver, obviously, and has a great deal of agility down the field. He catches the ball as well as most fullbacks that I've been around and better than the majority of them. He provides you a pretty good match up situation if you can get him in space on a linebacker or safety.
Q: You guys used a lot of that six offensive linemen set. What do you like about it?
Coach Saunders: The physicalness that it brings to the running game. When you can put a 300-pound guy on the end of the line of scrimmage against an outside linebacker that's a favorable match up. Match ups aren't only in the passing game when you have people in space. It's also along the line of scrimmage and it gives us an opportunity to be a little bit more physical in what we want to do establishing the edge in our running game.
Q: You guys passed out of that a decent amount too, right?
Coach Saunders: You like to be a multiple offense where you can pass and run from all of your sets.
Q: When opposing teams see what you do in the running game do you think they're just going to keep trying to make you pass the ball?
Coach Saunders: We would like to think that we can be multi-dimensional and be able to run and pass with equal efficiency. I wish I was in there defensive staff room to know exactly what they're going to do. That would be a great advantage for us.
Q: Are you of the mind that when teams start stacking the box, you should immediately change it over to a pass?
Coach Saunders: I think you do what you do best and to be an effective offense, you have to be able to run and pass with equal efficiency to be consistent because there are times when you're going to have to run the football. There are times when you're going to have to throw the football. There are times when you're not running it effectively and there are times when you're not throwing it effectively. I'm not trying to circumvent your question, but balance has always been the key to success in the National Football League in any phase offensively or defensively.
Q: You threw out of the end zone, a shot to [Darrius] Heyward-Bey, and it was close. Does that play, even when it doesn't connect, still do something for your offense?
Coach Saunders: I think any time you do something that has a wow effect, throwing the ball down the field generally does that, that was a real spark for us because I think the players get confidence that you have confidence in what they can do. Certainly, it affects the defense.
Q: Talk about [Michael] Bush. McFadden did so well, but you brought Bush in to close the game out. What does he bring to that role?
Coach Saunders: Oh my gosh, he's a 250-pound guy that makes those three-yard runs into six-yard runs. At that time of the game you really like to have a real physical back and he certainly came in and did exactly what we would expect of him, and that's control the football and gain yards.
Q: What's the key to winning on the road in a hostile environment? How do you deal with the loud crowd on the offensive side of the ball?
Coach Saunders: The key to winning is scoring one more point than those guys. That's always been the case, but we work real hard with the noise, we have it every day in practice. I think our players are in a position where they've been prepared to handle that kind of noise situation. We have to be poised and make sure we have the proper communication, which is always difficult in a noisy environment, and we work real hard at that so I think we'll be prepared to handle that situation there.
Q: What's your solution to the penalty problem?
Coach Saunders: Some of those things are concentration errors and when you have great pass rushers on the outside like we faced last week, sometimes those tackles get a little nervous and they try to get set a little bit quicker than they need to. We worked real hard on that, establishing what they need to do on the edge to be more consistent.