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Coach Sparano Breaks Down Loss to Arizona


Q: How was the mood in the meetings?

Coach Sparano:"Professional, good, players came in and got a good work day in, good lift, good run. Obviously not very happy, but are in there right now as we speak handling the corrections. As I said to the players, there need to be corrections in all phases right now. We gave ourselves a chance to win a football game yesterday, but we didn't win the game. There are some good things that came out of the film. There are some things that certainly we need to get better at and continue to get better at, but there are some things there that are good evidence for the players to see right now of them getting themselves better right now. The result isn't obviously what we want, but nonetheless there are some things there that we can get better at. So, right now, they're in there and they're being good pros and they're learning from the film the way they should be, and I think this group will respond well."

Q: What are the areas that you do like from what you've seen?

Coach Sparano:"I think the areas that I like that I've seen right now, I think that we've placed an emphasis on starting fast. That's been an emphasis in our practices, in the format of our change. Offensively, we didn't do that this week, we did it last week. We did it this week in the second half of the football game. Came out and scored in the second half of the football game. Defensively, we didn't do it last week, we did it this week. We stopped them on the first drive of the game, we stopped them on the first series of the second half. So, that's been an area that I think we've placed some emphasis on, we've gotten better there. I think that our knockback on the defensive line and that area there right now has been pretty good. We've gotten better in two games at the line of scrimmage that way. Now, they ended up running the ball, but they ran the ball however many times for 3.5 yards a carry, whatever that was. They had a couple runs there that came out that were a couple of big runs. When I say big runs, they had a 10-, or a 12- or a 14-yard run, stuck in there in one or two of those. Those are just things from a fit standpoint. Fundamentally, I thought we got better with some of our fits in this ball game, some of our alignments in this ball game, on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. I think we continue to get better in the protection area of the game. We did give up a sack in this ball game, which is quite honestly, they did a good job, but it was really Oakland beating Oakland in this situation. If it was a physical thing where we just gave the sack up blatantly, I would tell you that. That wasn't the case. But, there was one sack given up in this game, but at times an awful lot of time to throw the football. So, there are a lot of things I see done well. I thought the special team's phase of the game, we had a clear plan on how we wanted to attack Ted Ginn. We didn't want Ted to decide the outcome of the football game and I thought Marquette [King] did a great job of kind of putting the plan before the personal so to speak. The plan was to hang the ball high and not to let him return some of these things and to kind of angle kick some. One time he angle kicked him into the corner. I mean, he had three kicks inside the 15-yard line in this game. Then 'SeaBass' [Sebastian Janikowski] kicked the ball out of the end zone a bunch of times, so that eliminated that. We wanted to win that phase of the game and would have won that phase of the game had it not been for a big penalty, which was a big play in the game and that obviously hurt us in that situation. It was a player trying to give us great effort and it ended up happening, but nonetheless, it was a big play in the game. The problem with that is that, as I talked to the team about, in our game there is such a thing called hidden yardage. Hidden yardage shows up all over the field, it shows up in minus plays and sacks, and penalties, and turnovers. Those type of things. In our game yesterday, we had the advantage in that area, quite honestly, we had a big advantage in that area up until kind of into that fourth quarter, whatever that drive was when it was 14-13 and they took the ball down the field and they scored. We had a good advantage in that area, but we gave some of those yards back in that situation. At the end of the day, we had over 100 yards, 113 yards, 114 yards, of hidden yardage, which the way I was raised, that equals about eight points and the outcome of the game was pretty close to that."


Q: Can you fix the third-down problem?**

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I think we can fix the third-down problem. I think one of the things that I have to do a better job of is in changing as much as we've changed right now, with our routine, with our schedule, with those kind of things, sometimes third-down day is usually a Thursday day and I need to take a good look at maybe getting more third downs up in practice earlier in the week so that you make the corrections earlier in the week and not later in the week and the players have a long enough time to digest that as opposed to maybe only having one day right now to do that. Now, that's been normal, any place I've ever been, that's what we've done. You do base day on Wednesday, third down on Thursday and red zone on Friday. But, one of the things that I need to do is stop and look and say, 'OK, this is a problem we've identified. How do we get more at-bats here? How do we get more information to the players? More corrections to the players earlier in the week so they have more time to digest that,' because that's really where the moving parts are. On third down, you get many more moving parts than you do on base first and second down situations."

Q: On third down, have you noticed player execution or scheme being the greater issue?

Coach Sparano:"Look, here's what happened yesterday on third down. We had two third downs out there, and I'm going to be really careful with how I say this, so we had two third downs that were penalties. One was with Miles [Burris], in and around there, I don't know if that was third down, I don't think that was. Then one was a roughing the passer penalty in that situation. There were a couple of plays there that were those type of plays within the third-down area, that very easily could have went the other way during the course of that game. Now you're not looking at 60 percent, you're maybe looking at whatever, under 50 percent. Then there are a couple where we just didn't, from an assignment standpoint, execute the assignment properly in a couple areas. We can clean that up by doing what I just said. Again, that's where the moving parts are, on third down usually. It's the same thing on offense. The moving parts on offense, you see different fronts, you see different pictures, you see a lot more pressure. We see more man coverage in this ball game, those type of things. That has to happen too. You can look at it and say, 'It's defense. It's defense.' It's not defense only. Our defense played 78 plays yesterday. Offensively, we played really 49 plays in the game. We have to do a better job at keeping them off the field and limiting some of those at-bats out there. It all works together and that's one thing that we're talking about in there right now. From a coaching standpoint, we've got to continue to do a better job there too."

Q: Do you have an update on Usama Young?

Coach Sparano:"I do not have an update yet. I haven't met with the trainers. I will meet them in a little while. Actually, Usama had an MRI."

Q: The offensive line leads the NFL in pass protection, but it seems the running game is having trouble. What do you attribute that to?

Coach Sparano:"Well, honestly, we were just watching that actually before I came in here, with the players. I think that one of the things that we've got to do is we have to do a little bit better job with some of our point of attack things. I thought a couple times there they did a good job moving some things around on us front-wise, kind of trying to get the double teams off if you will, where we were double teaming them, they kind of came up and mugged us a little bit, that type of stuff. It's stuff we've seen, stuff that we answered. There weren't mental errors there that way. Quite honestly, on one particular play, there were three mental errors. What I mean by that is, it was a call that needed to be echoed, so I meant all of them when in reality it only needs to happen once, but they all take responsibility for that. That was on one particular play there. But, in this game, we were only about 45 percent efficient in the run game, where I told you a week ago we were over 70 something percent efficient, and that's the difference, it really is. We have to put ourselves in better manageables on third down and in order for us to do that, we've got to be able to run the ball efficiently. You've got to give some credit to Arizona, but from our end I thought a couple of those plays there they knocked us back and that part of it is the physical part of it and we've got to be better at that. So, we've got to do a better job of that."

Q: Can you assess the way your screen pass game is going?

Coach Sparano:"In the screen game? Yeah, one screen we threw yesterday, they happened to be in a drop coverage where they dropped the end out of there and we kind of threw it in and they tipped it towards the end. We had another screen there that we threw late in the game, which was one of Derek [Carr]'s blitz checks, and they were showing him a blitz. The good news is, the kid has seen the pressure, he knew exactly what the pressure was and he went to this blitz check in that situation. We can do a better job blocking on the perimeter. We can do a better job of blocking in space on the screens. But, screens can be a really good tool and we've been a really good screen team to be honest with you, since I've been here. In fact, I've had a lot of other people come to me and say, 'Hey, we study your screens in the offseason.' We've hit a couple of them. In Miami we hit a big screen to Darren [McFadden], I believe it was. We've hit some under screens. 'D-Mo' [Denarius Moore] had one last week that really was a big lift for us, that put us in position to kick that field goal at the end of the half that we didn't convert on. But, we've got to do a better job on the perimeter I think with those things and we've got to do a better job, when I say on the perimeter, I don't just mean receivers blocking or any of those people, I mean us getting out there in space. It's not natural for a big guy to be out in that kind of space like that. We need to do a better job of that."

Q: What is the reason that LaMarr Woodley's snap count seems to have dropped?

Coach Sparano:"Well, no, LaMarr got hurt yesterday at one point in the ball game and we're evaluating that as we speak right now, too. That caused a little bit of an avalanche, with Justin [Tuck] not being up for the game and then LaMarr getting hurt in the game yesterday. We'll know more on that here shortly. But, that all of a sudden put Benson [Mayowa]'s snap count up, to be honest, Khalil [Mack]'s snap count up. We had gone into the football game trying to shave a few plays from Khalil to have him fresher in the fourth quarter of the game. You've seen Ray-Ray Armstrong out there a few times and Jamar Chaney out there a couple of times, so we tried to do that early in the game, but as the game went on we weren't able to do that with the injuries being the way they were."

Q: What is the nature of LaMarr Woodley's injury?

Coach Sparano:"Well, I'm going to wait on that one until …"

Q: You got a couple plays out of Benson Mayowa…

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, he actually did a good job of, you know he played [34] plays and then he played another 16 or 17 [15] on special teams. Going from really 7 or 8 plays in the first two games to almost 50 plays in this game. He made some plays, he was active, he was around the ball. It was good to see a young player thrown into the mix in that situation, do some things like that. By nature, he's really more of a rusher, but he made some plays in the run game yesterday. Both he, and I thought Khalil Mack was outstanding yesterday at times in the course of the game and I really thought that Charles Woodson was outstanding in the game yesterday too. We had a lot of guys play, I thought, play pretty well, but those two players stuck out to me as playing really good games."

Q: When you hear guys like Charles Woodson and Antonio Smith say they don't really know where to go from here and they are trying, how do you address that?

Coach Sparano:"Well I addressed it this morning a little bit with them. And listen, they are trying, and that's a good thing right now for us. They're trying. Our business is this is, it's obviously a result-driven business and the pay day is a win. So, to our players, to our fans, to our owner, to everybody, to us as coaches, at the end of it all when you don't get the win, naturally, the first instinct is to turn around and think, 'Where do we go from here? What do we do? How do we do this?' I think what we have to be able to identify is are we getting better? Are there areas where we're getting better? Are we getting better at the things that we're emphasizing right now? There are some areas there that we're getting better in. As I said to you before, I can really look at the film in the last couple of weeks and see, at times in this game there was great passion, there was great enthusiasm. It was all that there, fundamentally we did some better things. We missed a few tackles yesterday, which we didn't do the week before. One of those resulted in a 37-yard play early in the game, really it should have been a three yard play. We missed a couple tackles in that situation. But, all that being said, I can identify with a lot of things to the players right now. I can identify a lot of different scenarios to them that we're getting better in. We just need to get the result. We're going to keep working at it until we get the result. As I said to them today, look, we're either all in this thing or we're not. To a man, I believe that everybody in that room is in it. Now, I don't know what goes on outside that room and quite honestly, I don't really care. I worry about what goes on with those 53 players and that practice squad and that room and those coaches in that room and that's what I have to concern myself with on a daily basis. I can't worry about who's saying what and why and how come and any of those type of things or any of those things. This week it's going to be how come you guys haven't won a game on the other side of the turnpike in however long or whatever the case that is. I'm not worried about any of those things. I'm worried about what our players think and what we as coaches think, and then how we implement it from there. Right now there is a great belief in that room that we're going to get this thing turned around and that we are getting better. It's just they don't have the tangible evidence, which is a win. That's the thing that disappoints me the most right now. I just really want them to feel what that's like, to win one of those kind of games."


Q: At an 0-6 start, is it at a point now where you are playing for pride?**

Coach Sparano:"No, I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't say we're playing for pride at this point at all, but there are prideful guys in the room there. Now, I've seen a lot of crazy things happen in this league right now, and I don't know, unless you guys have a crystal ball at the end of this, I don't really have one, but I've seen a lot of crazy things happen in this business and they didn't happen after six games. Nobody is handed the trophy at the end of six weeks. If so, there would probably be four or five of them given out right now. In my mind, we have 10 games to go right now. I've seen teams get into this tournament with eight wins, with nine wins, whatever the case is. That isn't really our concern right now. Our concern is getting one win and winning the next game. That really has to be our focus, because if we look at the picture down the road right now, the parade might pass us by. That happened to a few teams this week in this league. We're not going to do that. We're going to worry about the Cleveland Browns right now, getting ready to play that game and winning that football game on the road and then letting the chips fall where they may. All we can do right now is control what we can control and that's the next game, and that's being really honest. If we look at the big picture, you can get really lost and sometimes you can get a little bit depressed looking at the big picture, if you choose to. I don't choose to get depressed, I choose to take on the challenge of playing the next game and worrying about winning that game."

Q: Were Marcel Reece and Justin Tuck Saturday decisions?

Coach Sparano:"They were Saturday decisions, and quite honestly, they were my decisions. I worked Justin out before the game. I did not work Marcel out before the game. I made those decisions in the best interest of the players at that point. I just didn't feel like at that time that it was the right thing to do. That was the decision that I made as we went forward, based on what I had watched in practice and some of the situations that I've been in in the past."

Q: Charles Woodson left the game just for a play, but went back out and played hard. If you look at his first play back out there, he was holding his hand…

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, he was holding his hand. To the best of my knowledge right now, obviously seeing Charles here today OK, I think he's fine. I think it was just a hit that he caught on it and bruised it. I think he'll be fine."


Q: Is there a possibility that Menelik Watson could hold on to that right tackle spot when Khalif Barnes gets healthy?**

Coach Sparano:"We're going to have some decisions to make. Menelik did a great job in there again yesterday. We have some decisions to make. Khalif has been a real staple for me in there, at a bunch of positions, as you know. I really feel like he's one of the leaders of that group and he hasn't been out there, but Menelik has done a really good job right now. We'll find ways to keep them all involved and to keep them all going. The good news is that he's a young player right now that is getting better. Gabe Jackson and Khalil Mack and the quarterback and TJ [Carrie] and so on, and so forth. We'll get some more good work out of DJ [Hayden] this week and see where we are." Q: Kenbrell Thompkins got a lot of snaps yesterday, but wasn't targeted much. Is that just lack of experience in the offense?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I think a little bit of that showed up when you watch the tape at different times. I give credit to him. He did a good job of learning this in a couple of weeks. In that phase of the game, particularly where he was in that package, he was in our 11-personnel package a lot. In that phase, things happen faster and the parts move faster. I thought he did a good job in the game. He didn't have a lot of minuses in the ball game. Just didn't have many opportunities. He had the one ball there where he had to go in there and dig it out, and that was really the only opportunity. I think slowly but surely here we will see his speed start to show up and see him start to do some things that way. The more confident he gets ,the faster he'll play. It was good to see 'D-Mo' [Denarius Moore] go in there yesterday and catch a ball and run with it again. That's two weeks in a row we've seen that from him, too."

Q: What are some things during the game that you can do to deal with adverse situations? Seems like after the pass interference call on Miles Burris, Arizona was able to move the ball. After the punt return was called back, the offense sputtered. What can you do to deal with adversity in the middle of the ball game?

Coach Sparano:"One of the things we talk a lot about and I always say is 'stop the bleeding.' We have to stop the bleeding there. When something happens like that, it can't be a situation where it lingers for two or three plays. We've got to do a better job of doing those types of things. There's no magic to that. Somebody has to step up in those situations and make a play. We've got to do a good job putting in the right call, and then somebody has to step up and make a play. Yesterday, the interception by Charles, for example, it was a great call. [Defensive coordinator] Jason [Tarver] did a great job making a nice call. We got pressure on the quarterback, which we talked about, and we've seen that. I mentioned that to you guys during the week. There were three times, a week ago, where Washington had the ball in their hands but didn't finish the play there. That was a scenario where we got pressure on the quarterback and the ball ended up in our hands and the short field worked in our favor. We need to score a touchdown there and not settle for a field goal in that situation. That was part of stopping the bleeding. We were down, whatever it was at that point, 14-0. Then all of a sudden we make a few plays, the offense takes the ball down the field, Derek makes a heck of a play with Brice [Butler] and we knocked the ball in the end zone there and come back off of that with the turnover and get some points out of that so we're right back in the football game again. That's the sign of a team continuing to compete and work hard. That games could have went the other way really fast. The guys in that locker room weren't going to let that happen."


Q: You mentioned that it's a good thing that the veteran players are still trying. Is that a big part of your job now, to make sure the veterans remained vested?**

Coach Sparano:"Yes. But, in saying that, the group that I have in there of veteran players are really, really good pros. Obviously they're good pros, they've been in this league a long time and that's not by mistake. I don't worry about those guys that way. I just really want them to feel a win. I want them to feel some form of payback for the amount that they've put in right now. I think once they do that and we get a win like that, some good things will start to happen. In fact, I'm sure of that. I don't worry too much about the group that way. I think they're all tough, hard players. If you're watching Charles yesterday, you're seeing a guy running around out there like, he might get mad that I say this, but he looked 25 or something like that. I know his birthday was the same as mine, so I'm not going to say how old he is. A guy like Donald Penn playing the way he is playing right now, I don't ever worry about whether or not Donald Penn is going to be ready to play. I don't ever worry about that. I watch those guys. Antonio, I don't ever worry about the effort I am going to get out of Antonio Smith. Carlos [Rogers], same thing. That group is a pretty good group. They're pretty grounded that way. I have to do a good job of making sure that I keep motivating that group. In doing that, a lot of it is just telling them the truth. I think the players like hearing the truth. I would rather hear the truth than someone blowing smoke at me. I've had that happen to me before, even as a coach sometimes, I don't buy into that blowing smoke stuff. Just tell me the truth, tell me where we are."

Q: What does it say about Matt Schaub that he would come here as the presumptive starting quarterback, and now he's being asked to be a placekick holder and he's fine with it?

Coach Sparano:"Just what I was saying before… He's an outstanding pro. He puts the team first. He's been tremendous with Derek Carr, tremendous. And now he's tremendous with 'SeaBass' [Sebastian Janikowski]. You talk about being an unselfish guy in this situation, and it's not an easy situation. It's not one that was popular at the time, I'm sure. He's done a really good job of separating that and understanding what his role is. He's preparing to go into the football game if he has to. For now, at this point in time, he knows that that's important as well. As we said last night, whatever the dynamic is there at that position, and that is tricky with that battery there, it worked yesterday."

Q: Brice Butler has made some big plays the last few weeks. He only had 11 snaps yesterday. What can he do to get on the field?

Coach Sparano:"Brice has 11 plays there, 12 plays on special teams yesterday. So his count was in around 23, 24 plays. To get him more involved offensively, we probably have to look at where some of the other plays are. Yesterday we tried to get Kenbrell involved, so his play count was up a little bit higher. We probably have to spread that out a little bit more within that group."

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