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Coach Sparano Breaks Down Loss to Denver


Q: Any injury updates on DJ Hayden or Menelik Watson?

Coach Sparano:"Nope, none."

Q: Was Watson diagnosed with a concussion? It just said that he was being evaluated.

Coach Sparano:"He got tested for it during the course of the game, so now you have to go through the whole protocol there in series of tests."

Q: You talked about responding to adversity in the middle of a ballgame. It seemed as though after the one long catch and run, the team seemed to be deflated after that. Can you talk a little bit about that moment?

Coach Sparano:"I think that leading up to that moment, obviously, it wasn't necessarily just the catch and run. It was the interception, I believe, prior to that, so there was a series of events that occurred there. There was an interception – I believe a penalty prior to that on a special teams play, then an interception and then a catch and run. The catch and run, we had three people there to make the tackle, three different guys that could've gotten him down on the ground and we'd be off the field and in the locker room at whatever it would be, 13-10, there in that scenario with us with the ball coming out. Deflating moment? I don't want to say that, no. I don't think that was a deflating moment at all. We had the ball coming back out. We had just done this last week. We'd been in this position before. Those are the things that I think we have to learn from, is we have to learn from the positions that we have been in and we have to continue to learn how to get out of those situations and how to handle those situations better. We were there a week ago and we came back out in the second half and we handled that situation well, and then one week later, we come out in the second half and we don't handle it so well. Those are the things that you've got to learn from and when you have a combination of very young players and veteran players, those are things that everybody in the room can learn from – players, coaches, everybody has to learn from those situations."

Q: Giving the players the day off today, was that a planned thing or was that as a result of what happened?

Coach Sparano:"No, that's not a result of what happened. I kind of figured that's the way you guys would spin it, but it's not. We have several games here in the next couple days. Really, I've been through this thing over and over and over again. What I mean by that is I played on Thanksgiving 10 times in my career between the Cowboys and then the Jets and then we played last year. So I've played these kinds of games when you're playing three games in the course of 12 days, whatever it is. At some points, you've got to give the players a chance to stop for some gas somewhere, so I knew in my mind in advance that this was going to be a players' day off no matter what. I would have liked to have called it a 'Victory Monday,' but I knew either way I need to give them a day off here to get themselves healed up a little bit, to stop for gas here as we play two games here in – I mean, today is Monday, so whatever it is – nine days, 10 days. Then we can worry about the rest of that after that, which would be really our last stop for gas."

Q: As you prepare for the Chargers and how hard you practice, are you also looking forward to the Kansas City game?

Coach Sparano:"We started our preparation for Kansas City last week. What we did is at the end of the week when the game plan was done, I laid the schedule out for the coaches for the Thursday game. The coaches had the schedule and then we spent extra time on Kansas City in here on either Friday night and/or Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, getting ready for Kansas City, trying to do some homework on them and getting ahead a little bit that way. We'll do the same this week. We're on the road, so you can get some work done on the plane for Kansas City; you can get some work done that way. But we have practice on Monday when we get back, so we need to be ready to go for that."

Q: The players have said you do a good job of keeping the locker room together, but when losses continue to pile up like this, do you ever worry that maybe you will lose the locker room or the players will mail in the rest of the season?

Coach Sparano:"No, I don't worry about it. Honestly, I've been here before. I don't really worry about it. I stay true to me and what I believe in; I don't let anything else influence me that way. To be quite honest with you, I try not to let anything like that influence my team. It's hard. It's not easy. When I say that, I mean for the players. I feel for them. I told them last night, they deserve better than the result of that ball game yesterday. Our fans deserve better, our owner deserves better. Everybody deserves better, I get it. But as far as the people that are – the guys that are paying the price are in that locker room and they have to stay the course. They have to keep focused, stay the course. It's like I said to my coaches this morning: I woke up this morning, at some point the sun came up here – a little bit later today than normal, but it came up and it's a new day here and we're getting ready to go. We're getting ready to win a football game in San Diego. Why not?"

Q: How much are you involved with the offensive play calling, and has that increased recently? Will it increase going forward?

Coach Sparano:"No, it really hasn't increased recently. In fact, obviously coaching the line and coaching the team, that's a lot. I think with my schedule and the way I keep my schedule, by nature I'm a morning guy, so I like to be up early and get in here early, so that doesn't bother me at all. I just get a lot of my line stuff done in the morning and a lot of these things done later in the afternoon. But I have all the confidence in the world in [offensive coordinator] Greg [Olson] and I think Greg's done a very good job since I've been here with Greg as far as him running his room and doing the things he needs to do that way. At this point in time, everybody's looking for answers and we have to stay the course in what our beliefs are."

Q: Were Derek's struggles yesterday just typical ups and downs for a rookie? What do you attribute that to?

Coach Sparano:"Probably just ups and downs. I think you have to give credit to the opponent. I think they did a nice job, no doubt about it. They're a good defense. With that being said, there are a lot of people that are out there, it's not just Derek. I know we want to make this just about Derek, but it's not really just about Derek. I thought at times in the game yesterday, the kid really did some good things, and then there are times during the ball game yesterday that you can tell that everybody at one point was trying to do maybe a little bit too much – everybody across the board. Whether it was on defense, whether it was in the special teams area of on offense, you're trying to do a little bit more. Sometimes you just have to do your job. Just do your job. Not everybody has to be the bus driver. Just do your job and let everybody else do their job, and we'll be OK. I think in some of those scenarios … If I'm correct, I believe Derek has told you that. In fact, he's told you that exact quote. I need to do my job and so on. When I say that, I am not just talking about Derek. I am talking about everybody on the football team just doing their own job right now, and we'll be OK."

Q: What can you learn from the last meeting with San Diego and apply to this week?

Coach Sparano: "I think you can learn that it's a team – first of all, no disrespect to them – but it's a conference game, a divisional game … We gave ourselves a chance to win once. Why can't we win it again? We're in their place. They're coming off of a bye, but those aren't excuses. We get a chance to play them again and see whether or not we can get it right. They've been in two hard football games lately too. So, it hasn't exactly gone their way. I'm sure they're not thinking a whole lot about that right now in that situation. They are just worrying about getting it right, we're just worried about getting it right. It's a game that you can learn from, no question about it. Whenever you play somebody twice in a short period of time. It's really been a month. Not a lot has changed, I'm sure."

Q: James Jones had eight catches for 20 yards. What does that number tell you? Is that just a problem in the scheme or just how the game went?

Coach Sparano: "It just says to me that he caught some balls and they tackled him fast. The opportunities weren't down the field yesterday for him. We threw him a couple of screens. They got tackled. We tackled them on a couple of screens too. We didn't tackle them on a couple of screens, and those became decent plays. That just tells me that James didn't have the opportunities down the field that I think the normally gets during the course of a game. The opportunities to get him the ball were in the under areas of the field or on the perimeter areas of the field; those type of things. Those are the things that are the seeds that can be planted in the players' heads – that I know you guys love to plant – that can grow differently. But, that's not something really that we're concerned about."

Q: Is getting yards after catch more of a receivers' physicality to gain those yards or is it the scheme to have the receiver in position to catch the ball and go?

Coach Sparano: "It's a little bit of both. Yesterday, they caught a ball down there right around the eight-yard line, and it was pure physicality. The guy caught a screen on the eight-yard line and got the ball in the end zone and it was pure physicality. That was a physical run after the catch. There was a fundamental thing, a technique that was to be played there that wasn't quite played exactly the way … But some of those screens, like yesterday, a couple of their screens that came out, there were some guys that were unblocked that we had a chance to make a play and we did in some of those occasions. We tackled Wes [Welker] a couple of times, I think, behind the line of scrimmage that ended up being minus plays. We've actually done a pretty good job of that prior to a couple of them getting out in this ball game, or at least a good job of that since probably London. I think that's the last time I've seen those things really come out on us. And then yesterday a couple of them came out on us here yesterday. It was really a result of physical runs, a guy breaking  tackle and some missed tackles."

Q: From the point of your offense, you had a lot of completions but not nearly as many broken tackles and things that they had …

Coach Sparano: "Yeah. They weren't screens. I think we threw a couple of screens. We had one screened called to Darren in the game. Darren got tripped up on Austin [Howard], who was coming out on a pull, which was set up to be a pretty good play at that point. It looked we had a lot of air in the play. Then we threw a wide receiver screen, maybe to James, I think it was to James, out there. That one got tackled on the perimeter, so we have to do a little bit better of a job of that because those are stealing plays. When I say stealing plays, you'd like to believe that you can catch those and get up into the shoot with them a few times. In the last couple of weeks, James has run one in there, [Andre] Holmes has run one in there, 'D-Mo' [Denarius Moore] has run one in there for a few yards, so we have made some of those plays. We just didn't make them yesterday."

Q: Going back to Derek, we've talked before how even after losses he stays positive. Yesterday, he seemed a little frustrated. Have you taken him to the side since the game?

Coach Sparano:"I have not talked to Derek today, no. I didn't talk to him after the game. By the time I got out of the locker room yesterday, everybody was gone. It was a ghost town. I will get a chance to sit down and visit with him. We'll get a chance to talk a little bit there. One thing I told Derek when I started this thing was that I don't want to be in his way. I want to make sure that my message is clear to him and that he understands by message. I think he does a good job of getting my message. When he doesn't have it, he'll ask. He and I are on the same page that way. I also don't want to be in his way. I think 'Flip' [quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo] and 'Oly' [offensive coordinator Greg Olson] have done a good job with him. Everybody wants to say that Derek is playing this way, playing this way, or playing this way. Up until this ball game, everybody thought Derek was playing pretty darn good to the best of my knowledge. You can't point the finger in one situation and say that these guys aren't doing X, Y, and Z and yet they coach that player. Something has to be going right there. In that situation, those two guys do a great job of coaching him. I try to stay out of the way of that. I learned a long time ago from a pretty darn good football coach in this league that too many chefs in the kitchen isn't good news."

Q: You said last Friday that TJ Carrie was limited, but you never know. Did you discover Sunday that he wouldn't play?

Coach Sparano:"Sunday. We worked him out Sunday before the game. I told you guys I don't lie to you. We worked him out Sunday before the game and he just wasn't ready. He was limited in practice during the week. We saw some things there that led us to believe that he could be ready. But, then we gave him a good workout at the game and it just wasn't going to be ready in that kind of game. It wasn't going to be right. We made the decision not to do it. At one point in the game, we were down a few more DBs in the course of the ball game at different points and times."

Q: For awhile, the defense was holding up with guys like Brandian Ross and Larry Asante …

Coach Sparano:"It was holding up. Listen, we have a philosophy that is next man up. We brought Larry back here because Larry had good recall and we thought Larry did some good things initially when he was here. The thought there was that … Obviously when Usama [Young] got hurt, Tyvon [Branch] got hurt, we needed to find another safety. We brought Larry back here in that situation. He ended up having to play when we moved Brandian down low. Credit to the defensive guys and being able to get those guys ready to go and it held up for a little while. There was one point during the game where we didn't have those bodies available. We were in base and those guys are in sub, and that matchup there is a hard matchup at that point."

Q: With you guys struggling to throw the ball downfield, how much of that is wide receiver separation? I'm sure Derek is going through his progressions, but are guys just not open enough for him?

Coach Sparano:"We can do a better job of getting separation all across the board. We can do a better job of getting separation, we can do a better job of getting them in positions to get them more separation. We have to continue to do those things. That's really where it is. Yesterday was really the first time that we had the full complement of wide receivers there. Kenbrell [Thompkins] was back and Vincent [Brown] was back, so it was the first time. I had to use 'D-Mo' [Denarius Moore] to return punts yesterday, which he had a really good return there called back by a penalty. That was the first time that we were able to do that. Those guys have been working really hard. It's just getting all of them on the field together with the quarterback and getting those kinds of reps helps with the separation part of it. The quarterback getting a chance to be more familiar with those guys."

Q: What was the problem running the ball yesterday?

Coach Sparano:"Attempts. Not enough. We had some efficient runs there early in the game. I think our first run was three yards, maybe we had a six yard gain I believe it was the next run and then we tried to reverse out of there and DeMarcus [Ware] made a nice play on the reverse which was a way to get the ball on the perimeter a little bit and try something that way. It's a play that we've been working for quite some time, but he just made a good play. He stood flat-footed and turned the ball back inside and made a nice play on it. So, of your 15 plays, we had two really reverses in there. We ran a jet sweep down there to 'D-Mo' [Denarius Moore] in the tight red area and then we ran that reverse, really you're at 12 plays and one of them was on the minus one-yard line coming out, so we ran the ball really 11 times, whatever it was there, so I think it's attempts. I think right now that's the biggest thing is attempts. We've got to continue to grind in that area. I sat here last week and I told you the truth, nobody wanted to hear the truth. That was the truth. I can't sit here and tell you that this week. I can't tell you that there was color in our backfield, there was this, there was that. Von Miller made a play on one run coming at him in one of those situations where he hopped around us and made a nice play in the backfield. That was really the only time that showed up within the run game. There was a six-yard run in there, there was a four-yard run in there, there was a five-yard run there. Those are efficient plays in those situations. There wasn't a 25-yard run in there, that's what we need to get. We need to start to get these guys to the second level more and try to get some of these bigger runs out. But, bottom line is more consistency to take some of the pressure off of Derek [Carr]."

Q: How do you get more attempts?

Coach Sparano:"How do you get more attempts? You convert more on third down, you get off the field more on third down so you give yourself more at-bats. Yesterday I believe we were 24 percent or 23 percent [28 percent], whatever it was, on third down. That wasn't very good. I think we had nine three-and-outs yesterday in the game. That's not going to get you more attempts and I think you've got to have the game in a manageable situation. Again, I'm going to give you an answer to a question that you're not going to like and nobody else is going to like, but it's the truth. I would imagine that if I came in here today and I handed the ball off 15 times in the fourth quarter of the game yesterday that I'd be getting asked, 'What the heck is he doing? Why would he hand the ball off 15 times when the score is 30-something to whatever?' That would be the question that I would get asked. The truth is we were in two-minute offense from six minutes left in the third quarter until the end of the game. You're not going to get many rushing attempts out of that. The score has got to be… I mean, we've got to have ourselves in the football game. Now we've been in a few football games recently, so you can go back to that and you can say, 'But Coach, you've been a couple games and you haven't…' But we had to come back and battle back in the Seattle game and get ourselves back into that football game to stay the course, so that I think is probably, that's not probably, that is the answer. From our end we've got to convert more on third down and we've got to get off the field on third down. They were whatever, 45 percent [47 percent], somewhere in that range yesterday on third down and that's where it lies. IF you can get off the field and you can stay on the field a little bit more you'll be in good shape and you'll be able to hand the ball off a little bit more."

Q: So all of the components are fine, the line and the running backs, you just need more attempts?

Coach Sparano:"I didn't say fine, OK, so don't put words into my mouth that way, [San Francisco Chronicle reporter] Vic [Tafur]. What I'm trying to tell you is that, I'm not telling you that everything is hunky dory okay? We've got to block it better, we've got to do all those things better. I've got to get it, I've got to do a better job. We've all got to do a better job. But, do I believe schematically right now that we're doing the right things? Yes, I do."

Q: Have you been disappointed with Maurice Jones-Drew's performance? Was his hand injury really a setback?

Coach Sparano:"No, well I think his hand injury was a setback at the time. I don't think that's an issue anymore right now, his hand injury. I just think, again, Maurice falls, I'm trying to think of 'Mo' [Maurice Jones-Drew]'s play count yesterday, it was somewhere in the mid-twenties. So, I think he had mid-twenties. [Latavius] Murray had maybe 15 and 'D-Mac' [Darren McFadden] maybe had 30-something, somewhere around there as a play count. I just think that you're trying to roll three guys through there, we do want to see a little bit more Latavius and there's just not enough to go around. A lot of times they're in there they're in pass protection or in a route some place. So, I haven't been disappointed with what 'Mo' has done. I mean, 'Mo' caught the ball last week, got up the field. He had a good run in there this week, he had a six-yard run in there this week that he made a nice shallow cut on and got up the field in. So, when asked to do his job, he does his job like a good pro."

Q: With a couple minutes left in the first half and you got the ball back, were you thinking let's go down and score before the half or that you didn't want to give Peyton Manning the ball back?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, that's a really good question, a really good question. There's a lot of things going through your mind at that point. Quite honestly, at times you probably wish that there wasn't that many things going through your mind at that point, wish you could take one of those equations out of there, but the fact is that you do have a player on the other sideline who I've been part of beating me, like I told you, I've had the ball for 47 minutes against the guy and he beat me with a minute and eight seconds left in the game. So, you've got to be careful how much time you're leaving him. It was 13-10 and we were getting the ball coming out. We deferred purposely, put our defense out there purposely, challenged them, challenged our defense the night before and our defense answered the challenge, the night before, to get them off the field. They're the number one scoring team in the league prior to this game on the first possession of the game, which also, they're the number one scoring team in the league in the red area and we held them to two field goals. That hasn't been done. They've scored touchdowns in 18 straight possessions down there. So, our defense goes out, gets us the football, DJ [Hayden] makes a heck of a play. We get to the quarterback and then the offense turns it over into some points in that situation. As the game went on, and before the end of the half it's 13-10 and you're getting the ball coming back out, there's part of me that knows that you've got to take advantage of the opportunities when the opportunities are out there. You've got to try to get points. Field goals aren't going to be good enough in this kind of game so you've got to try to get points, but yet you don't want to leave this guy enough time to do what he did. We threw the ball, we tried to run it I think once in there and then we threw it. They had a full allotment of timeouts, so they could have stopped at any time they wanted. We knew we need to get first downs or they were going to stop the clock and they were going to get another possession out of the thing, and they did. They got another possession out of it and they took their shot. My mindset was, at the time, to try to score points but to use as much of the clock as I possibly could and that didn't play out that way because we had a couple incompletions… I think that was one where Derek [Carr] kind of scrambled to the right and had to throw the ball out of bounds, one of those scenarios and then we punted it and then he threw the ball down the field on us."

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