Coach Sparano Breaks Down Win Over Chiefs

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Q: Several of your players have talked about all the hours you put in, that you come in at 4:30 in the morning every day. Did you let yourself come in at 5:00 today?

Coach Sparano:"My wife asked me that question this morning. I was the first person at Starbucks this morning, I'll put it that way. I left the house at 4:30 and I was in here this morning. But, I have every intention of walking out of this building today when the sun is still up, hopefully."

Q: Do you have an update on Latavius Murray?

Coach Sparano:"No, he left the game last night and then he's get to go through the battery of tests here. We'll see in the next few days with him."

Q: I don't know if you've ever received a game ball before, but how much did that one mean?

Coach Sparano: "I have gotten some game balls before. Quite honestly, probably none more meaningful than that one. I say that because of what this team has been through and how far we've had to come; and how much the guys have stayed together in that locker room. I really appreciate it last night, it was nice. But really, they're the ones that deserve the game balls. Our owner [Mark Davis], our GM [Reggie McKenzie], those people and all of our fans that were out there last night. It was fun last night to go out to dinner and see Oakland Raider fans out there last night with a smile on their face. It was good."

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Q: There was 5:05 to go and you had all of your timeouts, and it was fourth-and-1. You hadn't had a lot of success with short yardage this year, but was there any thought to that at all?**

Coach Sparano:"There was no thought of it at all. I felt like we needed to go for it there. We did have one quick, 'Should we knock them down in there?' But I felt like at that point there, we were just playing well enough up front and we were going to get the yard. That was our best chance to win the football game right there. I felt like we had some real momentum going at that point. In that drive, I think it was like around seven minutes when we got the football and we had run the ball seven times in that drive and six of them were good, solid, efficient plays. So, in my mind there, I was going to go for it and try to extend the drive there. The thought was, I had three timeouts and in that situation there, I could possibly have two possessions."

Q: Some of the issues with short yardage have been when you've handed the ball off.

Coach Sparano: "We used the real big back last night. We used Derek [Carr] a little bit. To be honest, it was just one of those things where we felt like we were getting some good push inside and rather than take the ball off the line of scrimmage in that situation, let's let Derek get the thing. In a break in the action, we called him over and he said, 'I'll get it, I'll get it.' The line was pretty convinced, he was pretty convinced so it was an easy decision when you got guys feeling that way."

Q: Could you envision using Marcel Reece how you did in that final drive in the future as well?

Coach Sparano:"I can envision doing it. I said it last night, I had him involved in the week before, but it just never came full circle because we didn't have the number of attempts. Last night, I felt like that was an opportunity for a big back. The runs that we were going to make last night were downhill runs. They were downhill, unpopular, in-between-the-tackle runs. At that point, I felt like Marcel could give us something there. I've seen it happen before. I've seen him do it before. He's a guy that I'm really proud of because he'll do whatever you ask him to do. He's been outstanding that way. Giving him the ball in those situations, he was pretty wired up at that point and running the ball hard, which was good to see."

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Q: Looking back, do you think that maybe Latavius Murray should have gotten the ball earlier in the year?**

Coach Sparano:"No, I don't ever look back. Latavius played nine plays last night. I know what he did, but he played nine plays and unfortunately got hurt. He had a heck of a run. He also had the ball out one time which we need to get corrected. There are plenty of things on this film that we have to get corrected. The ball was on the ground three times at some point and the ball was on the ground once for them and we didn't come up with it. So, we've got a lot of things to get corrected off of this film, but Latavius played nine plays yesterday. The plan was to play him more, no question about it and he had things going pretty good, ran the ball hard, and he'll continue to get more snaps, but like any young player there is a progress that you've got to see before you feel like you're going to put him out there and just put him into those situations. I've had to see that in practice and little by little I've seen it and this has been kind of been where it has gone. In other words, to a point where he should be getting more snaps."

Q: When you watch the Sio Moore and Khalil Mack celebration, do you chuckle over it?

Coach Sparano:"No, I don't chuckle over it, no, no, no. I don't chuckle over it. I can just imagine what the headline would be today, so I don't chuckle over it. I've got to try to answer this right. I want my team to play with a lot of enthusiasm and I want them to play with a lot of passion and those are two young players that honestly played their tails off last night. Between the two of them, they just played their tails off. But, we've got to play smart and we can't cost the football team in those situations, and both of them know that, they know it. It's not one of those things – I had kind of seen something or overheard something like, 'Well a win and everybody forgets.' No, you can't forget about that, you've got to learn from it, and these are young players that have to learn and you've got to learn that those are situations. We always talk about football awareness and football situations, situational football during the course of the game. That's an odd one, because you usually think you're off the field on third down, we just got them off the field and then all of a sudden they're lined up on the football and they're ready to run a play and you've got a problem. So, I don't know who got there first, whether it was [Justin] Tuck or me, or me or Tuck, but that's just the way it had to happen at that point. But, that's something that I think both players will learn from and it's a lot easier making those corrections after a win, but nonetheless, they've got to be corrected."

Q: Obviously you'll have something to say to them, but Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck have already had something to say to them…

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I don't know if I have to say a whole lot right now, but we do always talk about, at the end of games, these are really smart plays in the football game. We'll even show plays from other teams during the course of the week. [Senior offensive assistant] Al Saunders does a great job of that. In two minute, you'll see teams, in two-minute situations, not handle the ball efficiently and you can watch the clock go tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Or throw the ball to the official and maybe the official, the official is not a wide receiver, he doesn't catch the ball and then tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. So, there are a lot of things to learn from there. This is another one of those learning situations. I was involved in one of those a long time ago in Cleveland, it was a little bit different, but, well a little bit different, but it ended up hurting us."

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Q: Can you talk about Larry Asante's play last night?**

Coach Sparano:"Larry, really, I can't say enough good things about Larry because he's – think about where this guy was three weeks ago. Like three weeks ago he was like on the street, he wasn't on a team and he's bounced back and come back in here and he's played 69 plays in one game, yesterday I think he combined plays, probably played about, almost close to 70 plays in the game between special teams and what he did on defense and he made a lot of critical tackles. I think he brings a little bit of [physicality], a little bit more [physicality] back there too, but he made some really big plays, some open field plays that could have went for bigger plays in the game and he showed up and did a good job there. I thought there were a few guys yesterday that really did some outstanding things like that, that kind of, you don't really recognize it, but it was really effective and I think he was one of them, without a doubt. I thought Brandian Ross was outstanding yesterday. When you really look at what he did yesterday, for the amount of work he took in the slot during the week, and again the week wasn't a fast paced week, it was a slow week that way as far as practice goes, the amount of work he had to take in the slot and the way he played last night I thought was really good. He's a guy that I thought did a nice job out there and I'm not talking about the [Charles] Woodson's or the [Justin] Tuck's or any of those people, you talk about kind of unsung guys. I thought yesterday Austin Howard probably played his best game yesterday. I thought he did a really good job in the inside there. I really felt Austin [Howard] during the course of that game yesterday."

Q: You had talked leading up to the game that Kansas City's return units were very good. Is that one of the areas of corrections you'll be focusing on?

Coach Sparano:"Absolutely. We have to make some corrections. We have to make smarter plays. We have some guys on our team right now whose job at this point … You can be in this league or you can be out of this league fast, based on what you do in special teams, particularly if you're not a starter. We have some guys on this team right now whose job it is to do some things on special teams. That's going to important for us. There are some guys that are really doing a tremendous job. When you watch a guy like Neiko [Thorpe] play on special teams, or like Chimdi [Chekwa] on special teams, those guys really go and play hard in those units. They're factors in those units. There are a couple guys that we've got to get more from. That could have really hurt us yesterday. Had we not had the kind of night we had offensively last night, because defensively we've been playing pretty good the last couple of weeks, but offensively had we not had that kind of night last night, that probably would have hurt us at the end of the whole thing."

Q: Is there some optimism that TJ Carrie or Gabe Jackson could be ready for the Rams?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, there is. There's optimism. Again, I say that today and just went over a few of those things a little while ago. But yes, there's optimism there." 

Q: The third-down defense has had a huge improvement the last few weeks. What's been the key to that?

Coach Sparano:"I think a few things. I think one of the things is that we've kind of simplified what we're trying to ask them to do. We just do it a bunch of different ways. The kids are getting a pretty good grasp of that. I think that we're challenging people a little bit more out there at the corner positions and in the secondary. We're able to challenge guys a little bit more. I think the pressure we're able to get on people right now. Yesterday, you watch that game, I thought Justin Tuck had a positive play, and I mentioned this last week so it's two weeks in a row, but he had a positive play one out of every five snaps in the game. When I say a positive play, like he affected something. He either knocked the ball down, he hit the quarterback twice at the end in the final drive with two really good rushes. You see some of that pressure coupled with what's happening with Antonio [Smith] and Khalil [Mack] right now. They're starting to work together pretty well. You get a little more pressure and get the ball out a little faster. You're challenging, you're contesting balls. That's something that we've worked on in practice quite a bit is contesting footballs. I think we're starting to understand a little better in the secondary some of the pattern matches and really able to apply our rules that way."

Q: How important was it for Derek Carr to have put together a game-winning drive at the end of a game like this?

Coach Sparano:"I think it was really important. That's why I thought it was important that we left him in the game two weeks ago. I think it's important that a young quarterback gets to finish off drives and finish off ball games like that and just gets in a habit. Whether the ball game against San Diego at that point – or whatever it was – was out of hand or not out of hand – or Denver – out of hand or not out of hand, he put together a drive at the end of the game like that. I think it was critical last night. I think it was important for Derek. Our team believes wholeheartedly in Derek Carr and so do I, but I think for him to put that kind of drive together and to see – I mention this, you need the support of the people around you to make some plays for you, and to see what the line did during that period there and how we were able to rush the ball and take some of the pressure off of him. But to see him make the big throw to [Mychal] Rivera there, that was a really big play for us in that drive. And then the touchdown pass – first of all, it was a great route by James [Jones]. To make that throw in that situation, there was just a bunch of phases working together there. There was really good protection down there at that point. He had some time for James to make the double move and James ran a good route. It was kind of everybody working together down there and I think that's important for a young quarterback, too. I really felt like that was a key point for him."

Q: Derek Carr said on the radio this morning that his big celebration was getting a turkey burger after the game. Is it nice to have a guy that grounded as a rookie that you don't have to worry about him?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, no question about it. There was no fear last night that I was going to hear about Derek Carr. He's done a nice job. That's always a good thing, if that's the celebration. I overheard that he left his uniform on a little longer than everybody else, so those are good problems. As long as when he was eating that turkey burger he was smiling, that's the biggest thing that matters."

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