Coach Sparano Turns Attention Toward Chiefs

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Opening statement:"Injuries today: David Ausberry did not practice today with a foot; Derek Carr was limited today with a quad; TJ Carrie did not practice today with an ankle; Jonathan Dowling did not practice today with a back; Gabe Jackson was limited today with a knee; and Carlos Rogers did not practice today with a knee. Good meetings today, a little walk-through practice here this evening – got some work accomplished there and getting ourselves ready to go."

Q: Did you spend less time going over the San Diego game than you normally would, or did you cram it in there?

Coach Sparano:"No, we spent less time. We spent less time."

Q: Did you sleep much?

Coach Sparano:"No, three hours to be exact."

Q: Can you talk about the challenges of trying to cram stuff in? I know you have been prepping for Kansas City for a while now.

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, there are challenges any time you do this, but obviously every team in the league has to do this at some point, where you're playing on a short week. I've done it a bunch of times. The challenges are more in getting the players' routine down more than anything else. I think we did a good job here today of trying to keep practice at a time when the game is going to be played, so that was really important for us today – to give them maximum rest between the time that the game ended yesterday and the time we actually took the field today."

Q: Is there a question in your mind that Derek Carr can play on Thursday?

Coach Sparano:"No. He just came in today a little bit sore, but he took his reps today. We'll see how he is tomorrow."

Q: Antonio Smith said last week that you gave the team a quote and they really responded and hung onto it. Can you share with us what the quote was?

Coach Sparano:"Well, I'd probably rather not, but I do that a lot. When I say a lot, I do it when I feel like there's a message that needs to be made, a point that needs to be made. In this particular situation, there was a point that needed to be made and I made it. I think the players grabbed it pretty good and that's something that they held onto it. I've got to come up with a new message because it didn't completely work."

**

Q: Latavius Murray responded when his number was called, and for whatever reason, things have just not worked out with Maurice Jones-Drew. Do you think that Latavius maybe deserves a bigger role in that rotation?**

Coach Sparano:"I think Latavius did a good job yesterday with the carries that he had. I think that he ran the ball well. Not taking anything away from Latavius – he made one run in there that I thought was very good. Really a good run – saw it well, did a good job there. It was into a pressure and it was a big run. I think he made another run in there that was blocked very, very well. I think that any of the guys that were running it there at that point would have made a bunch of yards there. I think Latavius did a good job. His number was called, he made some plays. He played a little bit more yesterday and he's going to continue to do that. I like what I've seen out of him so far. So in a roundabout way, I'm saying yeah, you're going to see more of him."* *

Q: When you look back at that tape, do you feel like you should have gotten another play at the end of that game?

Coach Sparano:"To be honest with you, I thought when the clock went off – or when the ball landed – I thought that I had one more second. I asked – I wasn't asking, I was trying to tell at that point that there was one more play, but it seemed that there wasn't."

Q: Was there ever a conversation with the officials about it at all?

Coach Sparano:"No."

Q: After sitting down and reviewing the tape, were you able to figure out where that breakdown came from on the first play? Was it Stefen Wisniewski? Was it Derek?

Coach Sparano:"I'm not going to point blame or who it was or what it was or any of those things. Well, who it was – I would tell you what it was. It was we were at the line of scrimmage with a particular play called and it had, as I mentioned last night, it had a second play attached to it. Then there was a series of communication things that take place there – not much, but I think it got a little loud down there and that caused the issue. As much as you practice with the noise and those kind of things, sometimes that can be a little bit of an issue. But I answered a lot of these questions about the game last night, last night. This is a short week, so right now I'm all about [Thursday] and I'm getting ready to play the Kansas City Chiefs."

Q: Any thoughts on the Chiefs? What kind of team are they? They've won several ball games in a row here.

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, they've won five in a row. They're a good football team, a well-coached football team, a good team, a physical team, a team that can possess the ball for long periods of time. They do a tremendous job keeping the ball on third down. This will be a game – one of the few games right now that we've played in, to be quite honest with you – where we'll be taxed. When I say that, I mean sometimes you can go into games and on paper you have an advantage in different areas. In this game here, we're going to have to play well in every phase of the game, obviously, which we have to do every week. Their special teams, their return game is very good, and that can be a real factor in this football game. So we have to do a great job from a special teams standpoint, which has been an advantage for us in the last few weeks. In other words, on paper, it's been an advantage for us – our returns teams versus our opponents. But in this ball game here, we've got to do a good job in that phase as well. They're an explosive team and they play real good defense, obviously, with two good rushers out there – one guy that's got a ton of sacks. They've got a great front – a big, physical bunch of guys. They get after you pretty good, and I know their defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and he brings a lot of different exotic pressures. He's from [New York Jets Head Coach] Rex [Ryan]'s school there and they'll come after us. They'll challenge us a bunch there."

Q: Do you anticipate TJ Carrie's injury being something that needs to be managed throughout the week or maybe throughout the rest of the season?

Coach Sparano:"I hope not throughout the rest of the season, but it needed to be managed today in a short week. He played the whole game yesterday and he came in today and obviously was a little bit sore. As long as today the guys understand it mentally. The reps we took out there are important reps today, because those are the only reps that you'll get in that phase of the game. Those reps were missed by TJ, but tomorrow's a third-down day and that's going to be important for us, too."

Q: I assume Carrie did not return kicks specifically to keep him fresh to play slot corner?

Coach Sparano:"I made a decision that if TJ was ready to play in the game – if he was going to be ready to play in the game, I made a decision that I would not use him in that phase of the game. I felt like we needed him more from a defensive standpoint in that ball game. We used Latavius and Denarius [Moore] there."

Q: How much has Carrie not being there impacted the return game?

Coach Sparano:"I can't really answer that question right now. Obviously, he's a good returner, but I think 'D-Mo's a good returner. He's had some good returns when he's gotten the ball in his hands, and Latavius as well. But I don't know. I don't know what TJ would have did in that ball game yesterday. I know that was the right decision to make for yesterday's ball game."

Q: If Gabe Jackson is fully healthy, is it safe to assume he goes back in and starts?

Coach Sparano:"If Gabe is healthy, when Gabe is healthy, I would say that that answer would be yes. But we'll see what happens. We'll see when and if that comes. That 'if' wasn't today. He just started back today." 

Q: Do you see Derek's play as ascending or do you see him hitting a lull? How would you assess it?

Coach Sparano:"I don't think he's hitting lulls. I think he is getting better. Every week he gets better at something. When you look at the total body of work right now, you can't look at it one week at a time. In our league, there are 16 quarterbacks that don't play so good on a Sunday. Then, there are 16 other ones that play a little bit better. I think that you can't really assess one game or any of those types of things. I think you have to look and say, what is the total body of work right now? Where is he at this point in time? At this point in time, he's much further ahead than I would have anticipated back in Napa."

Q: What did he get better at this week?

Coach Sparano:"I thought he got better at this week at several things. I think he gets better in and out of the huddle. I think he gets better at the line of scrimmage seeing things. I think when he communicates on the sideline, it's very clear that he sees things. He doesn't not see things. He doesn't come to the sideline with no answers. I've been around guys that come to the sidelines with no answers. That's a scary thing. When you get around some of those guys, that's a problem. This guy has good answers. He knows exactly what he sees. He knows if he misses something, he's going to come to the sideline and tell you that he missed it. Those things there, I think he improved at. Was he as accurate with the football this week as he's been? Probably not. I think Derek would probably tell you that. I do think there are things there that he's gotten better at throughout the course of every ball game."

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Q: You talked recently about getting better at affecting the quarterback. You get to Philip Rivers twice yesterday and Khalil Mack got his first career sack. Can you talk about the pass rush?**

Coach Sparano:"You have to give credit to the guys up front and the coaches, too, because I think they've done a good job of using our parts to the best of their ability right now. I think one of the things we wanted to do in that football game, and I'm talking about a game that was yesterday but really it should be three days in my rear-view mirror, was get pressure up the middle. We got pressure from our front yesterday. Khalil, yes, he had a sack and he affected the quarterback and he drew a hold and harassed the quarterback several times there. I think a lot of that is also due to the fact that we were able to win some one-on-one matchups inside. Antonio [Smith] wins a one-on-one matchup inside. 'Jelly' [Justin Ellis] had a real good couple of rushes. [Justin] Tuck had a real big hit on the quarterback in a third-down situation. There are a bunch of them. When you look back at the film, we affected their quarterback way more than they affected our quarterback during the course of that game. We threw the ball 37, 38 times as well. At the end of the day, they made the plays to win the football game."

Q: Would the fact that you haven't won a game yet ever affect your coaching style? Would you ever throw caution to the wind or not really?

Coach Sparano:"That's a good question. Sure it would, yeah. I approach every game with the same mindset: we have to get in the left lane. We have to play in the left lane every single game, go as fast as we can and really take our chances when they present themselves. That's in any phase, offense, defense, special teams. It's in any phase. There are several opportunities yesterday on the field where I'm on the headset with the defense and I'm saying 'don't let your foot off, go, let's stay aggressive,' and J.T. [defensive coordinator Jason Tarver] would make the next call. When you get that kind of green light, it's a good feeling to have as a play-caller. I've been on the other side of the thing where [offensive coordinator] Greg [Olson] has tried to stay the course and I say 'let's go' and I was a line coach then, and I was saying let's go. Instead of running it, we have to throw it. We have to do this. Would it influence me? Yeah, sure, it could influence me a little bit. At this point, we're trying to win football games. Whatever way we have to do that now, I wouldn't do it at the expense of being stupid and hurting us in that situation. I wouldn't want to do that." **

Q: Is it difficult to stay aggressive offensively when you're having so much trouble moving the ball? Do you have to be less bold because you haven't been doing well?**

Coach Sparano:"I don't ever feel like we can't try it, I just know that the result could be whatever it is. If it's a first-and-ten play, you could be second-and-10. Or, you could be 31 yards or 40 yards down the field, whatever that play to Mychal Rivera was yesterday. In yesterday's ballgame, what's interesting is that we had four explosives; Kenbrell [Thompkins] had an explosive play, River had one and then we had two runs that came out of there that were explosive, both by Latavius [Murray]. That was four plays and going into that game we only had 18. There's no silver lining in that if you don't win the football game. Had you won it, you would have looked back and looked at those big plays. We didn't."

Q: Do you think games are won by the explosive plays or the five-, six- and seven-yard plays?

Coach Sparano:"That's a good question. I believe that it's a combination of both. I'm not taking the easy way out of that, I've said that before. I'm the one that talks about efficient runs. We came out in the second half of the football game and we ran the ball six times. Five of them were efficient plays. There were five in a row, to be honest with you. The very last play was a hand off to Latavius down in there when we had that drive that ended in the field goal. It was a hand off in there that was not an efficient play. We gained like two yards on the play. Short of that, we had a 22, we had a 15, a five, a seven. Those were all efficient plays. That's a good formula there if you can mix in an explosive here and you get a chunk play at some point in the course of the ball game."

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