Interim Head Coach Tony Sparano
On the game: "It's a heck of a team win. It really is. It's a good football team we just beat. A great way to end the season here in front of our fans, winning three games in a row here at home. Really happy for the fans. I'm really happy for the owner. Really happy for Reggie [McKenzie]. Happy for the guys in that locker room. I thought they fought real hard. I thought our defense played really well. I thought they got them off the field countless times. First half, early on, kept us in the game when we weren't in rhythm offensively. Then we got some things going offensively. I thought there in the second half, I think we had five stops in a row, three-and-outs, at some point. We got the ball moving on the ground a little bit and that turned it. For us, we were able to run the football and they weren't able to run the football. Time of possession was in our favor, turnovers were in our favor, penalties were in our favor. The guys just played really, really hard. It was a great team win."
Q: What was different with the passing game in the second half, struggled a little bit?
Sparano: "I think early in the game there was a couple of shots we took downfield that obviously those percentage balls are not going to be great. There's one or two I'm sure Derek [Carr] would tell you he'll have to see the tape, which coulda, shoulda, woulda, went down, but he took the chances. We had two plays in the second half that were 50-yard plays that were huge. We needed to create an explosive play and we did that. We felt like there were some things with Kenbrell [Thompkins] that we could get to and I thought Kenbrell had a couple of nice plays out there."
Q: After the last interception I think maybe they thought this game was over and it got kind of dicey there. Is that a good lesson that you have to play until it's over?
Sparano: "There's lessons every week in this league. Lessons every single week in this league. Yes, it's a good lesson. It gets dicey, but I don't know necessarily know that the guys thought it was over. They made a good play there; we missed a few tackles on one of those runs and the ball got out and they hit us on a quick score there just before the end, with about a minute left. This team, I can't say enough good things about this team. I really love the guys in that locker room. I think that they're fighters. Every time somebody counts them out, they bounce back. It's a great sign of character and they've got it."
Q: What does it say about the team that they've been out of the playoff race for some time, but three-straight home wins all against teams with winning records with playoff aspirations?
Sparano: "You guys write the story. I don't write the story. We just do what we do out there on the field. But what it says to me, but this team is hook, line and sinker, in. And they're in it for the long haul. And they fight. And they're tough. They're tough-minded guys. I get it; it's been kind of a rollercoaster. It's been up, its been down, its been up, it's been down, but every time we're down, and people want to count us out and we can make a million excuses for who, what, when and why for Buffalo or for any of those kind of things, but at the end of the day, we won the football game. We played a good football team and won the football game. There's no excuses there. We beat a good football team today."
Q: As a head coach, what are the challenges of coaching in this situation?
Sparano: "There's challenges every single week. That's a good question. There's challenges every week because these kids care. These men care. They really do. When they come in there on Monday after it doesn't go our way, it's my job to get in front of them and to show them some kind of strength and make sure that we have hope. We've been able to do that. Coaches have hung in there and have done a great job with that and coached their tails off. The veteran leadership on this team has done a good job; they really have. The young guys will do what the veterans do and when you see [Charles] Woodson coming in there and practicing every day, a guy that doesn't really want to come out of practice. You see Antonio Smith, Justin Tuck, Donald Penn, Khalif Barnes, the list is long, and they're great examples to learn from. I'm really, really fortunate. I really am."
Q: How happy are you to see Darren McFadden…
Sparano: "I was really happy about that. Darren made a couple good plays for us in there, did a nice job. Darren has hung in there and it certainly hadn't gone his way all the time, but this was a great opportunity for Darren to get out there and do some stuff. Latavius [Murray] was carrying it a bunch and we needed to get another guy in there and Darren went in there and he made some really big plays for us. I thought he did a good job, both those guys, in protection. Last week, I came up here and I said, 'we didn't play well up front.' I said that. This week we played pretty well up front. When you hold a team like that to not being able to rush the football and you turn around and rush it the way we rushed it and give up one sack to that front, that's all I heard about all week. That's not a mistake. Our guys played well up front."
Q: Do you feel like you deserve a chance to have this job next year?
Sparano: "Do I feel like it? Yes."
Q: Do you think you deserve it?
Sparano: "Do I deserve it? That's not for me to decide that. But, it's not for me to decide."
Q: Khalil Mack had a pretty good game. How do you attribute his game today?
Sparano: "I thought Khalil had them guessing, I thought, in the beginning part of the game. He's been getting better and better every single week. He's got a lot of gas in his tank, the kid does. I thought early in the game he was around him, he was hitting them, and doing a bunch of those things. He came to the sideline after one series where he just made a good hit and forced the ball to go to the ground and I told him, 'You've got this kid guessing right now. You're going to get there, just keep pushing. You're going to get there.' And he made a big sack out there for us. But this guy flies around all the time. Last week, again, I got back to that game where it didn't go our way and I turned the film on and watched the last three or four plays of the game and he's absolutely dominant on that film. I think it's going to be what makes this guy a special player down the road here. He still has a lot to learn obviously, but he's got a great toolbox."
Q: He wasn't in the game at the end.
Sparano: "A little bit of a cramp situation."
Q: The Bills have a good defense and made some pretty good quarterbacks look rather pedestrian. How were you able to overcome that? Was it something you saw on film?
Sparano: "Honestly, being able to run the football against that group and run it the way we were able to run it, I think gave us a good chance to be able to do that. We made some good runs in there. We stood the course. Greg [Olson] did a good job. Early in the game, we weren't really running it effectively. It was one yard, it was zero, it was four. It was six. I just said to him, 'Stay the course. We're going to be okay here.' There's some things…the looks were too good and I felt like we can make some yards in some of those situations. I think that had a lot to do with it. And then I think Derek made some good throws, made some deep throws. The one throw on the move there to [Andre] Holmes down the sideline that he makes is a heck of a play. That's something that Holmes has been able to do – go over the top of people and get the ball here. We were able to take advantage of that. Really, in the red area where we've been very, very good, there was some scenarios there where obviously in games like this against a good team, you want to score touchdowns down there, not kick field goals. So we knew that those things would hurt us, but the [Jamize] Olawale touchdown was a big play."
Q: The fans have been very loyal this season. What does it mean to see them the last home game of the season?
Sparano: "It was tremendous. It was something, really, that we talked about a lot this week is that we wanted to give our fans something special here this week and we wanted them to be begging for more at the end of this. Our fans have been tremendous. It makes it a hard place to play, no questions bout that. My hats off to them for sticking with us the way they've stuck with us. I know the team appreciates it and I appreciate it."
Q: Can you talk about the play of Thompkins? How has he progressed?
Sparano: "Kenbrell has gotten better and better. To be honest with you, we felt like last week there was a chance there to get Kenbrell going a little bit and we missed some opportunities and we just couldn't get him going. This week I practice had another good week of practice. The guy just goes out there and works really, really hard. I was glad to see him track the deep ball like that. That's something that he's done in practice quite a bit and Derek found him there and we had good protection there. He made a couple of catch and runs and that was good to see, so this guy is getting better, as well as some of our other younger players."
Q: What changes have you seen since you started?
Sparano: "I would say that some of the biggest changes that I've seen right now is…I just think this group is a resilient group. I love the way that they practice. They come out there and there's no nonsense. They're all business-like and they have fun. I think that's probably been the biggest change is we have a little bit of fun doing what we're doing right now. Work is not work. As I told them, we've got the best job in the world, so it's a fun job."
QB DEREK CARR
Q: On scoring against the Bills defense…
Carr:"I'm glad that we did, because you see what that defense did to them. The best quarterbacks, really to ever play this game, what that defense has done to them and it's like, you turn the film on and you see what they're doing and you know it's going to be tough. That start of it, it sure was tough, but Coach Olson did a great job of trusting in us and he did a great job of calling plays that he knew we'd win and they won, and so you've got to take your hat off to Coach 'Oly' [Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson] and that coaching staff because that's a really tough defense, obviously, we all know that, we can all feel that afterwards, but I'm glad that we got it going in the second half."
Q: The screen game has been iffy in the past, but it seemed to loosen them up a bit early on today…
Carr:"Yeah, that's so important to slow down the rush like that. You think about how much talent is on that line and let alone that whole defense. You have to hit some of those and the fact that they were big plays helped out so much. You know they're still going to be coming, but the fact that we could hit those screens and they were big plays, that helps out so much."
Q: On hitting Andre Holmes for the big gain on 3rd-and-22 after the scramble…
Carr:"If I had stayed in the pocket, I was going to wait as long as I could, give 'Dre' [Andre Holmes] a shot down the field, but I felt an escape alley in the rush, so I escaped and I was thinking about running but then I saw Andre one-on-one, so I gave him a chance and he made my day by making that play."
Q: When you had to throw the ball away it looked like you knew right away it wasn't there and you were already playing for that next play. Is that something that you know you would have something open on the next play or maturity and growing as a player?
Carr:"I don't want to say that about myself, but I hope it's that I'm getting more mature. I don't know if my wife would say that but I hope that that's what it is. Coach Olson and Coach Flip [quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo] work so hard at teaching me the situations in games, teaching me when to take a sack and really when not to take a sack. There are good and bad times for both. When a play's not there, someone is free, eliminating the hits that I take. That's something that has been number one since I got here. Protection first, eliminate every single hit that we can eliminate. So, doing that, we had to throw a lot of balls away today. You have to give them credit though because some of them were really covered and we knew that that was going to happen against a top defense like they are. Hopefully I'm just learning a little bit. I hope that's the case."
Q: Past teams have kind of quit once they're out of playoff contention. What has kept this team fighting?
Carr:"Absolutely. I can't speak for those teams, I don't know. I was not here, but what I can say is we're trying to change the culture and we are changing the culture here. We're trying to change the culture and we are, so even though it's not been how we want it to be, we know that if we keep fighting, keep working hard, eventually it's going to get there. So, finishing out 3-0 at home, finishing out the way that we can, all those things are so important in building this franchise. Once we were out of the playoff run, you can do one of two things, you can give in or you can bear down and keep fighting. It starts from the top down, from our headman, all the way through because I take his message, whatever he says, I go relay it throughout the week to the guys and we go out and fight. We definitely had to do that today."
Q: Do you think that Coach Sparano deserves a chance at retaining his job?
Carr:"I don't know. I made a comment on that earlier in the week and I know that Mr. Davis will do the best thing for this organization. I have complete faith in that and so I'll leave that to them to talk about those things, but Coach Sparano knows how I feel about him. I love the guy, we all love the guy, but that's in Mr. Davis' hands and we know he'll do the best thing for us."
Q: What happened when you went out of the game with an injury but came back without missing a snap?
Carr:"It would have been like last week on that third down. I got shooken up a little bit and I was hobbling and I wasn't the best option for our team at that time because I had to call a short pass, I wouldn't have been able to stand on it. So when this happened, my leg, without talking about the injury too much, it was better for me to take, not waste a timeout there, even though obviously we ended up taking a timeout, but trying not to waste a timeout, giving our team the best chance to get some yards back and I was going to be right back in. But if it was at that moment, I don't know if it would have been the best decision for our team. That's something that we talked about last week. There's no one that questions my toughness. They just say we have to be smart because on that third-down situation we can get a better play to push the ball down the field. So, I was just looking out for the team at that point."
Q: How nice was it to be able to steadily churn out yards on the ground?
Carr:"Especially against this defense, oh man. Obviously you turn on the first quarter, first half, we're like man, it's going to be tough sledding today. Our guys kept fighting and when that running game is going it helps everything, it helps everything out. Defense can't do certain things that they want to do and then when they do try and stop the run, you can take advantage of the certain things that they're trying to do. Coach Olson and our offensive staff did a great job of, really knowing when to call what. They did a great job, you've got to give them a lot of credit."
Q: Can you put your finger on why this team can play so well at home but hasn't been able to win on the road?
Carr:"We're growing. We're learning. We've got to learn how to take what we do here and go on the road and do it. Play with the same passion and intensity, our coaches say swagger. We have to take that – the way we can play here against some really good football teams, and do that on the road. We need to learn how to do that and it's something that we are learning to do. But it just hasn't happened yet. We know, like this whole thing has been, we're going to keep fighting, keep working, keep trying and eventually we'll get it right."
RB DARREN McFADDEN
Q: You were able to break off a couple of nice, long runs. How did it feel to get going again?
McFadden:"It just feels good to be out there and get in the open field, get a little space and be able to run."
Q: How do you feel like the offensive line played today?
McFadden: "The line did a phenomenal job back there. They were on their blocks all day. Some ugly runs in there, but for the most part I feel like they did a tremendous job."
Q: How have you seen Latavius Murray progress this season?
McFadden:"Man, Tay has been doing a hell of a job. Just seeing him out there running every play, picking up pass protection. There's a lot of things people don't look at – the pass protection, he does it great. You can see him running the ball. He's a great runner."
Q: How does it feel to get three straight wins at home, all against teams with winning records, and to do it all in front of Raider Nation?
McFadden:"It was great, man. Just being able to come out here and get these fans something to cheer about and get these W's. That's great. It's been a hard time, a long time coming, so being able to do that – our fans have been behind us the whole time and I feel like we're getting to pay [back our] debt to them."
RB LATAVIUS MURRAY
Q: A few times this season when the offense has gotten off to a slow start it seems like they've gotten away from the running game a little bit, early. How nice was it to stick with it throughout the game today?
Murray:"It was real nice. We had a few big runs there. We were just kind of pounding. You get those little runs, those little runs, and then the big ones will come. Obviously [RB Darren McFadden] D-Mac got in there and same thing, so we were definitely successful and we want to do that. The offense is successful when we run the ball that way."* *
Q: You guys had some pretty big holes, some nice cutback lanes that were pretty wide open. Against that aggressive of a defensive front, was that something you thought you could take advantage of?
Murray:"We know what we're capable of. Up front, it starts there and they did a great job today moving those guys and opening up holes for us. It was something that we know we're capable of but we just have to go out there and do it, and we did that today."
Q: This was the third straight home win. It seems like there's a strong connection between you guys and these fans.
Murray:"Without a doubt. When you're home you have to take advantage of this fan base that we have and win at home. That's important."
Q: Do you feel like you're really starting to get into a good rhythm, personally? It seems like game after game you're churning out yards steadily.
Murray:"Yeah, it feels good just to be able to be in there now. Again, I just need to continue to get better and definitely just finish on a good note this week."
Q: What kind of confidence do you get from the teams that you've beaten? The three home wins, you guys have beaten some very good teams.
Murray: "A lot of confidence. We know what we're capable of doing, we just have to make sure we continue to do that this week again. We just have to get back to work and go out to Denver play the way we know how to play."
Q: It's a tough place to play, but what would it mean to try to get that first road win?
Murray:"It would mean a lot. That's our mentality going forward this week in practice and that's how we're going to prepare."
WR ANDRE HOLMES
Q: When the passing game was kind of shaky at first, did you feel you were going to get things going eventually?
Holmes:"You've always got to have faith that you're going to get things going, and trusting things that you did, trusting your technique and everything like that, and that's what happened. We started making plays. 'KT' [Kenbrell Thompkins] started it off with that big play in – what was that – the first quarter."
Q: What do you think it says for this team to beat three teams in a row at home, all of them with winning records and fighting for the playoffs?
Holmes:"We keep fighting. We never give up. We come to work every day wanting to get better, expecting to win every single week. Even in the beginning of the season, every game we thought we were going to win. It's nice to be able to get those wins and that's just the type of team that we are. We don't stop fighting."* *
Q: Were you the primary receiver on that 51-yard play?
Holmes:"No, it was just wherever [Derek] Carr wanted to throw it. He was scrambling so he saw me open. He just went up and threw it up. I wouldn't say I was the primary. It was one of those – just throw it."
LB KHALIL MACK
Q: You had as big an impact on this game as you've had maybe all year. How did you feel when you played today? Was this maybe your best game?
Mack:"I was trying to get pressure on the quarterback. That's just what I do every week."
Q: There were times when you were coming off the edge where it looked like as soon as he [QB Kyle Orton] saw you he got rid of it.
Mack:"Yeah, he was getting rid of it. He was getting rid of it. That's the thing, that's my job. I try to put pressure on the quarterback and get off the field."
Q: How important is it to this team to be getting these wins late in the year even though you're not going to the playoffs?
Mack:"No doubt. It shows what kind of team we are. We have a lot of heart, we have a lot of pride in this locker room, and that speaks for the veterans and the younger guys. We go out every day, we work hard, we practice hard and we fight for each other."
Q: Did you see anything on film coming into this game that let you know that you particularly were on the verge of having a big game?
Mack:"Every week. It just depends what the offense does. We wanted to take away the quick throws and make them hold the ball a little bit. Early on, that's what they did, they threw the ball quick. We knew if we could get them to hold the ball a little bit we could get back there."
Q: Does what's happened this last month or so make you wonder, 'Why wasn't it this way earlier in the season?'
Mack:"You can't really focus on what happened early in the season. That's what this team was doing a good job of: not focusing on the past, just coming out and trying to get better every week."
Q: What is it about this team that makes it so different at home?
Mack:"It's the pride of the Raider Nation. They make you want to go out and fight every play, and having them with you out there on the field, you hear that crowd. It's crazy, man. It helps us at home, but even then you try to go out there every week and give it all we got."
Q: Were you surprised at all by the way the offense played against you? They didn't double-team you as much as you've seen this year.
Mack:"I mean, the game is the game, man. You can get double teams here and there, but even then you have to make plays. That's what I came here to do. I came here to make plays."
DE JUSTIN TUCK
Q: Three straight home wins. What does that say about this team?
Tuck:"That says that we really like playing at home in front of that environment out there. We have to find a way to take that same intensity that we play with at home, especially these last three games, and bring it on the road with us. If we could bottle that up and take it on the road with us, we'll be OK."
Q: Is there finally a sense you guys are building something now and have a foundation in place?
Tuck:"I think so. Unfortunately for us it took us a little too long for us to start to play in a rhythm, to start to put every facet of the game together, especially on defense. I thought today we did a good job of stopping the run and putting them in some situations where the quarterback had to beat us. When you take a team like that and you make them one-dimensional, you have a better chance of being successful. I thought we did a pretty good job as a team today. This was a team win in all facets: offense, special teams and defense."
Q: Were you looking at [LB Khalil] Mack like, 'That's my boy out there'?
Tuck:"That's my guy, man. He has a bright future, to say the least. It's fun – I can remember being a youngster and guys like [Michael] Strahan looking at me the same way. It's fun to watch him go out there and play with the passion he has. When you're young your body allows you to do some things that are sometimes beyond belief, and getting to watch him in practice, on film and watch some of the things he's able to do, it's exciting because I know what kind of player he can turn into. So, we just keep working with him. The thing about him, he's very humble, he goes out there the same way every day, after a win, after a loss, after a good game, after a bad game. He loves to work and he loves the game. He's going to have a bright future."
Q: You guy held two quality running backs to 23 yards rushing. What does that say about your defensive line?
Tuck:"It's more than just the defensive line. I thought our linebackers came downhill today, I thought we had a great game plan for them and we match up well with them. They're an inside running team and we're had pretty good success against inside running team. But, you know, [RB] Fred Jackson, they had [RB C.J.] Spiller back today. That was a focus for us all week and we just kind of executed the game plan. When you stop the run, it's everybody, it's not just the D-line. You have safeties coming down filling gaps, you have linebackers obviously filling gaps and taking on double teams from three-techniques, our inside guys. It was a complete effort."
Q: What was it like out there and how did it feel to give these fans a win in the last home game?
Tuck:"This team owes the home-field advantage that we have, especially when we go out and play with the passion that we were able to play with today. That place gets loud. Those fans are absolutely crazy. It's fun to be in that environment, and they've been like that all year, so we definitely wanted to. I think Coach Sparano said something last night in meetings about 'leave them wanting more.' That's what we wanted to do today. That was our objective today because those fans deserve performances like that and hopefully coming back next year we can put at least eight of those together. It's fun to play in that place."
DL ANTONIO SMITH
Q: These are satisfying wins, I'm sure, but is there part of you that wonders why you couldn't put this together a little bit earlier?
Smith:"I think we're all human and everybody's got that in the back of their minds. Everybody has got games that you want to take back. I think that most of our games were one-score losses. I went through that last year and you look back and you say, 'Man, if we had just this, this. If you would've that, that, we could easily beat such and such and such.' But the past is the past. All we can do is look forward to the future, and in this future, we've got hopes of winning every game we touch the field. If it don't happen, that next game we going to believe the same thing."
Q: How about the near future? How big would it be to go out with a win on the road, as most of your wins have come at home?
Smith:"I think that's our biggest challenge right now. We won three games in a row at home, but we still as of yet to have won an away game. I would say right now, that's kind of our Achilles' heel, is to find that motivation that the Raiders fans give us here on away games. To take the energy out of the crowd of the home team and use it to our advantage."
S CHARLES WOODSON
Q: That was a dominant performance by the defense today. Take us through the interception.
Woodson:"He just threw the ball to the man I was on and I was able to get my head around and get my hands on the ball and come down with it. That's pretty much what it was."
Q: How did it feel to get that kind of reception from the fans, especially playing the way you did in the final home game?
Woodson:"It was great, man. One thing our coach said to us last night is, 'Leave this game with the crowd wanting more.' I think that's what we tried to do, is come out here today and – last home game of the season – come out here and get a win now for this team, for the organization and for Raider Nation as well. It felt good to get that win."
Q: You've been with this organization a long time. Was it more special to you to get the kind of production you had and be able to close out the game?
Woodson:"Any time you get a win, it really doesn't matter what you do individually, really. What really matters is what happens overall. We won the game, so I'm happy about that, proud of it. The guys continue to come out when it would be very easy to come out and do the opposite. Guys keep coming out fighting every week, man. It's fun to be a part of."
Q: Will this be your last home game as a Raider?
Woodson:"It kind of felt like it with that little tribute at the end. It was like they were sending me off, right? But I don't know. We've got another game to play and I'll figure that out later."
Q: Charles, what does it say about this tema that it hasn't quit and hasn't packed it in, and how do you keep from doing that?
Woodson:"It says a lot. You guys aren't really in the locker room when we're in the locker room talking amongst each other, when we're really in there just playing around, joking around. But this team has never really gotten down to the point where we were ready to give up. It's always been an upbeat attitude with the guys on the team, and it shows out there each week. We continue to come out there and just continue to fight, to try to get wins, and today was no different. Regardless of what's been going on, we came out and gave it what we had.
Q: With this strong finish, do you think Tony Sparano deserves a shot to come back as head coach?
Woodson:"I think he's done a strong job for us. Of course I'm not privy to those decisions, but up until this point, he's definitely made his case."
Q: Were you always on that hands team?
Woodson:"Yeah, you just never see us get that opportunity. (Laughing) It's good to be in that opportunity where we can get a win and go up and get the ball. Yeah, I have always been on it."
Q: I know you don't get a chance to look around during the game, but could you tell the type of impact Khalil Mack was making today? There were times when he was getting around the corner and Kyle Orton was throwing the ball away.
Woodson:"I mean, if you guys watch film on this guy the way we do each and every week, he jumps out on film every week. To us, it's no surprise what he's doing out there. But we know the other team, whether it's the quarterback or whether it's the tackle or the tight end trying to take him on, they feel him. That's every week. That's every play, man. This guy is going to be special."
Q: What does it mean for this team to take out three straight teams at home, all of whom with winning records and fighting to make the playoffs?
Woodson:"Well, our goals as a team as far as getting to the playoffs aren't there. But to us, it really doesn't matter. It's about winning the games. It's about coming in this locker room after games and feeling good about your performance. You put a lot of hard work in during the week and you want to get results Sunday. Guys are working every day trying to make this thing as positive as we possibly can, come out here and get wins. Today was fun. It was fun to go out there and win and come back into this locker room with a smile on your face."
Q: Will the fans get more Charles Woodson next season?
Woodson:"I don't know, man. Physically, like I said, I feel good as a player. We've got to see if the team wants me back. I think a part of it will be what happens coaching-wise. [Assistant defensive backs coach] Marcus Robertson has been a big help to me this year, man. That's one of the things that – depending on what happens with that guy, it would be hard to see me playing under another guy. I hope he's back, because he's done a tremendous job with myself, with the other guys in that room. Also, [defensive backs coach] Joe Woods has done a tremendous job. Those guys we work with very closely, man. If I were to come back, I would want those guys back as well."