Offensive coordinator Al Saunders. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: How are you able to stick with it and persevere when you go through a stretch without a first down until 1:46 remains in the half? What got you going?
Coach Saunders: You don't even think about it. You have a plan and you just kind of keep going with your plan. We got some third and long situations; a bunch of them early. Bill Walsh used to say all the time the most important down in football is first down, it's not necessarily third down. So, that first down gets you into normal, manageable third down situations and we went able to get some shots up the field. We felt like early in the game, we could take advantage of some things that we had worked on and they didn't materialize. We missed a couple of big shots up the field and we weren't able to convert the third downs we would normally convert. But, we just kept going. Our guys kept playing and when we got into a little bit of a hurry-up mode, Jason took the team right down the field, we scored, and that kind of put us over the hump a little bit. I think we've got a team that has great resolve. These guys are very committed to what they're doing and it's hard to get their spirits down right now. They kept on fighting and we came out of it.
Q: Al [Davis] in infrequent conversations with us, he would talk about needed to take one shot a quarter; take one shot down the field a quarter if you can. You guys look to be on schedule with that…
Coach Saunders: Yeah, we took a whole bunch more than one shot down there in that first quarter [laughs].
Q: When you take those and you don't get it though, is there still a benefit to them?
Coach Saunders: Sure. I think any time you stretch the field vertically like that, people have to respect our speed and respect the ability of Jason's arm strength. Any time you attack a team vertically like that, I think any defensive coach would tell you, 'Don't give up the big play.' There's always the threat of that with what we do and we always want to establish that early. If you hit a couple of those, the frame of the game is a lot different.
Q: Darrius Heyward-Bey has made some big plays for you guys the past couple of weeks. Is he a noticeably different receiver than the guy you first looked at or maybe you saw on type?
Coach Saunders: Right. I think he's improved dramatically with his techniques and skills and that's from training camp. My first exposure to him in live situations was at training camp and I think he's progressed dramatically. He's got a lot of confidence right now. He's catching the ball extremely well and he's got the great ability to run up the field. So putting that all together, he's got a tremendous upside. I think we all felt that way and now, he's really kind of reaching the areas of confidence that we felt he could be.
Q: Jason Campbell was talking about not having a true, certified number one receiver and he thinks it's a good thing because these younger guys hang out together more and challenge each other. Is that in your mind a good thing not to have a bona fide number one receiver or would you like to have that one go you know to go to?
Coach Saunders: I think it's good to have a bunch of talented receivers; I think that's what we have. We've only played for five games now, so as we progress – [Louis] Murphy hadn't been available to us and all of a sudden, we have more guys coming into the fold that weren't with us earlier. Having one receiver that you go to all the time – that makes it an advantage to the defense. I think when you the ability to spread the ball out and guys with multiple talents, I think it's probably more advantageous. I think back to the St. Louis days; we had Isaac Bruce and Terry Holt and Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl. All of a sudden, you're able to spread the people out a little bit and do a lot of different things. I think we've had a very talented group in that regard.
Q: How's Murphy look this and you think you'll be able to work him in?
Coach Saunders: Yeah. I don't know what Hue's plans are as to how much we'll use him. We'll talk about that as a staff, but certainly he's done very well this week. He's a talented player and you'd like to see him on the field. His availability and what we do with him will be determined here shortly.
Q: You were hired by Al Davis as a ball boy, grew up here in Oakland…
Coach Saunders: I don't know if – hired means you're getting paid [laughs]. I had to go up in the stands and this is the God's honest truth. When they would kick the PATs and field goals, myself and a fellow by the name of Johnny Madison – our job, one of our jobs, was to get the balls and bring them back to Dick Romanski so they would have balls for the game. That was part of the deal, so we didn't get paid. We were just able to come back the next week.
Q: Did you have time to reflect on the time on the fact that you were here at the very beginning?
Coach Saunders: Yeah, it was kind of special – the thought of being here when Al Davis started here. I was a young kid and climbed over the fence of Frank Youell field. The emotional part of it was knowing that I was here now. I really feel strongly about about making a contribution to Al Davis and this football team. That was one of the reasons I came here honestly was to help this football team reach the level it was when I was growing up in Oakland and feeling that good about it. Hopefully, we'll pursue and persevere now that Al's not here.
Q: Everyone knows that Marcel [Reece] is a great pass catcher. How much has that hurt the running game at all?
Coach Saunders: Well, Marcel is a talented, talented player and there are a lot of things we do with him. Quite frankly, [Manase] Tonga stepped in and did a tremendous job in the run game. He really played well last week and there's things you can do a little differently with Tonga in there because of his ability to be a downhill, physical blocker. So, we just went a little different way without Marcel.
Q: So much has been made of power blocking schemes, stretch and cut zone-blocking schemes. It seems like you guys can run it any way you like. How much of an advantage is that for you?
Coach Saunders: Well, I think any time you have a multiplicity in your offense is advantageous – whether it's a passing game or run game and we are able to do that because of the ability of our backs and because of our offensive line. We've got guys who can run in space and we've got big, physical players. We're gifted with the ability to have gap schemes as well as zone schemes.