Offensive coordinator Al Saunders. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: Has the Chiefs pass rush gotten better since the last time you saw them?
Coach Saunders:Well, they were pretty good the first time we saw them, but yeah, Tamba Hali has done a terrific job. He's got twelve sacks and the other guys up front are helping him a lot. They get a lot of help from their linebackers. This last week they changed their scheme as much as they just changed some of the things they were doing up front and put a little bit more pressure on the quarterback. They're doing a terrific job, they're very athletic and they're very fast.
Q:They've had a handful of games where they've given up quite a bit and they've had a handful of games where they've been really good; what do you see that's been the difference between those two?
Coach Saunders: I think, as always, it's usually match-ups. Some teams match up really well with other teams in certain positions and the landscape of the game, what happens early in the game, sometimes dictates what goes on throughout the course of the game, whether people are opening up a little bit more or whether they're having a situation where there's a scheme or two that's giving the defense some problems. They ran into that earlier in the year, but they've been very stout, obviously they beat the reigning world champions last week and did a very good job of doing that.
Q:Last time you played the Chiefs it was kind of an unusual game; you had two different quarterbacks playing the game. What can you take away from that game and apply to this one? Or is this a totally different animal?
Coach Saunders: I think it's the same in that the players who were playing on defense are the same. The scheme, Romeo [Crennel] was the defensive coordinator then and he's the defensive coordinator now, for all practical purposes, so we know what they do and we know who they are. Like you said, that was a very, very unusual situation and what we can take away from it is our preparation and the things that we need to do based on what we feel they're going to be doing against us.
Q: How do you change up what you do when you go into Arrowhead? You were there for years so you know what it's like with the crowd noise. Do you go silent count? Do you do more of that? The fact that Carson [Palmer]'s been around for a number of years means he can do that without any problem.
Coach Saunders: I think we've done a real good job as an offensive football team handling venues away from here. Every team is equipped to handle the silent count mechanics in an away game. I was there for 15 years, a lot of years in Kansas City with Marty [Schottenheimer] and Dick Vermeil. It is, for the opponents, it is a difficult place to play from a noise standpoint and now they've restructured the stadium and it seems like it comes down on you even more. I was with Baltimore last year and we played there in the playoffs and the noise hasn't changed. It's difficult but probably no more than the indoor venue in Minnesota. That was quite a noisy place for us to play and we handled Denver very well in the first game of the year so that shouldn't be a problem for us.
Q: Why do you think the running game hasn't been as productive lately as it was in the beginning of the season?
Coach Saunders:Well, I think a lot of things. I think the game, we talked about this I think last week or the week before, about the games for us becoming a little bit more one-dimensional for us as the score required us to throw the ball a little bit more than we would normally want to do. I think we've got those things sorted out, I think our back, who's been tagged a little bit, is the one to stop going into the games. He's done a terrific job for us and we have to be more of a balanced attack and have a situation where we can utilize the passing and running game with equal efficiency. When that happens then your running game is typically much better and more productive.
Q: Carson really protected the ball last game, he came off of a four interception game and had none this last time; is that a focus on his part to take care of that?
Coach Saunders: I think it's a combination of things. I think he probably wasn't pressing quite as much, the score was a little different, we could become a little bit more balanced with the things that we were doing. We were probably a little bit more conservative and gave him an opportunity to have more flood principal passes that we could have more distribution with the players that we had. He's a savvy guy, he's played a lot of years in this league and has had a great history in terms of what he does and he understands what he needs to do to protect the football and he did that. It's usually all eleven people; it's the receivers, it's the offensive line, and it's the quarterback together. When you have interceptions, it's not just one silver thread that goes through that can be identified as one person, it's usually a group effort and we did a much better job last week of protecting the football, obviously.
Q: Palmer's numbers throwing deep were a lot better his first two starts than his last five; is that just the result of injuries? What do you think that's due to?
Coach Saunders: I can't answer that, quite frankly. I think probably there are a variety of reasons. If you give him an opportunity to make those throws by play selection and by design then there's going to be more of them. Each game is a little different strategically and each game is a little different in terms of what you plan to do against an opponent and the people that you have playing over there on defense. This team we're playing this week is very, very good at stopping the long ball because of the style of defense they play so you have to adjust your game accordingly based on personnel and based on the scheme that you face.
Q:You mentioned Hali; what makes him stand out? What makes him one of the top guys out there?
Coach Saunders:He's a very gifted player. Steve Wisniewski would say it's because he went to Penn State, but we think it's because of his physical gifts. He's got tremendous quickness, he's got a variety of pass-rush moves, some guys are generally inside-rushers or bull-rushers or they're swim-rushers and he has all the tools. They do a good job of placing him in a lot of different places. He plays on the weak side, he plays on the strong side, he'll play on the inside sometimes but he's got a great knack and he's just a tremendous effort player. All those things I think really add up to why he's been so successful for them.