Q: On that play where you have them third-and-8 at the end of the first half, how hard is it to think that if they just get the guy on the ground there and they punt, it could have been a completely different game?**
Coach Tarver:"That's what every football game comes down to. You don't know when the play is going to happen, and that's the point where our defense – we need to make sure that we're good. There's going to be some plays that aren't as good and there's going to be some plays that are good, and you respond in those situations. Do we have some players with a chance to make that play? Sure, but if everybody else is running, too, no matter how many it takes, we've got to find a way to get that player on the ground in that situation, because it's a three-and-out after a turnover after a sudden change type situation where we excelled the week before, where that's one where we could have seven good series of football. We played six good series of football and that's the difference. It doesn't matter what's happening in the game, you've got to keep flying around and you've got to play it one play at a time – the old cliché. It's an emphasis point in that you don't know when that play is going to come, so you've got to treat every play the same and then move onto the next play as fast as possible."
Q: Is it possible that if you make that play, then it's a completely different game?
Coach Tarver:"All that stuff is – who knows? That's why you've got to go to the next play. Who knows? They're going to get the ball again just like you are. The job of a defense is – regardless of where they get the ball – is to stop the offense from scoring. That's all our job is. The other periphery stuff is what you have to learn as young players that doesn't matter. You do your job on the play. If it's not perfect, you go out and get help from your coaches and then you go in and you do it again. That's the process that we're getting better at, really much improved at, on defense from the beginning of the year until now. Now you've got to be able to do that all the way through a football game regardless of how many snaps or how many times you're asked to go. That's your job."
Q: Antonio Smith has lost 23 straight games, but he continues to stay positive and have fun on the field. Is it hard to believe how positive he has been and how much does it actually help a team?
Coach Tarver:"What's great about Antonio is he's all about what's happening now. He's been very, very, very good with his energy, his desire to win, his desire to do his job, his desire to make a play, and he's playing at a high level as well. The numbers, adding up weeks – we've got a job to do, it's this week. We're going to Southern California where there's a lot of the Raider Nation. We're excited to see them. Antonio's excited to see them down there. Defensively, we're looking forward to this opportunity, because the best thing about football when you're in the middle of the season is you get the next week. You get this week and that's all you get. I know Antonio approaches every week like that just like we all do, so we definitely appreciate what he's doing and hope that he can continue to make even more plays for us."
Q: How is Hayden coming along? He had a couple of nice plays in the game, but then he had a couple where you think he was in a position to make the play. Is that just a product of he has to play more?
Coach Tarver:"It's a product of experience and it's a product of continuing to listen based on sets, formations and calls to start the down correctly. There's a lot of times where he started the down correctly and made great plays, and there's a few downs where he kind of went, 'I'm not quite sure about this split.' Well, make sure about that split. The best way to get better at playing football is playing football. He's continuing to get better. In his work today, he got better in practice, made a couple good plays on some correction-type routes – on some routes that this opponent will run the same way as the last opponent. So continuing to make corrections, getting better every week – he's in that process."
Q: It looks like the Chargers will get Ryan Mathews back this week. How much does he change, or does he change what they do at all offensively?
Coach Tarver:"They've run the same runs with their running backs. They do a rotation of backs anyway. They have for a long time in their system. They'll do similar things. We know that their emphasis is the run game – one of their emphases – but what we're concerned about is us. We've improved in a lot of areas on defense and it starts with setting edges, knocking back. We talked a little last week up here about holding and getting off of blocks and those type of things. That's what we need to do this week. We need to get off our blocks, make sure that when it's our job to set the edge on these backs, set the edge, because both of them like to bounce. So it's about us and that's what we're going to focus on. There's one ball on the field, so whoever they give it to, that's our job to tackle him."
Q: Khalil Mack has been putting up pretty big numbers and has continued to each week. When you look at the stat sheet, he didn't have a load of tackles last week. Was he still effective the way he was earlier when he wasn't making plays but still doing the right things?
Coach Tarver:"He had the one PBU [pass break up] where he did a nice job coming across the pocket. We batted as many balls as anybody has against that quarterback. He's outstanding at getting the ball over things, but we were able to deflect and move him a good amount. We need to continue to get better at our pocket mechanics to do that – Khalil and everybody. He was effective setting the edges in the run game. There wasn't a lot of times where he could make the play where some of the others game he could, and sometimes as an edge player in the NFL, you may not have as many tackle numbers depending on that. But he did a good job affecting the pocket and he did a good job setting edges in the run game. There wasn't as many footballs in his area. Where he can continue to improve – and that's what we're working on this week, is his get-off – starting everything fast. When that young man starts things fast, he's really a weapon and he's focused on that. That's what we're focusing on this week in practice. He did a good job of getting off on the ball today, so we want to see that this weekend."
Q: Is that the difference between a quarterback hit and a sack, just those tenths of seconds at the start of the play?
Coach Tarver:"Well, I would say this: We as a defense, we're affecting quarterbacks a lot more and we've learned how to work together. We've played a lot of different personnel, which is exciting, because these young men get opportunities. We're affecting quarterbacks a lot more. Just like the takeaways happened, they come in bunches. It's another old coaching cliché, takeaways and sacks come in bunches. But yeah, that's the difference. You want to start every down as fast as you can with the direction where you're aimed and then work together to get the quarterback on the ground. Rush and coverage working together – one of our emphases has been, since the bye, is rush and coverage working together. We're improving. We've improved in that even since the first time that we played this particular opponent, and that's one of the things that we want to work on this week – rush and coverage working together. Hopefully, that leads to more where he doesn't just throw it away, we get him on the ground and get the football, preferably – which Khalil got one ball out. He did have a caused fumble last week, too. That was good."
Q: Can you talk about the progress of Miles Burris with all the duties of a middle linebacker?
Coach Tarver: "Miles has steadily improved help being the one in the middle communicating. We've gotten better with our front mechanics. We've talked about that before, mechanics – how everything works together – is one of the words that we use. He's definitely improved there. He's improved his box shedding and tackling. We're continuing to do more drills as he continues to move towards the ball in space – learning his angles, breaking on things quicker. That's where he can improve, is knowing where his help is in the defense. We all can, every defense can – that's what we've got to improve on, is make sure that if you and I are going to make a tackle, that if you're the guy on the outside, you're saying, 'Outside, outside, outside; inside, inside, inside.' We do that drill all the time. It's improving and we've got to keep improving that, because like we talked about at the start, you don't know when that play is. You play every play the same way. You don't know when the play is and it's our job to – whatever happens – go to the next one. That's the next step, is mastering that mindset."
*Q: You had a good game plan going in against Peyton Manning. Did he make an adjustment at some point that you guys weren't able to counter? What happened in the second half? *
Coach Tarver:"We read there was some rioting about that. What happened at those points is it just comes down to doing your job. What happened later in there is maybe some – we had some eye issues in certain coverages. When you're playing in certain areas – the red zone, short yardage – the front guys, their job is to get knockbacks. So obviously, they have to change the line of scrimmage to stop them. We've done some pretty good things down in the goal line this year of knocking people back, and in short yardage, we've got to improve. Well, in short yardage, who's ever activated needs to knock them back. Who's ever in coverage, we need to have our eyes in the right spot. And what's good about the things is they're correctable. Obviously, you don't want them to happen to that quarterback and in that streak. Because early, there's a lot of things where we were moving around and doing stuff, so it's not as much a matter of adjustments as it is doing our job regardless of the situation. What happens when you play is one that can really take advantage of say 10 guys are right and one's wrong, the good ones can find the one. So that's what we need to improve on. But they're all coachable points, so therefore, we're excited to see – a lot of that's going to get fixed tomorrow in our meetings, so we'll take a look at that."