Head Coach Robert Saleh, 12.12

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Opening Statement

Good afternoon, I’m going to go through injuries real quick. So, Mike (White), obviously he’s dealing with his ribs, we’re going to go day-to-day, we’re going to get more information today, tomorrow. I’ll have better answers for you Wednesday. Quinnen (Williams), same thing, he’s dealing with his calf, similar to the one he had in training camp, but again, we’re going to give it a couple of days, see how he feels. And then Brandin Echols will be out, I’m just going to rule him out already, he’s dealing with his quad strain and then Marcell Harris, he’s dealing with his ankle, he may be out for the season, but he won’t be available for Detroit either.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Robert, on Mike (White), so obviously he went for more tests last night, probably some more today, so does he have a rib fracture?

I’m not going to get into details. I know what they saw was good enough for him to get back on the plane and he passed all that stuff. Just talking to him, he feels good. Again, we’re just trying to let this kind of play out, just to see how, I mean he’s still fresh off the game, so we’ll see how things play out over today, tomorrow and Wednesday.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Are you hopeful of having him Sunday?

Yes, we’re preparing as if we have him.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, when you went back and watched how Mike (White) played yesterday, especially after he came back, what kind of stood out to you?

He’s tough as nails. He got beat up a little bit, I think we all agree on that, feel like we could’ve played a lot better on the offensive line, felt like we could’ve been better in the run game, but he stood in there, took his shots, delivered strikes, and was playing really, really well and moving the ball on what’s a pretty good defense in their home stadium. But unfortunately, we just, a couple of things in the fourth quarter kind of derailed drives with turnovers and all that, but he was awesome.


Ryan Dunleavy, Robert, obviously Mike’s injury put some spotlight on your number two quarterback, is Zach (Wilson) ready for that or do you plan to keep going status quo with Joe (Flacco) and Zach inactive?

Zach’s ready for everything, but at the same time, I’ve still got to meet with the offensive staff and just make sure we finish the evaluation process and all that. Again, that’s another one with regards to the backup quarterback that I’ll have answers for you guys on Wednesday. But Zach’s fine, he’s been working hard for the last couple of weeks, he’s in a great mental head space, so he’s ready for whatever we ask out of him.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: What goes into a decision like that?

A lot of communication, just make sure everyone’s on the same page. Just looking back, obviously he’s been improving over the last couple of weeks, too, so Zach’s done his part. So, again, things that we have to talk about.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Robert you guys, over the last few weeks have not been starting as fast as some of the previous games and falling into deficits, putting pressure on the defense and etcetera. Why do you think those starts have not been as crisp as they were earlier?

I feel like last week, or yesterday, was pretty good. I mean it was a battle, it was 7-7, they scored right before the end of the half, we scored to come out of the locker room, they did a great job with their drive. We’ve played some pretty darn good football. Chicago was probably the only game where I look back at it and say, ‘Gosh that was just a really, really bad start.’ Minnesota, good football team, started pretty good, New England was neck and neck the entire game. Probably recency bias with regards to Chicago and Minnesota, but I’m not overly concerned about how we’re starting football games.


Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, when you look at the last two weeks, you’ve lost to two teams with ten wins in their place in one possession games essentially. How do you process that in terms of where you guys are at, obviously you feel like you let some opportunities go by on both games, but what is the message to the players coming out of those two games? Do you take some positive out of that and try to push that forward to the guys and maybe was that part of what you said to us last night afterward about, “We’re going to see the Bills again” because you feel good about your team?

That’s a good one, because you look at these two games with Buffalo and it’s a perfect example. Buffalo’s a championship football team, I feel like we’re a championship type football team, like we can be that, but how do we get to that next step? Game one versus Buffalo, neck and neck, great defensive battle, we get two takeaways, they miss a field goal, little details. Flip to yesterday; defensive battle, neck and neck, they get two takeaways, we turn it over right there in the fourth quarter, we have an offsides penalty that extends a drive, just little details. And when you get to playoff football, you’re in December, and you’re trying to separate yourself when the elite of the elites are playing against one another, it’s the details that separate those teams that get you into playoffs. So, the encouraging thing is we can go toe to toe with anyone. Believe that I think that anyone who watches football can watch our games and say, ‘God, this team can play with anybody.’ Now, for this young football team, how do we become a team where you’re on the flip side of winning more consistently in these battles, it’s the details and details are learned through repetition and all that stuff. We’ve shown that we can be the more detailed team, but it’s about gaining that consistency and confidence to execute in the fourth quarter when it’s really, really nut crunching time.


Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: And just as a follow, getting back to what you said last night about your gut feeling being you’re going to see these guys again. Is that something, I mean everything every coach says has a message to it whether it’s to us, to the players, whatever. Is that something you felt necessary to try to drive into your players minds at all with their confidence?

It’s what I said after the game and I usually choose not to share what I tell the team, but there’s a confidence I have, maybe it’s blind confidence, maybe it’s being bias towards what we see every day, I don’t know. And it’s not anything against these four teams we’re playing against, it’s just a belief in our team. When you watch it live and then you get a chance to watch it and rewind and watch the tape and December football is about grit, it’s about strain, it’s about 60%, same things we’ve always talked about and I just believe this team has that mindset. If you could bring that every single day and if you can bring that to every game you’re going to give yourself a chance, especially in the fourth quarter. We have, what’s cool about this is we’ve got four playoff games, because every team we’re playing is fighting for a playoff spot, even Jacksonville is looking for some help. So, every game has major playoff implications. This is an awesome experience for our group and it’s going to be, it just makes things more rewarding, especially if you can get it done.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, what’s your confidence level in Quinnen playing this week? And how much did things change after he went out for you guys? He had a pretty dominant performance early.

I know, God, he had two sacks in a quarter and a half. The guy is unblockable, man. He’s one of the best players in football, and not to the credit of the guys, we love our defensive line, we love our rotation. I felt like we still played at a high level, we gave up a couple of drives there, but I thought the defense, to hold that offense to 230 yards and 4.4 a play, two of whatever the heck they were on third-down. I thought defensively was outstanding. Missed an opportunity at a takeaway at the start of the second half, but other than that, I just felt like as a group played so hard, played so sound, played so smart that we gave ourselves a chance to win, and we just couldn’t get it done.


Connor Hughes, SNY: Robert, when it comes to defensive line play, specifically on the interior, I think that Aaron Donald is the guy who is universally considered to be the best at that particular position. You got a chance obviously, I know you didn’t directly coach against him, but you got a chance to see a lot of Aaron Donald when you were in San Francisco. Is Quinnen that good? Is he on Aaron’s level?

Yeah, him, Chris Jones, Quinnen. Kansas City Chris Jones, they’re three of the most dominant interior defensive linemen in the game today, in my opinion. They’re hard to block, and they do it in different ways. Chris has amazing length and wiggle to him, Aaron Donald is obviously quick in short-area space and explosive, and Quinnen is just pure brute strength. So, Quinnen is up there with the best of them, for sure.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, you mentioned the turnovers when you were talking about the two Buffalo games. I think it’s been the last few games, you guys haven’t had the takeaways like you had earlier in the season. C.J. (Mosley) had the one against Chicago, but other than that it’s been pretty dry. Are you guys missing opportunities, are the opportunities not there, what are you seeing in the takeaway department?

It’s a little bit of both. We’re playing, one, against Minnesota, we missed two opportunities. In the first half, right before the half, Jordan (Whitehead), not to call him out or anything, he had one, he had a chance at a couple of them. We’ve had the ball on the ground a couple of times that we haven’t been able to recover. But also, when you’re playing, when the level of competition steps up, too, we’ve played, since the bye week, New England has forever been a team that has taken care of the football, Chicago we got one of off them, and then the last two opponents are number one and two seeds in their respective conferences. They play clean styles of football. So, we’ve also missed some opps, but at the same time, we’re playing some pretty darn good football teams, too.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: Corey Davis, is there an update on him? 

Corey will be in the concussion protocol. I apologize, I missed that one. He’s going to be in the concussion protocol but was feeling really good today. Hopefully we have him back for Sunday.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Going back to Al’s question about Quinnen, you didn’t answer, what are your expectations for his availability on Sunday?

Call it 50/50 for now. I’ll have a better answer for you guys on Wednesday. Again, it’s fresh off the game, so he’s got to be able to, we’ll see how he progresses over the next couple of days.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: And also, with Mike (White), Robert, is there a chance he could be limited on practice on Wednesday? And if so, with a guy who’s only had six career starts, how would that affect him if he’s limited?

Again, those are questions I’ll have answers for you on Wednesday. I’m not going to play the hypothetical game; we’re proceeding as if he’s going to be a full participant and play in the game on Sunday.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, can you speak to what you thought the biggest issue was with the offensive line yesterday? I know we mentioned the numbers to you yesterday. When you went back and watched, was there something that stood out to you?

You know, it’s a combination of a lot of things. First off, playing on the road against a defensive line like that, who can jump. You know you have a silent count, and you can jump it, the defensive lines at home always have the advantage. It’s why we love playing at home, that’s why crowd noise is so important, gives the d-line an extra jump. But at the same time, there’s one-on-one battles there where I know our offensive line wants some plays back. They did a good job, they’re a dang good football team, they’re at home and they played fast, they played physical, and at the end of it we still had a chance to win. I think I speak for the o-line when I know that we could’ve played a heck of a lot better, but they have something to do with that, too, they’re pretty good on the defensive line.


Ryan Dunleavy, New York Post: Robert I was going to ask about Elijah Moore, it was certainly his most active day. 82% of the snaps, six catches, most active day since Week Four. What have you seen from him coming back from that midseason lull he had?

I talked to him some last week. He’s hitting his fastest GPS numbers that he’s hit since August; he’s been unbelievable with the way he’s attacking every day. It almost feels like he’s just let go, in terms of he’s just going out, having fun and just playing football, and it’s almost as if the result doesn’t matter. Obviously, it still does for him, but he is playing with almost like a free release of just, ‘Screw it, I’m going to play, I’m going to have fun, I’m going to cheer my team on, I’m going to be who I am’. And that’s who he is, he is basically the person who we drafted in terms of just that mindset and dominating the things he’s got control over, and because of it, he’s just been progressively getting faster and faster and more precise in his route running. And because of it, he’s getting the separation and he’s finding ways to get open and obviously Mike has been able to deliver him the football. I think he had 10 targets yesterday, so he’s deserving of it with all the work that he’s put in, and the way he’s improved day-in and day-out.