Head Coach Robert Saleh, 12.5
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Brian Costello, New York Post: When you looked at the redzone trips yesterday, what kind of led to the breakdowns there?
It comes down to execution, obviously there’s things that we could’ve done better as a coaching staff, and there’s things that we could’ve done better as players from an execution part, and then credit to them, they played situations really well. I’m not going to get too detailed with scheme, Coz (Costello), I apologize, and there’s always going to be things that we could’ve done better whether it was alignments, a call, execution, strain, whatever you want to call it. Obviously, it wasn’t a good day in the redzone.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: When you look at it, is 58 drop backs ok now? I know you talked right after the game, flow of the game, things like that, but do you think maybe it should’ve been a little less, or did you see anything there?
It’s not a coincidence that when we win, it’s like, ‘Oh, wow, they ran the ball really well.’ It’s because you’re in the fourth quarter, you’re running out the clock. When you lose, it’s, ‘Jeez, they threw the ball so much.’ I think that’s been a common theme throughout every single game you see. We were down a couple scores in the fourth quarter. I think we ended up having 20 passes in the fourth quarter. You’d always love start having an identity of running the ball, but at the same time, part of the game plan was to utilize those short check downs as part of the run game, which we were doing a really good job of. So, while they looked like passes on the stat sheet, we’re trying to get the ball in space and move the ball, which we were. I think we had five consecutive scoring drives. We got in the redzone six times. We got into scoring position in the redzone I think seven consecutive drives. So, we were moving the ball really well, giving ourselves a chance, we just couldn’t punch it in.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Did Mike White kind of show you anything? Did Mike White show you anything with his ability to stretch the field and attack that second level of the defense where it wasn’t those short passes he was having success with?
I feel like I talked about this one before. I think we were reflecting back on the Cincinnati game from a year ago with you guys here in this room and we talked about the reason why he took all those check downs was because that’s what Cincinnati was giving him, but if Mike needed to push the ball downfield, he could push it down field, which he did a couple times against the Bears and then with the Vikings yesterday, he had the opportunity to push the ball downfield, and he did. We feel like Mike can do both. He can push it downfield. He can take his check downs. He’s capable of doing both, so I’m not surprised to answer your question, it’s just he’s really good at making the decisions he needs to make on gameday to move the ball forward.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: When you look back on last year’s Buffalo game with Mike, what do you feel like he learned from that? Is that something that this week, he and you will look back on? Obviously, it’s the same system, same defense.
I’m sure there’s a lot of things that he learned from even in that moment just to take his game forward from that moment on to where we are now. The game was going ok in the first half, we were moving the ball — same thing, we just weren’t able to score — but in the second half, they score right before the half if I remember right. I got to dig into this, but it was 17, then scored right out of the locker room, now we’re down 24-3. Then we throw an interception and now it’s 31-3, just like that. Now you’re chucking it all over the place and doing what you really don’t want to do, which is push the ball downfield in a desperate frame of mind, and when you’re playing a top defense like that, you’re probably going to turn the ball over. It was one of those games that kind of snowballed on the entire team, not just him, and he was put in a really bad situation.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Do you recall, just as a quick follow, how you saw him handle that? Obviously, he had such a great go in the Cincinnati game and then he was kind of going in the Indy game before he got hurt. That was kind of the first smack to the face, so to speak. Do you remember how he handled that?
I do. I remember him and just listening to the conversations and being a part of the conversations of him just wishing he could have a lot of those plays back and recalling how he approached the game. I’m not going to say what he said, Mark, forgive me, but I just remember him having a tremendous amount of growth from that game and the way he played and recognizing some of the things he did that helped him to find ways to get better.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Hey, Robert, I’ve got a two-parter here: 1) My weekly quarterback questions, so it’s still status quo week-to-week?
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: (follow up) It seems fairly obvious, but the second one, on the fourth and one play to (Braxton) Berrios, could you just walk us through the thought process? Specifically, going empty there, you’re basically eliminating the threat of the run, so I’m wondering what (Mike) LaFleur was thinking there? Just the entire play and the concept?
Yeah, first down, I’ll go through that whole sequence. First down, we get the run down to the one-yard line, second down we run again, they do a nice job, they penetrate the c-gap, Bam (Zonovan Knight) does a good job of getting to the line of scrimmage. Third down, is an RPO, so if it’s a hand-off or a throw option, unfortunately, we fell on the play. We were still thinking there, but now it’s fourth down and it’s call your best play, call your best possible play that you’ve been working on the entire game and the one that’s going to find ways to get open and we had a guy open, it just didn’t work out. You can say a little bit off, catch the ball, whatever it is, and can Mike (LaFleur) think the same thing, could you put a guy in the back field to show run, Rich? Sure. Anytime something doesn’t work, you’re always going to want to hit the rewind button, but at that moment, you’ve got to stick to your preparation, stick to what you’ve done, and what is the best thing we can call at this moment and that’s what we went with. So, we can second guess, we’ll always challenge ourselves as coaches, but that was the play we were excited about, and it just didn’t work out.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Robert, just again kind of dotting i’s and crossing t’s, will Zach (Wilson) be inactive again this week or has he done enough to be the backup quarterback, have you seen enough for him to be the backup?
It’s going to be status quo, the plan is for him to still be inactive, unless something changes.
Ian O’Connor, The New York Post: Robert, you’ve obviously beaten Buffalo already this year, but to beat them in December on the road when everyone looks at them as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, what do you think that would say about where your program is right now?
Shoot, really just trying to get through today first, Ian, before we get past that one. Buffalo is super talented, they got superman at quarterback, they got hell of a defense, they do as good a job as anybody with situational football and all that stuff and they’re clearly a Super Bowl contender and they’re coming off 10 days of rest, at home. So, this is an ultimate challenge for us to go out there and just stay focused, take it one play at a time, and we have beat them in the past, it is what it is, but it’s going to be a big-time battle for us for sure.
Ian O’Connor, The New York Post: Do you think what Mike White showed yesterday in terms of his poise in a loud and hostile environment, how much does that help your team, knowing that your quarterback will respond that way and fight back in the second half the way he did as you now face a similar challenge next Sunday?
No, that’s a good question, Ian, but it’s not just the quarterback. We’re a young football team, especially on offense and that stadium was awesome. The fans, the crowd noise, the atmosphere, that was as close to playoff football as you can get being on the road and against a 10-2 football team now, 9-2 at the time. I thought our guys responded well, played their absolute hearts out, that’s why I said what I said after the game, I mean if we can play that hard, and that relentless, and show that much fight play in and play out, we’re going to like the results more often than not and unfortunately, we fell short. We’re not the first team that fell short against them and won’t be the last team, it’s a good football team, they’re well coached, but at the same time, I just got a lot of faith and just the growth that we’ll take from that game as such a young football team and we’ll continue to keep fighting. We’ve got five of these left, we’ve got five true championships/playoff opportunities left with five really good football teams, starting with Buffalo. So, it’s going to be a lot of chances to grow and hopefully in the right direction.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, I want to jump in on the quarterback questions. Is your intent still to have Zach (Wilson) play this season?
I’m still right there with that same intent. Zach’s been doing everything right, he’s been putting in the extra meeting time, he’s been putting in the extra work after practice. Really working on trying to re-tie all his fundamentals together, and like I said, spending extra time with them. All the work that he’s doing on scout team with regards to playing quarterback the way, and I know people think scout team and all offenses to a degree run the same stuff, but just tying it all together and getting completions against our defense. Just get completions and regain all the confidence that we know he’s capable of, all the different things that he’s capable of as a quarterback, but the intent is still to get him back on the football field.
Brian Costello, New York Post: I guess my follow-up question would be why? Because it looks like Mike White’s capable as a quarterback?
No, Mike is capable. For sure.
Brian Costello, New York Post: (follow up) And you guys are in a playoff push, right? There’s only five games left, so it’s not like we’re in September here and you’re saying ‘Hey he’s going to play’. So, I guess just why is that the intent still to get Zach back on the field?
So, for Mike, and I’m going to stay status-quo on all of it, this is Mike’s opportunity to make noise. You never ask how your opportunity comes, you just take advantage of your opportunity and you do the best you can, so we got all the faith in Mike, I’ve said it before and I know the line of “if you have more than one quarterback, you have none”. Well, we feel like we have three of them. We got three pretty damn good ones, but right now, while Zach is focusing on reconnecting and doing all the different things that we know he’s capable of, right now it’s Mike’s opportunity, and I really would love to just focus on Mike and his opportunity and give him every chance to succeed.
Brian Costello, New York Post: (follow up) Mike can ruin that plan then Robert, right? If I am understanding correctly? If he plays well…
(Laughter) Is that a backdoor hypothetical, Coz (Costello)?
Brian Costello, New York Post: (follow up) No hypotheticals, I mean he’s playing well.
No, he’s played really well. He’s played really well. Yeah, he’s played really well.
Tom Rock, Newsday: Robert, because he’s a little older, I know you talked about the youth of the offense, is it sometimes hard to remember that he’s only had five starts in the NFL?
He’s only had five starts, but that’s the quarterback position guys. Again, it’s hard, it’s the hardest position in all of sports, by far. You can’t argue with me otherwise, or convince me otherwise and Mike has been in the League for a couple of years, but like you said, it’s his fifth start, and one of them, he only played a quarter before he got hurt, so he’s only finished four games, so just for him, there’s so many things that he’s learning, and he is getting better every time he steps on the football field, so he is still a pup in terms of just overall playing time, but I played against him when I was at San Francisco, when he was a young rookie, it was in the preseason, so he’s come a long way. I can promise you that much.
Ian O’Connor, New York Post: Just to follow up on Coz’s (Costello) question, and I asked Mike LaFleur this the other day, but are you at least open to the possibility that Mike White is your long-term quarterback, and just happens to be a better football player than Zach Wilson? Is that at least a possibility that that could happen?
One week at a time. One week at a time, guys.