HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"When you play good football teams on the road, there are some things you want to do. One, you've got to protect the football. You've got to win the turnover ratio. It's like that always, but especially on the road. You need to be able to run the football. You need to be able to stop the run and then sustain drives. You need to start fast. We didn't start fast, but we kind of settled down a little bit in the second quarter. Defensively, we let them have that first drive where they scored. But after that, we didn't let them score any more. Shut them out in the second quarter. Defensively, the third quarter really hurt us. We had them in a third-and-long situation, and a typical pass that should have been a completion for less than a first down ended up with them getting a touchdown. That put us on our heels a little bit. They had two drives in the third quarter, scored on both of them, which really hurt us. Offensively in that second half, we didn't punt in the second half and only had that one drive, of course, in the third quarter. But the negative part is offensively when you're down there six times in the red zone, we can't convert one time. Costly penalties, the things that don't allow you to win the game. It's as simple as that. A lot was asked about the quarterback position. We need to protect the football better. That interception, we can't make it. Again, I mentioned some of those penalties. Davis Mills, he'll tell you he needs to play better like all of us need to do a better job and eventually we will."
How much consideration has been given to throwing to help set up the run?
"Are you talking about the first play of the game? I'm talking about it. The first play of the game, we threw the ball to set up the run. We had a favorable play to start the game off, and we kind of missed the throw. When we say we're a running team, it's not just run, run, run. You need to be able to mix the pass up in there quite a bit. We had our opportunities yesterday. We absolutely need to be able to do that."
Why were a lot of the passes early in the game before the sticks?
"That would be hard to just say. There are different things on different plays. We were a little short of the sticks on some of them, and some of them we missed the throw. It's kind of as simple as that. I thought we did mix it up fairly well. Dameon (Pierce) for the most part was still able to get his carries. Not as much. We had one running back that gets almost 40 carries and another that gets almost 20. That can kind of dictate a little bit. Again, we had our opportunities. I'm going to go back down. Our gameplan that we had allowed us to get down in the red zone six times. We've got to be able to capitalize down there. We've got to do a better job once we get down there. But that is saying an awful lot being able to get in those positions. The other side of the football, they were able to get down there two times, and we were not able to stop them."
RB Dameon Pierce was talking about adjusting to the free hitter yesterday. What were some of the things the offense did to adapt and find more success?
"That's good. Who said that Dameon (Pierce)? Teams always have a free hitter. You know, most of the runs that have gone for long yardage on the defensive side, we have a free hitter. Most teams that are trying to stop the run can have a free hitter at all times. A lot of times it's just left up to the running back to make one guy miss. That's just normal right there throughout. Teams are going to gang up on us and make us throw the ball and try to do whatever they need to do to stop the run."
What is it going to take to get QB Davis Mills going earlier in games?
"There's a lot of numbers you threw out there. I don't have them memorized like that. We have a balanced attack, and we try to run, I'm going back to the first play of the game, we try to run, we try to pass, we mix it up. On what has happened back there, I really don't know. I just know of how we finish up the game. We didn't punt the ball in the second half, and we had our opportunities. We're down in the red zone six times. Whatever we're doing, if we continue to do that and convert on some of those, I think we'll be in pretty good shape."
Why is the quarterback position different and why you don't think it's time to make a change at quarterback?
"Because you guys keep asking me about that position. That's all we want to talk about. Davis Mills had an interception yesterday, like a lot of quarterbacks in the NFL did. Without going over, critiquing every little bit, we evaluate everything that every position does. Quarterback, some of the positions, we never rotate them. If there's a position where you don't rotate a guy, you're going to let that guy play a little bit longer. It's like that at other positions too. Our linebackers are some of the positions we don't substitute an awful lot, some of our offensive linemen. It's no more than that. We evaluate everybody. Right now, what I said yesterday right after the game and what I'm saying now, we don't think that the play right now just Davis Mills play says all of our problems, 'Let's just get Davis out of there and everything's okay.' We're going to keep working on a lot of different things. That's what I said yesterday. That's what I'm saying today."
With teams ganging up and making you throw the ball, where does your confidence in QB Davis Mills to throw the ball come from?
"Because he gives us our best chance to win. The confidence comes in that. Since he's our starting quarterback, we're going to have to be able to do that. We completed some balls yesterday. As I said, we didn't punt the ball the second half. There are some good things we we're able to do to. When is say teams are ganging up, that's what all teams do. We all try and gang up on the run and make you pass for the most part. I didn't know that I said anything that really enlightened someone on that comment."
Can you talk about the play of DL Jerry Hughes and is this what you expected from him at the beginning of this season?
"We liked him a lot. This is Jerry's (Hughes) third team that he's been on, and he's played quite a few years. Again, we liked everything about him, not just him, meaning him the person, but his play on video. Jacques Cesaire, our defensive line coach that worked with him his last stop (Buffalo Bills), all those things said we want him here. It's always good to bring a local guy back home, all those things. His play has been outstanding every game. There's a certain level of play, he's not going to make every tackle, every play, but he's going to be someone that teams have to take notice of. We have a lot of young players playing. They need to see guys like Jerry Hughes that are just nonstop, every snap. We'd be undefeated if everybody was playing, if we we're all doing our job as well as Jerry is doing his."
With DB Jalen Pitre missing tackles, how do you approach a correctable moment for a young player?
"There has to be a correctable thing, because Jalen (Pitre) will be the first guy to tell you he's missed too many tackles. He's too good of a football player. There are somethings that can happen in that situation. First off, we had a blitz zone, man coverage, he was guarding the slot guy. It was too far off of him first, too much space in between. As a defender, there are some positions you're put in where maybe it's zone coverage, and we have guys take a shot on their leverage side because they know they have their teammate there. Then, there's some situations where it's man coverage, when you're the last guy they could possibly get him down, you have to get a more secured tackle. A lot of things kind of go into it. Yesterday was one of those situations where third-and-long, we needed to just make a secure tackle. But after he missed it, we should have another wave of defense, a safety. It's not like it was a zero coverage blitz. We had others, Christian Harris had a change to get him down. We had a couple other players that had an opportunity to. Unfortunate play. If we could have stopped momentum early in that third quarter, it might have been a different outcome too."
Do you bring your rookies in and look for teachable moments?
"When you're a rookie in this league, there are teachable moments daily. Pulling them in, hugging them, talking to them, coaching them throughout the course of the game, yes. Jalen (Pitre) wasn't the only rookie. Every rookie to a man, did something that we need to clean up yesterday. And yes, as coaches we're always doing that. It's not like we're kicking them out of the family making them change their last name or anything like that. When you deal with young players, there's going to be moments like that. You want the moments to be just less and less each week and hopefully now that we're in the second half of the season that that will be the case."
You guys played well in the second quarter on defense, on the blitz there, was that game situation or were you trying to make something happen?
"That was just a typical third-and-long situation. We had a blitz called. We thought we get some pressure. We did get some good pressure on that one. Great play by (Daniel) Jones to get the ball out of there. You have a blitz, and they catch about – someone asked earlier about short of the third down marker a little bit, that was a play that was caught short of the first down marker. Got to be able to get them down in those situations and the punt team comes on."
Do you expect DL Jonathan Greenard to be back anytime soon?
"We hope. I don't know exactly how long. Right now where we are, when you're close, you need all of your guys back. It was good to get Brandin (Cooks) back in the gameplan last week. It was good to get WR Nico (Collins) back into the gameplan in yesterday's game, Maliek Collins, all those guys. To get Jonathan (Greenard) back, he's one of our guys too. I don't exactly how long it'll be but there will be a spot for him once he gets back."
What do you think has been the biggest issue during the fourth quarter?
"I know I'm the head coach, and I know I'm supposed to tell you, 'Hey, this is the reason why.' I just think if we continue – if we just had no production, I would really be concerned. I just look at yesterday, we we're down there. That word 'finish' has been used an awful lot, but that's the case. Untimely penalties, we are close. Don't know exactly what the reason is, but we get another opportunity. That's the good thing about where we are in our football season. The Commanders are coming in. They got a chance to see us up close and personal yesterday. Excited about seeing them. Excited about coming back home. When you go on the road and lose a tough one like that, you do want to come back home. Hopefully we'll correct some of those things this week."
Can you go through how you and the other coaches teach players how to finish?
"We just have a routine that we go through that we've been doing forever like most teams. It's just not one thing, 'hey guys, we haven't finished, do this to finish.' It's just going through our practice the best you can right up until the last play. It's no more than that. We all see the clock. You need to play your best ball at the end. It's as simple as that. Defensively, yesterday, they didn't score in the fourth quarter. Offensively, yesterday, we were down there quite a bit. Now just being able to complete the play at the end. It's just not do this and we finish. It's a little bit bigger than that."
Can you talk about TE Jordan Akins and taking advantage of the opportunities he gets?
"Good question. There's things that are happening like Ogbo (Ogbonnia Okoronkwo) on the defensive side of the field, at the defensive end position, did a lot of good things yesterday from start to finish. Jordan Akins though, it seemed like from the moment we picked him up, the guy has just made play after play. He's a tough matchup. Tough matchup size-wise for a safety or a linebacker. Just what he's been able to do. Yesterday, every time we threw the ball, it seemed like he was able to make some type of big play. Wish we could've gotten one of those long ones into the endzone. He's just a good, production football player that we need to keep in the gameplan and really need to get into the gameplan more."