Transcript: 9-26-2022 Press Conferences

HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH

Opening Statement

"I didn't think we would see a lot of y'all here today. Lot of good things going on with our (Houston) Rockets. Yesterday's game, we've lost three winnable games, three where we had fourth quarter leads. Glass half full, that's saying that we're close. The reality is we could still be far away because these things have happened three weeks in a row. Positives from the game, I thought our specials teams were outstanding yesterday, of course the fake punt, but so much more. Our punting game, coverage kickoff and punt. Thought we did some good things that gave us an opportunity to win the football game. Offensively, we need more. We put more points up on the board yesterday. There were opportunities for other plays. Favorable third downs would be a third-and-1 and we had four of those that we didn't convert. Not converting on four third-and-1s, two critical interceptions, both were tipped, hurt us a lot. If you can't stop the run, it's going to be a tough duty. Defensively, we weren't good on third down. The runs, I think they got about 130 of their yards with three runs. In order for that to happen, missed tackles but one was a definitely bust. Those kinds of things really lead to you losing games at the end of the game. These are things when we watch the video, you see it's obvious where we can clean some things up and that's what we'll do. Injury-wise, thought we ended up in pretty good shape. Not going in, so that shouldn't be a factor."

What's the consistent problem on short third downs from all three games?

"I won't go all the way back to those games. This game, one was late. Third-and-1, two-minute situation, we're trying to complete a pass there. On the goal line, there was a third-and-1, that was a big one. We let one of the linebackers run through an A gap. That shouldn't happen. The other two were run pass options and we should have just taken the run. Those are the things that can be cleaned up though, from my point. You want to get in those situations. If you have to get to third down, you want it to be a third-and-1."

How are you seeing QB Davis Mills handle the RPOs?

"We didn't handle those decisions the right way. I'll say that."

Is there a way to improve tackling without hard hits in practice?

"Wasn't about fits, eventually you're going to get in position where you have to make a tackle. Simple as that. You have to wrap up. That's what we didn't do. Are there ways to improve it? Yeah, get in a little bit better positions and wrap up once you get to the point of attack. That's what it was. It's one thing to miss one tackle but we should be talking about missed tackles with a 10-yard gain, not those explosive plays like we've been giving up. Talking about all the negative that happened, first off, defensively I'm going to talk about the positives, Jalen Pitre's game. Rookie, outstanding job. Two interceptions, big sack, tackle for a loss, just overall good play throughout. That's encouraging when you see a player like that. Jerry Hughes. You have one of our youngest players really playing good ball and you have our oldest defensive player that's playing good ball also. Jerry (Hughes) did a good job rushing the pass. There's a lot of in between that we have to take care of. Back to the offensive side of the football, when I talk about those plays we didn't make, it can make the outcome look a lot worse. There were so many guys that improved from Week 2. If we can continue the path, we'll eventually get this figured out."

When rushing the passer, were you trying to do something different by adding linebacker pressure to flood some holes?

"I think we did that a little bit. (Jalen) Pitre got his last sack was on a blitz. We were blitzing throughout. I wish it was as simple as just blitz. To me, as I look at it, do we have somebody in position to make a tackle. If the answer is yes, it's a good defense and we have to be able to execute that way."

What are your thoughts on the last offensive play after watching the film?

"You know the outcome on the decision. First off the ball was tipped. If any quarterback is throwing the ball and the ball gets tipped, who's fault really is it? We didn't execute the way we need to. In that last play, whenever you get a chance to analyze it, there's normally a few guys that are open on most plays. It shouldn't come down to that. We can say that one play, you cannot have a takeaway in that situation. I'm not saying that, but look at all the other opportunities we had before that. I'm going to go back to the third-and-1 on the goal line, 2-yard line and taking a sack. That play was just as important too. We've got to be able to clean these one's up."

How important is it for a team to get production from their backup running backs?

"I think it's very important. I think most teams play two guys. They feel pretty good about two guys. Yeah, he (Khalil Herbert) was listed as a second team running back, but he's played. He's a good football player. In the NFL, there's a lot of backups like that, just wait for the opportunity that haven't gotten it. Those plays yesterday, I'm going to that one big run that he had, that had a lot to do wit us. We had someone out of a gap and we missed a big tackle. That leads to backup running backs coming in and having big games based on what the other side did. That was definitely the case on that play."

Are you looking to bring in new running backs to the roster for different rotations?

"No. We like our running backs that we have. Dameon (Pierce) has got to protect the football better. The times that he's played all three games, we like what our one running back has done. It's pretty had to get three running backs involved. Rex (Burkhead) in his role will continue. I've seen signs of improvement each week. It's not where it needs to be. A lot of time with the running game too, you've got to have some explosive in there. Some explosive runs and then it looks a whole lot better. That's what they were able to do yesterday. Eventually, we'll get that."

Can you talk about the progress of QB Davis Mills throughout the first three weeks?

"You go ask Davis (Mills) and the rest of our team, we haven't made enough progress to win football games right now. Tou take away the interceptions, I know we can't do that, but I thought his pocket presence was a lot better yesterday. He threw some good passes. A couple to Nico (Collins) throughout. I thought he threw better passes yesterday than he did in the previous week. There's small progress being made throughout with all of the players and of course he's the biggest part of that. It's hard to talk about progress when you finish the way we did though."

When you look at the film, how do you think the offense handled the obvious passing situations?

"It's pretty easy to look at that. We had four third-and-1's. I'm going to look more to that than obvious passing situations. As long as you take the third-and-1's and you convert on those, everything else will work itself out. You live for the day when you get to third down and it's a third-and-1 situation. We need to do a better job. My biggest complaint first, the turnovers, and there it's just converting third-and-1's. A lot of things we're talking about right now wouldn't be here."

Is there a balance to trying to go for a tackle but also stripping the ball?

"Missing tackles has nothing to do with that. Nothing at all. Go watch the video and see how many times yesterday we missed a tackle where you somebody trying to go for the ball. We won't use that. You've got to get in better position with angles and being the right spot, and when we get there we need to wrap up. It has nothing to do with that. As far as our form of defense, we will never stop trying to take the ball away to win football games. Just like we'll never stop trying to intercept balls instead of knocking them down."

Did they do anything more difficult for QB Davis Mills to try and get the ball to Brandin Cooks?

"Of course the answer is yes. That's what everybody is doing every play. They're trying to do that. Every pass coverage that you have, that's the goal to do that. I can't say you can do that the entire game. Brandin (Cooks) has to find ways to get open a little bit more. We've got to find him better ways to get him the ball. That's kind of the simple answer for a lot of what we did. I'm going to go back to yesterday, I don't think it was about that. You look at some of the critical moments that we weren't able to get that done."

What is your assessment of the linebacker play?

"I don't think our play has been good. The linebackers just as a whole, it hasn't been good enough. I'm going to start up front first. Going into this game yesterday, it was about the offensive line blocking them. It was about our defensive line controlling theirs. We didn't do a good job of that. Whenever you get a running back to the second wave, it's going to start with the d-line, and from there, linebackers are going to be a big part of any plays that are able to break. Whether it be the run or pass, the linebackers are always involved. When we talk about not playing our best defense right now, of course the linebackers have a big say in that."

How does working with 52-man on the roster compare to having 53?

"No, it's really not because how many dress on game day? 48. That's what it's about, it's that. We'll have a lot other players of course as we talk about that practice squad guys can move up. It doesn't affect it at all. What I look at each week, how many guys do you really need to win football games. I've been asked an awful lot about how many receivers we dress, how many played yesterday. Really we dress four, three really play. We dressed an extra defensive lineman, we went nine yesterday. Our ninth one played how many snaps yesterday, one snap. You have more than enough. The general rule as you look at it, you need a starting group and you need one backup at every position. Then the rest of the guys dressed are guys that have a big special teams role. I think we have the numbers about what they need to be. Whether there's 52 on the roster, it's more than enough."

With having an extra spot this year compared to last year, does it give you an extra spot to field on game day?

"I don't think you need to look at anybody on game day. The guys that we have that's what I think we need. We need a starting group that's going to play and we need a backup at every position, I think we have that. If we could dress 60 guys, would I like to do that, yeah. Eighty would be, everyone on our roster would help a little bit too. You really don't need that many. We have more than enough to get what we need to get accomplished."

Since you put an emphasis on finishing, will you change your speech or come up with something different?

"The first time something doesn't go right, you change what you believe that quick, well there's no belief in anything if you do that. The answer is no, no, no and no. We're going to keep doing the things that we believe in and we're going to do those better. That's where we are, three games into this 17-game regular season."

How do you prepare for the depth that the Los Angeles Chargers have?

"We have an outstanding advanced scouting department, personnel department. There won't be any surprises like that. We're aware of the guys that are out right now. We've already gotten the scouting report on the Chargers. We played them last year. All of the things you kind of know about them, we'll know too. That won't be a reason for us to not have success against them based on not knowing their personnel."

What did you think of DB Derek Stingley Jr.'s day against the Bears and assess his progress from Week 1?

"Yesterday was one of those days where it wasn't a passing day, starting with that. It was a show pass and take off running that kind of led to the rushing yardage too. To answer your question, he wasn't attacked as much, neither one of our corners. It was more about them supporting the run yesterday and we can do a better job of that. Stingley will get better each game he plays."

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