HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
In the end it's just about winning. You either win or you lose and we realize that. But where we are with our program, we want to win. We want to get better and the guys are getting better. The effort today, I thought the guys just played hard from start to finish. Offensively, we haven't been able to do an awful lot lately, but I thought, first, the offensive line did a good job. That defense we played, I think leading the league in sacks. I don't think we gave up one. I thought Dameon Pierce ran hard. And our receivers - we were down our top two receivers today - but Chris Moore really stepped up. Amari Rodgers stepped up, so you like with those guys were able to do. And, quarterback-wise, again, we made a change. We looked for a spark. I thought Davis did some good change passing the football, made some good throws today. Made some good decisions today. I liked things he did. And the combination with Jeff Driskel. Early in the week we decided to go with this plan to use Jeff. I thought he did some good things too. Realize at the end we had an opportunity. First-and-foal inside the five. We needed to cash that in for a touchdown. Defensively, whenever you can take the ball away, that's a big thing. When Steve Nelson went down, we were down a couple of our starting cornerbacks. quarterbacks. Tremon Smith, outstanding job. Des King has done an outstanding job. These guys just keep, next man up mentality and they played well. Meick Collins Jalen Pitre, we gave ourselves a chance. We continue to do things like that. Special teams, that fumble recovery by Blake Cashman, Ka'imi hitting the field goals. Lots of positive things for us to build on. We understand it's late in the year on building on something but, where we are, that is a big thing. We had a few injuries. A few guys that went out of the game early but came back in, like Kenyon Green but there late, Dameon Pierce with that ankle injury couldn't go anymore, and so that hurt us a little bit, and I mentioned Steve Nelson earlier.
On how much not having Dameon Pierce affected things on the final red zone possession.
"It affected quite a bit. First and goal inside the five, the plan would've been a little bit different, but nobody wants to hear about injuries. We've had quite a few. If Dameon would've been healthy and ready to go, of course he would've been in there."
On the decision on the final run with Jeff. Did he read it wrong?
"We just didn't execute. We just didn't execute the way we needed to."
On how rough it was to get that close and not be able to get points.
"Tough. The guys played tough all day. Games like that, sometimes you feel like, did we deserve to win? Yeah, I thought we played throughout, all three phases. Where we are in our season, the guys just keep showing up to play that way against a team. I told Mike, they have just as good a chance to win it all as anyone. So that part is good, but we have a loss still, we realize that."
On the play of Jalen Pitre today.
"I think we've been saying the same thing about him lately. We made the move with him back in the middle of the field and it's paying dividends. He's a good player. It seems like it's his natural position. He was active, tackling, playing the ball like all of the guys were today."
On what he saw from his defense today, continually pinning Dallas back inside the five.
"First, as you said, I mentioned Ka'imi and how he kicked. But we also did a good job, of course, punting. Cam punting the football down there. It's about special teams pinning them down there and, from there, your defense. The options are three-and-out, take the ball away three-and-out or a safety. Our guys have been in that position a few times. Most of the things were kind of going the way we wanted them to right up until the end of the game."
On the plan on the Cowboys last drive. Dak Prescott had to make some really tight throws. What was the plan for him.
"We were kind of doing what we normally do. We mix it up. We play all of the different coverages. Gave them as many looks as we could. Losing our corners kind of took us out of some of our blitzes, but Dak Prescott is one of the best quarterbacks in our game and he's going to hit some. I think they kind of showed a little bit of the champion in them. They had to get a drive. There at the end, unfortunately for us, they were able to."
On using two quarterbacks
"Where we are, we haven't gotten a whole lot of production offensively. You look at your roster. Jeff has been there. Really, as we go back and look at it a little bit, he did some good things in the preseason early on. That plan kind of got us out of it a little bit when we couldn't elevate him and some things like that, but he's always been there. As you see, the most productive day we've had offensively. I know what the points said but we felt like we could move the ball and mix in a combination of the two."
On if it was a struggle decision-wise to go for the touchdown at the end of the game.
"No struggle on the decision at all. We were up three. We were going to go for the touchdown or leave them in a situation where they're going for three to tie it, and hopefully we wouldn't allow them to score a touchdown. So, no decision. I'd make that 100 out of 100 times and execute where we need to at the end."
On what the locker room was like and how the team was processing this loss.
"First off, as I said, you either win or you lose. We understand that. But it is more than that, where we are. I think each week you look at, "How did I play? Did I give our team a chance to win?" I think most of the guys in there are going to say, "Yeah, I played 60 minutes of ball end, fortunately, it came down until the last minute of the game." So, yeah there's a different feeling. I thought we got better today. I saw progress for sure."
On having two receivers missing and if Chris Moore was moved more into the game plan.
"Absolutely. He's been out there at receiver, so he's been in the mix. Brandin Cooks is out. Nico Collins couldn't go. Next guy up, and that's what they did. We had a similar situation against Philly this year and they stepped up again then too. It seems like it's been that way. I mentioned our corners. It's tough when you're one and two corners down, but those guys aren't really looking for that excuse. It's just the next guy is really excited about the opportunity."
Being a defensive coach, on how challenging it would be for another defensive coach if they don't know which quarterback's going in from series the series.
"I think it can be challenging because. I'm talking about us – we've gone through some different things. Me letting you know exactly who the quarterback's going to be 30 minutes after the game. That didn't help us. What helps us is wait until the end and use the best options that we possibly have and let them go. I like the way we looked at there at the end. We've got to figure out how to finish the game."
On Okoronkwo's pass rushing, forcing the fumble, and the defensive line.
"We talked about Pitre kind of changing positions and we saw the progress that he's made. Same thing with [Ogbo]. He plays hard. I thought our defensive line did. Did a good job you know, most of the position groups I've talked about, we did a good job and we still end up with a loss. But I like that. He can rush from outside. It gives you everything that he has like the rest of the guys who like doing"
On if there were any conversations with peers on trying to go back in when he went out.
"No, it's just pretty simple. The guys injured. Medical staff. Can he go? yes or no. Earlier, when he came out, it was yes we think he can go. With a sprained ankle, a lot of time do you think you can, then you get out there and you see that you can't push off with the ankle that you're hurting the team. And that's a situation there at the end. he couldn't go and will never play a player if you can't."
On if they considered challenging when Chris Warren was short of the goal line.
"Yes on all of it. We have people upstairs looking at every different look. A lot of the ones there today, even though I'm not challenging it, love you, if we're not challenging something that's pretty close there's a good reason that we're not."
On the chance that he'll continue running the two quarterback system as the season progresses
"All right, this is what we're gonna do. You know the answer. You can ask it and then you can answer it. It's about 30 minutes after the game. If y'all expect me to give these kind of answers now. We'll evaluate it; if we like what we're able to do with it today, will keep it. We'll see what gives us the best option to give us a chance to beat Kansas City, another team that has a chance to win it all. We're excited about getting back home and playing them."
QB DAVIS MILLS
On his thoughts on the dual quarterback strategy
"I thought we were moving the ball pretty effectively all day. Jeff's a great athlete, a great quarterback. Any time we can mix it up and keep the defense guessing, we want to utilize that as much as possible so we can keep moving the ball."
On the apparent effectiveness of the two quarterback system in this game
"Exactly. The philosophy is just keep mixing the looks. And, when you simplify it, it's just trying to find ways to get the ball to the playmakers out in space. Jeff did that in zone read in most situations and it kind of opens a bunch of things up when you keep the defense guessing like that. We were moving the ball all day, so we kept doing it."
On how he takes this loss versus other ones
"It's tough. Every loss hurts, but when you're that far into the game with a chance to win and you just can't get it done, that one hurts even more. At the end, look back on it at the end, we had a chance to win. We've just got to find a way to finish those games. All you can ask for is a chance, we've just got to find a way to win."
On how he judges his performance
"I played well for the most part. Obviously, I want to go back and see a couple of things, but there might have only really been one throw that I missed to my standards, that was that slant to the middle of the field to Dorsett on maybe third and eight the first half. But other than that, I thought we played a clean game offensively. I've just got to try to find a way to get the ball to endzone on that redzone series when the defense gave us the ball back late in the game."
On if he was impressed by their performance today
"Yeah, I was impressed. I wouldn't say I'm shocked and I think we have a ton of talent and everyone's able to go out there and execute at a high level. Guys go down, other guys are able to step up and willing and able to go out there and make plays and that's what they did today. So, like I said before, we played a clean game, we've just got to find a way to win it at the end."
QB JEFF DRISKEL
On his thoughts on the strategy they used and how he played
"That was something that we worked on all week. A nice little package for me in there. I was excited to get out there and help the team win and obviously it was not what we wanted to do at the end of the game. We've just got to execute a few more times and punch the ball in the endzone. But, it was good to get back in the game."
On how tough it was to lose in the way that they did
"I thought we played complimentary football all day. Defense gave it to us a few times, got a big goal line stand and we were able to get points out of it. Props to Davis [Mills] for being able to play the game like that – that's not easy to come in on third down a lot of times and drop back pass, but I thought he handled it well. I think the game was called in a way that both of us were able to help. We came up short and have got to be able to execute a few more times."
On how the fourth down play at the end was supposed to work for their offense
"It was a play to get out on the edge and they had more bodies out there than maybe we wanted. It was fourth down and I tried to put my foot in the ground and get vertical and they beat us on that step."
On what it was like not being able to covert at the end after getting in inside the five-yard line
"It's tough. Defense gives it to us on the five and everybody on our sideline thought there's no way we don't get this ball in. I thought every snap we were going to be able to get it in. I thought Chris was really close on the naked. We've just got to find a way to punch it in."
On what he saw form his team today considering the injuries and the opponent
"That's the NFL. It's seventeen games. People are going to go down and people are going to be expected to step up and fill right in and make plays. I thought we did that for the most part today. Like I keep saying, we've just got to do it a few more times and when the defense gives it to us on the five, we've got to reward them with a touchdown."
On how he stayed in rhythm while switching in and out with Davis Mills
"I think Davis handled it really well. There's a lot of guys that wouldn't be too excited about coming off the field. But that's just not who he is. He's about winning the game. And today we thought that was the best strategy. I think we knew going in that's how this game was going to be played and we have a really good quarterback room and nothing selfish from anybody."
On if this represents the kind of relationship that he and Davis have
"Yeah, he wants to win the game, I want to win the game and Pep's calling the game in such a way that he's putting us in positions to make plays that best suit our strengths. We've got a great room and we've just got to continue to get better."