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Transcripts: 12-4-2022 Press Conferences

HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH

Opening Statement

"A game like this, we understand the amount of attention that it got. But once all that kind of leaves a little bit, it normally comes down to what most games come down to. One statistic that tells the story of a game is the turnover ratio. Whenever you talk about non-offensive touchdowns, you give up three, that's going to be tough to win. So, offensively, got to protect the ball better. We had some opportunities down in the red zone, weren't able to cash in. Dameon Pierce plays the way he always does, runs hard, gives the offense some life, but we as coaches have got to do a better job. Player-wise, offensively, we can't win many games playing like that. Special team-wise, we played great special teams throughout the year. Today, we can't give up a long punt return. We had a lot of missed tackles on that punt return. Of course, we've got to protect the ball better when we have it down there – that led to three more points. So, if you play that way offensively and special team-wise, it is going to be tough. But just looking at the entire game defensively, I thought the guys put together really six good quarters of defensive football. Today, to keep them out of the end zone was big. We knew they were one of the best in the league at running the football, but I thought the guys continued to give us a chance until it got out of hand there at the end."

When you look at the mistakes QB Kyle Allen made today, have you started assessing if he is the starter next week or are you not in that mode yet?

"We're definitely not in that mode. I'm just disappointed in how we played offensively right now. We as coaches have to do a better job. Just could never get the passing game going. Even if you can't get it going, you can't turn it over, and those situations really hurt us a lot."

What did you think about the job your defense did on Browns QB Deshaun Watson and their offense overall?

"I think the defense played well throughout. Whenever you can keep an NFL offense out of the end zone, that's big, especially with the amount of firepower we thought they had. Like a lot of the things, we haven't taken the ball away. Those two take-aways we were able to get helped a lot, but their defense outplayed our defense today."

The team had great energy to start this game. What do you think it's going to take for the consistency to continue throughout a game?

"Eventually, we've got to have some production on the offensive side. We've got to score points. You're right. It's good. We were in it, holding them, taking the ball away. On defense that's what we've been stressing a lot. We've got to get our offense more opportunities in favorable situations. But when we get down in the red zone – we had opportunities today. We've got to be able to convert some kind of way."

What was your plan for QB Deshaun Watson today and how do you feel you all did?

"I think we're healthy right now, for one thing defensively. I'm going to go back to the second half of the Miami game. We shut them out the second half, so defensively, we see it coming. Guys were playing hard, start to finish right up until, gave us a chance. We're doing what the defense says do. It says a lot in a game like that, giving us a chance to stay in the game, but we've got to have some more on the other side."

When you see DB Jalen Pitre finally get an interception after dropping a few in the past few weeks, what does that do for morale?

"It has to help an awful lot. Jalen (Pitre) has been in the starting position pretty much since we drafted him. In a few games, he didn't play his best ball. We've moved him back. He's been playing free safety the last couple of games, and it seemed like he is more comfortable back there. I thought he played the ball well. I thought he tackled well. It's a good game, and just have to let those young guys continue to play. There's a lot of good that they did."

With some of these performances and losses stacking up, do you let your mind wonder to job security for your staff or yourself?

"No, I don't. I have never worried about job security. What I'm worried about is doing the best job I can getting ready for the Cowboys. It's kind of as simple as that."

What seems to be the issue with sustaining drives on offense?

"I wish I could give you better answers, but you're right. Last week, Kyle (Allen) hadn't played a lot of ball. We were hoping the play would be a little bit better this week. Our play overall wasn't as good this week. As far as what it was, give Cleveland a lot of the credit. Just not quite there. We're not a good offense right now. We're still searching for what we can do well. When we did try to run the football, I thought Dameon Pierce continues to play the same way, but we've got to find a way, some kind of way, to get our passing game going."

When your defense has the type of performance they had today, and the team is still not able to get the job done, what message do you have for your defense?

"What I told the defense is to continue to play defensively. Did a lot of good things. It wasn't a perfect game, but we're going to highlight the good things that we did defensively. Things we didn't do well, you're going to talk about those too, and we're going to ask them to do it again, and that's how it goes. Offense is not good enough. Special teams is not good enough. We need to raise our game. It really is kind of as simple as that. Understand what the record is, and we lost a game today, but those are some of the things. Each player has to just look at how they played, what side of the ball, all of that. That's what we're going to do."

You mentioned not getting points in the goal line situation. What was the communication back and forth between you and Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton about those situations?

"First, the drive that we had, we're trying to score. In hindsight right now, everything we did didn't work. So, you say, 'Hey, maybe we should have done something else.' When we're coming out, it's about ball security. It's just that. We've got to protect the football. You know, defense, that's what they do. They're trying to punch the ball and get the ball out at all times. So, it's as simple as that. As far as conversation, we're having conversations throughout is what we're doing."

What do you have to say about DB Jalen Pitre's performance?

"I think that's a heck of a job for a rookie that's growing, and I shouldn't say rookie. They've played a lot of football now. That's what we told our young players, our first-year guys. Jalen Pitre has an opportunity to be a good football player, and he continues to come to work and improve on those things. Again, he's played his best ball. Maybe, us as coaches, we had him at strong safety position and now he is at the free safety position. Didn't really do a lot of that in college, but it seems like that's the more natural position for him."

What are your thoughts on the second interception for QB Kyle Allen?

"Can't throw the ball over the middle. Pretty simple on that. Most interceptions, it's about decisions you make at the quarterback position. Holding it. Not throwing it. It always kind of comes down to that. Sometimes the best play that you can make as a quarterback is just not throw it and press it, because most of the game, it's not like it was a game that got out of hand right away, we're right in there. We're in striking distance. We're a touchdown away most of the game, so you are just hoping a couple of those passes would go to our guys."

Do you have an update on FB Troy Hairston?

"I know he finished the game, so it's not anything serious. You check out a lot of different things, but shoulder bruise or whatever in the end. But he finished the game, so he should be good to go."

What did you think of QB Deshaun Watson's performance?

"I'm sure Deshaun (Watson) is going to play better games than he did today. I don't know what all his stats said, but I thought we for the most part we were pretty much in control defensively. We were pretty much in control of their offense most of the day."

Was there a reason why RB Dameon Pierce didn't touch the ball on all three runs inside the redzone that?

"Hindsight right now, I wish we had done something different. That didn't work. Thought we had a good play there. When you go for it on fourth down like that, I felt like we needed a touchdown in that situation. It's so hard to get down there. We need to be able to convert on those."

When you sit down with film tomorrow, how do you approach looking for improvements on offense? What is left at your disposal?

"Tonight is when we'll start looking. Again, we're just going to look over everything that happened in the game. This late in the year, different combinations, personnel changes – we feel like we've let most of the guys have an opportunity to show us what they have. We just have to look first to us as coaches on what we're doing to try to get a better game plan, and then eventually get a game plan that the players can execute. Right now, we're not there. See the results. Not good enough. Can't win any football games until we get it better."

QB KYLE ALLEN

Have you looked at the tape yet?

"I mean, similar to last week with the turnovers. I don't remember how many points the defense actually gave up on their own, but with the pick-six on the tip and then the fumble and the sneak and giving up 14 points, you're just not going to win games like that."

You guys came out with a lot of energy in that first half. What changed the second half? It seemed like the energy was dipped off a lot.

"I don't think our energy changed. I think it's the big mistakes gave them points. We had two defensive touchdowns and then you're just down big."

Kind of walk us through what happened with the fumble.

"On the goal line? Yeah, just the QB sneak. We were just trying to get the ball off the goal line. And it's just one of those things as running backs you work on all the time. You just have to hold it all the way to the ground. I was right next to the ground and went to brace myself for the fall and hit it and punched it out."

Is that about getting some room to operate on the next down?

"Yeah. You're just trying to get it out of there so hopefully you can get some good room to get a good punt."

In the goal line situation, what was the conversation going through the decisions there?

"They subbed in big personnel and stopped the run, so we were throwing passes. First one no one was there and we threw it away. I don't remember. I think we ended up running the ball in third down to get down to the one. And then the play I think fourth down, just the one to Troy Hairston, the ball came out high and got in the window. I tried to get it over him, and it was high, and it hit off his hands. Otherwise, it would have been huge if we could have scored there."

When you are going through the course of a game, you seen the defense keeping it close. How does that feel for the offense? Do you talk about that at all?

"It's awesome. The defense played incredible today. We just wish we could have picked them up more times. With the turnovers they had in the first half to only come out with -- I don't remember if we had five or eight points going into half, but to only have that many points going into the half, we have to be better than that."

What did you think about RB Dameon Pierce and the run game?

"It was great. The first guy is never going to take him down. It's good first down run game. He's getting better on the check-downs and finding those spots and catching the ball and running. He is reliable. He is going to bring it every week."

You are going into your second game. How did you feel about the preparation coming into this, and were there any surprises for you today?

"No, nothing really surprised me that much today. I felt more comfortable this week with another full week of preparation. But, I didn't think much surprised us. Just a couple of big mistakes put us in a bad spot."

For the brief time that FB Troy Hairston was out in the second half, how did y'all approach that coming in the second half?

"Just personnel stuff. You just switch some tight ends around and run some different personnels. Let the coaches handle that, but it wasn't that big of a deal."

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