Good afternoon. Morning started early, of course. Looking at yesterday’s game and my view of how the game unfolded hasn’t changed much here in the last 24 hours or so. That one got away from us. I’m cautious about how I use that phrase because I don’t want to devalue accountability in terms of what we could’ve done to change the outcome of that game. Of course we didn’t make the sufficient plays, particularly at the end, to be victorious. We’ve been in those kinds of games quite a bit this year and usually we found a way to make a play or two. We didn’t and the Jets did, similar to our first Baltimore game when they did and we didn’t. I think that’s a great place to start in terms of assessing the game. [There were] a lot of areas where the game could’ve unfolded differently, a lot of areas where we could’ve been better. That’s the case every week, even in victory. Tip your hats to the Jets. They made the plays.
Moving forward from a health standpoint, Arnaz Battle had a shoulder/rib contusion in the game. He should be touch-and-go this week on a short week. We anticipate Heath [Miller] being fine. Steve McLendon should be fine coming back off his stinger. Aaron Smith is going to be fitted for a shoulder brace. We’ll see where his participation goes from a practice standpoint. I haven’t received word on Troy [Polamalu]’s visit to the building yet as of today, so it’s still early in the week in terms of where he is with his availability to practice and ultimately play.
Looking at the Carolina Panthers, they’re coming off a victory versus Arizona. They’re a young football team. When you look at them offensively, Jonathan Stewart and [Mike] Goodson provide the work for them. Both of those guys are about 4.5 per tote for the year. Those two guys combined carried the ball about 45 times in yesterday’s game. When you look at a team like Carolina that’s gone through what they’ve gone through, you look for areas in which they’ve found rhythm, particularly in the midst of success like they had yesterday. Those two backs carrying the ball 45 times appears to be a formula for them, based on the people that they have, so of course stopping those ballcarriers is going to be a big part of this week’s challenge for us. They complement each other extremely well. Stewart is a patient runner with nice finishing power. We looked at him hard when we drafted [Rashard] Mendenhall. Goodson is an awesome complement to him because he’s got great perimeter speed. He’s capable of bouncing and attacking your edges. We’re familiar with him because we played against him in the preseason. He carried the ball quite a bit against us so we know his skill set. He’s a talented guy. Steve Smith is Steve Smith. He’s a very talented guy. His numbers are down, yes, but it has nothing to do with his talent level. They’ve had a number of people play the quarterback position, many of them young folks over the course of the season. I imagine it’s been a frustrating journey for him. We still respect what he’s capable of and acknowledge he’s one of the best in the world at his position. Jordan Gross, their left tackle, kind of anchors their front. He’s a rock-solid player. Of course [Jimmy] Clausen put together a winning performance and had over a 100 passer rating last week. I think his effort was helped by the 45 touches of the two feature runners. That’s why it’s important that we stymie their running game and try to get at Clausen a little bit.
Defensively it starts with their man in the middle Jon Beason. He’s a top-notch player, Pro Bowl-caliber player, really good inside linebacker. He’s a three-down linebacker. He’s equally effective in passing situations, be it in coverage or in the blitz packages. Up front they play a decent rotation of people led by [Charles] Johnson of Georgia. [Greg] Hardy has come on, a young guy from Ole Miss, last several weeks, probably due to Everette Brown going on IR and some other things. It looks like this young man is taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him. He’s been a force on special teams. He’s starting to show up in some defensive packages. He’s someone who jumps out at you a little bit on tape. I think the safety tandem of [Charles] Godfrey and [Sherrod] Martin are really good. Godfrey leads them in interceptions. Martin had a nice 35-yard return yesterday. They’re both young and talented; both have corner-like skills or backgrounds. It lends itself to covering a bunch of grass and they’re both very good, functional tacklers. They’ve got a nucleus of corner people who’ve been there a long time, whether it’s Richard Marshall or [Chris] Gamble or others, they’ve got some corners who’ve been around.
For us this week, preparing for Thursday night action, it’s a quick turnaround, particularly for a veteran football team. We’re going to be very conscious about how we prepare this week. We’ve got to prepare as smart as we can. We’ve got to preserve our guys in as many ways as we can because quite honestly working on this kind of week you’ve got to acknowledge that it’s an advantage for the Carolina Panthers. They’re a younger team than we are. Physically they’re capable of bouncing back faster, no question, so we’ve got to prepare extremely smart and put our veteran outfit in the best position we can to play effective football Thursday night.
Saying that, would you be more willing to rest Troy if it’s at all dicey?
Whether or not he plays or anyone plays will be based solely on health.
Could you talk about proceeding into a chance for playing championship football?
Us qualifying for the postseason? Of course, we’re excited about being insured an opportunity to advance into the playoffs. I don’t like how it unfolded. You feel like you’re crawling in on your belly but we’ve got two weeks to do something about that. Our focus is on Carolina this week. All of the goals we set out for ourselves are still attainable. We’ve got to play ball this week. I still think a division title is in our sites if we handle our business, but it starts with playing good, winning football Thursday night.
Might Aaron practice this week?
We’re going to fit him for a brace and see where that takes us.
Why was the flag initially dropped on the opening kickoff?
The referee, it fell out of his waistband, and I think it fell out of his waistband on several occasions during the course of the game.
Should it have fallen out a few more times on your receivers downfield?
I coach. I don’t referee.
Does losing cloud whatever positives you might have seen?
I try not to put a positive or a negative spin on anything. I just try to see it for what it is. Yesterday’s performance was a loss. There were some good things in it, just like during the previous week’s win there were some bad things in it. Part of being a championship-caliber outfit is taking the emotions out of your performance and simply evaluating what you’re looking at and being accountable for it. There were some good things in yesterday’s game. The significant thing is we didn’t do enough good things in the latter portions of the game to slip out of the stadium with a win, which is something that we’ve made a habit of doing and something we need to make a habit of doing again.
On the second-down throw into the end zone, was Emmanuel Sanders the intended receiver?
Ben [Roethlisberger] was trying to hit Emmanuel Sanders in the back of the end zone. Of course [Matt] Spaeth came into the line of vision and attempted to make a play on the football, but that’s not uncommon under those situations and circumstances when you’re talking about a short field in the red zone and the ball doesn’t come out on time. Zones overlap, routes overlap. It gets hairy, and it did in that instance.
Trai Essex finished the game at left tackle. Are you considering making a change there?
Much too early in the week. We’re still in the process of evaluating yesterday’s performance and putting together a formula for success this week. A lot of things are involved in that. Personnel matchups are part of that. We’ll address that at the appropriate time. I’m just not ready to have that kind of discussion at this juncture.
Why did you put him in for Jonathan Scott on the last drive?
He was less than 100 percent from a physical standpoint and we felt like Trai gave us the best opportunity to navigate the ball downfield.
Could you take us through the safety?
Jason Taylor was in a 3-technique. He was in a B gap. He’s a unique get-off player for a person that plays in a B gap. He’s got unique short-area quicks and initial get-off. He probably recognized the formation, potentially the play, had an awesome get-off on the play. We were unable to cut him off with our center and backside tackle. He slipped in behind the pulling guard and was very disruptive and tackled our runner from behind the end zone for a safety. You can talk about a lot of things that transpired on that play and how you combat that, cutting the split down to the tackle and so forth, but I think the first thing you should acknowledge is that Jason Taylor is a unique animal in the B gap and he’s got a unique skill set. He probably is a savvy veteran player that recognized some formation clues and he took a calculated risk and made an awesome play. I want to give him credit.
Does Mewelde Moore always run that play?
We’ve had all three of our backs run that play in recent weeks.
Why could the Jets run the ball?
They probably had more of a commitment to running it than some of our other opponents had. I didn’t think they were gutting us by any stretch but they exhibited the patience that others hadn’t under similar conditions, so they were able to find some rhythm and get a play or two. I didn’t think it was a bad game in terms of us stopping the run, but I didn’t think it was our best effort. … We expect Carolina to exhibit similar patience this week so we’d better be prepared to turn them back, even if it’s plus 45 times.
Why did you have success running the ball?
Because we’ve been running the football. We ran for 120 the previous week. I don’t think that’s out of line with what we’ve done.
You ran it only 25 times and averaged 5.9 a carry.
We were behind in this game. We finished our last possession of the first half in the two-minute drill. The latter part of the game we were virtually throwing it every down. Sometimes numbers get skewed due to game circumstances. We’re committed to running it and running it well.
Had the Jets shown that bootleg?
They have shown that. When you play coach [Rex] Ryan you know the kind of guy he is. You want to make him pull that ball and run that naked, so I was pleased that they ran the play. I think it shows a level of respect coach Ryan has for our short-yardage defense. You want to stop them. We weren’t able to do that. It’s a small victory when you’re playing the New York Jets and they don’t hand the ball to LaDainian Tomlinson or [Shonn] Greene in that situation or circumstance.
Can you speak to how important it is to get a bye in the playoffs?
I won’t. I won’t speak to it. I’ll only speak about preparing for Carolina.
Is Troy’s situation comparable to Aaron’s at all?
No. No. Troy’s experiencing some discomfort in his lower leg but as soon as the discomfort subsides he’ll be back in action. I think we’re moving close to that. We’ll see where this week takes us.
How did Ryan Mundy play?
I thought he was solid. I thought he played above-the-line football.
I don’t even know who it was against. It’s not on video because it occurred after a play. I haven’t had an in-depth discussion with him in terms of what transpired. My only comment to the officiating crew is the confrontation occurred in our backfield in our huddle area, and we have a right to our huddle area and that was my concern regarding the confrontation.
When did you find out you made the playoffs?
I don’t recall.
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