OK, I have zero injuries to report from last night’s game. But
(So Jenkins is in that group?)
Cullen Jenkins, yes. One of the four.
(Can you talk about
I would say Aaron Rodgers’ season is probably as much in line with the season we had as an offense. We’ve been a little bit up and down at times. If you just look at our point production, it’s reflected in that. I thought Aaron overall has good numbers, but earlier in the year, third down, we were not at our best. I felt like we overcame that and got on a run there. It was not very good yesterday against the Bears. But I think it’s 16 games we played this year, 14 times our quarterback performed better than our opponent’s quarterback, and at the end of the day, that’s what you’re looking for. I think he’s had a good year, but it’s time for him and the offense to put their best foot forward when we go to Philadelphia.
(When you look at an offensive performance like yesterday, do you look at the execution on your part or was it more going against a good defense?)
Well, you give the Bears credit. They’re a fine defense, no question. The statistics support that. But when you play Chicago and you play Minnesota, you play your division opponents, it really comes down to execution, effort, finish and things like fundamentals. Because they’re not going to fool us and there’s not a whole lot that you’re going to fool them either. I didn’t like the way we handled the football yesterday. We had four dropped balls, four penalties, two turnovers, and that was really our biggest issue on offense. We did not execute at the level we’re capable of, but we’re 10-6, we’re in the playoffs, we’re a damn good offense, and we need to get ready for Philadelphia.
(You fooled them on the fake-sneak throwback, right? If the throw is where it needs to be, that’s a touchdown?)
We fooled them one time, then, yes.
(I’m just saying that’s an example of execution …)
That’s a deceptive play. Absolutely, it’s always execution. The guy that has the football, whether it’s the runner and he has to make the right decisions and he has to break the tackles, protect the football. Whether you’re throwing it, you have to make the right decisions, put the ball in the right place at the right time. If you’re catching it, catch the ball. It’s all fundamentals. We’ve talk about fundamentals and we do ball-security drills every day. I’m just disappointed in the way we handled the football as an offense yesterday.
(Rodgers said moving forward that he didn’t think being the leading rusher would equate to a win. What are your thoughts?)
Those are a bunch of statistics that frankly I think are meaningless. We won the football game. I really don’t care about the statistics of Chicago. Our defense played extraordinary. I thought they were outstanding. I thought our special teams played excellent, and the offense didn’t have their best day. That’s fine, and that’s my answer for the rest of the negative questions about the offense. It was not a good performance by our offense. We will correct the film, and we are on to Philadelphia.
(Do quarterbacks or defenses win championships?)
Well, I stand in front of the football team all the time. I think it’s important for your team to be noted for great defense. That’s always been the goal in my tenure here, and I think we definitely have reached that. Scoring defense, we’re No. 2 in the league. I think that speaks volumes of the improvement we’ve made from last year to this year. Because I think defenses do win championships. Your offense and your quarterback obviously play a big part in that, and you can carry it over to special teams. You have to have all three phases. But it starts with defense. I’ve always looked at defense as the thermostat. When you have great defense, they keep you in games, week in and week out, and it’s the responsibility of the offense to score more points than the opponent. I definitely agree with the fact that great defenses win championships.
(How would you describe the atmosphere that Dom Capers creates on that side of the ball?)
Does an excellent job. Dom and all the defensive assistant coaches, the system that’s in place and just to watch it go from Year 1 to Year 2 has been very impressive, and that’s where you always like to see the biggest improvements, whether it’s a player or even in any system, and we’ve definitely hit that with our defensive system. So they do a great job, just with the number of players that have played. You can talk about the rookie free agents that have started, you talk about the guys we’ve acquired at midseason. There’s been some excellent coaching going on this year without a doubt through our staff.
(Did you utilize Walden any differently than you did Zombo or
I wouldn’t think so. He’s doing a very good job in the sub, and we try obviously to tailor the schemes to specific players’ abilities. But it’s more about the mindset, the upbeat, the aggressiveness of the defense. We feel that we’re a tempo football team. We want to play fast on offense, we want to be up-tempo with our pressures on defense and so forth. So it’s more about the scheme.
(When you faced Philadelphia the first time, how difficult was it to prepare for Kevin Kolb and then see as much of Vick as you did?)
It’s definitely a dramatic change, no doubt about it. We have a game plan we refer to as a ready list, and when you play someone like Michael Vick, he’s an impact player, and anytime you game plan in any phase of the game, you’re always identifying the impact players and how you want to contain those individuals. Our ready list in that game dramatically changed when Michael Vick came into the game. I think we’ll be more prepared for him this time, that’s for sure.
(There were a few games where some quarterbacks picked up yardage on the ground. Are you better equipped to handle that or do you need someone like Jenkins back?)
Well, a scrambling Vick won’t come down to just one player. It’s important to set the edges and make sure your rush lanes are intact and make sure we do a good job of getting him on the ground. Having a week to prepare for him, having a full season to study him will definitely be a benefit going into this game as opposed to playing up there in the opener. We were preparing for a quarterback really in his first big-time start, and then Mike came in as the backup. I think this gives us a better chance to be a little more rehearsed in some of the things we think exactly how they’re going to come at us.
(Can you talk about the depth in the NFC playoffs, especially with last year’s Super Bowl champion a Wild Card team?)
I think we’re one of six, and our football team is very confident that we can be successful against any of the other five teams in the playoff race. But this time of year, it would be foolish to even attempt to get in front of yourself. We’re fully focused on Philadelphia. We’ve had good practice the last two weeks of staying focused because we pretty much have played in two playoff games already with the Giants and Chicago coming in here. So we need to just stay focused on Philadelphia. But I think it’s, I don’t want to say wide open, but we feel very confident with our chances.
(Going back to defense wins championships, how did you develop that mentality with your offensive background?)
It’s just based on my experiences in football. Kansas City is probably the closest philosophically that I’m probably true to with Marty Schottenheimer. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Marty Schottenheimer and just with the opportunity he gave me there in Kansas City, and what I was able to learn from him from a systematic, building a program, the components that he put in place there in Kansas City. But I’ve just been around football long enough to realize like I’ve already stated, I think defense, when you have great defense, you’re in every game. You have not ever seen us … we’ve lost some games here, but we’ve been in every single contest. I’ve always referred to them as the thermostat. They control the temperature, they control what’s going on every time we compete. It gives us an opportunity to play offense the way we do. We can be wide open. We can hunker down, run the ball, based on who we’re playing and how we want to play each week. That’s the way I’ve always viewed it. Don’t know exactly when it came to me, but that’s always been my opinion as a head coach.
(You have had ups and downs on special teams. Does it pretty much come down to how the punter and kicker perform?)
You talk about handling the football, handling the football is one of the basic fundamentals of football. Whether you give it away or you take it away and how you handle that is directly in line with that component. Ball placement is very important. If you are supposed to punt the ball in a certain part of the field, you need to punt it there. If you are supposed to kick it in a certain part of the field on kickoffs, you need to do that. Coverage schemes align into that and also obviously you have to put the ball through the goalposts when you have that opportunity. Yeah, I think that is very important. Any skill position that handles the football, this whole game is about handling the football, so it’s very important.
(Would you say that this season is more satisfying with all of the adversity you had to overcome?)
I’m not satisfied. We’re just getting started, the way I look at it. We have had a lot of challenges, there is no doubt about it. I think when it is all said and done and you have time to sit down and reflect, I’ll look back and there will be a lot of experiences that we have encountered this year that we’ll definitely be better coaches and we’ll be better players and ultimately have a better program and be a better football team because of what we have gone through. This is no time for reflection.
(What do you think the Eagles’ strengths are?)
I think they are well-coached, No. 1. I think Andy has done a fantastic job in Philadelphia. You talk about building a program, the success that he has had. They are playing at home. They are the division champs. That says a lot. That’s an excellent division that they compete in. He has been able to ride through the challenges of an NFL season, playing two different quarterbacks, and Michael Vick is playing his best football of his career. They went with some young guys on defense and they really challenge you schematically. Bob April does an excellent job with special teams. They are a very well-coached, energetic, dynamic football team. They challenge you schematically, so this will be a big challenge for us up in Philadelphia.
(Considering the success Dom has had, are you concerned about other teams coming after him for a head-coaching job?)
Career advancement, it’s a positive, but I really don’t give a whole lot of thought to it right now. We are all focused on what is ahead, and that is winning this game. When career-advancement opportunities come, I will address them then.
(Is there any carryover in preparing for Jackson from Hester?)
Oh, I would think so. I think anytime you play against a dynamic returner, there is definitely carryover. Tim won one of the game balls. We had four game balls on special teams and he definitely won one of those.
(Did you want to break that news again?)
I haven’t memorized it yet. The whole defense got a game ball,
(How has Wells been playing?)
I think Scott is having his best year in my time here. I can’t reflect on how he played prior to my arrival, but I think this is clearly Scott Wells’ best season. He grades out very high week in and week out. I think he will clearly grade out as the highest offensive lineman when it is all said and done. I think Scott has had a Pro Bowl-type year.
(From an experience standpoint, is this team more playoff-ready?)
We can definitely learn from our experience in last year’s playoff loss there in Arizona. It’s something that I have referred to time and time again. But we’re a different team, different circumstances. We’re on the road, that’s an experience that we can learn from. It’s important for us just to play to our brand of football. You spend 16 games developing a style, the way you play, I am referring to our brand, and I think we didn’t do a very good job of that out there in Arizona. We went through the season last year, we were plus-24 in turnover ratio going into the playoffs, and five minutes into the game we turn the ball over twice and we’re down 14-0. We didn’t execute very well on defense at all and just took too long to get it going on offense. I think it is important for us to just stay in tune with who we are. We’re not going to change anything, and just stay true to your brand of football.
(The defense’s ability to handle adversity situations should come in handy during the playoffs?)
Absolutely. Adversity defense was one of our No. 1 objectives coming off the offseason study, and we have definitely done a very good job of that. We’re going to have some adversity Sunday in Philadelphia in all three phases. So we’re going to have to answer the bell and keep fighting. It’s a playoff-game atmosphere. The tempo goes up, everything picks up when you get into the playoffs. We’ll make sure that our players are ready for that. I think they understand that. We have a lot of carryover from last year’s team and I expect the leadership to step up and make sure we’re ready to go.
(Has one of your themes to the team been not to focus on injuries?)
The injuries came on us so fast. Just meeting with the medical staff before you walk in here, it’s depressing, frankly. Just going back through all of the numbers, 193 starts missed to injuries. I didn’t realize it was that high. But really our toughest spot that I recall was Washington because it happened so fast, the adjustments made in that game. We don’t get it done and the following week against Miami. I think once we got through that spot we just continued to improve and started to play better, stayed true to the fundamentals. I really haven’t even talked about injuries to the team very much. I addressed it back in those two weeks. I think we are just used to dealing with it now.
(I know you weren’t here, but the last playoff game in Philadelphia was a pretty forgettable one for your fans. Do you remember if you watched that game and what your reaction was?)
I remember the game. I would hope that we give you plenty to write about this week that you wouldn’t have to go back to 2003 or whenever that was.
(Will you look at the first game against the Eagles and can you still take a lot from it?)
Oh, absolutely. You want to look at the personnel matchups. I know they have had some injuries, we have had some injuries, but we’ll definitely go back. That will be the first game I’ll start with.