I'll start with the injuries. Ryan Pickett left the game. He reinjured the same ankle. The x‑rays were negative. Brett Swain left the game for an IV and he did return. With that I'll take your questions.
(Hard to decide which unit to play on offense or defense? How did you decide that?)
Well, you go through your preparation. You always strive to play a complete game. We accomplished that tonight. Very pleased with the special teams, the two big takeaways. The defense, they just swarmed all over 'em, kept them out of the end zone, and the offense got into a rhythm. Really liked the way our run‑pass ratio was tonight, and third down was a key for us. We played a complete football game tonight. This is the way you want to go into the bye week.
(James Jones, your thoughts on his game?)
Thought James played very well. Had a number of players that had a lot more opportunities than they had in the past, James in particular. He did very good in yards after the catch. That is something we knew we needed to do going into the game. One‑on‑one opportunities on the perimeter. Want to get the ball out of Aaron's hands quickly, get it in the receivers' hands, let those guys go to work. I thought James Jones played big tonight.
(Talk about the aggressiveness of the defense)
Definitely. I mean, our pressures were definitely up‑tempo. Playing very fast tonight. I think the last eight quarters on defense is the way you want to play. They're really in a good rhythm. They're making the big plays, making the turnovers, especially there early with the interception with Sam (Shields). But I thought our pressure packages definitely got home a bunch tonight.
(Did you think this kind of game was possible going into the bye?)
Absolutely. You always want to try to have a big game. I mean, it's not about the opponent, who you're playing. You can see your football team making progress the last couple weeks. I felt like we not only won three games in a row but we've improved as a football team. No, I'm not going to sit here and tell you I expected the score to be the way it was. But I stay focused on winning football games and improvement. We definitely improved as a football team tonight.
(Talk about your receivers in general, besides Jones)
A lot of guys got a lot of opportunities. Brett Swain, he got to play a bunch. Jordy (Nelson) has been very consistent. Been very pleased with the way Jordy has been playing. Able to give the ball to Greg (Jennings). He was featured in a number of things. But Dallas does a very good job on defense. Starts with those outside rushers. They challenge in. You have to do the same with them. I thought it started up front, the ability to stay with the run and pass, the way we were able to throughout the first three quarters, and the pass protection was the key for us on third down. I thought Aaron played outstanding as far as when to come out of the pocket. He recognized the two‑man a couple of times, had a couple big scrambles there for first downs. It's all about moving the sticks and winning the one‑on‑one battles. We were able to get that done tonight.
(Do you like where your team is at? You have momentum, half a game behind the best team in the NFC.)
I like the direction. I'm very impressed with the character, the work ethic of this group. Just the fact that every Monday you have a medical report that's two pages long and get different guys stepping up each week. We're getting better. That's what it's all about. You got to play your best football in November, December. That is so important, as everybody knows. And we're definitely heading in the right direction. This is a win we can build off of. More importantly, it gives us a chance to reset, you know, as a coaching staff, get these players healthy, get ready for Minnesota. We have four out of five on the road coming off the bye, so we got a very tough part of our schedule ahead of us. It starts at Minnesota.
(Question regarding Sam Shields.)
I thought Sam played excellent. Worked Sam a lot, as you guys know, throughout the training camp. Once he became the starter on nickel, we tried to limit his special teams responsibilities as much as we could. Just the opportunity now to get him back there. You know, he had the one, did an excellent job bringing it out of the end zone. Sam adds a little different element to our kick return game than we've had.
(What did you think of Bigby, and what was your sort of plan with him?)
Well, the plan for Atari was to play on special teams and try to roll him in a couple series based on the way the game went. It was actually great to get Atari in there. Pretty much great to get the whole football team in there, specifically in the fourth quarter. Anytime you're able to get game experience, particularly for your younger players, that's excellent. That doesn't happen very often. But it's definitely great when it does happen.
(Question regarding Al Harris.)
We'll evaluate that tomorrow. We'll go through the film, evaluate our rosters, see these two injuries, see what happens there. We haven't made a decision on Al yet.
(Question regarding practice and the bye week.)
The bye week has begun for the players. So it was a victory Monday, opportunity for the players. Their bye week has already begun.