Before I get to the game, just so you are aware of it, you guys will know before the players. LaDainian Tomlinson
won our Dennis Byrd Most Inspirational Player Award. That’s a huge aware and he earned it. David Harris
was voted the team MVP. Shaun Ellis
won the Ed Block Courage Award. There were some other awards that were given out, but you guys are going to have to talk with Bruce (Speight) about those. I just wanted to make sure you guys are aware of those awards. I know you’re talking to LaDainian afterwards.
As far as the game is concerned, it’s good news, bad news, clearly. If we play offense like this combined with the way we can play defense and special teams, I think our team is better than we were last year. To say that, we have to get this defense back to the way we’re capable of playing. It’s like beating a dead horse, but it’s like we did with Mark (Sanchez). We talked fundamentals and (worked on) his technique. We really focused on it and he got better. Now, he’s looked like a different quarterback these last couple of weeks. That’s what you have to do. I don’t want to say I’m diminishing what Chicago accomplished because they made some plays, but that wasn’t our best. We need to get back. There are no excuses. To get back to who our defense is, we need to practice. We’re going to go back to individual drills (and) fundamental drills and really hone that in, which is kind of unusual at this time of year. We really have to because that’s how we’re going to get better. There’s no magic call. There are some calls that are better than others, but we have (to execute).
I think he came out well. He’s had treatments. We’ll probably know a little more when we get back (to the facility). My understanding is he came out fairly well.
On if Sanchez will play against Buffalo..
This is kind of tough. Here’s what I’m looking at. Obviously, his health is the number one priority. The fact that he is in such a groove right now, we have to look at it has the week goes on. That was my first thought, to just not even play him. Number one, I want to win this game. I think it’s important to win this game. If we can get to 11 wins, I think it’s only been done five times in the history of the franchise. That would be huge. You want to go in with a win. That’s really what we want to do. I want to win this game. Now, obviously, his health is the number one concern. It’s kind of fine line because he is hot right now. We can’t afford for him to take a dip. We need him to stay at this level. Those are things we’ll definitely consider. I don’t want to say 100 percent he’s out or he’s in, to be honest with you. That’s what I’m weighing right now.
On if he’s talked to Sanchez about him playing against Buffalo…
No. That’s kind of new. My first thinking was good, we’ll just rest him, but I’m not so sure. I don’t know if that’s best for him. We’re going to weigh it as the week goes on. The main thing is, like I told you guys yesterday, I want to win this game. I think it can really help us. Winning 11 games in the regular season would be an outstanding regular season for us. That’s the goal. It’s a fine line. If a guy’s injured, we’re not going to play him.
On if Sanchez will only play for part of the game on Sunday…
That certainly will be discussed, for sure. I don’t want to say. I’m really not clear right now. We’re not even back at the facility. That’s definitely a thought.
On why the defense needs to work on fundamentals…
I do (think it will help the unit improve). For instance, if you’re not putting your hands on receivers, if you’re not playing the proper leverage (or) if your base is high, it’s tough to change directions. It’s just little things like that. It’s really on all three levels. The back end is obviously the one you recognize the most, but all three levels need to get better. In the running game, right down to knocking the blocker down and getting off blocks, things like that are Day One training camp things (that) we’ve got to get better at. I think we’ve slipped the last couple of weeks. We haven’t been as good in those areas as we need to be. I recognize that the field conditions are what they are the past two weeks. We weren’t the only team that struggled to get a pass rush. If you look at Pittsburgh, (they) had no sacks. If you look at Chicago, (they) had never had a sack. Those are two of the best pass rushing teams in the league. It’s hard to say that the conditions never played into that factor, but we got stuck on blocks. We weren’t getting off blocks the way we normally do. We lost some leverage. That span in the third quarter, I’ve never seen anything like that. I think we can get better through hard work on the practice field. It’s the same thing I said about Mark before, you rely on fundamentals and technique. That’s what we have to get back to doing.
On wanting to go into the playoffs with a win…
I look at it this way, once you get in the playoffs, it’s a brand new season. There’s no hiding that fact. New Orleans lost two in a row and went on to win the Super Bowl. I just want to win because it says a lot about a regular season (when) you can get 11 wins. (It is) really hard to say that hasn’t been an outstanding regular season. It is. Granted, you like to win your division and we weren’t able to accomplish that. Eleven is better than 10. That’s how I look at it. I would like to get that win to go in (to the playoffs). The fact that there’s still a chance we can be the fifth seed is another thing that’s out there as well. Any time you compete, you want to win. I know that’s how I am. I know that’s the way our team is. That’s why I don’t really want to say this player isn’t going to go. I think it’s safe to say James Ihedigbo is not going to play. We want to get him back for the playoffs. He injured his knee, his MCL. I think it’s safe to say he won’t play. Everybody else, there’s a chance that they’ll play. That’s good for us because it says that we’re getting healthy. There’s a chance to possibly get Eric Smith
back. I’m not sure. He’ll obviously have to be cleared to play. Damien Woody
might be a possibility. We’ll see where everybody is. Obviously, if a guy is really injured and could use the week, we won’t play him. I want to win this game. I have to weigh how much this guy plays or that guy plays, but the fact of the matter is we’re going to try and win the game.
On whether he believes that how you finish the regular season transfers to the playoffs…
I believe there is. You want to gain momentum. But is it the end-all be-all? No, I don’t believe so. (If) you look at the Colts
last year, they lost two in a row and made it to the Super Bowl. You had New Orleans lose their two. I don’t think history repeats that or says that you have to be rolling at the end of the regular season, but I will say this. I’m excited about where our offense is right now. I think we played against two outstanding defensive football teams and we’ve really looked good offensively. I think we’re peaking at the right time. Defensively, obviously, we’re not. We had two games that weren’t up to our standards, but I think we can fix it. I think we’ll get better. I think the answer is in hard work, preparation (and) it’s back to our fundamentals. It’s back to basics. I think once we get those dialed in, we’ll be good. I think that’s the answer. It’s not in this call or that call. It’s in how we play the game.
On if Brian Schottenheimer has simplified things offensively…
It may appear like that. I think we’re pretty much (doing) what we normally do. I think attention to detail (has improved). It starts with your offensive line up front. I think that’s the key. The guys that we really rely on and that we build our team around, those guys have really picked their play up the last two weeks in the protection and knocking people off the ball. That’s been the main thing. That allows Mark time back there and when Mark has time, like any quarterback, he’s able to use the weapons that we have in Santonio Holmes
, Braylon Edwards
, Dustin Keller
and all those guys. I think that’s going to be good and now’s the time you hope we get our backs ready to go 100 percent going into the playoffs. I think we’re going to be a tough offense to handle. Defensively, we just have to get the swagger back. Let’s do what we’re coached to do and, as coaches, we have to demand that from our players. I think we’ll get back to that and I think it can be corrected.
On how he feels about the defense’s performance over the past couple of weeks…
I think it’s a challenge. It’s great. I don’t know where we are ranked defensively, but we’re not ranked number one or where we expected to be. We are probably in the top five. It’s still not up to where our standards are in these last (few) games. Whatever the facts are, we have to get better. That’s a challenge for me. I’ve faced it before. It’s not every game that we go out and smack people down. I think when people compare our defense, the first thing they want to do is compare it to last year’s defense. Compare it to the rest of the league. Where is the rest of the league at? That’s where (our defense) isn’t as bad as (you might think). Last year, the defense was exceptional. There’s no question about it and I don’t think people realize how exceptional that defense was. It’s not going to matter until you get into the playoffs and you do something in the playoffs. That’s where we are at, that’s what we are gunning for and that’s why we built this team. (We wanted to have) a team that could get it done in the playoffs. It’s not an easy task when you get three games on the road, just to make it to the Super Bowl. That’s only been done twice so we know it’s stacked against us, but we’re gunning for it. There is no reason we shouldn’t be. I can’t say enough how excited I am about the way the offense is progressing, especially these last few weeks. I think and I believe that we will get our defense back again. We’re going to be tough.
On why Santonio Holmes did not return punts and if he was benched after the fumble…
That wasn’t the intention to sit him. We didn’t pull him because of the fumble. Obviously, it was disappointing, without question. As far as him returning punts, we have a lot of confidence in (Jerricho Cotchery) back there and he’s done a great job especially with the single returner. We feel better about Jerricho catching punts. He did a great job last year. The conditions were what they were and Santonio has a couple of nagging injuries (hip and toe). We feel very confident in Jerricho back there right now.