Coach Munchak's Wednesday Practice Report

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HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on if answering more questions about the struggling run game gets old)

No it doesn't, when you are struggling in an area to this point in the season, you expect questions and you expect people to be interested in what's going on and I think we just have to look at it like we usually do with a fresh start. We have 10 games left and we have to put the six behind us. We are 3-3, we went .500. We can't dwell on the past, we can learn from it and look at it and, 'hey, we have 10 weeks to get (Chris Johnson) 1,000 yards.' The next 10 weeks and have 10 good games. That's how we have to look at it, that's what we are working towards. We know what we have to do and we know that we can't be satisfied in what's going on. We can't continue that if we are going to win. Starting this week we have to win the football game number one and get the running game going much better than it's going.

(on if Chris Johnson is as fast as he used to be)

It looks the same to me. We were not rushing the way we were, it hasn't looked the same that way. As far as his speed, I'm sure he is fine. I don't think it's his speed why we are not rushing for more yards. Everyone is trying to find something to blame it on or figure it all out, I just think we need to wait and see how it goes starting this week. All we can do is keep working at it. If it was something obvious then it would be fixed by now. We will just keep working on it and like I said, we have 10 weeks to kind of put the past behind us and move forward and quit dwelling on what didn't work the first six weeks.

(on if it's safe to say that guys are on notice that if they don't perform then there will be changes)

I think people should always be on notice. When you lose two games in a row or a phase of the game is struggling, then you owe it to the rest of the team to find a way to improve upon it. If we think there is a way to do that than we are going to do it but you have to do it in a smart way. You just can't do it to say, 'look we changed this guy or that guy,' it has to be something that makes sense. You have to sell it to the guys in the room, they have to believe in what you are doing and that's why you are doing it. We will do it a smart way but we are going to do what's right for the team. We want to win, we are not going to be hard-headed and if we think there is something we can change to make this thing different. The running game, is one thing, but we want to win football games. There is a lot more going on on this team then how many yards we rushed for every week. We have lost two games in a row for other reasons other than the run game. We have to win football games that's number one, and if we can make changes, if it's how we call plays or who plays, we are going to do whatever it takes to win but we are going to do that in a smart way.

(on if fewer padded practices makes it more difficult to get the run game going)

That would be old school thinking for sure but I don't know if we wore pads the year (Chris Johnson) ran for 2,000, I don't know if we wore pads at all after the first three or four weeks. It's hard to find correlations on what needs to be done, people like to do that as far as, 'did you have a good week of practice? Did you have a good warm up before the game?' You start trying to figure all of those things out but I don't know if there is a pattern to any of that. You have to do what's best, your feel for what is best for your team and do what you believe in as a coach. All coaches do things differently and their philosophy is what they end up doing and that's kind of what we are doing here. Right now it's not where we want it to be, but we will keep working at it.

(on if Chris Johnson saying that it's not fair to judge his open field running because he hasn't been in the open field enough is a fair comment and does that reflect anything about the blocking)

I don't know, all of those things are like I said, how many times does he get into the open field? He got a shot in the Cleveland game and he made the guy miss on one of the first runs of the game. The linebacker was right there and he made him miss. That's the thing, we have to get him in the open more and I would love to find that out. My thing is we need more than 10 carries a game. I know he ran for 20 yards, if he ran for 40 yards would we be happy right now saying it was four yards a carry? He only had 10 carries and that's more disturbing to me than the averages he has right now. If we are winning football games, then he is going got get 20, 25, 30 carries and then we will really see where we are at as far as how he is running. He hasn't had that since the Cleveland game and that's the game he went over 100 yards. That for me is more of a true test for me to see, give these guys 25 carries. We have to earn that and we haven't had that last two weeks because we haven't played well enough to put points on the board, we have fallen behind. It's hard to judge in my opinion what's really going on when a guy gets 11 carries even though I know of the 11, you wish a couple of them were bigger than three-yard runs, there is no doubt about that. There are a lot of games when you watch running backs in this league that may have 15 yards in the first half, but get the opportunity in the third and fourth quarter and next thing you know they have 150. We are not getting that opportunity in the last two weeks, we have to kind of restart it and see what happens this week.

(on if he is more troubled by the inability to stop the run or rush the quarterback)

Well I think the no pass rush isn't necessarily a true statement to me. If you watch the last few weeks when we haven't had the sacks, we are down by 21 in the second quarter. Pittsburgh didn't throw anything, they max-protected with eight guys and they were going to throw anything down the field, or it was three step and the balls out. So unless you get a team behind, you are not going to get a chance to get any sacks. Same thing last week, we got a couple of hits in the first series on the quarterback when he actually took a normal drop back. After that it was play-action and it was quick throws so that made it harder for the defensive line. Does that have to get better, definitely. Is one sack enough in two games, definitely not. They know that but I think you have to look at the circumstances also. The run game on defense, last week to me was like the Jacksonville game. The Pittsburgh game, people want to relate them together, but they had and 80-yard run on a blown defensive call that got their numbers. It's still rushing yards, but last week was more disappointing and so was the Jacksonville game. I think we were in two games that we felt we just couldn't get off the field at some point, and it really didn't happen until the third quarter. Yes, we have to improve our fundamentals on defense, our gap control, which we did not do, and we missed tackles last week, which for three weeks we were really doing a much better job at. That's got to improve on the defensive side, when you get beat 41-7, there wasn't a lot of good things going on in the game. **

(on potentially blitzing more often)

We have had limited opportunities because of our situation as far as how many we rush. I think we get in a game where the Titans jump ahead…the same thing is happening in Indianapolis. They are not getting sacks because why? Teams are running the ball 40 times because in the second half they are behind and if you watch, people say they have a terrible run defense, you should go run on them. I say well how about in the first half, it's not so bad is it? When it gets bad is when they are losing and a team is running the ball 20-25 times in the second half and then all of the sudden they get beat down for runs. That's where you want to get as an offense, you want to get a lead and we are not getting a lead and we haven't been in a tight game the last two weeks so statistics get blown out of proportion quite a bit in those types of games. We know we have to play a lot better than we are playing, we have to stay in the games more then we will have a true judge of where we are at. We are definitely not happy with the things we have been talking about and we know we have to improve them and hopefully we took a step at that today.

(on if Lavelle Hawkins is still making the kind of mistakes that kept him on the bench in the past)

Well I think he is getting better for sure. I think the more reps he gets the better he will get. In the past he has just been thrown in there more when there is an injury or someone is tired, a couple of days ago because of Damian (Williams) being out he got more reps. He has improved every year a little bit. This year now he really has an opportunity to step up and he and Damian, they have to make plays.

(on if a "little bit" of improvement from Lavelle Hawkins is enough)

I don't think you are ever content. I think they all have to improve, of course they do. We can't drop footballs, early in a game, we are not making any plays in the first quarter, which I think hurt the game big time. Even though you will say well we lost by a lot, we had chances to make plays in those first three series on offense and we didn't make any of them. That's where we are missing out, when guys have an opportunity, this league is all about making plays and we haven't been making them the last two weekends.

(on if he thought the Colts would be 0-7 at this point without Peyton Manning)

No one did, and I'm sure they didn't either when you just pull one guy out. But again, they can sit there like most teams  do and say, 'we had five games where we were up by three or down by three going into the fourth quarter,' they lost all five. In the past they would have won all five. In the past they would be sitting here at 5-2. They have gotten blown out twice, the first game against the Texans and last weekend. The other five they could have easily won, they haven't so they are 0-7. That's something they have never experienced in years. We both had bad games last week, we both need a win badly, so you are going to see both teams playing hard to get that win.

(on if the mood of the team is pissed off, disappointed, or embarrassed)

All of the three, I think you are all of the three. You don't want to lose number one, but you don't want to play poorly like we did at home to top that off. We should be, I think you put the other stuff behind you and now you just want to go play, you want to learn from the mistakes you made in the game. You have to prove that wasn't you. It starts to become a pattern when you lose two games in a row by large scores. We have to make that go away, we have to erase that memory and just worry about us and doing our jobs in our building. I know that we believe in what we can do and that is all that really matters right now. We have to believe in what we are capable of doing as a team, what we have done to this point, not happy with how we have played the last two weeks and the only people who can do anything about that are the guys in this building.

(on how he keeps his team from taking a winless team too lightly)

We know these guys and we are not playing good enough to take anyone lightly. I don't think there is any chance of that happening and again, turn the film on. These guys play hard, they are playing hard every snap and they always have. They are missing number 18 (Peyton Manning) which we know is a big guy to miss but they still have those receivers that make plays and they Pittsburgh down to the last drive, they had Tampa down to the last drive, they had Kansas City, all the teams they lost to they were right there. Everyone is going to look at last weekend and say, 'man, look what the Saints did to them.' They fumbled twice in the first quarter, what happens, 21-0. They didn't recover from that. If they played them again I guarantee they would lose by 50 points. It's not going to happen in this league. We are not looking at that, we are looking at the tape. We are not playing well enough to take anyone lightly. We have to go out and play our best game, we haven't played well in three weeks.

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