Coach Whisenhunt's Monday Press Conference



(on injuries from the game)

I don't have a whole lot of new injury news for you other than Bishop (Sankey) didn't have a concussion. He had a stinger yesterday. That's when his arm went numb, and that's why he dropped the ball. Dexter (McCluster) is in the protocol, although he was feeling much better today, and we're optimistic that he'll be alright this week. I think I talked about Michael Griffin last night, with his shoulder, but we anticipate him giving it an effort and playing. It was certainly impressive that he finished the game and played the way he did. I don't have anything new for (Taylor) Lewan or (Brian) Schwenke. Kam (Wimbley) does have a pulled hamstring, but I just don't know for sure how long that's going to be.

(on if Taylor Lewan's foot is not broken)

Yes. The ankle, we've just got to see how it responds. From what I understand, they were getting the MRIs on it today, but I don't know the result of it. We were concerned about that at first, but that's not the case.

(on if Quentin Groves finished the game)


(on Ropati Pitoitua being inactive and his injury)

The finger hasn't been bothering him. He's taken every rep at practice and everything. As far as getting off blocks, that's hampered him a little bit, and going against a team like we did yesterday that plays in space, we felt like the matchup, that it was the right thing to do from that standpoint. It was purely just a scheme thing more than anything.

(on the offensive line giving up so many sacks)

Well, we didn't do a good job on picking up their stunts. They're a good football team at doing that. They've had a lot of success, especially at home. When they get a lead that certainly frees them up to do some of those things. We worked hard on it. We've been better. We did a better job of it last week against Pittsburgh, and we weren't as effective this week. A lot of it is technique things. We'll continue to work to correct those.

(on how to get the team to bounce back after losing)

I think that our message is about mistakes. We had a lot of missed tackles yesterday on defense. We had turnovers, penalties, offensively. I think we came back and fought back in the second quarter after as bad a start as probably you could in the first quarter and showed that we could make some plays. Then, obviously, we didn't get the job done in the second half. It's really more about correcting our mistakes and playing better. We want to get a win. That's obviously something that's important to us. A division opponent this week that handled us pretty good the first time. I think the motivation would be pretty good there.

(on if Byron Stingily and Chris Spencer will need to step up on the offensive line)

If the other two guys can't go, then we certainly expect them to step in and have success. I thought they both did well, although (Chris) Spencer was only in there for about four snaps. (Byron) Stingily's been playing a good number of snaps for us as a tight end in a certain amount of packages. At least he's been in the game getting some live reps, so that would help him.

(on if Zach Mettenberger has the characteristics for handling sacks)

Yeah, he does. He's doing a much better job at moving around within the pocket. We've seen progress of that yesterday. That's an encouraging thing, but you're going to take some shots back there as a quarterback. I don't think there are very many times you get through a game cleanly, but yes, he is tough. I think one of the things you would certainly look at was how relatively new coming off the ACL injury was and the confidence that he has to stand in there and move around and throw the football. That speaks a lot about how hard he's worked to get to this point.

(on if Zach Mettenberger held the ball too long and if he was responsible for some of the sacks)

I think the fair way to say it, there's probably a couple of snaps during the course of the game where specific plays you know if it's not there we're trying to get it down the field that you dump the ball down. I think you probably noticed that he threw a couple of check downs to the backs in the third quarter there, and it was productive for him, and that's progress that we've made. There were a couple of other play-actions where the ball could have come out a little bit quicker. We talked about that on the sideline, and he's getting better with that. There is going to be sometimes where you do have to hold onto the ball, and there are times when our protection has to be better. One of the most important things, I think, is that you do have to have the subtle movement in the pocket. There was one throw, I don't know if you guys remember it, where he came back across and threw back to Nate (Washington) on the in across the field, and he moved to his left looking for Dexter (McCluster) in the flat, turned back and came all the way back around and made a throw to Nate. That was big progress, because of the fact that he was able to move in the pocket, move his feet, turn back and make the throw. When you see those kind of things, you get excited about the progress that he's making.

(on if there were more missed tackles in this game than the rest of the season)

I think that game, when you play a team like that, it's about spacing. They get guys in space. They have some athletes that are pretty good in space. They won those matchups yesterday. We'd like to tackle better. Yeah, I think there were more missed tackles yesterday than what has been in previous games. I don't think yesterday was as much about missed gap fits maybe as it was last week against the Steelers. They won the matchup more times than we did. It's not easy to sit here and say that, but essentially that's what happened.

(on the opening kickoff return)

We had a chance to get him out of bounds, too, a couple of times down the field, which we've got to do. When you work on kickoff returns and they give you something different, not to be too technical, but four guys go outside the blockers, you've got to play to the outside of the defender, and we didn't get that done. We were a little too far down the field in our contain, so the return got past it. One of our inside guys didn't get far enough outside. You've got to recognize what's happening. In other words, if you know they're a side-return team, and they've got four guys sitting outside, one of the things in your film study you've got to see and when that happens, you've got to get out there. We had some different guys playing different positions yesterday because of injuries, because of just transitioning, playing those spots, and we didn't cover that as well as we needed to.

(on what Coty Sensabaugh could have done differently on the kickoff return)

It's hard to say it's one guy. It was a team effort. Coty (Sensabaugh) was a little bit deep getting down there, yes. That played into it. Quentin Groves, obviously, was blocked outside a little bit. To point the finger at those two guys and say it was there fault, there were a couple of other guys that could have made plays, and unfortunately we didn't get it done. We've been a good kickoff coverage unit this year, and it hurts when that happens.

(on Michael Griffin returning to play despite his injury)

I think that speaks a lot to buying in to what we're trying to get done. I have a lot of respect for that. I certainly appreciate that.

(on Zach Mettenberger playing against a team that he's already seen)

There have been a lot of times where you have a great game against an opponent, and you face them a second time, and you expect the same thing, and you don't have it. I don't know really how much that plays into it. I don't know if it's fair to say that, if we can get them to play the exact same coverages and the exact same defenses, then yeah, maybe you could tell that. I'm sure they'll have something different for us, but I think what I'd like to see is Zach (Mettenberger) and how he plays against a team that was his first start against, because he's a little bit different player now than he was in his first start. Hopefully he'll continue to improve and play well.

(on how Zach Mettenberger is preparing to face the Texans)

I think that that's a natural progression as you get more comfortable in that position. That's what you'd like to see out of young guys, whether it's necessarily the team that you've played once before or a team that you haven't faced. You're going to make assessments of what you see them do off of a lot of film study and get a feel for that. Does it help to have played them live? Yeah, I don't think I can dispute that. I think it does, because you know maybe a little bit more about those guys. I think any time you play a division opponent, you certainly have a better feel for them. That would probably apply in this case.

(on Antonio Andrews and if he will have future opportunities to play)

There's a chance for that. We had a spot yesterday just with the way everything came down. Luckily, we decided to put Antonio (Andrews) up, and that was good, because he got some opportunities in both offense and the return game. We like a lot of what we've seen with him from the preseason. He's worked hard. I think he's done a good job studying and growing, so we'd like to have a chance to see him some more.

(on Zach Mettenberger not taking any more selfies and maturing as a quarterback)

I think that he's got some good guys in the room with him that help with that, and he's doing a good job of understanding the urgency about preparing for that position. We haven't specifically spoken about that, but he's doing a nice job with it.

(on if he would be surprised if Zach Mettenberger took a selfie this Sunday)

Zach (Mettenberger's) got a good sense of humor. He's a pretty witty guy sometimes, so as a sarcastic way of doing things, no, I wouldn't be surprised about that.

(on how valuable Zach Mettenberger's playing time is for him)

It's always good. I think you could say the same thing about Avery Williamson, about Bishop Sankey, certainly Marqueston Huff. Even DaQuan (Jones) got a little bit of play time yesterday. When you're a rookie and you're playing, it's always valuable. I'd like for him to be getting experiences where we're winning games, but we haven't done that enough.

(on if the team is getting a lot of good out of this season)

Yeah, we are. It's hard for me to say that with our win total, the way it is, because I'm certainly sensitive to our fans, that we're not doing what we want to do for them. We're learning about our guys. They're getting better at doing some things. We're not, obviously, anywhere near consistent enough yet.

(on if he has a sense of peace knowing that developing the team is a process and something that happens instantly)

No. I have a sick feeling in my stomach all the time. Nothing changes that except when you win. It's not a lot of fun. I enjoy working with these guys. I enjoy being here. The fans have been good with me, but it's not fun. We want to win. It's fun. Football's fun. I love being around our guys. I love doing this job, but you still feel sick when you don't do what you're supposed to do.

(on areas where he feels the team is better in Week 12 versus Week 1)

It's probably hard to do that, because you're seeing one week where you see improvement in an area, like last week where we don't give up a sack. We go into a game yesterday and give up five sacks. I see a tremendous amount of improvement in Avery Williamson and what he's doing for us. I think, as far as the communication defensively and what we're doing in those areas, I've seen improvement, but then we have a game where we don't tackle well or we miss some gap fits, and it hurts us. It's hard offensively to say we're doing a lot of things very good other than the fact that we've had a lot of chunk plays. We've have a lot of big plays. I think yesterday we had eight plays of over 20 yards. That's small solace when you can't convert a third down or you can't run the ball more effectively or you have penalties. I see players growing in certain areas, but I don't see enough consistency to say, as a group, to answer the question you've asked me.

(on if he thought Brian Schwenke was down before he fumbled the ball)

Well, since you guys have noted my challenge success here, I don't think I'm qualified to answer that. Yeah, I thought his elbow was down, but the official said on the sideline he thought he saw the ball moving before that happened. Obviously, it was covered by the replay rules, and there was no recourse for that.

(on if Justin Hunter mistimed his jumps going after the ball)

It sure looked that way a couple of times. That happens sometimes. That's all part of growing and learning. He's a young receiver.

(on if Justin Hunter is able to out-jump other players)

It depends. There are all kinds of factors. I don't know that you could qualify that as something that has to be a factor for him.

(on if Justin Hunter jumps too often when he doesn't need to)

Once again, everybody has their own style of catching the football. I think, like I said, Justin (Hunter) is a young receiver that has made some plays for us this year. As with some young receivers, there have been some opportunities where he probably could have played them better, just like there have been a lot of calls I could have made that have been better this year. That's all a process of growing through this together.

(on how he evaluates Zach Mettenberger's progress)

I think how he handles the position, how he's in the pocket. Can he continue to improve with his check-downs, moving in the pocket? Success is something that's important to that position, no question. I think I remember Peyton Manning being 3-13 his first year. Not that I'm saying that it's OK not to win games. We need to win a game as a football team, and that would certainly help with Zach (Mettenberger), but he's making progress in areas that you like to see from a young quarterback. He's doing a nice job. He's made some really good throws. He's done a good job with his checks, adjusting the protections, handling two tough environments in Philly and Baltimore on the road and the noise. Those are all things that aren't always the easiest to do. The statistics, I don't really pay a lot of attention to that, because obviously we've got to be able to convert third downs, we've got to be able to move the football and score points, and we haven't done that enough as a unit well.

(on evaluating Zach Mettenberger by his game performances)

I think quarterback gets all the credit and all of the blame a lot of times. We obviously want to win football games. That's what we're trying to do, but we're also evaluating our players on how they play.  A lot of times guys can play well and you don't win a game, and you don't downgrade them because they don't win. If a running back rushes for 200 yards, most people would say he played well, but you can still lose the game. It kind of falls into that category. I understand with a quarterback, that's probably more of an emphasis on that. As probably you would say so, because he touches the ball every time. We're in the process of evaluating this whole team. Zach (Mettenberger's) part of it. The most important thing for us is getting a win. That's what we've got to do.

(on if Blidi Wreh-Wilson was close to playing on Sunday)

Yeah, he was. It's a tough thing with his back. I admire the way he's fought through it, and he was a little tight and couldn't go.

(on if Blidi Wreh-Wilson's back injury will bother him the rest of the season)

I think there are probably a lot of guys that have something off and on that bother them the rest of the season. I don't know that to be the case, but I think Blidi (Wreh-Wilson) is certainly working hard to want to get out there and play.

(on how rare is Delanie Walker's speed for a tight end)

He's obviously doing a lot of great things for us this year. To see that speed show up, I've seen it as an opponent when he was in San Francisco. I've seen him return a kickoff before, so I knew the guy could run a little bit. It just seems like when the ball gets in his hands that there's a whole other gear that comes up. Give him credit, he's worked hard, and it's certainly good to have him back on the field.

(on needing to improve on offense)

I think offensively we've got to do better. Obviously, we haven't had enough drives. If you look at our time of possession and our number of plays, that's part of it. You could say that about a lot of areas.

(on getting Kendall Wright more opportunities to make catches)

We make attempts every week, we have plays that are designed to go to Kendall (Wright) every week, just like the run this past week where we had a holding call that we got brought back. You can't just say I'm going to throw it to Kendall on this play. There's got to be a progression, there have got to be spots, but we do have plays where we put him as the primary guy.

(on if there are enough plays designed to go to Kendall Wright)

We've done that. We've had limited success with that. We had it against Pittsburgh last week where we threw the screen to Kendall (Wright).

(on the Kendall Wright adjusting from an unstructured offense at Baylor to a structured offense with the Titans)

I'm sure that is. I can't speak to what he's done here before. I'm very aware of what his situation was at Baylor, because obviously we did our work on him when he was coming out, as well. It's not so much about Kendall (Wright) as it is about the offense. I've been in some pretty good offenses in this league, and the ones that have been consistently effective, you have to be certainly consistent in how you do things. We have a number of plays where Kendall has choice routes, per se, where he has the freedom of going in or out or sitting it down. There are also ones where you have specific spots to get to, which is all read-dependent. The quarterback's going to go there based on the coverage and based on what he's seeing. It's a mix of all those things.

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