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Head Coach Mike Vrabel


How do you like how Will Levis performed in his debut?

Not a bad debut. Got some great efforts from receivers. I thought Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) really got us off and going. We had talked about that being a key of making sure that we're able to beat press coverage and winning on the outside. And they let him play. We have to understand that. I think that kind of got us going. Hit some other shots down the field. So not only did Will (Levis) get some good help, I thought that the opportunities to move the ball downfield were there and we hit them.

How'd you like how he did from a poise and decision-making standpoint?

Good. Unfortunately, we made a call there on third-and-four at the end of the game and thought we'd try to catch them being a little bit more aggressive than what they were. And just told him, 'Hey, if it's not there, we just have to get down.' We tried to bootleg there and wasn't there. So he didn't throw the ball away. I thought the one decision probably could have been better with throwing it away to Chig (Okonkwo), but then the other one, throwing it away to Derrick (Henry), I thought was good and saved us some yardage.

How much do you learn about someone at the quarterback position that you can only learn in-game situations?

You can only learn it out there and in not even in preseason. But that football game with a good defense—that defense had been playing pretty darn well the last couple of weeks. They've got a good scheme, they're well-coached and they've got good players. They've got good corners, backers are smart, active. Safeties are all over the place and then obviously the front. So, I thought the protection held up, which was great and we ran the football. 

Did you plan to alternate quarterbacks?

Yeah, we did. And then obviously, unfortunately, bad snap, got to catch the ball, get on it, any one of those three things have to happen. So just stayed away from it.

Were you happy with his (Malik Willis) effort to recover the ball?

I'm not going to comment on his effort, other than to say that we want to make sure that we just recover it instead of picking the ball up. I didn't have the same view you had, but we want to make sure that we just get on the ball and recover it.

When you have a rookie like that, a quarterback that's able to use pump fakes, those sort of things to move the defense in the way he did, how impressive is that?

It's not like he hasn't played quarterback before. He's had some really good snaps in college and stuff that we saw early on that he was able to use to his disposal. So it's just making sure that we're good with the football and being smart, taking the chances, taking the matchups and putting the ball out in front. I thought that early on to Treylon (Burks), just kind of what we wanted to try to do. I thought that was a well placed ball. I thought that was maybe even a better play by the defense to be able to get over there. But even that ball that was incomplete, I thought there was good placement on the deep balls.

How impressed were you with the defense today?

At times, very impressed. And then at other times, probably not as impressed as we need to be. I think that there was moments where it was like really close to being exactly what we want. We got leaky in some runs, gave up some play actions, had the X-play, then the drive before there kind of went down and we just never could make a play when we needed to. A mistake here, a mistake there, a long third down conversion. So again, there's moments where it's like, 'Okay, that's who we are and that's what we expect.' And then there's other moments where I'm not sure where the break down is.

How do you feel going forward for a team that's had a tough start?

Any time we can win, any time that we can have our players go and make plays, whether that's Harold (Landry III), whether that's Jeff(ery Simmons), whether that's Will (Levis), whether that's Derrick (Henry), whether that's Tyjae (Speasrs), Nick Westbrook(-Ikhine). This is what pro football is. It's about the players knowing what to do, going out there and executing and making plays. And if they don't make one, that they stay in it and they come back and they make one later to help their team win. And they don't do dumb (crap) to hurt the team. They know what to do, and they go out there and they perform. There's nothing else to pro football. Maybe a few situations here and there, but there's nothing else. Just look around the league, fellas. Make sure they know what to do, and make sure that they're playing with effort, and they go out and you got to make plays. When they make plays, we win and that's what happened.

Do you trust you can build off of this?

I think you can build off a win. Now we got to recover, we got to get back, we got to go on the road to Pittsburgh. We know how hard that is to win at night on a short week. But I'm excited. I'm excited that we won. I'm excited that we were able to throw some passing touchdowns. We ran the football and we got some turnovers that we had talked about. We just got to eliminate some of the some of the other mistakes.

How impressive was it for Will Levis and DeAndre Hopkins, with limited practice reps, to be able to go out there and connect three times?

It's match coverage. It's one-on-one. I don't blame Will (Levis) for going to him. I thought the red zone was really well executed. That play was something that we liked. I thought that was a well-timed call. But even better executed obviously by Will and Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) and Chig (Okonwko) had a large part to do with that, the timing of it.

Did you see Will Levis' confidence grow throughout the course of the game?

I don't think it ever wavered. I think that it was strong throughout. There'll be a lot of things that we can improve on. But even just getting us in operationally. I was kind of taking a peek at the clock and I've got to make a decision whether I'm going to call time out or trust the quarterback to get that snap before zero and then the ball doesn't move, we know what the rules are. So I thought that was good. It could have been better, but just operationally, it was good.

How about your guys up front? How much did you like the way they were to get home and even get a strip sack?

Huge. Again, we've talked about this. We've put resources into that front. So that's what has to happen for us to win. They know that. That's not a secret. Those guys have to affect the quarterback. We say when you hit the quarterback, bad things happen for that team. The ball comes out, he throws an interception or sometimes they get hurt. So we have to make sure that those guys continue to affect the game. Like we told them, touchdowns come in bunches like Hops (DeAndre Hopkins) did today and sometimes so do sacks.

Did the sneaks with assistance give you an added element there?

It gave us a first down, two of them. Again, it's something that's been a strength of Will's (Levis) and something that was there and open to us. So we took advantage of it.

What was going on with Will Levis late and did you have any doubt that he would come back in when he went to tent?

Just working with Todd (Toriscelli) and his staff and making sure that he was properly hydrated, More a hydration issue. His nerves, the sweating. A big sweater. He is, you guys watched him all training camp.

What was his demeanor in his first start on the sidelines?

Good, but things were kind of going well. We get to find out about who we are when we get punched. And we've been punched, Again, went across to London and had to sit on that for however long we sat on it. Proud of the football team. These guys, they know what it's supposed to look like. Even we won, there's some guys that may be disappointed because they want to do well and they want to do really well. I just keep telling them, 'This was a big win for us. This is an important win at this point in the season.'

Will Levis took quite a few shots down the field. Was that's something that you guys identified as a strength of his, a plan for, or was that just situationally how things worked out today?

I mean he's got a strong arm. I think anybody that would have played quarterback today we would have tried to move the ball. When we've had success offensively, we've been able to, one, throw those, been able to hold up in protection and, two, be able to hit them.

Were you pleased with the protection today?

Yeah. There was a couple of times where they got us but when we needed it, felt like it was there, it was really there. Give them credit. Dre (Andre Dillard) kicked in their at left and Nic (Nicholas Petit-Frere) went over to right and just like we told Nic, at some point in time, we're going to need everybody. This thing comes around. I don't know when. I can't tell you, I wish I could. But it's a long season and everybody on the roster needs to be ready to go, whether that's Eric Garror, whether that's Dre, that's how this thing happens.

How much did Ryan Stonehouse impact the game, especially the first half?

Again, Stoney (Ryan Stonehouse), he can flip the field. He kicks a 70-yarder and I'm over there talking about, 'Man, I wish it would stop right on a dime at the five-yard line,' and then you realize it's a 51-yard net punt or whatever it is. So, he's getting better at directionally kicking them. We have to continue to cover them, get out in coverage, cast the net. I felt like those guys, Nick (Folk), I'm very comfortable with Nick going out there and kicking for us and Stoney being able to manage the plus-50 punts and then also flip the field when we need to.

Were you satisfied with the way the fourth-and-three was sorted out with the official going down and them sorting out the spot without you having to challenge? And what did you think of the P.I. there?

I thought the P.I., well again, the explanation I got, which should be in the report, was the P.I. was on the player that Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) was lined up on. Which, again—I see your facial expressions—kind of odd explanation. So I'll be curious if that is how they see it again tomorrow. But that was what was told to me. I was fairly confident that we had gotten the first down. I guess when you get hit and fall down, you have two choices: first down or short of the line to gain. They probably went with short, knowing that then it would be challenged, right? It's automatically reviewed. I couldn't challenge because it's automatically reviewed once it's a fourth down is short. So I was out of it, other than to ask an explanation on the O.P.I., which he mentioned was on Hopkins, on the receiver over top of him for driving, not on the guy that was chasing from ten yards away.

First game with Kevin Byard, how'd you guys do communications wise and performance in the back secondary.

Performance wise, when we bat them down or we cover them, it's good. Sometimes in zone coverage, whether that's linebackers or guys being where they're supposed to be. They tired us on a couple double moves, I thought we were good. I give credit to Terrell (Edmunds). Terrell had to show up here on a short week and played. There's a lot of things that we try to do and that'll have to be better, that communication will have to be better. Going fast and seeing where guys are and if they're in 'this', we want to play 'this'. So it was good at times and then it can be better.

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