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Doug Marrone: "We've been fighting through a lot of things"

Posted Dec 16, 2013

The Bills head coach talks about the offense putting together long drives in games, EJ Manuel sustaining a sprain in his left knee, and what he'd like to see from the team over the next two games.

Head Coach Doug Marrone

Monday, December 16, 2013

Opening Statement:
Just going to start off with the injuries. Aaron Williams has the ribs, so again we’ll see where he is later in the week. Most likely he’ll be out Wednesday and we’ll see where he is Thursday with that. Marcell Dareus has an ankle. I think it’s the same situation, I think he’ll be ok and we’ll see how he is Wednesday on probably a limited basis. Kraig Urbik came through with the foot really and he played well. I was happy for him to come back like that. Kiko (Alonso) had the knee, he came through ok. We’ll see where he is in the next 24 hours whether we want to limit him on Wednesday or not. Marquise Goodwin, the ankle, he came through the game ok, he should be fine. Rather than wait to announce this later on, EJ (Manuel) sprained his knee, went through the whole game and he should be ok. We have those 24 hours, so that’s it as far as the injuries with the players.

Other than that I think what I said yesterday. I was proud of this team; we’ve been fighting through a lot of things together really for the first time. There are a lot of small things that happened during the course of the game that helped us. I think everyone can easily see the big plays, the turnovers and the plays that were made. I thought Brian Moorman did a great job switching the field when we need a big punt he came up with it with five second hang times. The same way I explained that Jerry Hughes forced that ball back inside or pushed him out of bounds, I think that was a big play in the game. I think there was a lot of them. A lot of little things that go on during the course of a game and the players hung in there. Credit to them. It hasn’t always gone our way in those type of games and we were able to turn it.

I think our focus now is getting ready for Miami. A team that we played once, we came out on the winning side of it, but it was a tough game, a hard fought game. They’re coming up here which is exciting to get a chance to play at home. We’ve got two division games left and it starts with Miami. Beating them and they’re playing well right now, they’re coming off a big win. They’ve been playing well lately and we have to go and try to get this second win in a row, something that we haven’t done since we’ve been here.

Q: You had three drives of over 70 yards yesterday, how encouraging was that for the offense and what was the key for that?

A: Obviously it’s encouraging when we’re able to run the ball when you look at those drives and you can run the ball and you get in to third and six or third and two or less than that and you’re able to convert those first downs. Even within those drives, being able to get a chunk play, a 20 yard play. Those are the things that you get excited about and at the same time you get frustrated about because you want that more and more. No different than the players want more of that. I think it shows the capability of what you can do and then it comes a matter of time; again it goes back to that word of being consistent.

Q: Do you think it’s something that your team needed more consistency in?

A: I think when you look at the record and who you are and you’re sitting here and you’re 5-9, I think that’s in all areas, I really do. It was like a 94 yard drive or 96 yard drive coming off and like you said those back to back long drives and being able to get three points before the half and make some plays down the road where they know you’re going to try to push the ball vertically down the field with the timeout situation, those things are encouraging. Knowing that they know what you’re going to do and you go ahead and do it.

Q: A lot of players talked about this game being a gut check game. How important was it in how they responded and how much did it help validate some of the stuff you’ve seen over the course of the season?

A: As a coach you can stand up here and talk about a lot of things. I think for the most part I’ve always been a firm believe that a lot of times the things we discuss outside of the X and O’s about whatever it may be, stepping up, whether It be consistency, whether it be accountability, whatever words you want to put to it really has to come from within. I thought the players did a good job of that.

Q: EJ got off to a slow start yesterday and it’s somewhat of a pattern that he starts slow, but he plays better at the end of games. Do you have any theories on that?

A: I think you see it in spots at times, but there is no doubt that he got off to, I wouldn’t say slow and he knows it and we talked to him about it, he got off to a very poor start. The one thing about the kid, what you’ve seen over the course of him playing in 10 games now, he can fight his way through that and learn. Now are there some things that caught us yesterday the second time around that we would have liked to not have made the same mistake? Absolutely. But again he’s a young kid, he’s in here today working hard already watching the film and getting ready to go. That’s what you want from your quarterback and you just want him to keep getting better and better and keep getting through that. I think there is no one, at least from my standpoint, that I’ve ever been a part of that you go in there you do try to get the quarterback going, so you do try things that he’s successful with and knows what he’s doing to get him off to a good start. I think when you see something like that happening during a game there’s only really two ways to go. You can rely on a running game that eventually will get stopped or you start him getting a good feel and doing things that he feels comfortable with and get him in to a rhythm.

Q: Is his knee sprain the one he had before?

A: It’s his left knee.

Q: Less severe this time?

A: The only reason why (I told you) is because it’s the high profile player that you have to report, rather than wait until the other day and everyone is saying, ‘Why didn’t coach just tell us? I’d rather just tell you guys, so I don’t feel like it’s going to be anything. When we have time, he’s already watching the Miami tape now to get himself ready. I’d rather just come out and say it.

Q: How much of the game did he play on it?

A: I don’t know the percentage of it, but I didn’t really realize it until this morning. I was told he came in for treatment. Normally, you have to watch both ways, but a lot of times when it’s just, ‘Hey I’m getting this, but I don’t know when it happened, that type of thing where I just want to get treatment on it,’ and then all of the sudden everybody gets nervous. I don’t feel that way, I really don’t. I would tell you guys.

Q: What concerns do you have with your run defense?

A: Really it’s an understanding. What’s happening is when we do give up the big plays someone might have escaped too far, someone might not have been over the top enough. I think the same things that you’ve seen have come up. Collectively we have to do a better job in just making that play. Knowing where the safety is down, knowing what gap to fill, knowing when to take it, when to not. I think it’s just a combination of the guys up front, the linebackers, also safeties are involved. When we give up a big play in the run that’s exactly what is happening.

Q: Is that the biggest thing on your list that needs to be immediately addressed?

A: Yeah, when you say immediately addressed, we address it all the time, but when you’re playing multiple fronts and multiple looks and you’re getting a couple different things we just have to take that, we have to do a better job coaching and we have to do a better job playing it. Collectively that’s what we have to do.

Q: Do you anticipate Stevie (Johnson) missing Wednesday’s practice and maybe the game against Miami?

A: Obviously we know that Stevie is going through a personal tragedy. He’s been great as far as his communication. I think when it effects whether it’s practice or the team we’ll go ahead and report it, but right now I really don’t have anything to report on it.

Q: You seem to be a coach that really emphasizes family. Would you ever take a player in this situation and say don’t play this week? Would you ever take the decision out of his hands?

A: Absolutely. I feel that way in practice, a lot of times the trainers will say he’s ready to go and once the trainers and doctors say someone is ready to go, it’s still up to myself or the position coach to see what he can do. I think that when people talk about life and you talk about priorities, you’re a round a team every day, you’re around players every day, when you talk about priorities in your life, I learned this a long time ago with God or my faith is number one, my family is number two and football is number three. If you say that and you believe in that, you have to practice what you preach. A lot of times for me it is, not a lot of times, all the time it is in that order. So a lot of times when you make decisions, that’s how I think about things.

Q: Would you tell the player to take the time and not play?

A: Yeah. I would say, ‘Listen, this is how I feel. I think it’s in the best interest of the team or in the best interest of you individually,’ and it happened to me. I tell this story, when I was at the University of Tennessee my daughter was going to born and we were playing the University of Kentucky. We were in the run for a National Championship and I went in to Coach Fulmer’s offense and he said, ‘You have to be there. You’re not going to be at this game.’ Fortunately, we worked it out where I was able to go to the game and still be there for my daughter being born, but to answer your question I do believe in that.

Q: What do you need to see out of this team over these next two games?

A: It’s critical. We’ve got to keep finding ways to win and keep fighting through. That’s what we’re doing. It’s not, I think a lot of times people will think you’re going to play this guy to get an evaluation, you’re going to play this guy to get an evaluation. It’s the same with Kraig; Kraig Urbik went in there and played well, so we didn’t have to put J.J. (‘Unga) in there even though he’s been practicing well. We’ll look to do whatever we have to do to win because it’s critical for us to win. I think when you win you learn a lot from that.

Q: You were three for three in the red zone yesterday. Was there anything that stood out on the conversions that you were particularly pleased with?

A: I think the three plays, we hit the spot was a great job by EJ to Robert (Woods), we scored the one touchdown there. They changed defenses right at the end, we went to the quarterback draw which was good to see that we were able to get to the next step where you don’t put yourself in a bad situation. Then obviously we felt good about the goal line play going to the flat early on. I think what makes you feel good is your plan goes according to plan and you’re able to go out there and execute it. That’s what’s good. That’s what keeps you going and keeps people pushing.

Q: Robert and EJ had real good chemistry going early in the season before injuries to both of them. Did you feel like they got some of that back yesterday?

A: We want, I know for myself, I want to have an offense that it’s not these two guys have a chemistry let’s shut him down and force him to go someplace else. A lot of times you look at players on the field, Marquise Goodwin might not have a catch, but he’s caused two penalties. Stevie Johnson may not have as many catches, but you can see on the film people are squeezing the hell out of Stevie and it’s opening up some things for other people. A lot of times when you look at the passing game, I look at the spacing of our routes and who people are cheating too and squeezing too and we’re going to have to be able to go someplace else with the ball. I think we have a lot of players back there that can play and I’ve said that before. Marquise, T.J. (Graham) beats a guy over the top early on and we can’t get him the ball. Things like that might go unnoticed a little bit, but T.J., all of those guys are playing hard right now.

Q: Would you call this a Victory Monday?

A: It’s something that I’ve always done in the past everywhere I’ve been. Just gives you a little bit of a break, gives us a little bit more time to prepare. I talked to the players, you don’t usually do it in the early part of the season because you have a lot of work to do, but now the time for them when—it’s not a day off. I think people get confused a little bit, they’re still lifting, they’re still running, they’re still watching the tape, they’re still getting the corrections and things like that. It’s just not as structured as it is when it’s not a Victory Monday.

Q: Would you call it a reward?

A: I don’t know. I really never thought of it, honestly. It’s something that’s been done since I was a player and we’ve done it everywhere I’ve been. I know for us we always had good feedback from the players and still were able to get the same amount of work done. I think the players look at it as a reward, and even the coaches. It gives us a little bit extra time when it’s not as structured.

Q: How is Kevin Kolb doing?

A: I haven’t seen Kevin. I have not seen him.

Q: Have doctors indicated to you whether he might have the potential to return next season?

A: I have not had that discussion yet.

Q: Obviously you get Miami in some elements that they may not be used to. How do you plan to attack that this week?

A: We talked about it a couple weeks ago and how we were planning the practice schedule and talking to captains. We’ll go out just like we did before on Wednesday and Thursday. We thought it helped us the last time because of the winds and the conditions, but I think I can say from when I was a player in Miami to when I was a player in New Orleans, I think anytime you come up to Buffalo late I think you realize there’s obviously going to be elements to that game. I don’t think it’s a big secret, I think a lot of players understand that and I think individually how those players get ready for it, each person is different. For us obviously it’s our home so we should be used to it.

Q: Speaking of the elements, what do you think about the potential of a cold weather Super Bowl this year?

A: Whatever the league, again it’s not my decision. I really have no thoughts and I don’t mean that in a negative way you know how sometimes people are like, ‘I don’t want to go there,’ I really don’t. All my goal has been is trying to get there. If they have it in Alaska and that’s where they want to play the Super Bowl, I want to get my team there. That’s how I look at it. I don’t see it as anything else because either I’m there playing it or I’m at home feeling pretty lousy.

It’s critical, these next couple games are critical. Every play is critical, preparation is critical. I don’t want to lose sight of that. It’s very important. There are a lot of guys on this team that potentially can return and I think it’s important that we play well.