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Doug Marrone: "this is a big game"

Posted Nov 27, 2013

The Bills head coach talks about heading up to Toronto to face the Falcons, the speed of Atlanta's defense, and whether playing in a dome this week is a disadvantage.

Head Coach Doug Marrone

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Opening Statement:
Just want to wish everyone, in case I forget at the end of this, a Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow. Officially we have to list full participation, Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods and Nickell Robey. Everyone’s practiced, everyone’s good. We’ve had a good couple days of practice. Tomorrow the players get a chance to spend a little time with their families, come back Friday and get ourselves going. Saturday we’ll meet here, get on the buses, go up to Toronto and we’ll actually practice up in Toronto at the Rogers Centre. Not a lot of us, like I said before, have been up there. I think it’s important for our receivers and DB’s to get use to the lighting. Sometimes in indoor stadiums that is a little different. I’m excited about it; I heard the field is in great condition. They’ve done everything they could to make it comfortable for us to go there. I think we’ll go there, get a chance to run around and practice up there and get used to the environment. I think that will help us and then we’ll be on our normal schedule.

Q: Would you prefer to be playing in Buffalo due to the weather that is forecasted?

A: I really haven’t put a lot of thought in to it. For our team, we have to be ready to play no matter what the conditions are. I’m not going to backtrack from what my vision is, to be able to play games late in the year with the weather like it is outside and for our players to go out there and it not be an issue. Whether it be wind, rain or snow, I think that’s what you try to do. Then again, you look down the schedule we’ll be going down south and it will be warm, so I think you have to be ready for all that, but I envision building a team that can go out in this type of weather and win games.

Q: So are you giving away an advantage by playing in a dome if you’re building that type of team?

A: Well when you look at it, you can say this. It’s an advantage if you weren’t playing a team that plays in a dome all the time. Domes are different, each one is different. For the quarterbacks waking up and knowing what the elements are it’s good, you’re both playing on the same field. Again, like I said before I’m not going to backtrack, I want to build this team so when we get ready to make a run in these playoffs, wherever it may be, whatever year, we’re playing a home game in January and the weather is like outside and that advantage is to us. Yes, I’m trying to create an advantage by that weather.

Q: What is Robey’s ailment and when did it happen?

A: He had an ankle; he rolled it really during the game. I don’t even know if it was during the game, we didn’t know about it during the last practice on Tuesday or Wednesday, I’m not even sure. All I know is he came in and he didn’t miss any time. We limited him one day, but he’s been out there the whole time. He’s 100 percent.

Q: With the extra practice time, do you get extra work done in specific situations?

A: We get a little extra work in our base, in our normal down, so we did a little bit of that. What we may do on Friday is get a little bit more extra work in the red zone, which we worked today. Base and third down we got a little bit more extra work.

Q: What are your thoughts on the shuffling Atlanta has been doing on the offensive line?

A: I think you’d have to ask Tom (Dimitroff). I really don’t want to speculate on what they might be going through.

Q: As a family man, what do you think of their mayor and the kind of example that Rob Ford presents?

A: The mayor of Atlanta?

Q: The mayor of Toronto.
A: I have no idea who he is.

Q: He’s admitted to smoking crack.
A: Really? Well I hope that he can find a way to better himself. Last time I checked that’s illegal, so hopefully he can find a way to help himself. I say that for anyone, you don’t have to be the mayor, you could be a guy who is down the street. There are a lot of issues and a lot of challenges in life and I hope that people turn themselves to get help if they think they have a problem.

Q: You didn’t know about that?

A: No. I always find it funny because people will ask me what’s going on and I’ll be like, ‘What?’ Someone will ask me a question and I’ll turn around to Scott (Berchtold) and go, ‘Where were they going with that question?’ He’s like, ‘Well you haven’t heard,’ and I really don’t. I think it’s very difficult because like I said before, if I want to escape football, I’ll escape it in a novel. I call it a novel, my wife calls it fiction. I’ll do that, but honestly we really don’t have a lot of time for anything else. It’s the same thing, I’m so focused on getting this team ready and I always talk about a core and I try to tell that to our players, when people try to start pulling you out of this core, you’re not as effective as you can be. Like I said before, it hurts me where we are right now and I find it hard to get over that, but I have to keep pushing so we can have the type of team that our region can go ahead and connect with and respect and get back to the playoffs. There’s a lot of challenges that we have and we have to keep pushing and overcome them.

Q: What stands out defensively? It seems that they try to build their defense around speed.

A: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right on that. Having faced them before when Coach Smith was there and having faced him even prior to that when he was in Jacksonville, again they’re probably not as size wise when you look at them they might not be as big as the other teams you see or the other teams we may have faced, but don’t let that fool you. They’re quick and fast up front. Their movement skills are very very good. I think they better themselves on the outside, the two corners. I think (Desmond) Trufant is playing real well; both of those safeties have been to the Pro Bowl, things like that. I think that defense is built on a lot of speed and they have the ability to make a lot of plays.

Q: How have they changed since you left?

A: It’s the same principles; you’re talking about a team that in the last five years has won the second most amount of games, so they obviously have very good players. They have good veteran leadership and I think that’s what is important. I keep reminding our players to throw out all the records, throw everything out, we’re going out there and playing a team that knows how to win and has won a lot of football games. Now they’re at a point in the season where just like Coach Smith said, they’re playing for pride and we all play for pride and we have to go out there and it will be a great challenge for us.

Q: Is it sort of a homecoming in playing teams from the NFC South?

A: It’s interesting. It’s also the same with the AFC East having been in New York and coached there. Obviously New England has some of the same players that we faced and Miami has changed a little bit. Sometimes when you go back you’re looking at that and you’re going through the same division. It’s a little bit like that, I wouldn’t lie to you.

Q: How close do you think is this team to being as consistent as you want it to be?

A: I think this is a big game. When you come off a game like you did against New York and we can say what we want, maybe we can do this better and you can say that every week. When you look overall at things, we played a very good consistent football game, I think that’s what the goal is. When I talked to the players this week, that’s important, and it starts off from the individual player. Can that individual player go ahead and play another consistent game at a high enough level? Then you break it down in to units, then you break it down in to sides of the football and then you break it down to a whole team. That’s the one thing we’re striving for because right now it’s been too much of the inconsistency. Feeling that you can get things done and you can’t is a frustrating feeling. I feel that and I think we all feel it. You feel it, you know, you cover the team. The fans see it, I see it. The players themselves see it, so I think it’s important that we start developing that consistency to be the type of team we want to be.

Q: Have you gone up to the Rogers Centre to see the field and check it out?
A: Yeah, I’ve been up there once for a press conference, I can’t really remember the day. Went up there and looked at it. I don’t know, I’ve heard a lot of things, I’ve heard lighting, I’ve heard the field, I heard everything. The one common thing that I’ve heard is that they’re trying to do everything to benefit our football team and that’s important I know I appreciate that, I just haven’t been there so that’s why we’ll go up early and practice.

Q: Have any players voiced issues with the field?

A: I’m going to be honest, one of the things that I wanted to do, one of the goals for during the week was there’s been a lot that gets pointed out to this game. When you look back at how we’ve performed up there, we have not performed well up there. I went back and did a little research and we were minus nine in turnovers, we’ve only had the lead at halftime in one of the games. There are a lot of poor things we as a football team have done. A lot of times what I look at is I try to make sure when I spoke to the team is to avoid whatever people want to say. Whether it be the field, playing indoors, whether it’s an away game there. That’s not who we are, that’s not what our core is. Our core is to go up there and win games. I tried to address that early and kind of get that out of our minds. To answer the question, I haven’t heard that from any of our players.

Q: Would the team be more unique being built for colder weather when most of the NFL is gearing towards throwing the ball more?

A: I think you’ve got to be careful. I wouldn’t disagree with where you’re going with that, it’s just you want to be able to do that. You want to be big up front, you want to always have the ability to run the ball in those types of elements because there will be a point where those elements can dictate your game plan. There’s no doubt about that. I also think it was one of the reasons why we went with EJ (Manuel). Like I said before, he’s proven now that he can throw the ball in that weather. There are a couple quarterbacks in this league who can do it and some quarterbacks will struggle in it. We have the ability to do that, so to answer your question, yes I’d like to say we’d have the ability to do both, but I think there’s a time that comes where you have the lead and it’s late and you’ll have to line up in two tight ends with a fullback and a back and you’re going to have to have some big people that can be able to push that pile in that weather.

Q: What are you looking for from EJ the rest of the way?

A: Yeah I would say he’s right in the mix. Everyone knows, it’s the elephant in the room, he’s the spotlight of it, he’s the quarterback. Everyone is going to be looking for that consistency. I spoke to him about it, I said, ‘This is what we need, you’re coming off your best game playing. You did a lot of great things, everyone is going to be looking to see you have to develop that consistency to be the type of quarterback that everyone’s expectation is.’

Q: EJ has been very careful with the football, is it tough to get the message across to him that he can sometimes be too careful with the football?

A: I do agree with a lot of that statement, meaning this when we look for what we wanted was someone, when we were looking at the quarterbacks, one of the characteristics we were looking for was someone who understood the responsibility of holding that football. One of the things, which is a catch-22, I think you’re correct, he’s shown that responsibility. At some point, that responsibility can hinder at times performance because you might not go ahead and make that throw that you may see and go. One of the things we’ve been doing with him and Coach Hackett has done a good job and EJ understands it, we’ve been saying to get back there and throw it. Just throw it, let it loose, let it loose. I’d much rather coach that way then coach someone who goes the opposite way. That will gunsling it and make it and do that, especially when they’re young and trying to develop. Right now he is very cautious, which I think we can all appreciate. The fastest way to lose games is obviously the turnovers. He’s had some fumbles, he’s worked on it extremely hard and he’s done a much better job of protecting the ball in the pocket.

Q: Do you expect a more assertive C.J. (Spiller) now?

A: Yeah I expect to see that of what we saw before. If something opens up inside, to go ahead and take it. Not always look for that big home run play. Early on he was hobbled a little bit by the injuries that he had, but again those are the things we’re looking for. I think it’s hard, when you have success and you make a lot of big runs sometimes you tend to keep looking for that. I’m not saying that’s C.J.’s issue at all, but again what you want to do is keep that discipline, keep that structure and keep from running in there. When you see three or four yards, go ahead and take it. I’ve had this experience before with the same type of running backs that C.J. is, guys that can break big plays, guys that are extremely explosive. What will happen is all of the sudden is they’ll bounce it outside and take it for the home run and take it for the long touchdown or the big gain and then they’re looking to do it. It becomes a point of discipline. He’s done a much better job in practice of taking it up in there.

Q: Are you excited to see the wide receiving group all healthy?

A: I am. I really am. Working together, I think this is the first time where we really have to sit down and see who is going to be the inactives for the game. Before it’s been easy, the guys that were injured were all inactive; we didn’t have to make a lot of decisions. Going in to this game, we did have to make a couple decisions on who is going to be up and who is going to be down. I’m excited about that, those are good decisions.

Q: Who are the other explosive running backs you had?

A: Reggie (Bush), didn’t have as much success as a runner early on as C.J. had, Reggie had a lot of success on the outside. Reggie is very explosive and quick, saw things quickly and the same thing, there would be two or three yards in there and we’d say, ‘go ahead and get in there.’ He would try to bounce it and get the big play. That’s one of the examples at least for me in my experience that I’ve had with those running backs.