A transcript of coach Brian Billick's Monday news conference:
Opening statement: "I don't have much to add on the injury front. Todd Heap's hamstring is the most serious of it, but we don't know how serious it will be. It's a lower hamstring, which is good. As you know, high hamstring [injuries] are ones that can linger for awhile, so we'll see how it progresses with the week. We've got a bunch of other bumps and bruises, but nothing substantial at this point."
Will the break in division play give the Ravens time to clear the slate mentally?
"Oh, you have to. It's easier to feel sorry for yourself and kick yourself and you do that for a little while. The players are much better at it than we coaches, and that's a good thing. They're very focused. You've got to move on to the next one. It's an opportunity for us to go out and get back on the positive side of the slate. So, they have to have that attitude. They'll get done beating up on themselves over here in the next little bit looking at the film, and then you've just got to move on."
Did you have thoughts of replacing Steve McNair with Kyle Boller in yesterday's game?
"There was, late. I checked with Steve to see because on the one [play] – that nice big completion to Demetrius [Williams] – he kind of spun out of it and had to push. Obviously, that hurt him [and his sore groin] a little bit. But, when he came off and I asked him, I said, '[Are] you OK or do you think we should [put Kyle in]?' He said, 'No, I want to work through this one,' compared to last week. Again, I apologize for repeating myself, I think he feels better today than he did after the game last week. So that's a good thing, and I think we're making ground on it. [The groin is] obviously fatigued, but I think he came out of the game feeling pretty good about it."
What is your red zone analysis of yesterday's game?
"Same thing, you do in the red zone everything that you can. We're doing so many good things. That's one area that, obviously, we've got to try to do better. We've done it all. There's shots to the end zone, there's throwing it to an underneath guy and hopefully he can make a play, and then there's pounding it in. That last one is the one we've got to be better at. We've got to be better at running the ball in the red zone. Good red zone teams usually can do that for a number of things: One, obviously, the amount of yards you have to cover and you break a tackle and you get in. It forces them out of a shuttle defense, which now opens the opportunity for the posts and the corners and all the other things. Or, [you] force them into more man coverage now when you hit that short route and that shallow route. He catches it and he gets in the end zone. So, one thing cascades into the next. It's like it was before. It's a step here, it's a read there, [it's] a couple of little things here and there that we'll continue to try to address. We're doing enough other good things that it allows us to continue to bring focus to that. At the end of the day, no matter how good a team you are, you really only get so many reps, so many shots at it. You're going to run anywhere from six to 10 red zone plays in a given game, and some of those are going to be in nickel situations and different down and distances. So, there's only so much time you can spend on it, but obviously it's very important and it's the next thing for this offense to now complete itself in a way because it's doing pretty well right now."
Are you concerned with the defense giving up big plays?
"I'm always concerned. At the end of the day we lost and that's a fact. But now is a difficult time – just like when you win – and it's easy to go, 'OK, we're fine, what about…' No, you go back and look at the film and see where you're vulnerable to make the corrections. [It is] the same way when you lose. [You say,] 'OK, we lost and feel badly, now let's look at what really happened,' and [you] focus on really only a handful of things. That was the oddest-looking stat sheet I think I've ever seen. If you were just to look at [the stats], other than the 53 throws – if you throw the ball 53 times you're probably going to lose – I don't know what the odds are, but if you go back and research it, I'll bet less than five percent of the time that a team throws the ball that much that they win. They usually throw it that much because they have to. Outside of that number, if you look at it, they had 48 plays, they had four big plays but it was enough, along with the 16 points we gave up in special teams, to make the difference and [it was] a well-earned win on their part. So, those four plays defensively have to be addressed. It doesn't sound like a lot. Someone [might] say, 'It's only four plays, how big a deal [can it be]?' Well, it was four plays enough for us to get deep. Same thing offensively. [It was] three, four, five plays where if we would have done this maybe that would have turned into a touchdown instead of a field goal. Matt Stover? Who's more consistent? We just came off the week where you know. Matt will go back, he'll look at why he missed those two [in] the way Matt does. He's very analytical about that type of thing. [We'll] try to correct it and go on."
Was throwing the ball 53 times an attempt to save time and try to close the scoring deficit?
"Oh sure, we actually, given the score differential and the way the time was slipping away, shoved the ball up there a couple of more times than maybe was prudent. Although, we actually ran the ball pretty well in that second half when they were so spread out and hit a couple of runs. But, when you have that kind of deficit to overcome, time becomes a factor. We've been on the flip side of that where, [the other team says], 'You know what, there's just not enough time unless you do something.' But, we went ahead and tried to keep a decent run ratio to try to take advantage of it and that part of it, I think, we did at least pretty well."
Did you feel that McNair's injury was limiting him in yesterday's game?
"Not really. Again, you're talking about a guy that last week when I pulled him was 20-of-27. He was 64%, under difficult circumstances. You knew they were going to turn the rush loose and stay very passive on the back end. That's a tough circumstance to get the ball downfield. I think [McNair's] passes are accurate. I don't know what that measurement is compared to his mobility last year versus this year. There's probably a little bit of it. Again, we hope to get past that [groin injury fully] come the bye. If we can get him fully healthy by the time we come out of the bye, that would be a good thing and you might see a little bit more of that mobility. But, you saw him do some things, spin out of a couple of [situations]. We took no sacks. Although the line protected fairly well, a couple of those were because of Steve's athleticism. He spun out of a couple of things and made some plays. I think [his injury] is being overblown just a little bit."
What are the problems with the Ravens' pass rush other than the loss of DT Trevor Pryce?
"Right now we're not generating enough pass rush with just a four man rush. [There are] a lot of different reasons why we get into the configurations that we do, but we've got to get back on [track]. It minimalizes it to say 'besides Trevor.' That's pretty substantial and getting Trevor back will be big for us."
Did you give any consideration to starting Boller at quarterback and giving McNair a few weeks to fully heal his injury?
"That's a thought, certainly, but I don't think Steve's that injured. Again, watching him in practice, watching him in a game, I don't see that huge discernible difference and he's played well. The last two weeks he has played and thrown the ball very, very well. If it were definitely showing up that way where it was affecting his throw [or] affecting his accuracy, but I don't see it. [It's not] perfect by any stretch of the imagination, obviously, but the last two weeks he's been very, very good. So unless I really see it inhibiting his play, I don't think he feels like it's bad enough to not play at all. Would it be better for him physically to do that? Yeah. There [are] a lot of guys who'd like to take two [or] three weeks off. But, I don't think it's that serious in his mind right now and the way we're nurturing it along so far – knock on wood – we've kind of dodged the bullet. Hopefully, we will continue that way. As I said before, if I have any inkling that he tweaks it or could aggravate it, then I won't hesitate to go with Kyle because I don't want that thing to linger."
Do you worry about lack of depth at tight end with Daniel Wilcox and Todd Heap injured?
"[It concerns me] a great deal. We've got to wait and see. Dan's toe is not a turf toe, so hopefully he'll be back. Yeah, the depth at tight end [is a concern] because you've only got three and two are down. It's a tough one. Quinn Sypniewski did a great job stepping in and filling in a role that he's not particularly used to. A couple of weeks ago it was the receivers, now it's the tight ends, it kind of moves around and you adjust where you can."
Do you believe a tough loss can spark a resiliency in a team to come back and play better?
"When I talk about this after a tough loss, it's hard to come across in a way that I'm hoping that I do. But, this team is a very good team that way. It's got a lot of character; it's got a lot of leadership. They'll process this very well. I hope no one mistakes that for thinking they don't care -- for them to put it behind them so quickly -- but there's no upside on the other. And, they will come out and they will work hard, like they did last [week]. They'll work hard this week. This team works hard. I've been blessed with teams that do work hard. They recognize the challenge in front of them and they'll get through this and realize that we're 2-2. That 2-2 feels different than the other 2-2's that just won the game. It feels different than the teams that are 3-1 but just had a loss. That's just how it is. They handle that pretty well and they'll come through this OK."
Is there any sense that you guys are being too cute, too gimmicky on defense?
"Not too cute, but adjusting to what they're doing, coverage-wise, when you're down in the secondary, opting more for coverage than pressure, sure. That's all part of the analysis that goes on. And Rex and his staff will do a great job deciding going into this game, 'Have we been too passive because of who we have in? Do we need to be more aggressive? Do we need to blitz more, like we've done? [What are] the reasons why we've done what we've done in the last couple weeks?' All that analysis goes on."
Is there any chance CB Samari Rolle plays this week?
"Hopefully. I'm hopeful that he will."
Is there any sense that Boller can give you something else that McNair can't, and is there more than that factoring into the decision of whether or not to play him?
"I think I understand what you're asking. Fortunately with Steve McNair, there's not. There may be as a coach, and I've been there where, 'Geez, if the guy's not doing it and I put the other guy in, how will that affect him?' Steve McNair's not that way. Again, let me underline it: Steve has played very, very well in the last two games. I don't know that I could ask for a lot more of him. But sure, whether it be injury or whatever it was, if he was struggling, and I could identify that indeed it was him, then certainly I would give the other guy a chance to come in and maybe give you that spark, or give you something to do. There was nothing in that game yesterday that indicated [I should make a change at QB]. We were up and down the field. There was nothing that Steve was not doing well in what we were trying to execute. So it's strictly a 'How is the groin holding up right now?' [That] is the only issue for us."
Is there anything you could have done differently on the play you attempted to challenge?
"No. You get the images from upstairs when you get them. And they're either fast or slow, complete or incomplete. You get the information as quickly as you can and I get it out as quickly as I can. The mechanism is there. It's not perfect. It was late; I realize that. I would like for them to have seen it and there's a guy on the back end that's supposed to see it. But, it's an imperfect [system]. It really is a guess at times. It is. Was Jamal [Lewis] going over? No one really knows because the angles are inconclusive. And I've read and heard that clearly he didn't break the plane. My hunch is that had we even reviewed it, and they saw the same things you saw, they would say it was inconclusive. So when you challenge, it really is a guess. I wish it was more scientific than that. But what we see up in the booth, very often, you just don't get it in time and you don't know. As they stress to us many, many times: We don't know what they are going to see when they go into the review booth. What I see on the big screen, what they saw up in the booth – we have no idea whether the officials are going to see that view or not. So it is a bit of a guess."
Will you ever challenge a call without seeing a replay?
"Sure. Sometimes it's, 'What's the downside? OK, I'll burn a timeout. Maybe I'll luck out.' Yeah, there are times that you have to do that. It's [based] strictly on the situation."
How hard is it to take a team across the continent and win?
"We knew when we were going to play the NFC West that was going to be one of our challenges. In particular, not only that challenge, but what are you going to do next week? So you create a structure for it. That's why you train the way you do in training camp. The approach you take this week, is the fact that we're three out of the four [on the road over] the next month, although there is the bye in there – there's four out of the five – you have to account for that, and we have a structure in place. Going on the road to San Francisco, and that's about as far away as we can get, you try and keep the players on an even keel that way. But it is a challenge."
What can you say about the issues with Trent Dilfer, who you may face as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers?
"It's regrettable. I have a huge respect for Trent and all that he represented here. I can understand why this is something that he doesn't want to let go. I don't know that there is anything that I will ever be able to say or do to rectify in that regards. [I have] huge respect for the man, but that's been covered. There's nothing more I can add. I wish I could; I wish there was something I could do to rectify that. He's very focused on me in that regards as opposed to what we did organizationally, and that's understandable and maybe that's the way it should be anyway. Because I know that he still holds fond regards for the organization [and] the people in the organization. If his feelings about me isolate it to where he can feel good about it, then OK. That's OK."
Does facing a previous teammate mean anything?
"There's so much of it nowadays. It's very rare that you don't play somebody that doesn't have somebody that was on your team before. A majority of guys, as is typical because of the turnover you have in this league, it's 'Who's that guy? I don't know him. I wasn't here when he was here before, so you get all worked up and it doesn't mean anything to me because I wasn't here before.' [That] kind of mentality. So yeah, it's like competing against your brother. You always want to beat your brother. Pick-up basketball, darts, whatever you're doing. But probably too much is made of it."
Was it late in the game that you started debating about going to the no-huddle offense?
"Yeah, at that point we actually ended up getting to it, obviously. But the way the game was going, there comes a point where you just want to get that one score, that one drive, which we subsequently did. Try to make it semi-manageable, because the game had spun out of control so wildly and almost pulled within that range. [It] could have gone, but anytime you go to the no-huddle in that situation, you know you're turning your linemen loose and you're asking a lot of your quarterback against a shell coverage in incessant pressure off the edge. That's a lot to do, so we opted to call the sequence that eventually took us down to score [and] thought we had just enough time. Maybe now all you need is that now you get into that no-huddle, maybe you can make that one score happen. We got it down and didn't quite pull it off. But it's something – we've done it, we do it. We've finished the game with it. We've been pretty good at the end of halves when we're in the no-huddle, two-minute [drill]."
What kind of influence did the late Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers' coaching philosophy have on you?
"Huge. Coach Walsh.... it's well-documented the impact he had on me and everything I do, everything this league does, quite frankly. I was going on the other day – it's been 10 years since I've been back there. In 1997 I went out there when I was with the Vikings. That's the last time I was in Candlestick. And that's how old I am, it was Candlestick when I was there. It will always be Candlestick to me. So it's been awhile. For me it'll be kind of neat to go back, but it's been a long time."