"First off, looking forward to the challenge this week. We all know [Chicago Bears defensive coordinator] Vic [Fangio] and he's done a nice job. I think the side of their coaching, having worked with [Chicago Bears head coach John Fox] Foxy and having a number of friends, they're really improving as the season's gone along and hopefully when they put on our tape, they see that we've improved too. So, I know you want to talk about the previous game and then launch into this week."
What about Vic? It seems like his defenses don't ever change all that much. Does that give you an advantage, just being really familiar with him?
"Well, first off, I think it was exciting for me to see, having worked with both Vic and John Fox, the relationship there because I really enjoyed working with both and consider them both friends. But, I think the story there as we've watched the tape is that Vic continues to run what he runs and Foxy, being an involved head coach, is not overly involved in the defense. And I'm sure that's pretty hard for him from week-to-week because he wants to have his fingerprint all over the team. But, I see them improving and it's I'm sure a nice relationship between Foxy and Vic but it looks like Vic's got the autonomy. And again, Chicago's going from a four down world, Foxy's going from a four down world to a three down world that Vic's been involved in."
It seems like so many times the past four years, defensive players, especially in crucial situations, would come back to the locker room and tell us that, "Wow, Vic told us exactly what play they were going to run in this situation." Do you have to really be cognizant of what you've done in the past and what the Bears might be expecting you to do?
"First off, Vic was over the years has been known within the coaching circles as something called the Vic Report of which he's got no problem referring to himself in the third person there. But, he's done a nice job. I think that his confidence stems from the fact that he's doing his homework. So, if you're going against someone that has done a lot of homework and he knows the personalities and the natures of a lot of the people on our offense side. So, it's going to be a great challenge and a game within a game as we see what Vic chooses to do. And again, it doesn't exist in a vacuum. He's trying to do it with the players that he has currently in Chicago and there's a lot of transition with their defense. We're trying to do a lot of with our players and there's been a lot of transition here too. So, again, full credit to Vic for all the homework that he does. I've sat next to him on the plane and he's doing a lot of homework."
What's it going to take to improve on third down?
"You know, first off to address that, there's no doubt that we went 0-for-9 on third down. If you think, the way I saw the game, our first third down opportunity we took a sack that took us out of field goal range. We had actually gone into an empty formation, put a little pressure on the one-on-one blocking up front trying to get an advantage in the passing end of it. We took a sack, out of field goal range. Our second third down was an interception. It's third-and-three, third-and-manageable and from that time on, I know in my mind I flipped the switch a little bit and said we need to attack them in the pass game on first and second down. What's the standard narrative for anyone that goes into a game? Well, we've got to do well on third down so we're going to get to first down conservative, second down conservative, third down manageable. We kind of flipped the script on that and we became aggressive and we were rewarded for some of that aggressive nature. Coming into the game, Arizona's a good defense. I think they're third overall. They're number one in allowing the fewest number of passes over 15-yards. So, we felt like we had to attack them on first and second down. And we were very successful doing that. We ended up with eight passes over 15-yards. The downside to that is what? If you attack them on first and second down, you might be at third-and-10 with two incompletions or third-and-12 or third-and-eight or third-and-seven. So, just the way the nature of the game played out. You know, there was an example of a penalty in the second half that led us to a third-and-long. That's just, it was called. We felt like we executed the play against the base coverage. Right before the half, there was another third down, we actually were trying to take half of the distance off of it to get to fourth-and-manageable because we knew we were going to go for it on fourth down. But, the ones that stuck out were the first two third downs. And then the last third down, if you remember, in the final drive we took a shot one-on-one, [WR] Torrey Smith on [Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick] Peterson. That was a second down call. Now, you're at third-and-10. We just felt like we had some momentum making some plays on first and second down. But, we took the sack on the third-and-10. Of all the snaps that [QB] Blaine [Gabbert] wanted to have back, that's probably the one he wanted to have back. But, it happened. We get to fourth-and-20. We still competed, but we came up two yards short. But, the third downs, I don't think they all sit equally the same. We do want to get better at it. It's the nature of football that eventually you're going to have third downs. But, we did have three consecutive scoring drives where we never really had to get to third down, where we felt like we could get stuff accomplished on first and second down. It's a choice you make and you live with the third-and-longers as part of it, which lowers your chance to get it. So, that being said, I don't think that we were inept on offense, but we went 0-for-9 on third downs. That's just the way it is."
Kind of stemming off that, are you going to need more out of the wide receivers, also because TE Garrett Celek's probably going to be out?
"Yeah. First off, thanks for bringing up Garrett because what a great year he's had and we leaned on him a lot, especially with Blaine at quarterback. And when he got hurt on the second series, you kind of have to reengineer some of your call sheet. [FB] Bruce Miller picked up some of the slack there. [TE] Blake Bell, who had a nice game, picked up some of the slack there. We were reengineering some of the other packages with some of the other players so that you didn't lose stuff from the call sheet. But, we like all of our tight ends and that window to use all three tight ends together, like we did against Minnesota, fell right off. But, fortunately for Garrett it's not a serious injury, but it's going to be a race to get healthy before the season's over with a high ankle. So again, full credit to Garrett and the season that he had. It's a shame that he got hurt, but guys picked up the slack and we're proud of guys like Blake Bell that made some plays when he was out."
In terms of the wide receivers--?
"Did not forget that first part. Take a couple of the third down throws. We tried to hit [WR] Quinton Patton on a shallow cross route. There's another example, wide receivers trying to come through traffic and didn't come through traffic a man. So, you've just got to continue to play through the contact, play through traffic. We did try to give some one-on-one balls. We had one to Quinton Patton in a one-on-one go situation. That's just football. You've got to give it a chance. And again, like we've talked about, if it's first down or second down and you take your chance and you don't convert that opportunity, now you're back against the sticks a little bit, you're behind in the count. But, you know, they've worked hard, they've had a good week. In terms of matchups, we look at the matchups this week and try to get better. That's all we can do. Same thing with [WR] Bruce Ellington. Had some opportunities in the Seattle game. You try to create those opportunities and see what guys can do. And you don't know until the play plays out what the result's going to be."
What do you know about WR DeAndre Smelter now that you didn't know two weeks ago?
"Great question. For everyone that's been here on a daily basis, he's a hard working kid with a nice demeanor, but you're part of a team but you're not really a part of the team because you've got to go rehab and you've got to go through all that. But first off, his body type is unique. It's different than probably some of the other receivers. He's a little bigger, he's got a little longer arms, bigger hands, but his demeanor is such that I think he's going to be just fine on some of those shallow cross routes, catches in traffic. Trying to find out then in practice, is he an outside receiver, does he have slot capabilities? But what we've found out is I think we're excited to have him on the team. I think he's a hard worker. I think he's excited to be practicing and I'm really excited about his future."
Do you think he can play this season?
"I would defer to [vice president of football operations Jeff Ferguson] Ferg, you know what I mean by that, because he is coming off of a major injury, a little bit like we've treated [G/C Daniel Kilgore] Kilgy, for example. We would love to throw him out there. We'd love to dress 65 guys and throw him out there and have success with him because I think he's going to have success. But, we defer back to the medical people. I think he's made great strides. He looks pretty good out there in practice. That's what's great about preseason games. It's probably fair for Kilgy, it's probably fair for DeAndre to give him some preseason games to ramp up into it instead of just throwing them in the mix because you want to have growth and you want to feel like the strides that he's making are real positive."
Blaine has taken a little something off of his throws this year. He said that his accuracy has gone up. Have you seen that in the past with other quarterbacks, other guys that you've worked with, they tend to overthrow sometimes?
"Believe it or not, I remember watching a game with [Indianapolis Colts QB] Andrew Luck playing quarterback. And remember, one of the things that was ‘criticized' when he was at Stanford was that he didn't have great arm strength. But, I thought he was one of the best at that, throwing the ball that was appropriate. So, if it was a check down, it was a nice, catchable ball. Sometimes you see flat routes that have a little bit of loft or pace or arc to get around an edge-rushing linebacker. Those are all great things to see because it shows the variety of throws that you can have. Blaine's done a phenomenal job and I think he'll continue to improve with that rhythm that he has. And so, I look forward to seeing him as he gets into these games week after week after week, there's usually a rhythm and a pace that he plays the game with. And I think we've seen it in the context of during games, you see him get hot and there's a nice window of time. But, I know he wants to be hot from the moment you get off the bus to the moment you get back on the bus and I think his rhythm continues to improve every week."
Only six of his 16 third down completions have gone for a first down.
Does he have to be more aggressive? Is that a coaching thing, hey don't force things?
"First off, for example on one going back to the Arizona game, you know that their scheme was to rush either five or six. That created one-on-one blocking across the board and then how much do I have a chance to wait. The one that he threw to Quinton Patton, [TE] Vance McDonald was emerging behind that throw, but you're going to have to hold on a little bit longer. I think the good news for Blaine is that he's gotten the ball out of his hand. He's used his athletic ability to move to create windows. But, as we continue to improve with the chemistry of each other, again, things don't happen overnight. We'd love to have it happen in one week time or two-week time. I think he'll have that innate feel without thinking about it. ‘Hey, I've got to hold on to it. Hey, I've got to get rid of it.' And so, we're starting to see that on the practice field, that he's using the full pattern itself as opposed to just picking one guy, holding on and throwing it. So, we're excited about where he's going with it, but there's no doubt that sometimes he's taking first available, which is good too, but there might be some other opportunities emerging a little bit deeper into the pattern."
How much of a load do you think Kilgore can handle? He wants to take on that load and do something to build for next year.
"Right. And if you think back to how do most people play their preseason. The first preseason game, you get a series or two. The second preseason game, you go into the second quarter, traditionally. And then the third preseason game, you end up coming out after halftime. That's been the traditional norm. Well, how do you try to get a guy like Kilgy, without just throwing him in the mix? And that's really hard because your desire is there, but it's a hard, physical sport. And to be playing at game speed, that's what you use that whole preseason for, was to get ramped up. And it's just hard. Kilgy's still young in some areas as a player. It's not like he's a 35-year-old veteran. And so, the timing of things, the timing of the hitting and the timing of the snap and all that, love to get him out there. But, you probably have to be judicious with that so that he continues to feel success without kind of being overused."