Just in terms of how everybody’s getting over this loss on Sunday, what do you see out of them? I mean, TE George Kittle was saying it would light a fire under them. Are you seeing that now as you start the week?
“Yeah, I mean today’s the first day I saw them. When you’re on a short week, you know, yesterday felt like two days for us, but it’s kind of good when it’s something like that. You don’t have much time to dwell over it. Like I said after the game, we tip our hats off to Atlanta, but we’ve got to play a lot better on all three phases. Got to play better, got to coach better and you watch the tape and we know we can. It’s just about doing it. Yeah, it was disappointing to lose. There was an opportunity that we had that we missed, and you address that. It pissed us off for a while, but the neat thing about today is after you go through it for 24 hours you get to go talk to the team. It’s neat to be able to say to the team that ‘look guys, last week before we played them we controlled our own destiny. It was a tough loss that we feel we were good enough to win and didn’t get it done, but we still control our own destiny.’ We can’t sit and harp on that too long. We correct the mistakes, but we’ve got to go out there and play good football on Saturday.”
You talked at length last week about beyond your respect for that system or that type of defense, why you brought defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, why you wanted to go to Atlanta. On Sunday’s game, is that still a tough nut to crack, so to speak?
“No, I think we are all pretty used to it. I mean, we’ve gone against that system a lot here, even this year. Didn’t look a lot like that system on Sunday. They made a lot, a ton of adjustments and stuff that we weren’t expecting going in, but you’re always going to see something new. It’s the foundation for all these teams, but every team runs that system doesn’t run it the exact same way they used to. Everyone’s had to expand as people get more used to it and Atlanta’s done a good job of that over the last half of the year.”
What kind of trickle-down effect have some of the injuries, particularly on the defensive line? How have you seen that hamper what the defense has done over the last few weeks?
“I think the obvious answer in terms of the less depth you have, the more reps people take and the more reps people take they can’t go as hard for every time they’re in. I think guys do wear down a little bit with that. It’s something you fully expect this time of year, as the year goes, but it does add up. We do have some more guys coming back, but this is what happens when these injuries happen. And the type of game, hopefully we can get in a game where we can rotate the guys better despite who’s out there, but that happens with everyone. The more you’re out there, the more you wear down, but it’s time to go, there’s not a lot of time left anyways.”
How do you think DL Solomon Thomas did with a bigger role playing in there?
“I thought he did his job. I definitely thought he did his job. He wasn’t out of place at all. Every time they got to his gap, he was holding it, but nobody across the board made any game-changing plays. That’s what we needed there at the end, especially. We gave [Atlanta Falcons QB] Matt Ryan and [Atlanta Falcons WR] Julio [Jones] a few too many chances and those guys are too good to give that many chances.”
How did OL Ben Garland handle his first start at center?
“I thought Garland in both his game and a half he’s played has done a real good job. He’s done a real good job getting to the second level. He’s done a real good job at getting out on our screens and stuff. He stepped it up well.”
When you watch the Rams, what makes them so difficult?
“They’re very talented, they’re very well-coached. I think over this last month they’ve been playing as good of football as anyone in the league. I think until the Sunday game got a little out of hand, they had a top-10 offense, a top-10 defense before that. They have a very good special teams. So, talent and coaching.”
You guys went from being the underdog at the beginning of the season to now very much having a target on your back. CB Ahkello Witherspoon on Sunday said the character of this team has not wavered no matter what. How do you continue to keep these guys even-keeled?
“I think we’ve got smart guys to put things in perspective. Target’s always on your back no matter how good you do. You’re as good as your last game and it’ll be that for every team in the NFL, all 32 teams, until the end of the year. I talk about it a lot, but if you’ve been in this league you pretty much realize that only one team is happy at the end of the year no matter what happens. Usually, it’s the team who wins the last game. That’s why we’ve got to make sure that happens. I think our guys realize that. There are a lot of ebbs and flows throughout the year, but we know we’ve worked all year just to get to this point we’re at. That’s where we’re pumped to be at right now.”
You guys reportedly put in a claim for Kansas City Chiefs DE Terrell Suggs. Is that a function of those injuries, specifically Dee Ford?
“We just thought he would help us, a good pass rusher out there who’s a vet. Could help a lot of teams and we would’ve definitely preferred for him to help us over people we have to go against.”
At the start of the season you were having a lot of success forcing turnovers, getting sacks and the last three weeks you’ve only had three and only one turnover in each of the last four games. How much of that do you attribute to attrition and the injuries you’ve had on the defensive side of the ball?
“Anytime you miss people it definitely gets harder. But, as every single person says when someone asks them that question, it’s not an excuse, it doesn’t put that in the win-loss column. The more we have had people out, I think the chances of turnovers does go down, but if we want to win we’ve got to find ways to create them and hopefully our guys can get going and create some more. If not, we’ve got to do something schematically, but it’s tough to win when you don’t get turnovers and we’ve got to make sure we find a way to do it.”
When you look back at Sunday’s game, what areas do you kind of look back on and say, “I could’ve been better at this point?”
“Well, whenever there’s an incomplete pass, obviously. Sometimes you’re throwing it away, but most of those you could’ve done something differently. So, all those. I think just situational football at the end, I think we could always get better at that.”
Is that something, like, what’s kind of the pulse of this team after a loss? Does everybody kind of take a little bit on themselves?
“Oh yeah, definitely. We’ve got a good locker room in there where guys watching the film and seeing what they can do better individually and starting with myself. If everyone has that same mindset, it’s going to lead to a better football team.”
You’ve been on some Patriots teams, obviously, that expected to win games late, every game that they played. They’ve dropped one or two here and there every now and then. What was the tone in those locker rooms like? What did you observe when you were a young player about that?
“I think the biggest thing is just you can’t let it hang around. You’ve got to move on. Once you watch the film, get the corrections fixed, talk it out and everything. Once it’s over with, it’s over with. This week, especially on the short week, just had to get over it quickly.”
What are the Rams doing differently now versus when you played them the first time this season?
“Well, obviously, some different personnel. Dealing with trades, injuries, whatever it is. They’re playing fast right now, their defense is. They’ve got, obviously up front, [Los Angeles Rams DT] Aaron’s [Donald] unbelievable, but that whole D-Line as a group is very talented. They make it difficult on you. We’ve got to play on time, get the ball out on time and things like that.”
In what ways do they look different with Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey there?
“He’ll match receivers, he’ll stay on his side, so we kind of have to feel it out as the game gets started, but he’s a hell of a player. Jalen, he really is. He doesn’t make any throws easy for you, challenges everything, he’s long. He really does a good job.”
When you’re getting used to working with a new center, are there nuances that we may not notice that you have to kind of get used to, like the snap and some timing stuff?
“Yeah, there’s a bunch of little things. Even if it’s just the communication between the two of us in the huddle at the line of scrimmage, declaring the MIKE, whatever it is. There’s a million little things that go into that and it’ll take time.”
How did OL Ben Garland do with that?
“I thought Ben did awesome. He was really clean with the communication, there really were no hiccups in there with that. All those guys up front, they battled. It was a hard-fought game up front.”
Some of the guys said the Falcons did some things along the defensive line, some looks that were a little bit different that you guys hadn’t seen much. Is that a good area for you guys maybe to focus on, not necessarily, I mean, maybe when you get into the playoffs and are seeing different fronts you haven’t seen before? Are you going to be able to adjust a little bit better now that you’ve had a game like that?
“I think so. I think playing teams in the past, it’s not always what you see on film that they’re going to do. They might throw some new things at you. Teams have been doing that to us and we just have to be prepared. I think just going into the game with that mindset and being able to adjust on the fly will be good for us.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan was just saying one of the things he took away, despite the loss, was that you’re still in control of your destiny. How much of that was his message to you guys today and how much does that maybe help you kind of flush away what happened on Sunday?
“It’s good to hear. Obviously, after the game, you don’t want to hear that stuff. It’s the last thing you want to hear. But, I think today just getting that realization back in our mind that we do control our own destiny and if we handle business we’ll be in a good spot. We’ve just got to take it one day at a time, though, start with the Rams and we’ll take it from there.”