San Diego Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner
“I thought we made it through the game, for it being as physical a game as it was, awfully well. Obviously there are a lot of things that go into playing well and putting a string of games together, but good fortune in terms of health is a big part of it. The guys who had things going in or didn’t practice last week, weren’t able to participate: (Alfonso) Boone, he’s making progress with his knee and hopefully he’ll practice this week and be able to play. I think (Nick) Hardwick is a long shot. Shawne Merriman made it through the game pretty well. He’s sore today but I think if he progresses the way we expect that he would be able to practice late in the week and be okay. Shaun Phillips, he’s really sucking it up with the ankle and he’s very sore today. He didn’t practice last week Wednesday and Thursday. I’d like to see him be able to practice but I’m not sure that he’ll be able to. Hopefully he will be able to play in the game. Eric Weddle had a good workout today. I expect him to practice on Wednesday even if it’s a limit bit limited and then add to it as the week goes on. I’m hopeful that he would be able to play.”
“From a standpoint of the game, I think you get in a game like that and there are great efforts on both sides. It was an extremely physical game. I think our guys did a great job of making plays when we needed to. Obviously on the goal-line stand there were great plays by the entire group down there. You see the linebackers, but Jacques (Cesaire) was outstanding underneath all those bodies. He did a great job of holding the point and giving us an opportunity to make that stop, which was obviously a big point in the game. Then our guys take great pride up front in being physical. Sometimes it hasn’t showed up in the production we want in the running game, but in the fourth quarter during that stretch, to have 150 yards and be able to run the ball the way we did, to hold them to 25 yards…that’s what we talked about all week, finding a way to control the game in the fourth quarter. Our guys did a good job with that. We continue to get great performances from our kickers. Nate with his string of consecutive kicks going and Mike Scifres kicking the ball down inside of the – we don’t even say 20 anymore – down inside of the five (yard line) is very impressive. We have some work to do in our return game. I was a little disappointed. We’ve got one of the best returners in the league and we’re not giving him opportunities to change games for us. That’s going to be a big point of emphasis for us, getting back to making sure we give Darren a chance in the return game, that we keep people off him and give him a little room to work as we get started.”
What’s surprised you the most about how this season has turned from 2-3 to 10-3?
“The great thing with the Chargers and this group that I’ve been with the last three years is it may appear from the outside that it’s collapsing or it may appear that we’re in a bad way, but the organization from the start, from the ownership to A.J. (Smith) are unbelievable in their support. Then the players, they really don’t waver. When you have 60 guys, there may be a comment here or there that looks like we are, but the core group of these guys is amazing. I think they’ve got great belief in what we’re doing. If you can show them that we’re not as far off as it may appear and they trust that and keep working on the things that you’re doing, then you have a chance to go out and play well. Once we got through the injuries we had and we got through the stretch where obviously we were struggling, our guys have been outstanding.”
You’re 6-1 on the road this year. What’s been the secret on the road?
“It was a big point of emphasis. It’s something (the team) that my first two years and the two or three years before them had been inconsistent on the road. Some of our worst games had come on the road. I think we made a big emphasis about everything we do in terms of the way we prepare. I don’t know that we changed that much, but we emphasized how important it was to do the things you have to do to get ready. Our guys have done that.”
What do you think are a couple keys to your success in December?
QB Philip Rivers
“I think there are so many things that go into it, but as we get through an entire season, our guys understand that everyone is going to have opportunities to make plays. As you look at us in December, each game you see guys making the plays that jump out at you and make a difference. Everyone is alive and is feeling they have a chance to be that guy. Vincent Jackson is a great example. I’ve been around guys that went through a two or three week stretch where they weren’t the featured guy. He’s still been getting balls and he’s still been a part of it but they weren’t the featured guy and they became indifferent. Vincent has worked every bit as hard as he did early in the year when he was going good and he ends up having the big plays in the game on offense. I do believe our guys understand that they’re going to have opportunities. You don’t know who it’s going to be. It might be Brandon Siler down on the goal line. It might be Tim Dobbins. A week ago (it was) Michael Tolbert. You never know. You just better be ready to go.”
Would you say it’s your team’s physicality that helped them have the big stop at the goal line?
“We’ve been outstanding on the goal line. I think our players understand what they’re being asked to do. I think the coaches do a great job of presenting what it is we are trying to defend. You can’t defend everything down there. You’ve got to make some decisions and you’ve got to go after it. That’s what our guys have done. We’re a very physical team. We’ve got physical players. By the nature of how they play, Kris Dielman, Marcus McNeill, Louis Vasquez. Defensively that front, once we got through the injury stuff, I think we’ve become more and more physical and we’re playing the game better. Sometimes you can be playing real physical and have someone completely out of position to make a play and it looks like you’re not as physical as you are.”
With your quarterback and big receivers, do you welcome it when teams try to pressure you?
“The blitz is a big part of this game and you’d better be able to handle it. I think the biggest thing, the two things you want to do with the blitz, number one you don’t want to have bad plays. That’s why they’re blitzing, to create bad plays. If you can minimize the bad plays, you’re going to be alright. If you can make them pay like we’ve been able to do and make some big plays, you really do discourage it.”
Do you speak with your team this week about the opportunities to clinch or do you try to direct the focus elsewhere?
“The great thing about what this group has done is that they’ve done a great job of week to week just preparing for the team at hand and preparing for what we have to do. A couple weeks ago one of the young guys said, ‘I didn’t even know what our record was. I was just getting ready to go play.’ That’s a nice approach to have. I do know our guys knew what was at stake Sunday. You could sense the energy, the excitement. We knew we were playing an outstanding football team. I believe we’re playing one of the better teams in the league on Sunday. I’m glad it’s at our place. I’m glad our crowd is going to be a part of it. We’re going to have to prepare to play our best, and it has nothing to do with anything other than we’re getting ready to play a good football team.”
How important is it to get Boone back?
“It’s big. He probably had his best game and had his biggest impact in the Cleveland game. Getting him back would help us a great deal. When you play a team like Dallas, and they have dangerous people in the passing game and they make big plays in the passing game, you have to pick and choose where you try to minimize the damage. They ran the ball better than I would have liked, but I think we knew going in they were going to get some plays in the running game but we didn’t want to give them big plays on the outside.”
As the season is dwindling, what are your thoughts on keeping Nick Hardwick on the active roster rather than placing him on “Reserve-Injured?”
“At this point, he’s got a chance of coming back and he’s an awfully good player when he’s healthy. It’s worth it for us to give him a chance to come back.”
If Hardwick isn’t ready until the playoffs, would you make a change at that point?
“I really love what Scott (Mruczkowski) has done for us. I would like to think that we’re lucky enough, fortunate enough that we’re not going to have anyone get hurt for the rest of the season. I know that’s not real. Having Nick there if we were to have something there, I think it helps.”
What happened on the long fourth-quarter drive where you essentially sealed the game with the field goal?
“It’s exciting. Our guys stepped up. It’s what I talk about, the fourth quarter of games and people are trying to make plays to get you off the field. They came with a couple stunts. We hit it right. LT was a step away two different times from breaking a real long run. Our guys were as physical as we’ve been. They had a real sense of purpose. We mixed in a couple high-percentage passes that kept the drive going and there was a mindset that they were going to go down and do whatever it took to put the game away.”
Was that something that shows them they can do that?
“I think they know we’re capable. We’ve had different drives like that. We had a great drive to go get a field goal that we converted two third downs. We did (pass a lot on that drive) but I’m an equal opportunity guy. I don’t mind throwing it in those situations and it’s nice to run the ball the way we did.”
Can you talk about Rivers’ intellect as a student of the game?
“He’s all football. He’s grown up with it. The communication part of it is easier than it is with most guys because it’s not about understanding a diagram or memorization. It’s a feel for playing the game. Over the time we’ve been together, he has a much greater understanding now than he did two years ago of the direction we’re going and what we’re trying to get done in a game and how we’re trying to attack people and the things that matter in terms of him playing at a high level. He lives to go out and play and play at a high level. He’s a great competitor.”
Does his intellect allow him to cope with blitz packages and what he sees?
“Absolutely. We had it with Nick and it hurt us earlier when he was out, but the communication we have with the quarterback to the center and the communication across the board with the offensive line, then everyone else has to be on the same page with the backs, is as good as I’ve been around. We’re doing more where we empty the backfield. We do it out of our base personnel groups, but when you start doing that stuff you’re challenging everyone up front to be on the same page and they’ve handled it extremely well.”
What were your thoughts on getting the game ball?
“That’s nice. That’s about all I guess I’d say on it. I like getting the win.”
What did you think about the stadium?
“It’s awesome. I’ve had a couple people that were at the game tell me that they felt distracted. There’s so much going on that sometimes you lose sight that there’s a game being played. We’re down there where all that is to our backs. I don’t think our players were distracted. I thought they handled it extremely well. I’m glad we went there on Saturday. They had all the time to look around and take their pictures and do all that stuff. Our group was very focused on Sunday.”
Did you look up at the giant TV?
“I can honestly say I didn’t. I saw it on Saturday and it’s awfully impressive.”
How did you look on the screen?
“Probably about 100 times worse than I do in person.”
How much have you looked at the Bengals so far?
“Our coaches have been working on it all morning. I have not had a chance to get started get. I know they’re extremely talented. The things they’ve done defensively, they’re ranked up in the top in most categories. They run the ball extremely well. They’re in the middle of having an awfully good season. It’s going to be every bit as big a challenge as the better teams we’ve played.”
With their quarterback and their ability to run, how do you handle that?
“That’s the thing that we just talked about a minute ago with Dallas. If you can minimize the big plays then you’re not going to give up the big points. Our corners have played at such a high level, both Jam and Cro. We just haven’t given up big plays. Cincinnati has an outstanding quarterback. They’ve got big play receivers. They run the ball. You have to kind of pick where you’re going to start. Our goal always is to not give up big plays. We have to do a great job on the run because they can really run it.”
With the amount of pass interference calls lately, does that encourage you to try to throw it down the field more?
“The one thing I’ll tell you about pass interference calls, I learned this in 1999. We had two guys (with the Redskins) that both averaged over 18 yards per catch. Brad Johnson was a very accurate deep ball thrower like Philip is. When you get the ball close, particularly when you have big receivers, you’re going to get more pass interference calls. If the ball is catchable and there’s contact, you’re going to get more. We had an unusual amount of pass interference calls in that season and we’ve had a number of pass interference calls. They don’t show up in the stats, but they’re big time, 40-yard, 50-yard gains. It’s hard for defensive backs. They’re trying to play a receiver and play the ball and that’s a tough combination.”
Is a spot foul too big a penalty?
“Every year at the owners meetings, there’s a discussion with the competition committee and it’s one of the hardest decisions to make because if it’s a ball that was going to be caught and someone tackles the receiver that would have been a 40-yard gain, it should be a 40-yard gain. Then you get into the ones that are incidental contact and they end up being pass interference, it is too much of a penalty but it’s awfully hard to make that decision between them.”
Have you thought about sitting Shawne Merriman if you can wrap up a playoff berth?
“I was really impressed with the way Shawne Merriman played yesterday. I know he would like to be hitting the quarterback but his play on the Brandon Siler sack, Brandon gets a sack because Shawne runs a stunt exactly the way you’d like him to run it. He beats the tackle inside. The tackle collapses down, the guard can’t get out on Brandon and he’s free. Shawne brings a physical presence to our games. When he’s in there, I think our guys play at a higher level if that’s possible. I think he brings that energy and he brings a physical presence. We need him playing and I hope he can be healthy and be ready to play against Cincinnati because that’s my thoughts right now.”
San Diego Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers
On establishing the running game:
“I do think it’s necessary to run the football to the complete team you need to be throughout the course of a season. That can mean many things throughout a game and throughout a season. For us in the game yesterday, we didn’t run it great early. We ran it decent. But we ran it late when we had to in that last drive. The term, ‘establishing the run’ can be used many ways. I don’t think it means you have to establish it in the first quarter. You have to open up the rest of your game plan. But certainly, you have to be able to run the football in the league to get through a 16-game season.”
It doesn’t seem like it’s necessary to get the running game going to open up the pass. Has the run game changed since you’ve been in the NFL?
“The game itself has somewhat changed. I don’t know if changed is the word, other than it goes in and out of phases. You look around the league and everybody’s in ‘empty.’ And then you turn back and everybody is going three tight ends and running some different things. So I think it kind of just goes in and out of phases. But certainly this year, and maybe in the past few years, it’s been more of a pass-happy league to a certain extent with an empty backfield and getting five wide receivers out. Then it gets into crunch time and you have two backs in the backfield and two tight ends and you have to go sustain a drive to seal the game. It comes down to being able to be physical and able to run the ball late in games.”
How important is clinching a playoff berth on Sunday?
“What we are willing to talk about is what we can control and we can control by winning this game that we will be in the postseason. That is real. That’s there. That’s something to be aware of as a team. That’s the first goal that you have. Obviously you want to win your division, which we still have some work to do to get that done. You want to just get in. This game this weekend will allow that to happen if we go out and play well and win the game. Other than go further than that, I wouldn’t see a need to because there are a lot of things that have to happen, both with us and other teams. We control what we control. (If) we win this game we can be assured to play past January 3.”
Have you gotten to the point as a quarterback where you’re used to a defense coming after you?
“As a quarterback in any level, you kind of hope they come after you. If you have plays up that you’re able to beat them with it. Depends on what you have called and who you have to get it to quick. Certainly when teams come after you it allows you to…it eliminates who can get double covered, how many different coverage schemes they can run. Then you like your match-ups, especially with the guys we have to throw the football to. Our offensive line does such a great job of picking up the blitz, it’s not always going to be a guy coming free, just because a team is brining pressure. We do a great job picking up that extra guy, which allows us to buy a little extra time to make a throw down the field.”
Is that about scheme?
“There’s no doubt our offensive staff and our scheme, more than not puts us in a great situation to go out and execute a play. Then it’s a matter of us going out and making it happen, regardless of the defense may present us.”
On rolling through adversity on the offense line and continuing to excel:
“You mentioned the offensive guys that have had to step up and how we’ve dealt with injuries in those positions. We’re dealing with it on the other side of the ball as well. It says a lot about the guys in our locker room, all the way through from top to bottom. We have a bunch of professionals in there. They prepare and (are) ready for the opportunity, should it come. It’s come for a lot of guys that maybe didn’t expect it, and they’ve stepped in and played well. You mention the center position. I think Scott Mruczkowski has gotten better every week. What a plus it’s been to have a guy like that, should you lose a guy like Nick Hardwick, come in a play at the level that he’s played. I think you lose sight at right guard, Louis Vasquez that he is a rookie because he doesn’t play like one. You heard it in the summer, ‘how is he going to fit in this scheme’? Where there’s all the big splits at Texas Tech, and throw it 55 times. It’s not too big for him. I think we all saw that early. Brandyn Dombrowski has filled in wherever we’ve asked him to. He’s had his hands full the last few games right tackle with some of these pass rushers and he’s played very well.”
Is there any concern of confidence turning into cockiness at this point in the season?
“I don’t think there is. Not with this group. I don’t think it’s just us feeding you that. It really is us. We talked about it yesterday during postgame, we have Cincinnati next, another big one, let’s move forward. It is exciting to go on the road and win and beat the Cowboys and go get that done. But, we’re not caught up in the emotional ride, the rollercoaster of it. We’ve really been able to keep on that steady, grounded path. I think that’ll be key. It’s certainly worth being aware of to not let that happen. I think it’ll be key as we move through these next couple of weeks.”
San Diego Chargers Offensive Tackle Marcus McNeill
Did you put on the 3D glasses and check out the jumbo screen last Sunday?
“No I didn’t, but it did give me a headache last night when I looked up there. I was like ‘What’s going on?’ Your neck is already hurting because you’re sitting back looking up at the JumboTron, and then when they went 3D, I got a headache. I think the fans booed it off too didn’t they? It was crazy.”
Why have the Chargers played so well on the road?
“It’s because we approach it with a business mindset. We’re going to work. We are not going to have fun or go sight-seeing, but to be professional and handle business. I see young guys like Louis Vasquez studying and doing things in his room on his own and when you have guys putting that kind of commitment in, it’s easy to win on the road.”
What is it about December that the light kind of turns on for you guys?
“We’ve always been a team to get better as the year goes on. So in December, we are all in great form and everyone is clicking and healed up for the most part. We’re playing at a high level compared to earlier in the season, where we have stumbled out of the blocks a little bit in the past. Now everyone is playing well, the receivers are playing (well), the defense is playing up-tempo and we are playing good football here at the end of the season.”
Is it difficult to be confident without being cocky after your recent success?
“All of our confidence is always in-house. We keep it within ourselves and have always been confident even when we were at 2-3. It’s easy not to let ourselves become big headed.”
You guys are running the ball when you need to but you guys are not putting up the big numbers. Any idea of what that might be?
“We have guys out there on the edge that are having great seasons and are causing a lot of matchup problems. Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd are causing big matchup problems and are making big plays down the field so whichever one is working, that’s what we are going to go with.”
Do you ever talk to Chad Ochocinco when you play him?
“No I probably won’t talk to him because he’s on the offensive side of the ball. I’ve never talked trash to a player on the offensive side of the ball. There’s a first time for everything though. I’m a fan of Chad Ochocinco because he’s a character and he has fun playing football. Anybody who does that, I’m a fan of.”
Have you thought about your touchdown celebration if you ever score a touchdown?
“If I ever scored a touchdown, I’d have six different celebration dances. They might have to go to commercial break and come back like that Dr. Pepper commercial.”
Can this week’s game be understated?
“Well, I think that we both are two teams that in the beginning of the season, people saw us as two teams that wouldn’t be in the position that we are in right now. They are playing great football right now and so are we. I think that it’s about time for people to realize that we both are good teams and for real. It’s going to be fun to see them this late in the season.”
Have you seen any film on them and how much of their offense are you familiar with?
“I know a lot about their offense because I look around and pay attention to see how guys are doing, especially at the offensive line positions. So I’m kind of familiar with those guys on offense.”
When do you guys vote on the Pro Bowl?
“I want to say this week coming up.”
How many Chargers do you think should be on the roster?
“Right now, I think there should be a lot of Chargers on that Pro Bowl team because there have been a lot of guys who have had to step up for an extended period of time and play at very high levels against very good players. It’s going to be quite interesting because there are a lot of new faces, but a lot of people are playing very well.”
Philip seems to thrive when other teams blitz him. Do you guys like it when teams blitz?
“We spend a lot of time on everyone’s blitz packages. We go over them all thoroughly whether we are playing Baltimore, the Steelers, or anyone else. We don’t care if you are running a plain-Jane defense, we are going to go over the blitz package that you have because we do have a lot of young players who might not have seen blitzes like that and they pick it up better when they go over it thoroughly.”
On the great job Scott Murczkowski has done this year:
“Scott is a great player and has been a great back-up for us. Ever since I have been here, he has done a great job and stepped up and done whatever he has needed to do. He’s never been in that extended role of playing, and since he has, he’s gotten a chance to flourish as a player throughout the year. And in doing so, he’s picked up his swagger and I like it. He’s become a spitting image of Nick Hardwick out there in the way he talks and plays nasty.”
How were you able to move the ball on that last drive?
“We felt like we were moving the ball pretty well all day and their offense ran the ball well. But we had a special level of confidence that we could go out there and we knew that we could keep moving the ball, and we had to keep going out there and play well. There were a few third downs that we had to step up and make plays. Once again, you see the guys on the outside made some big plays. Right now we are playing football the way we want to and that’s running and passing the ball. We’re a well-rounded team and that’s the approach that we like to take.”
Are going to check on DeMarcus Ware?
“Actually I plan on checking up on him and see how he’s doing. You hate to see anything like that happen. We were out there talking yesterday and I know him personally. To see him lying there on the field like that was quite scary.”
San Diego Chargers Wide Receiver Vincent Jackson
On if he’s worried about his drop off in production and his production yesterday:
“I’m not worried about it. We have a pretty stacked team. There are a lot of weapons on offense and sometimes I have to just draw those double coverages and do my job in blocking for the running game. If people care about fantasy stats, then yes, maybe I have dropped a little bit, but I’m more concerned about my role on this team.”
Does this winning streak feel different than winning streaks of past seasons?
“Not really. We treat this year pretty much as it is. Last year we went on the same kind of streak in the middle of the season and obviously we finished the season strong. This year it’s a new team. We’ve got new guys, new faces in here. There was a comment last week that we haven’t won two games in a row on the road but this is a different team than last year. The coaching staff are doing different things so we approach each year as it is, as a new season and a fresh start and we are on a nice little run right now.”
Does last season’s streak serve you well going into these last three games?
“Of course. You always want to be on the incline and improving towards the end of the season and through the postseason. We still believe that we can get better. Even though we have had success the past couple of weeks, we still have the mentality that we need to improve our mistakes and I think that is what is making us successful.”
Have we seen all of the wrinkles of the Wild Frog this year?
“Our coaches are pretty creative so I’m sure you’ll see a few more things.”
Did you plan on having success with that play early against the Cowboys?
“Yes, we’ve had it up. That’s something that we’ve been working on for the past six weeks. We pretty much think it’s going to go to Malcom. There are a few other options but I expected it to work pretty well.”
What’s the most difficult part of that play?
“I think it’s the handoff to L.T. I have to get the timing and the motion down. He did a great job executing that part and then once I get the ball, just getting it to Philip is the easy part.”
How important is it for you guys to show that you are capable of pulling off a play like that and does it make it tougher for defenses to prepare with another wrinkle in the offense like that?
“I’m sure they’ll spend a little time on it. It’s not our staple and not what we are doing consistently so I don’t expect them to spend too much time on it. They are going to need to know who’s responsible for who and that’s probably it as far as how they might prepare for a play like that.”
San Diego Chargers Linebacker Brandon Siler
What did you think about that stadium yesterday?
“It was sweet. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”
Is there something that Norv Turner does that installs the confidence in the team that anyone one can step up and make that play?
“Norv just stresses and lets us all know that everybody has to be ready at all times whenever their name is called. We have a lot of guys that normally wouldn’t be in there. I wouldn’t be in there had it not have been for a lot of injuries that we have had this year to the starters. But guys are stepping up for us, and that’s important because you never know when it’s your time to make a big play.”
Did you make it a point to yourself to say ‘This is my shot and I have to take it now’?
“Yes. I wanted to make it so they don’t want to take me off the field. I’m going out there doing the best I can do to make that happen.”
You got the credit for the goal line stand on those tackles but talk about the guys up front:
“I looked at the tape today and Jacques (Cesaire) took out a couple of guys and Luis (Castillo) had the tight end about four yards back so it was more of a group effort than everybody thinks. Tim and I got the credit for it but everyone else did a good job and allowed us to be free.”
Are you surprised they ran it four straight times on the goal line?
“Not at all. I knew that they wanted to pound it in. I was a little surprised that they went for it on fourth down but it gave us an opportunity to get off the field.”
You guys can clinch a playoff spot with a win on Sunday. Does the game against the Bengals mean more?
“We just take it one game at a time. You want to win each time you go out there and play and everyone of them is important to us. We want to win every one of them each week so we are going to approach this game like we do all the rest of them.”
Do you guys take it personal that the defense takes the back seat to the offense which everyone always talks about?
“Not really because it isn’t our job to get the media to talk about us. Our job is to win games and as long as we are doing that along with stopping other teams, I think we’ll be alright. We have our own goals that we achieve for ourselves and as long as we are achieving those goals, we’re happy regardless of what people are saying.”
What did it mean to you to come up with some big plays yesterday in a pressure situation?
“It’s special because I’ve been waiting for the opportunity and I love it. I have fun out there and I love every second of it.”
Do you think you were pretty patient in waiting for your opportunity?
“I think I handled it well. I came from Florida where I played on every down and then came here and played only special teams for two years. It was hard but the people around the team stressed the importance of being ready when your number was called and it finally came.”
On being a physical defense:
“We want to be a physical defense and we want to be one of the best teams. We stress being physical and stopping the run and really playing the best we can. I think the players are really getting on the same page with each other as well as with the coaches and it’s allowing us to do some big things.”
What do you know about the Bengals?
“I still have to watch some film but I know that they’ve been playing good and they have some good players. We will be preparing for them real hard this week and try and get after them.”
Is it beneficial that the backups have game time experience?
“I think it’s big because in this game, you never know what’s going to happen and to have those guys get in there and step up is important. Now going forward, you have a bunch of guys that you know can fill the position if needed again. I think that’s big for us and it’s definitely an advantage.”
What do you think is the secret to run defense?
“I think responsibility is the biggest thing. Being physical and having everybody knowing their role is key. It’s beyond just being physical. Everyone has to be on the same page and be accountable to the rest of the team.”