Coach Garrett addressed a number of topics In his post game press conference, among them the importance of Bryan McCann, how a successful running game helps the whole team, the importance of overcoming adversity and much more. You can watch the full press conference at the mothership. Below is a transcript of large parts of what Garret had to say yesterday.
Q: How does it feel to be an undefeated Head Coach?
"Let me start with this: It certainly wasn't pretty in all areas today, but I think what we're finding out about our football team is it's got a lot of fight. The offense is struggling early on, the defense is picking them up, special teams are making big plays week in and week out."
"And then the offense gets going, the defense is out there for too long and all those things. We talk about that: It's not a question of whether or not adversity is going to happen - it's going to happen. How do you respond to it? Individually, as a unit and as a football team, and our guys are doing that week in and week out and that's a real positive sign for our team."
On what McCann has meant to the team
"Two gigantic plays. Obviously, last week he makes the huge interception in New York, and then the play he makes today, again you can describe as a game-changing play. He's such an aware football player. He's aware as a defensive player and certainly in the kicking game."
"They had done a nice job trapping us down there in some of those hard-coming-out situations. And they do a very good job with their punt team, both in locating the football and then getting down there. I think it had happened earlier in the game and he was aware of it, and I think he just had it in his mind, "If that situation occurs again, I'm going to try to take advantage of it"."
How are you going to handle the short week?
"It's quick. I told them "The World Champions are going to be here at 3:15 on Thursday", and it's going to happen quickly now. So where you typically have a 24 hour rule, we want these guys to enjoy this game with their family, with their friends, with their teammates. Tonight. And then we've got to get back to work tomorrow."
"We'll accelerate the week. Our Monday, tomorrow, which is typically a follow-up on the game from the previous day, you've really got to get into starting your preparation for New Orleans. So we'll start that."
On Kitna and his performance
"He has a lot of moxie, he's a tremendous competitor. There's a reason he's been playing in this league for as long as he has. He's the kind of guy you want on your football team. He's the kind of guy you want playing quarterback for you. He's got a lot of mental toughness; he loves to play the game. I think we've seen that the last couple of weeks."
"The looks didn't always come up cleanly, and he handled a lot of those situations very well, moving, finding a checkdown, running the football, and really just kind of making things happen."
"We talk about making the big plays when they are available, but we also talk about making the little plays, the ones that don't make the highlights. He made a number of those today."
On why he ran the ball at the end of the first half with two timeouts left, which ultimately resulted in Jones's fumble?
"When you're coming out in that situation, you like to just say, "Take a knee". But what would have happened there - I can't give you the exact seconds here - but what would have happened if we had taken the knee is we would have had to punt the football. So we felt like we had to run it and really work the thing. I think the number was eight seconds. We had a run that we liked. It was a good run for us. Unfortunately they rallied to the ball and knocked it out, and obviously that was the big play in the game."
"I thought our team did a good job responding to that. Our defense fought and made it hard for them. They did score, but we came back out in the second half and said, "Hey, that's behind us. We've got to go to the next thing". I thought we did that in all three phases."
Did you talk about that play at halftime?
"We talk about the adversity thing all the time. You've got to keep going. It's a 60-minute game, and it's worth it. It's worth it to fight hard and battle for 60 minutes."
"There are going to be adversities, there are going to be bad plays. Those guys get paid too. They've got a lot of good football players on their side, they're a very well coached football team and you've just got to keep on fighting through those things."
Has Felix Jones surprised you in the last two weeks?
"No. Ever since Felix Jones got here, we've liked him as a football player. He's battled through some injuries early in his career, but they were injuries that were legitimate injuries. It's never been a question of "This guy is a space player, he can't run tough inside". We've always felt that Felix Jones could do that. We've had other backs that we liked. We love getting Marion the ball. We love getting Tashard Choice the football. I think Felix showed his toughness today. He got banged up a little bit and came back and wanted to be part of it at the end. That shows a lot about the kind of toughness that he has, what he feels about this football team and playing on Sunday afternoon."
On Hatcher and Lee stepping up
"We talk about "It takes everybody". It takes players and coaches and everybody else in the organization. I think our guys understand that. When you get an opportunity to step in there you've got to take advantage of it. It goes to preparation. It goes to how they work during the week. And then when game time comes, it's time to go play, whether you're a starter, a spot player or a special teams player, take advantage of your chances. Our guys understand that and they are able to do that."
On his message of stacking together one good day after the other
"I think you function best as a player, as a coach, as a football team and probably as a person too, if you stay in the short term. If you focus on being your best today. That's what gives you the best chance. Having a great practice on Wednesday. Have a great one on Thursday. And by the time you get to Sunday you give yourself a chance to put your best foot forward."
"So this week it's "Have a great day on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and get ready for the world champs on Thursday"."
You're smiling a lot. How much doe you enjoy being a coach?
"It's fun. I love football. I love this group of guys we have. I'm really fortunate to coach for this football team, with the coaches that we have on our staff and with the players that we coach. All throughout the organization we have great people. So it's fun to get up in the morning and get to work and try to win a ballgame at the end of the week."
Is the running game coming back to where it needs to be?
"The biggest thing with our running game is we've been closer in games. We haven't been behind two and three scores, and having to score more quickly. The games have been more balanced and you're able to use the whole arsenal of your offense."
"We've been a physical running team in the past. We were among the best running teams in the league last year. If we keep the games close or play from ahead, we can continue to do that. It's nice to give Felix the ball, it's nice to give Marion the ball, Tashard got a few touches today."
"If we can do that, it just takes pressure off your entire football team. It makes your linemen play better, it makes your quarterback play better, your receivers play better, your defense plays better. So we're working hard to do that. It's still a long way to go but we're working at it."
Garrett's thought process on taking taking the penalty vs. taking the Spencer sack
"You're balancing field position there. Are they in field goal range and all those things. We went back and forth on it. Ultimately, we take the penalty and go 1st-and-20 and our defense did a great job stopping them on three downs and forcing them to kick a field goal. But you're always having those discussions about which way to go on that. I think it probably was a six yard sack, so it would've been 2nd-and-16 vs. 1st-and-20. But the bigger thing [Garrett emphasizes the point with a raised index finger] was where are we on the field in terms of the field goal range."
On McCann's decision to take the ball for the return
"Joe D. does such a great job with situational football with our special teams guys. Situational football applies to the offense and defense, and it comes up a lot in special teams. He works on those kind of things with our guys, they talk about it, they drill it on the field. And McCann's one of those guys who's very instinctive and smart and he recognizes those situations. And he certainly did that today and again, maybe as big a play as there was in this game."
"Okay guys. Have A Great Day."