HENDERSON, Nev.--The resurgent Las Vegas Raiders (5-7) took out their AFC West rivals, the Los Angeles Chargers, 27-20, on Sunday, and with the victory saw their NFL Playoff dreams come back into focus.
Moments ago, Josh McDaniels spoke about the game after seeing the film and looked ahead to Thursday's game at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., against the Los Angeles Rams.
You can watch the entire press conference below and read the transcript:
Head Coach Josh McDaniels
Opening Statement: “I think two things I'd probably be remiss if I didn't mention this. What a great day it was for Cliff Branch and his family to be able to get the ring, his all Hall of Fame ring, and in front of our crowd with all our fans and so many of our alumni coming back to celebrate that occasion. I got a chance to see a few of them, but I thought it was a great ceremony and obviously was well-deserved and I'm happy for them. And then, just the overall atmosphere yesterday. There's a reason why this is the best fan base in the National Football League, and that was on full display yesterday. So, after being away for a while just really being able to come home and be in Allegiant stadium and just feel their presence, and obviously they made a difference. So, I appreciate their support as always, but yesterday was kind of extra special. Like I said after the game, it was hard fought, it's a good team. They're well coached, they gave us some fits early, especially on offense. But I thought our guys hung in there and really battled in all three phases. We kind of figured some things out as the game wore on, offensively. I thought our defense tried to contest really everything from the beginning of the game on and make it as hard as we could for them to drive the ball and try to create pressure as much as we could on the quarterback and limit the running game. They've got some really good players and they're hard to stop. You just try to contain them as long as you can. I thought we executed some things in the kicking game. Our kickoff coverage showed up again yesterday. I know we gave up the one punt return to [DeAndre] Carter, who's obviously a really good player. But all in all, felt like we competed hard for 60 minutes and really earned the victory yesterday. It's a short turnaround, so we told them last night it was Wednesday night, last night, and today is Thursday. So, we've got to turn our clocks ahead here pretty quickly and get on to the Rams."
Q: Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow are eligible to come off the reserve/injured list to at least practice. Is that in the realm of possibility?
Coach McDaniels: "Yeah, we're going to talk about that. Obviously, with no practice and those kinds of things, it's a little bit of a unique situation, I would say. We're going to have some discussions I think later this morning once we kind of get a handle on where our team is relative to the health of it from yesterday's game. Just in terms of if there's anything that needs to happen or is going to happen. But it's a little bit of a tricky situation because bringing guys – like what happened with Nate [Hobbs] a week ago, not having practiced in six weeks and then trying to play a game. You've got to be careful a bit and try to make a smart decision, but we're going to kind of let the health of the team, I'd say, assist us in some of those discussions."
Q: Daniel Carlson was using a holder on the kickoffs in yesterday’s game. Can you explain that?
Coach McDaniels: "Yeah, they clarified a rule a couple of weeks ago that you're permitted to hold the ball on the top of the tee now. And so, you've got a good kicker, you can add hang-time to the kick. And I think you saw Daniel use that to our advantage yesterday. And as long as you don't kick it into the end-zone, extra hang-time, put it at the goal line. We’re further down there and it gives the cover team a better opportunity to make some tackles inside the 25-yard line, which I think we did a decent job of that yesterday. But that's the rules. So, they clarified it a couple of weeks ago and if it helps us gain some kind of advantage, then we'll try to do that."
Q: After the game, I mentioned from my vantage point it seemed to be the best game in all three phases that you guys have played. Now that you saw the film, do you agree with that?
Coach McDaniels: "I never feel great about turning the ball over. I thought our defense really played hard and really competed. We played a lot of man coverage yesterday and we asked those guys to do that, and I thought they did a decent job of trying to stick on those guys and the rush and some of the pressures got into the pocket and tried to affect the quarterback. I thought we competed hard in the kicking game. I thought we definitely did some good things, offensively. Penalties way down, no negative runs, no sacks. So, there were a lot of good things. For me, it was probably one of our best as a group complimentary football wise, for sure. We just want to try to make sure we take care of the football and that's something we've done well all year. The last couple of weeks, obviously, we’ve given the defense – the opponent – an opportunity to have either good field position or score. And so, we're just going to try to go back to work here and just talk about the fundamentals of that. But all in all, I think it probably was close to what we're talking about, yes."
Q: What did the video show you for Chandler Jones about how he was able to have such a big game?
Coach McDaniels: "I think I've mentioned it a number of times, Chandler has done a lot of good things. And just the number that everybody is focused on is the sack number, and I understand that. And I thought he just played with great effort; he was relentless. I thought they executed a few things in the pass rush that we've been working hard on. Again, I think all of that is a complimentary factor, the inside rush, the outside rush, the coverage. If one breaks down, then a lot of times you lose an opportunity to create pressure on the quarterback. So, I think we're learning how to work together a little bit better as the season has gone on. Like I said, Chandler played his butt off when he was in there, and I thought he had a lot of help up front too. There were a lot of people who were playing hard and trying to create pressure, and Chandler was able to get the quarterback down a few times obviously."
Q: Quick turnarounds always present a lot of challenges, but this Rams group looks completely different than what was imagined coming into the season. How much does that add to the challenge of preparing for a team with a different quarterback and a lot of different faces?
Coach McDaniels: "I mean, it's a team we don't know. You know what I mean? Our guys will eventually make their way in here today, just to start to get familiar with who they're going to be aligning against, and how they play, and the strengths and weaknesses of the players before we even get into the scheme tomorrow. So, the short weeks are what they are. Like I said yesterday, the good thing is that we're all in the same bucket, you know what I mean? They don't have an advantage over us, and we don't have one over them. So, we're just going to pour into the film, and we'll learn who they are over the next few days. The good thing is we don't play until Thursday night, and we don't really practice, so we have the next three days really to try to just sink all that information in and do as many walk-throughs as we need to make sure that we're ready to go for the game plan. But they've had challenges like we have in terms of health and all that, but this is a team that obviously is very resilient, played their butt off yesterday. That jumped out on the film. We just got done playing Seattle and we know what kind of team that is. They had a similar game to what we had a week ago. And Sean [McVay] and their entire staff does a great job, I have a great deal of respect for Sean and what he's done and what he's accomplished. And this team is going to battle, there's no doubt about it. So, we're going to have our hands full."
Q: There are a lot of players who have said that the energy has changed and has been heightened over the past couple of weeks. When you look at the locker room as a whole, how much would you attribute the recent success to a rise in energy and alertness? And also, how much do you believe your players are becoming more comfortable with the scheme during this part of the season?
Coach McDaniels: "They deserve a lot of credit for, I think, maintaining the urgency and/or heightening it relative to the energy that we've tried to have every day. I've always thought our team came ready to work and play and practice and work hard. So, that hasn't really been a big change to me. But when you don't have success, there's just naturally a challenge – human nature, you can let your guard down or start to doubt yourself or bring less energy. And again, I credit our players. They've have done a tremendous job of not doing that. Our staff has done a great job of being consistent with them and just trying to teach band continue to grow. And like I said last night, they've seen a little fruit for their labor. And the system; I think the scheme, system, terminology, I think obviously with time, it's like learning a new language. You're not going to be fluent in Spanish the first week that you start taking the class. And so, we've all started to understand things better. One word can solve a lot of problems on the football field, and I think our guys are understanding that more and more every week as we go. And we kind of have a goal every week, is trying to have no pre-snap errors. And if you can start every play with no pre-snap errors, you give yourself a good chance, and a lot of that has to do with communication and terminology and understanding how to use it. So, I'm sure everybody in here is more comfortable now than they've ever been because we've had as many days as we have."
Q: To clarify, you're expecting to do walk-throughs this week instead of full practices?
Coach McDaniels: "Yeah, there won't be any. I don't think anybody really practices on these short weeks. So, we'll deal with today, like I said, the guys will eventually make their way in just to get some information and then we'll have a couple days of cramming and do some walk-throughs, and they'll be probably long and arduous, but that's what you got to do on a short week."
Q: Is there an update on Rock Ya-Sin? And then also, you've got a lot of young players in the secondary as undrafted free agents in Sam Webb, Isaiah Pola-Mao. How pleasing is that, just from a development standpoint, that guys are able to get on the field and produce?
Coach McDaniels: ““Yeah, nothing on Rock yet. Hopefully, that it's not anything serious. Yeah, I thought we had a number of young players contribute yesterday. Isaiah [Pola-Mao], Sam [Webb], Luke [Masterson] was out there for a bunch of snaps on defense and in the kicking game. Obviously, Zamir [White], Dylan [Parham], Thayer [Munford]. I think that's what this time of the year is about in our league. There's a battle of attrition and everybody has injuries you've got to deal with and bumps and bruises. And that's why we treat the 69 guys on the team, whether it's on the roster or the practice squad, like it's one team. I mean, I don't know what the number is right now, but we brought up a number of players from the practice squad to play and play significant roles on our team. So, I think the development of the players that's a credit to those guys really working hard to get themselves ready and improve. And then also, I think the staff put in the time that it takes to help those guys make progress. So, I'm excited that there are a lot of young guys out there playing, and this is that point in time of the year where you just saw it like college football basically would be done for most of these guys until the bowl game. And so, to be able to see those guys continue to play into December and hopefully obviously into January, those are challenging times for rookies because it's their first time. So, I was pleased with what some of them did.”
Q: What have you seen from Jerry Tillery as part of that defensive tackle rotation?
Coach McDaniels: “Yeah, we're really excited about him being here. He's got great energy for us and really, like I said last week, he's kind of melded very well into the defensive line room. And those guys have great communication, I think they enjoy playing with one another. And Jerry's just given us everything he has, and whatever we're asking of him, he's willing to do it and been a great teammate. Certainly disruptive, and again, he's one of those guys where he may not get you to the ground, but he might be a reason why somebody else gets you to the ground. And again, we're still growing and learning, and he's doing the same thing. So, hopefully that will just continue to get better and better.”
Q: Dave Ziegler has done a very good job of getting you talent to fill holes. How much does it help that you and him are so in sync that he knows what you want?
Coach McDaniels: “Yeah, it's very helpful, and I trust him implicitly. So, we've already had a conversation this morning about this, and he's one step ahead of me in that regard always. So, it just makes the whole entire operation run a little bit more efficiently when we can have a very short communication, and then we kind of can try to solve a problem as best we can. But I think he's done a great job this year. Him, Champ [Kelly], the entire group upstairs have done a great job of trying to help us sustain and/or improve if we can on the margins.”
Q: You guys have kind of found something with the flea-flickers the last couple of weeks. Obviously, the running game is important to sell that, but the sale job by all 11 guys on the field, like how important is that to make that play work?
Coach McDaniels: “It's really important. I look at it, it's a play action pass. I mean, that's what it is, instead of faking the ball to the running back, you just hand it to him, and then he gives it right back to you. So, the way I look at that play is little different, in terms of is it really a trick? Is it not a trick? I don't really see it that way, but I think every guy has to do his part, you know. And I thought our guys did a decent job. We had a little leakage in the protection on it at the very end, but we held up long enough. JJ [Josh Jacobs] did a good job of hanging on to the ball as long as he could. And then I thought the receivers did a good job of having some savvy about themselves and kind of starting a little slow and then picking up some speed, and Derek made a great throw, made a great read to finish it.”
Q: How do you feel about where the offensive line group is right now?
Coach McDaniels: “I mean, they've really improved as the year has gone on. I think their communication, like I talked about yesterday, this defense – the Chargers, and I'm going to say the same thing about the Rams because it's a very similar system. It’s where Brandon [Staley] came from, so the communication pre-snap is not unimportant. It's very challenging. And so, for us to come out of the game with no sacks and no negative runs, no penalties, it says a lot about what that unit is starting to do together. Communicate, try to eliminate any issues before the ball is snapped, playing tough and physical in the running game and then trying to keep everybody off the quarterback. They just keep showing up and doing that week after week after week. And, again, nothing's perfect, but their effort and their intentions and the way they work together has been really good, and they're getting better.”
The Las Vegas Raiders have a quick turnaround as they play again on Thursday Night Football this week against the Los Angeles Rams at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. That game kicks off at 8:15 p.m. EST/5:15 p.m. PST and can be seen on Amazon Prime.
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