Q&A with Todd Haley 12/5

Posted Dec 5, 2011

OPENING REMARKS: “[I] had a chance to look at the tape. Like I said after the game, a very critical win for our team, ability to go on the road against a good opponent and find a way to win. That’s really what it’s all about, especially in December so proud of our guys going in sticking to the plan, overcoming a little bit of adversity in the game and doing enough of the things that help you win football games. Defensively just I thought a terrific, terrific performance, zero for eleven on third downs, zero for two on fourth downs which is like a turnover… We kept them out of the end zone, seven sacks, a forced fumble, held them under 100 yards rushing, a pretty good running team, just can’t say enough about defensively how we are coming on at the right time and getting comfortable playing defense and we’re going to have to do that here the rest of the way.

“Offensively, I thought we did the things we had to do to win, didn’t turn the football over which was critical, very critical, rushed for over 100 yards against a very stout defense that knew we were running a bunch, 37 carries, that and no turnovers on the road generally tells you you’ve got a very good chance to be the winner in the game. I thought we converted enough third downs, the two drives, the end of the half drive that started on the 13 and ended with a touchdown and ate up all four minutes and 10 seconds on the clock left in the half and then the first possession of the second half I thought was another 16 play terrific drive that started at the 11 I think and ended at the three, used up a ton, a ton of time, seven minutes or so, so a big chunk of the game there in those two drives. We’ve just got to do that a little more often and then finish those types of drives in the end zone. Offense again, I thought stuck right to the plan for how we had to play and gave our team a chance to win with the way the defense is playing and special teams, can’t say enough either, we punted 11 times to maybe the best ever in the return game and he was able to return three. We gave up the one which we just, like I said before the game mishit and it flew over 50 yards and those are the ones he kills you on, but we kept it from being a score and that was critical and then really throughout the game I thought Dustin [Colquitt] did a terrific job making the punts hard to catch or hard to field and then following the penalty which usually is just a killer, it hurt us field position somewhat but the play that Terrance Copper made out on the edge on 23 by not allowing him to cut up and keeping contain was just as good a play as I’ve seen in a long time on again maybe the best ever at the position. Really just a great team effort across the board and a big win and now it’s a four game season for us and like I’ve said, if we can build on this and keep figuring out ways to win however pretty, ugly or indifferent it looks we’ve got a chance. So that’s where we are.”

Q: Are there any easy answers for the way you guys have improved defensively the last few weeks?

HALEY: “I think a little bit of everything. Number one the young guys have really started to get comfortable playing, and the play of Justin Houston has to be commended but that’s allowed Tamba [Hali] to continue to play at a high level, it’s allowed Derrick Johnson to continue to play at just an unbelievable level which he’s playing. When [Brian] Urlacher gets me after the game and says that number 56 is something else you know that’s saying something. I think it’s the young guys stepping up and the new guys like Amon Gordon, he doesn’t play a ton of snaps but when he’s in there he’s disruptive. But the young guys contributing here more across the board in all three phases has really helped some of the veteran players then continue to play at a high, or push the level of their play even further. That and I think just the comfort level with how we are playing and within the system that obviously have had some adjustments here and we’ve had to make some adjustments because of some of the injury situations throughout the year and I think we’ve been able to stay relatively healthy here for a few weeks and just playing better.”

Q: You kind of singled out Justin Houston in the middle of the season, did you see something building with him or were you just hopeful he could step up?

HALEY: “No, I said after the game yesterday that we had a specific plan, part of our plan revolved around trying to get some of these young guys acclimated into how you play at this level and what they have to do and his was kind of a two part deal. We had him playing only base there early then we moved him over to just sub, again feeling that putting too much on him at one time would slow down his progress and then now we just kind of are at that point when I start talking about a couple of those guys obviously we just felt like they needed, it was time now they’ve been around long enough to kind of get it in gear a little bit but his progress has been tremendous from the start and he’s obviously really playing at a pretty good level right now that’s helping us in a bunch of different ways. [I’m] just happy all those young guys, really like I said [Rodney] Hudson had to play significant snaps again, Jalil Brown’s in there a bunch, a bunch of different places, you look on special teams contributing, and [Allen] Bailey is playing a bunch of different snaps depending upon what defense we are in and [Jonathan] Baldwin you’re seeing out there a bunch so those guys are getting comfortable and they need to just keep improving and developing because we’re going to need everybody here down the stretch.”

Q: Is Dexter [McCluster] placed where he is on the Hail Mary because the defense is taught to knock the ball down?

HALEY: “Like I said, that’s been worked on for a long time, that’s one of those plays that every Friday you walk through, you don’t practice it or every Saturday versus the defense that’s not live or anything like that but just trying to understand that you form a little halo around the jumper, you try to put your guy that you think can get the most height in the middle of the box and then surround him with the other three receivers in the back and you try to form what should look like a square and we just always talk about not getting-the normal human nature deal is to, you see the ball in the air and everybody converges, and just to try to keep that from happening as best you can knowing that if you can create a tipped ball of some sort that those guys around the perimeter have a chance and Dexter’s got to come the furthest and just really, was really happy that he did it the way that, because you can talk about that until you are blue in the face but you have a hard time making guys believe that it can happen. But like I said 10 years ago in the same spot, same end zone the running back, you know I keep that tape always and kind of show it when we are installing that play at the beginning of the year. It was good, it’s obviously not a high percentage play by any means but you’re right, Brian [Urlacher] was doing what he was coached and Dexter was quick enough and that’s not an easy play to make even being in the right sport because Brian batted it down.”

Q: So he (McCluster) had to be busting it to get there?

HALEY: “Oh yes. You are running fast. Because he is coming all the way from behind the line and everybody else is up at the line of scrimmage. But even if you’re there in the spot and Brian batted it down pretty good, that’s not an easy reactionary play to make and Dexter did a great job obviously.”

Q: What do you teach your guys to do in that situation?

HALEY: “We tell them to knock it down.”

Q: Why?

HALEY: “Well because just what that play was designed for, that somebody goes up and tries to catch it and is going up against another like competitor or size or jumping ability and it’s not a clean caught ball very often and when you are trying to catch that ball and bring it down into your body it can easily get knocked up and out and again you’ve seen even in college, I think Michigan State or Wisconsin was trying to do the right thing you know and knock it down and knocked it right into the guys arms. But I just think through years of seeing things go awry we figured that that is the best scenario and you try to put your tallest guy as your jumper, so on defense when we are in that situation, [Jonathan] Baldwin would go back there and try to be the Urlacher. It’s not an easy play, not a high percentage play. The officials seem to let a lot of contact go in those plays when you look at them after the fact that I always wonder about but it just is what it is, a big play for us though.”

Q: Has Derrick Johnson become a better tackler overall this year?

HALEY: “I just think he’s been a little better everything. We’ve said last year he started so fast and it was hard not to notice that he was playing at a high level but as the year went on, some of those big plays maybe you didn’t see quite as much of but didn’t mean he wasn’t playing at a high level. He started this year playing the way he is and he just seems to get a little better every week and he’s playing really, really good and even some of the non-tackle plays he makes, where he takes on two guards or a guard and a tackle so somebody else can make the plays, he’s really playing good and it appears he can still even get better and that’s the scary thing, good thing for us.”

Q: What did you see on the play that [Matt] Forte got injured on? It looked like he made a pretty good read.

HALEY: “Yes, great play there. He was kind of blind to the runner and really not even his play to make but when you have somebody as talented as Derrick and playing at the level that he is playing, he obviously has the green light to make some of those plays and it’s not an easy play to make and I think that’s kind of what caught Forte off guard.”

Q: You’ve got Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher playing next to each other, and you couldn’t get two guys with more different stories of where they came from. What have you seen from Jovan Belcher this year?

HALEY: “I’m glad you brought him up because I thought Jovan played maybe as good of a game as I’ve seen yesterday. I thought he was a really disruptive player also in there and made some great, great plays. You’re right, I don’t think Jovan was the number one recruit and I don’t know how many scholarships, you know he got more wrestling scholarships then football but I’m really proud and excited of the job that Jovan’s doing and really what Coach [Gary] Gibbs is doing with that entire group because you can’t really not talk about Tamba [Hali] or Justin [Houston] as we’ve said and the two inside guys are really playing well together and you can see that the defense is feeding off of each other right now and like I said, this time of year that’s a good sign for us and we’ve just got to keep it going.”

Q: Big picture wise, would you say that in your time here, the linebackers are the spot that has come the furthest?

HALEY: “Yes I’d say there’s been great progress there. But really the guys up front, if the linebackers in this defense are making plays, the guys upfront are doing a really good job. I thought Tyson [Jackson] played real good yesterday, I thought Glenn Dorsey played really good yesterday because that line and how they block, you’re going to see a lot of double teams and a lot of down blocks and some things that are difficult for defensive lineman to deal with and I thought Kelly Gregg, Tyson, Glenn, and Amon [Gordon] when he was in there and base did a terrific job and in sub, while the other guys were maybe making the limelight plays. I think a Wallace Gilberry played a very unselfish game yesterday where we had two-man games and stunts and things going on and one guy gets the dirty work and the other guy gets the glory but really just a great performance across the board yesterday by the defense I think.”

Q: Do you ever get any push back from the punter?

HALEY: “No I would say that Dustin [Colquitt] is as unselfish a player as we have on the team because all those things hurt your numbers the punters kind of get noticed for. I thought yesterday, in the wind with the significant wind that really affects a lot of different dimensions of the punt game and how a punter handles his job, I thought just a terrific, terrific unselfish job and the hang times were phenomenal and it really it kept one of the guys on their side that could really hurt you and beat you from doing that. We let him out one time but I think Dustin, whether intentionally or unintentionally made the tackle, he didn’t get his uniform dirty so don’t worry about him too much.”

Q: Do you have an update on Kyle Orton?

HALEY: “Not at this time, we’ve got to gather some more facts on it and see exactly where he is, but he’s pretty sore this morning.”

Q: What about Tamba [Hali], will he be ready for this weekend?

HALEY: “Tamba is a warrior, a true warrior and I think sometimes you take it for granted the punishment he and others put on his body and you take it for granted because there he is on Wednesday again out there stretching and fighting through the agony and pain but then practice the whistle blows and there he is going full speed again and then no matter how beat up he is during the week when it blows on Sunday he is something else. I try not to take it for granted but it easy to fall into that trap. But Tamba’s pretty beat up but I didn’t see anything that alarmed me anymore then other weeks other then some blood dripping all over the place.”

Q: Did you get one of those gutty performances from Kendrick Lewis?

HALEY: “Yes, really the whole defense. Jon McGraw has been fighting through things, Kendrick, Javier [Arenas], Brandon Flowers is another one that you take for granted because he is so, so tough and he puts a lot of punishment on his body coming up and sticking his nose in there. So all of those guys, it’s easy to kind of overlook what they’re going through week in and week out and practicing with. Kendrick is one of those within the game, I know he was hurting pretty bad and we were checking him out at halftime and I thought he was, I figured he was finished and he ran back out there and said he was good. So like I said, I can’t say enough about all of the guys on the whole team. We’ve said a number of times we need everybody and they take it to heart and they like to practice and they like to play.”

Q: How do you challenge a play and then not get charged for the challenge?

HALEY: [Laughter] “I know nothing. I mean I know I would have probably been mad on the other side, Lovie [Smith] coming out and I said I don’t know, especially with the description which I had not heard so after reviewing it… but I’m not going to question it.”

Q: Was it a good lesson yesterday, that when you were having multiple discussions with the officials and Tyler [Palko] was waiting outside the huddle waiting for the play?

Q: “Well there was a timeout, I told him calm down we’ll be all right. Let me try to break one of these officials get one of them to crack. They never do though.”

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