November 21, 2016

Head Coach Jay Gruden

** The following is a transcript of a conference call with local reporters this afternoon.**

On his impressions of the team’s play after reviewing the film and how the team could have improved defensively yesterday:
“Well, I think defensively we blew a couple of coverages and then we just lost a couple of one-on-one battles and we also let Aaron [Rodgers] escape out of the pocket and buy a lot of time which put a lot of stress on our secondary. You know, he’s made a career out of that and that’s why he’s one of the best quarterbacks of all-time. I think athletically he just made some plays, which made it hard on our secondary to hold up for so long. But then we also lost a couple of one-on-one battles with their tight end especially and then [Randall] Cobb had a big catch on a third-down play that kept the drive going for a first down. But overall I think we competed pretty well. We’ve just got to do a better job of keeping those athletic quarterbacks like that in the pocket and try to make them throw it on rhythm if we can. Offensively I think there’s a lot to like, really. Like I said, last night, I think the third-down conversions were the key to the game. Kirk [Cousins] was able to get through his progressions. He was able to wait for people to clear, get open, which is huge. [Jamison] Crowder had a couple of big ones. Jordan Reed had a big one. Even DeSean [Jackson] had a huge catch on a quick out on the sideline. So third-down conversions were key and then we got to get the running game going and we did.”

On T Ty Nsekhe’s performance in the last two games:
“I feel great about Ty. Ty had another strong outing yesterday. He blocked two very good players over there and did a great job holding up and then was big and strong and physical in the running game. So I have no complaints over Ty. Like I said before, he’s a starting tackle in the National Football League, without a doubt; we just have two good ones in front of him. So we don’t bat an eye when one of those guys goes down. Ty can fill in at right tackle or left tackle and we don’t miss a beat, quite frankly.”

On the growth of RB Robert Kelley:
“I just think he still gets the tough yards. You know, he turns two-yard gains into three-yard gains and four-yard gains. He just keeps moving the pile, keeps moving his feet and does a great job. He’s a physical runner and obviously his ball security has been outstanding, knock-on-wood. There’s some clean shots that they had on him but he was able to hold onto the ball and get tough yards. And then he’s just patient and then he hit the big one there at the end of the game and put the game out of reach. So we couldn’t be more pleased with Robert. Obviously we’ve got to throw him better balls out in the flat. He had a couple of tough looks at some flat balls but, you know, we’ll keep working on that. But overall his performance was excellent.”

On how tough the quick turnaround will be on the players this week:
“Yeah, we’re not going to deal with them today. They’re just going to come in and get treatment today. I want them to get a nice day’s rest and relax a little bit, get their treatment, get their lift in, and then tomorrow we’re going to grind on them pretty good from a mental standpoint and we’re just going to have a couple of walkthroughs tomorrow. Try to knock out first and second down in the morning and then in the afternoon we’ll have another walkthrough and knock out third down. Wednesday morning we’ll knock out red zone, short yardage and goal line and then fly out of here. The good thing is we are familiar with Dallas. They’re obviously a very, very good team playing at a very high level. But I think we can get our guys ready to roll.”

On the planning and decision-making process for going for it on fourth down:
“Yeah, a lot went into really. You know, the wind had a little bit to do with it. We didn’t want to punt against that wind . Their punter did a nice job punting against it but… Plus, it was less than a yard and we have a very big center, a big left guard, a big right guard and two mammoth tackles and we thought we could get half a yard, we really did. And to punt the ball there and give it back to Aaron Rodgers only up five, they were moving the ball pretty well and had faith in the offensive line. I had faith in the defense if we didn’t get it. “

On if he was ‘right on’ the decision to go for it on fourth down immediately:
“Yeah, I was right on it. We saw how close it was. We asked for the measurement and I think they had an injury, which gave us a little more time to get the play we really wanted from our short-yardage menu. But we got the measurement, saw that it was less than a yard and thought we could get there with a sneak with our big bodies up front.”

On if it is ‘fair’ for a team to play a Thursday road game following a Sunday night game:
“I don’t think it’s really fair, no, but we have to deal with it. We knew this was coming. We had a bye week where we could work on Dallas a little bit, but they’ve played three games since our bye week I believe it is, so we have to try and be up to date with what they’re doing. I just… The biggest thing is you worry about the health of your football team. This is a physical football game we played last night and we’re at the point in the year where guys are a little bit beat up. You look at our injury report and it’s pretty good right now. We’re healthy right now – knock on wood – but guys still have a bunch of bumps and bruises that aren’t on the injury report here and there that they have to take care of their bodies for. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough and not to mention that it’s against I guess the power poll No. 1 ranked team in the league [laughter]. So it’ll be a challenge for us but I have faith that our guys will come out swinging and put up a good fight.”

On if helps playing a divisional opponent when preparing on a short week:
“Yeah, it does, it does. Bad thing is we know how good they are, you know? That’s one thing. They are very good on offense right now. They are playing at a high level. And defensively they’re flying around to the football and getting the job done. But offensively they can control the clock, they can run it down your throat, they can throw it and they’re playing good, like I said. But we are familiar with them. Obviously, we played them already once this year earlier in the season. You know, we had a three-point lead down there in the red zone with about nine minutes to go and threw the pick and they went down and scored and beat us here, so for us to keep pace in the division and have a chance at a division title, we’ve got to play our best game Thursday.”

On if the win ‘meant more’ because of the playoff loss last January:
“Yeah, a little bit, I think so. Being able to hit those plays – like you said and like Kirk [Cousins] said – we left some plays out on the table that we wished we had back and we just didn’t convert on them. When we do convert on them, we’re a tough team to beat. It’s good to hit them. It’s good for the confidence of these guys running these routes down the field to be rewarded with big plays. Now in weeks to come, we call these same similar-type concepts we’ll be flying. Then Kirk will have the confidence to deliver it, and guys will be ready to get the ball and convert. It’s good to see their work pay off, their route-running pay off, and Kirk buying time in the pocket and getting the time and delivering throws, so it’s rewarding especially if it’s a Sunday night game on national television – we haven’t fared too well – against a very good team who had a lot to play for. They were a game out of first place in their division. They’ve hit some rocky times of late, and they were going to give us their best game. We answered the call, which was great to see.”

On if they still have yet to reach full potential:
“Well, we always have room to grow, but you can see the progress and you can see the ability that we have, both in the running game and the passing game. When we have that type of balance, we’re dangerous. That’s why Dallas is 9-1 right now, because they’re playing with great balance. They have Dez Bryant and they have Zeke [Ezekiel] Elliott and Jason Witten. They’re doing an excellent job of keeping you off-balanced with the play-action, the bootlegs, the dropbacks. And we’re in a similar spot right now. It will be a great matchup. I love the way our offense is playing, I love the way our offensive line is playing, number one, and then Kirk, the decision-making and the accuracy that he’s playing with is at a very high level – an elite level – right now.”

On QB Kirk Cousins’ progression at reducing mistakes and making big throws:
“He’s made progression in every area of his game, and he’s continuing to do so. You can see it. It’s ‘Eye in the sky don’t lie,’ so to speak. He’s going through progressions, he’s hanging in there. He had a couple plays in that game that really… the first touchdown to DeSean Jackson, that was his fourth progression. He hung in there and threw a great pass to DeSean. The checkdown to Chris Thompson on third down – which he had to scramble out of the pocket, buy time, Clay Matthews came on a stunt, was unblocked – he made him miss and got two hands on the ball and threw a great pass to Chris Thompson for a big first down. Those plays are really difference-makers as far as the game’s concerned. The more comfortable he gets, and the people around him, and the system – the better he’s going to be. We like where he is, we like where he’s going, [and] he’s going to continue to work, which is also why we like him.”

On how Cousins has been able to improve at extending plays:
“You know, that’s a hard thing to work on. You can work on your feet and all of that stuff – two hands on the ball and ball security and all of that good stuff – but to actually do it with a pass rush bearing down on you, that’s hard to do and that’s a lot of natural, instinctual-type plays that you really can’t coach. But he is getting more comfortable doing it. It’s not like you can say, ‘OK, dropback in this one and let’s hit this one off-schedule.’ You know, it doesn’t happen like that. It just has to be a feel thing and it’s got to be a natural, instinctual thing and he’s getting better at it. And he’ll be the first to tell you he’s still wants to keep working on those plays because those plays are huge. You saw Aaron Rodgers get nine or 10 of them in that game last night. So, we’ve just got to continue to work on them and work on his feet and his ball security, number one, and then when plays happen, let him make them.”

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