On efficiency of offense
It was a grind it out mentality today. I think there were going to be some times, some opportunities for some big plays but we really never got into that sort of rhythm. I think from my standpoint it is about efficiency, it's about not putting us in bad situations, bad positions, not forcing the issue. I think we have enough good plays, good opportunities, good looks where I can make the right decision to give our guys opportunities to make plays when we are throwing the football. The fourth quarter, the offensive line just took over. Earnest Graham and Cadillac and Michael Pittman did a great job of running. B.J. Askew leading the way and our tight ends. Everyone just stepped up in the fourth quarter. Really took the hammer to the nail. Defensively again, a great performance by our defense. Key turnovers that they created in critical times. Keeping that explosive offense out of the end zone all day long. It's not an easy thing to do, but a credit to our defense and how they have played.
On the running game
Last week we struggled early on with the running game. That was a critical emphasis this week; to get going early on, to have better success. Especially on first down when we do run the football and not creating second and third-and-long situations. We can still be better; we can still be a lot better as far as an offense is concerned. There were some times on the field today where we didn't establish a drive; we kept our defense on the field too long at times. But to finally get it going, giving those guys enough of a crack for them to pierce it, make something happen. They're going to make plays. They're great running backs. All they need are little opportunities. The offensive line played awesome football today; physical football. That's what it is all about. It was great to see that we could just pound the ball; especially in the fourth quarter and create a sense of advantage, controlling the line of scrimmage, and the running backs making big runs.
Jeff, do you enjoy playing a more ball-control offense?
I'm open to whatever it takes to win football games. Today it was just a sense of being patient, hitting some throws when the opportunities came, moving the chains when the opportunities came. If the big throw or big play comes, I'm ready to try for that. It's just one of those games (football) where you never know what you're going to get week to week and I think our patience paid off today. It was just a crisp, ball-control offense. I think the drive right before the end of the first half set the tone for the second half. It gave us some momentum going into the half, getting three points on the board and then coming out in the second half and driving for the touchdown after the great kickoff return by Mark (Jones). We got great field position. Then we just pounded the ball and really staked a claim to what we wanted to do in the second half.
Jon called that first drive of the second half the signature drive of the game. Did he say anything to you guys at halftime?
I don't really remember. We were just in the zone. We realized we were going to get the football to start the second half and we wanted to start the second half off right, especially after ending the first half on a quality note. Let's get out there and keep our defense off the field for a while. They were on the field too much in the first half. Let's take advantage of this opportunity after we got great field position after the return. Coach has a mentality that is a getting after it mentality, and it carries over to this team. We're going to be physical, we're going to come at teams and we're going to force the issue. That's what we did in the second half. The offensive line — I can't say enough about those guys, how they really took control up front, against a Rams line that is pretty good, and at times, against an eight-man front. They brought safeties up to stop the run because they knew we were just going to try and pound it. They did a great job of making blocks downfield. The running backs made second-effort runs. It was a great effort by everyone.
Can you talk about how this offense is coming together as it gets ready to go to Carolina?
I think that's something that I've always stressed is balance on offense. When you're capable of running the football it creates so much more opportunities for your passing game. Now today those opportunities didn't really come today because of the way we were controlling the football on the ground. But that's something that Carolina has to prepare for. I think that's a positive thing for us. We're not just a big play team. We can grind it, we can pound it, we can break things through the running game. That's going to give us opportunities in the passing game and that's something to be excited about. I'm excited about how the offense has played. We just need to keep working on being more consistent on offense. There are a lot of steps that are being taken in the right direction.
What did you say to Michael Clayton after the tough couple of plays he had in the first half?
Keep your head up. I used a few other words I probably can't use up here. He's playmaker. The guy can make plays and it's important for me to get him those opportunities. I believe in the guy and it was a stretch of two tough plays and it's unfortunate. But, fortunately for us it didn't cost us anything and we were able to get three points out of that drive. I believe in him and I want him to continue to work hard and he knows it. In a situation like that you don't necessarily have to say anything. But I wanted him to keep his head up and keep fighting and get back to the huddle and on to the next play.
Were you surprised that Earnest Graham broke out with two touchdowns?
Not necessarily surprised because we've seen that style of running from him in preseason. The guy just hasn't had the opportunities to make regular season runs, and when he got the opportunity today he took advantage of it. It was great to see that, here he is having worked so hard for four years and finally gets that opportunity on the field. It's not to say he hasn't gotten opportunities in the past. But he got some really good looks today and had an opportunity to really get into a flow by getting the ball on a consistent basis and he showed what he's capable of. He's always falling forward. You never see him take a loss, you never see him moving backward. He's always moving forward. He has great balance, great skill and ability and he showed that by getting into the end zone twice.
On wearing down the Rams' defense
You could really see that in the fourth quarter. Our offensive line, our offense was just starting to wear them out. They didn't have an answer for what we were doing. They were trying different things. They were bringing extra guys in the box. We were still pounding it at them. We were still finding creases. Running backs were still gaining positive yards. I think it became very frustrating to them and obviously we wore and tore them down. It is just one of those things when you have a team on the ropes like that, you just keep pounding it at them.
Jeff, how hard is it to rush for 190 yards (as a team) in the NFL?
It's very difficult to get that sort of production, especially against as good a defensive line as St. Louis'. They're a capable defense, a defense that played well against the 49ers last week and for three quarters they played pretty good against us, too. But we found a way. We just fought through it. We didn't allow it to frustrate us or control us. We just kept battling and a lot of that positive energy came from the way our defense was playing. We respond off of each other. The exchange is emotional and in the middle of an exciting game when the defense is playing the way they are, we feel like it's important for us to pick up the slack on the offensive side of the ball. Finally we got that going, got the defense some rest in the fourth quarter and we put it away.
How big is it to have a bruising back like Earnest Graham come in and give the defense a different look than a Cadillac Williams?
We have three backs that bring something different. You put Michael Pittman in there with his slashing style and his hard running style, you don't know if he's going to make a move on you or go right through you. Earnest Graham has great balance and a great feel. He always falling forward. Cadillac has that explosiveness that he can break a play at any moment. So we have three capable backs, and a guy like B.J. Askew that can clear the way. It can create a very positive situation for our backfield. We don't have to wear anyone out. We can utilize different players to get in there and use their different abilities. Michael Pittman made some plays coming out and catching passes out of the backfield and that was huge.