I guess I can say that was a big win for our football team. We made it a little interesting; I really felt there was obviously some plays we needed to make and some we shouldn't have made down the stretch. I was very pleased with the way our team stepped up. A number of guys went in and out of the lineup today. It was a big win for us.
In what context — obviously this puts you back in first place in the division and sets up your last seven games — is that what you're talking about in terms of a big win? Or is it just snapping the two-game losing streak?
It's a big win to be in the race. It's what we're in this business for. It's important that you win when you play. It doesn't matter how you win sometimes; it's important that you win. It's a big reason that we're happy we won because we're hanging around still and that's exciting."
Jon, Earnest Graham went over 100 yards today and it's been a while since someone did that for you. They weren't explosive yards, but can you talk about him grinding it out?
We had a great drive to start the game and they were blitzing and we hurt them. After that we didn't see a lot of blitzing; we saw some three-man rushes and some multiple maximum zones. We felt at halftime we have to run the football and Earnest, you got to do it. And do it, he did. He made some great traffic runs, he didn't fumble, and he had a couple of really good receptions, one on third down. It's a credit to him. He's exhausted. Michael Pittman wasn't quite ready today. Michael Bennett is still a work in progress but he did assist in a couple of ways. I thought the second half, the opening drive was superb. The next series was as good a drive as I've ever been associated with. But you've got to make the plays and finish he drive; that's ridiculous.
Jon, can you talk specifically about Alex Smith wide open in the back of the end zone and not being able to make that catch?
Well, we had a guy wide open last week and we didn't convert it. To be a great team we're going to have to make all the plays all the time. I'm not going to be negative or anything like that, but this is the National Football League and to win games you have to make the plays when they're there to be made. That's something we have to keep working at. We have to play better, we have to play better, we have to play better in all three phases.
On making it tough on Cardinals QB Kurt Warner
We had Deacon Jones come in, he delivered a fire and brimstone speech. He was still giving the brimstone at about 9:30 last night. We challenged our defensive line; we were missing Greg Spires, and it was Gaines Adams' first start today. I don't know how it all went but there were some flashes there, certainly. We knew we had to get pressure on him otherwise it was going to be a long day with the bevy of receivers they have here. We're really pleased with the way we rushed. We played defense in a total effort today, I felt.
I tell you what, those safeties are really playing well. I'm glad you pointed it out. Tanard Jackson is all over the place. Jermaine Phillips had two or three big plays during the game and closes it out with a sideline tap (interception) to win the game, basically. I'm really happy for those guys. They work so far. It's a credit to (coaches) Monte Kiffin, Raheem Morris and Jimmy Lake, all of those guys.
Jon, what about the notion of the bye week, finally?
I need the bye. I may not come back from the bye. It's really been absurd ¬— that's the best word that I can use — of all the guys that have come and gone in the first half of the season. (Jeremy) Trueblood went down, Alex Smith went down, Earnest came out of the game. Michael Spurlock came in and returned a couple of kickoffs and did a nice job. Maurice Stovall was a Pro Bowler today on coverage teams. A lot of these guys hadn't done this. They had been second or third team. It's a credit to (special teams coach) Rich Bisaccia. He's going to get a game ball.
Jon, can you talk about Jeff Garcia following up his last two tough games with a more efficient outing today?
I thought he played well against Jacksonville, really. He uncharacteristically missed a few throws. But he gives our team a chance. Man he gives our team a chance. What he did today with his legs and his decision-making was really exciting. Arizona coming off a bye week and coming out with some multiple looks that you'll never see again. As long as you cover football, you'll never see some of the things they did today. It's great to have a veteran that has the poise and the savvy to grind it out and find a way to win.
Did you expect any of that (from Arizona)?
You have to expect it. They're a team that will play three down, four down, five down, rush three, rush four, rush two, rush seven — and it all looks the same. Guys are standing around, walking around. It's a different kind of defense, but I thought we got great results running the football right at it in the second half, and I give credit to Earnest and our offensive line.
What are you specific plans for the off week?
You like to use it to preview the upcoming opponent and get some young guys some reps, whether it is the backup quarterback or other players that need it. But given our situation, our players will have some time to get well. We have Ike Hilliard. We have I don't know how many guys that could use a couple of extra days of rest before we kick it up again.
Are you hopeful that you can get some of these guys back?
Some of them are on the fringe. Alex Smith was on the fringe today and he went. Michael Pittman was on the fringe and he came down to the last seconds. Brian Kelly showed up and played well today. It was great to have him back. There are others on our Christmas list that we hope to deliver to our fans here after the bye.
How much of a boost would it be to get those guys back after the bye?
It would be a big boost. It's a big boost. It's a hard league to play in and coach in. It's hard to win. And we need our best players to do that. We've got a challenging second half of the season coming up and we're going to need as many healthy men as we can get. Hopefully we'll see some guys coming back next week.
Was it close with Alex Smith, because he re-injured that ankle, it appeared?
He was cleared. He practiced. We didn't have extensive, hard practices this week, either. We have 13 players on injured reserve, another eight that don't practice. I'm not creating gloom and doom. We won the football game with a lot of guys stepping up and now we have a bye week. We need the bye week, no question about it.
Jon, earlier this week you kind of, uh, challenged some of these younger players to really step up and such. I didn't know if anyone really stepped up, in your opinion, in today's game or even in practice this week?
Earnest Graham stepped up today. He carried the ball 34 times. That's an unbelievable accomplishment. Donald Penn stepped up. Tanard Jackson stepped up. Gaines Adams stepped up. Michael Spurlock, Chas Gessner. We had a lot of guys step up today. If we want to hang around and win another game they better step up some more.
Jon, when they were dropping eight it seemed they decided they weren't going to let you throw the ball down the field anymore. Did you go to Earnest at halftime and tell him he was going to have to carry the load?
I told Art (Valero) to tell him. A lot of our offense has been based around running the football. The play action and the bootlegs come off of that. With a guy like Graham, it's not that we haven't given it to him as much the last couple of weeks for any other reason. We were worried about him getting tired. He's the guy in the mix now on second and third down to pick up blitzes and run option routes and he gets tired. To win today we needed him to get tired big-time. And he did. He gets a game ball.
Jon, has Earnest done enough to keep the starting job when Michael Pittman comes back?
We're going to use them all. Pittman is a big part of our offense. Pittman gives us a joker that allows us to move formations and do some things strategically that we've missed. And, uh, we're going to use both of those guys.