On how it feels to get a win headed into the bye week
It felt very important just to get our momentum turned around, to get it headed back in a positive direction. It was a tough game today, but a great way to finish off this little stretch right before our bye. I think it will leave everybody with good spirits, positive spirits and hopefully guys will take advantage of the week off and get some rest, do what they have to do for their bodies and get back ready to just do the right things and come back to play.
On the difficulty of facing an unorthodox defense
It's somewhat difficult. They are very unorthodox with how they move around when they bring in their three-down front. They basically move guys all over the field, disguising coverages. I really give credit to John Wade, our center, for the calls that he makes during the game, for the recognition that he was able to have on the field to get into the right protection. He is really controlling that offensive line. We have a young offensive line around him and he does a great job of getting guys going where they need to go. It is a difficult defense to play against, some good athletes on that side of the ball, some good pass rushers. They definitely come after the quarterback and they got to us a few times today, but I give credit to our offensive line and how they played. We were able to run the football and make the plays when we needed to make them.
On RB Earnest Graham
Earnest is just a guy who is taking advantage of an opportunity. He is player who has paid his dues. He has the ability to be a very solid running back. He does a great job, not only running the football but catching the ball out of the backfield when he has opportunities. He is just one of those guys that is so steady. He always falls forward. He never seems to take a tackle for a loss. He finds ways to eke out extra yardage and he's just doing a great job for this team. His is battling through some physical difficulties and he is playing as tough as anybody.
On whether he gave thought to running the ball into the end zone after that long drive in the third and fourth quarters (ended with a failed field goal)
It was a run-pass option. When I came outside (Calvin) Pace, stayed close to home, as we say. Even though I had Davin (Joseph) leading the way and he was on him (Pace), I just saw Alex Smith coming free in the back of the end zone and I felt that was as good as a run. I felt very confident that I could give him a throw that he could handle and it was just unfortunate that it didn't turn out that way. I'm not going to second-guess my decision. It's a reaction on the field. As a quarterback, your mentality more often is to throw it rather than to run it. I felt like if I would have come out clean and no one had been there, definitely I would have taken it myself. But when they stretched the play out the way they did, I just kept my eyes open and that's when I found Alex. It's just disappointing that we didn't complete the play we needed to. But we got the win today and that's what we're going to focus on.
On what is says about the team to be in first place despite all of the injuries on offense
It definitely says a lot about this team and what we are fighting through. Defensively, they have been doing an outstanding job for us. Offensively, we have definitely had to battle through some injuries. It's not like we're looking at what we've lost and hanging our heads. Everybody gets paid to play this game. We are very fortunate to be here playing this game. When new players get opportunities to play, that's really when they are able to show what they are all about. We have had a lot of resolve this year. I think the resiliency of this team is spectacular and we just keep fighting and finding ways to do it. It doesn't look pretty. I wish that this game could have been more dominant on our behalf, but this is the NFL and nothing comes easy. We are going to take excitement out of this win. We are going to appreciate it. We are going to realize what has gone on in the first nine weeks of the season. We are going to appreciate the break that we have. We are going to come back hungry and fighting for the next seven weeks of this season.
On whether the offense has developed an identity yet this season
I think we're still working on the identity. I think we do whatever it takes to movve the chains and it doesn't always happen the same way. Yes, we have shown big-play ability with Joey (Galloway) down the field and him making great plays and getting the ball in the end zone. Ike (Hilliard) is steady. He's the guy who's very dependable in short-yardage situations. He has a great feel for the game and he's a coach on the field. We're really trying to get back to having a running game and that was evident today in the way that Earnest Graham ran the ball. We can't take anything away from what B.J. Askew does in leading the way for him, and the offensive line and extra tight ends that were playing in the game today. Everybody did a good job creating lanes for him to run, especially when Arizona was stacking the box with eight players in the box. It's not an easy thing to run against. But they were finding ways to get yardage.
On the long-term consequences to this team if he were to get hurt on one of those running plays where he falls head first
Nope. I don't. I can't afford to take time to think about that when I'm in the heat of the battle. I think that I have tried a couple of slides — I'm not real good at it – but I have tried to slide a couple of times. Sometimes that hurts more than going head first. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm trying to avoid those types of hits down the field, but when a safety blitzes and comes in to try and take my head off there's nothing I can do about that. It's just one of those things. It's a physical game and I'm built tough enough to handle it. So I just keep praying and thanking God that I'm able to get up every single time when I do take those hits. And that's just been me. I've been fortunate in that sort of way.
On whether he felt any personal motivation to play well on Sunday after two straight sub-par outings
I'm always personally motivated, first of all. I can't rest easily after a tough loss, especially after a loss like we had last week where we had great opportunities to put the ball in the end zone. It wasn't an easy week, but I knew that I would come back. I knew that I had another opportunity to step out on the field and show my ability to lead this football team and have an opportunity to make plays. That's what we were able to do enough of today. It wasn't as much as we would like, but it was enough and that's what we'll hang our hat on. We can't dwell on the past. It's all about what's in front of us. Today we took on a challenge from a team that is capable of battling with anyone in the NFL and we were very thankful and fortunate that we did enough to win the game today.
On when the Bucs decided they were going to run the football more in the second half of the game
I really felt like in the second quarter when we got into third-and-long situations, that's when they would rush three and drop eight. It's tough to find holes in that sort of coverage. I think the main thing for us was staying out of third and long. We found ourselves in that sort of situation a few times in the first half. The second half those first two drives were great. Third and medium and third and short are much easier to convert. We were able to keep them out of that three-down linemen, eight dropping back. They started to mix blitzes in the second half and we were able to beat them on it. We were able to get the ball out and guys were able to make catches and convert first downs. That was all about execution that second half.
On how this offense gets better the rest of this season
I really do see it getting better. We continue to focus on the little things. I think a couple of times today we hurt ourselves with bad penalties at inopportune times. We had great field position after the turnover by our defense and didn't capitalize the way we should have. But if we can continue to eliminate the unnecessary mistakes and be an efficient offense, I think we're going to continue to grow and get better. We're getting ourselves out of some difficult situations on the field and into some better plays. I'm still growing in a lot of ways mentally with this team and this offense. I don't see any reason why we can't be better as an offense.
On what he'll do during the bye week
Really it's a great time to allow my body to rest, allow my body to recover and get over whatever bumps and bruises I'm feeling right now. Really just catch up on my sleep. Because of the way that I grind and approach the game, I can take away from my rest. This is a great time for me to rest, spend time with my wife and just relax. I don't plan on going anywhere or doing anything special. I want my body to heal up and rest up for this final stretch.