Dungy Conference Call Highlights

Tony Dungy answered a wide range of questions from the media this week during his conference call. Find out his thoughts on why the team has suffered a pair of recent losses, the challenge of playing in the secondary in today's NFL, and extensive comments about the Jaguars and the Colts.

What was going so right the first nine weeks of the season that maybe isn't quite there that we saw earlier in the year?
"Actually not a whole lot different. We were kind of flirting with some disasters earlier in the year and some of the things caught up with us. The only thing that has happened is we had two games that we played on the road against teams that were playing pretty well. We had leads in the fourth quarter and couldn't hang on. In both games we had breakdowns, we had some turnovers, we had some things that we didn't finish and some drives that we didn't get stopped on third downs. But it's been kind of something we've flirted with all year and we have to get that better in December but we still have a lot of football left to play and I think we will get that fixed and be going in the right direction."
What are you referring to when you say ‘get that fixed'?
"It's everything. It's not turning the ball over, not having penalties at the wrong time. Basically we lost a game with two penalties in the end zone, one on defense on a ball that we intercepted against Dallas and then one on offense where we get a touchdown that's called back with offensive pass interference. So that is something that we stress, not getting penalties at the wrong time. Our coverage units on special teams should be better than what we're doing. We have a lot of speed on our team and we're not really utilizing that as well as we can. Our third down defense hasn't been near what we need it to be, and then offensively we're moving the ball pretty well. When we don't turn it over and shoot ourselves in the foot, we score a lot of points. So just general overall play, we just have to be a little sharper." 

Were the Jaguars the first to expose your run defense?
"I don't know. I guess you'd have to go back and look at the stats. I guess the Giants, what I'm reading, had a big day opening day and it's pretty much been like all year, but they were the first ones I think to run the ball on second-and-long, run it on third down and just basically run in those passes situations." 

You stopped the run in the second half. Were there any adjustments?
"We've done that a lot in that people have come out and run plays against us. We look at them at halftime and just play a little bit better in the second half. We've played in spurts. We've haven't played a good game for four quarters against the run yet this year." 

Could there be a plus being asked what's wrong versus talking about making it to the Super Bowl?
"That's probably just a function of where we are and that's what I have to keep warning the players about. Lovie Smith is in the same boat. They're 10-2 and the clinched their division and it's not good enough in a lot of areas. So that's probably pretty good and if you're one who looks at the glass half full, I guess that's good to be in that position and still have things to work on, it probably is good." 

How much different is it to play in the secondary now than it was when you were playing?
"It's a little different but I think every situation changes and you learn to play by the rules that are in vogue and we had to change when I played halfway through. We had a lot of guys that were use to rules a certain way then in 1977-'78 they began to start making those changes and guys had to adjust and I think the good players do adjust. The problem that guys have now is that they're not really sure how things are going to be called. If you know it's going to be called a certain way all the time, you adjust but when it's called differently and sometimes it's called and it seems like we have an emphasis on calling things and then you go five or six weeks not called, you kind of fall back into that way of playing, then all the sudden in a game seven weeks from now it's called, that's what I think guys have problems with." 

Is there anything specifically you're referring to?
"No, I just think we vacillate with contact. We say earlier in the year that we're going to call it, we're going to put an emphasis on it. It's called in the preseason, it's called a little bit and then it gets to the point where we let a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more go and then all the sudden you situations like Monday night where Tony Kornheiser who knows very little about football says ‘isn't that suppose to be a penalty?' and it's not being called. That gets pointed out and then at some point we have a meeting or somebody has a meeting and tells the officials we want to start calling this again and next week you'll see a bunch of things called or at some week down the line, maybe not this week but at some week you'll see them called again and that's what is hard for the players to adjust to." 

Do you like this modern age of offense and all the emphasis geared towards helping the quarterbacks and the receivers?
"I think it's great for the fans. I think it's exciting and it's made us an exciting brand of football and we're very popular right now so I think it's been good." 

Are you surprised Fred Taylor has never made a Pro Bowl?
"Not really, because the Pro Bowls end up being a lot of times who else in there with you and how well your team is doing and those kinds of things. Fred Taylor has been an excellent back his whole career and unfortunately he hasn't been in. I know Edgerrin (James) has made it a lot out of the AFC, LaDainian Tomlinson and you just have some guys with some very, very good careers at the same time. Reggie Wayne is kind of in that same boat. Reggie is playing lights out ball for us for the last three years. I'm not sure if he'll get to a Pro Bowl with just some of the name recognition receivers in the AFC but Reggie has been playing great and Fred Taylor has been playing great every since I can remember." 

With Taylor being healthy this year, do you see him playing at a different level this year like he did four or five years ago? 
"He's playing well and they're running the ball a lot, which they have the third most runs in the AFC which helps them. He's been out there and making those big runs for them and getting the opportunities to show what he can do but it'll be interesting. I think he's having a Pro Bowl year. Whether he makes it or not, I guess we'll have to see, and some of this now is fan voting which is one-third of it. To me, ever since we got into the fan voting that's kind of taken a little bit of the objectivity out of it." 

In reviewing the game film, do you see any difference in David Garrard this year compared to last year?
"He's the same guy. He's always been tough against us going back to the first time he ever played against us in 2002. He's done a good job. He gets the ball to the right people. I think he keeps his poise back there and like so many of the real tough guys to play against now, he can make things happen when the original design of the play breaks down. I think he's playing just like he always has." 

How is the passing game different with Leftwich and Garrard?
"You have a little more quick release, a little more designed boot leg then out of the pocket type things but really not a whole, whole lot different." 

Did help at all having seen Vince Young last week for the defense, a player your defense will have to contain in the pocket?
"It's probably similar because both of those guys create and they move around and they make things happen when the play is not there. So I guess from that standpoint we've faced it two weeks in a row and that does help you some." 

Do you think the Titans changed their offensive scheme to suit Vince Young?
"They're actually doing more. They've gotten away from what they did with Kerry Collins and they're doing more stuff with Young. They're doing a lot of stuff that he did at the University of Texas and you can see the difference in how much stuff they had in for him this game than when we played them six weeks ago." 

On the Jaguars defense continuing to play at a high level despite injuries: 
"They have and that's a sign of a really good team and a good defense when you can have those injuries to key guys and have them be out of the line-up for a stretch or for the whole year and it just keeps going. They have a system in place. They train their guys. The next guy steps in and does the job of the guy he's replacing and that's what you really look for and I think to their credit, they've done that all year. But they have a good sound system that's been in place. They've had some stability on defense and they're doing what they do and it's built in now so that everybody has confidence in it."

On how hard it is to put up a winning streak against division opponents:
"It's hard anytime to put up those streaks. I think we've been very fortunate. We've had a couple of long winning streaks and a lot things have to go right for you and your guys have to play well week in and week out and I think that's the thing I've been proudest about is that we've had some long stretches where we did play well and we didn't self-destruct in games. But when you're playing good teams and the teams that know you, it's hard to win that many in a row and a lot of it is we've been fortunate to win some three-point games and some games where one play can make the difference." 

Do you think perception makes a difference in making it to the playoffs?
"No, I don't think it'll be different. It really comes down to how you play and the only time it can be is if you let it. If you get the feeling that because people are saying good things about you, it makes you a good team, you can be in for a little trouble. If you get the feeling because that because people have questions about you or doubt you or say that you're not a good team, that you can't win, then if you go in with that attitude, you'll have trouble. But if you just watch the tape and look at your opponents and take care of your business, it really doesn't matter what other people think or say." 

How is Peyton Manning's year this year?
"It's been pretty good. It really has. He's done some really good things. People are playing us differently. He has to do really decipher a lot more than he had to maybe two years ago when people didn't have as sophisticated plans against us. And I think he's done a great job of not only being accurate and throwing the ball well but managing the game, getting us in the right place and doing the right things to help us win. My thinking is he's probably playing a little better this year than last year and certainly better than two years ago." 

You think Manning is playing better now than the year he put up all those stats?
"I think that was a fairly easy year in a lot of ways. We had people that hadn't played us a lot. We had people that thought ‘the way to play these guys is to blitz them and put pressure on Manning' and everybody was pretty much playing us the same way and we had some really big days fairly easy just throwing against one on one coverage and picking up blitzes. I would never say touchdown passes are easy but long touchdown passes where now people aren'tt playing us that way and they're making him think more and work more and making us use more plays and he's had to be better and he has been."
Are you seeing fewer blitzes now?
"Not necessarily fewer blitzes but fewer things where you get easy long throws." 

So teams are playing you deep?
"Yeah and when they do blitz, it's not all out blitzes where you just throwing to one guy and he either beats this guy or doesn't. They're making us really try to execute more. Have we had to restructure our game a little bit. For the most part, we have."

When Pittsburgh blitzed last year, were they all out blitzes?
"No. Pittsburgh did in the second game the same thing they did in the first game. It wasn't like they had this elaborate plan. They did a good job on us. They outplayed us the second time with a very similar game plan than what they had the first time when we won, I think it was 26-7. They outplayed us really in the second game. There were a little bit different wrinkles but the same principle. They play the way they always play, we play the way we always play and they were just a little bit better, especially in the first quarter. They got ahead 14-0 and then from there on out, it was kind of a dog fight and we had to throw the ball a lot more to get back in it and they just did a good job."
How important is it to get home field advantage for the first or second seed in the playoffs?
"I think it's important to get that bye (week) when you can not have to play a game and still advance, that's an advantage. We'd love to have the whole thing and play every game at home but I think the most important thing is winning enough to get that bye." 

Do players play hard for a bye once they clinch the division?
"Oh yeah, I think they understand the benefits of that and we try to stress it to them and certainly that is important, that makes it easier to reach their goals. Anytime you only have to play two games instead of three, you know it's going to be easier." 

Do you also have to field the questions of whether you should play your starters or rest them for the playoffs?
"Frankly, I wish we were dealing with those questions."

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