Sparano Soundbites

The day after the Dolphins opened their season with a disappointing 19-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Coach Tony Sparano reflected on what happened in the game in his day-after-the-game press conference.

Here is the team-released transcript of Sparano's press conference:

On his thoughts after watching the game tape: "We had a 172 yards worth of minus yardage in the ballgame, which is about 12.5 points, and we turned the ball over four times. To me, that is how you lose football games in this league. That is it. That is what I've seen. Defensively, I thought the guys on the defensive side of the ball played well enough at times on that side of the football to win the game. I thought our sudden change defense was very good, which got tested pretty well during the course [of the game]. I think there were four times during the game that they had to go out there and a few times they had to work on a short field. Now there were a few times defensively that we didn't miss many tackles, but when we missed them a couple of times, it hurt us. We had one missed tackle that ended up at a touchdown, but other than that (they) tackled good. I thought our people played really strong at the point of attack, stopped a pretty good run game. I mean, if you told me going into the game that team would have had under 300 yards, I would have taken that."

On what allowed Tony Gonzalez to be successful: "This ain't his first game in this league and lot of people have tried to stop this guy. You are going to be able to keep his numbers down. What did he have, five (receptions) for 70 (yards)? Somewhere around there. One of them was legitimately a 5-yard gain that ended up being a 20-yard gain. I think he made a couple of nice plays during the course of the game and when the ball is in the air, he catches it. Sometimes we had really good coverage on him and he just took the ball away from us. But more importantly, they do some things in their scheme that force you to be a little more man-to-man on the backside. That is where they get you. They get you in the slot and get you on the backside a little bit and you have to win some of those individual matchups. A couple of times I think Gibril (Wilson) knocked the ball out of his hands, Yeremiah (Bell) did make a play on the ball once or twice, I think (Tyrone) Culver made a play on him one time. I am not sure how many times they threw to him, probably nine or 10."

On what the Falcons were doing to apply the pressure to Chad Pennington: "Nothing they did was any different than anything we prepared for during the course of the week, nor really we've seen. There was very little true pressure. I think two or three times there were a couple of pressures that we designed pressures. Other than that, some twists, stunts, things of that nature. But they just rushed the passer pretty well."

On what needs to be fixed on the offensive line: "We've got to do a better job of shortening the edges a little bit. What I mean by that is, sometimes you give a player a little bit too much air in the pass rush. I think we've got to shorten the distance between that player and the tackles, particularly because we are making our contact at maybe a yard and a half, two yards away from the quarterback in some situations. We can fix that. Other than that, we need some more communication inside, better communication, which I mentioned the other day. This doesn't come with verbal communication; it comes with physical communication with twist stunts. With twist stunts they picked us a few times and got in there pretty good."

On if they need to have more than 17 rushing attempts in order to be successful: "I'd say the blueprint says we need to do more. If you said to me, ‘What is the perfect deal?' I certainly wouldn't say 17 rushes out of those guys. But I think at the end of the game, we were in a hurry-up-and-try-to-score mode, so you were in more throws at that point. ... We needed to score and get the ball back."

On if he feels like at any point they got away from the running game: "No, I don't think so. I think there was nothing there that made me feel like we should be running it here or shouldn't did this or shouldn't have done that. From a play sequence standpoint, that was not a problem. The problem was execution."

On the thinking behind brining Pat White into the ballgame: "You guys ask me the question 100 times during the course of the week. ‘How you going to do this? How you going to do that?' One of the things with Pat White going in there is seeing how they line up defensively to see what we see. It is kind of like a pitcher throwing a waste pitch sometimes. You go in there and you run a play and you kind of want to get a picture of what it is you are seeing. We got a couple of pictures there. The one play, the one throw, we thought we had a chance."

On if he knows going into a possession that Pat White is going to go into the ballgame at some point during that series: "No, just a feel thing… see where you are with your call. Nothing predetermined that way."

On how correctable the problems that exist with the offensive line are before the next game: "I think they are correctable. I think they are correctable. I don't think you will get them all ironed out in a week, but I think you will get some of them ironed out and are going to work hard to do it."

On if it is good to have that extra day of practice with the Monday Night Football game next week: "Sure. Anytime you come off a game like (yesterday's) you will take the extra day. We are going to lose it down the road, so we may need it."

On DE Phillip Merling's performance: "Yeah, it's what we talked about, I mean, he played 30 plays. I told you guys when he plays those kind of plays — it's not always the prettiest plays with Phil — but his byline is always good. He was really active yesterday, made a lot of plays, got around the football a bunch, hit the quarterback two, three times. You know, got a sack, and I think those are the kind of things, when you put a player out there for 30 plays like that, that's what you expect. Somebody asked me last week about his growth, and that's what I see. I see more — when this guy goes in the football game, he's becoming more and more consistent with the amount of plays that he makes."

On what aspects of the kick return game need to be remedied: "I think it's a little, it was a little bit of everything. But yesterday, it was pretty much the blocking. We did not do a good enough job in that one phase of the special teams game. Now, I'll say that I think the special teams, you know, as a whole outside of the kickoff return unit, did a pretty nice job yesterday. I mean, we had one return come out on us which happened to be a combination of a lot of things. One punt return for whatever it was, 15 yards, but it was a low kick, probably one of the lowest of the game, and we missed two tackles on that play. But, other than that, I thought we covered pretty well during the course of the game in both phases, kickoff coverage and punt coverage. So, I thought they did a pretty nice job that way. But, of course, kickoff return, there's no way around it, we need to block better and we need to find some people that are gonna do it better."

On RB Patrick Cobbs returing two kickoffs in the second half replacing WR Ted Ginn Jr.: "Just a feel thing. You know, they're two different kind of players. So, they were getting downfield pretty fast at us, and you know, Teddy is gonna be a little bit more of a stretch and run guy, and they were getting downfield, where Cobbs is a little bit more vertical."

On coming close to achieving the two pre-game goals of winning time of possession and stopping the run, and if it was turnovers that ultimately cost the team: "Oh, there's no question. I mean, I don't know how to make you understand it, but you turn it over four times, there's zero, I mean, there really is 10 percent chance in a long time in this league, that you'll win the game. It's hard to overcome it. I mean, I told the team at halftime when we had two of ‘em, I said, ‘Look, we're aware right now that two turnovers in this league are hard to overcome and you know what you have to do. We gotta go out, we have to work our tail off to overcome these, and we gotta try to take the ball away from them a little bit.' You know, now sometimes the sudden change thing, you can look at those like they're turnovers, you know, when you win on sudden change. You stop ‘em after a turnover and they miss a field goal, you feel like that's a win. But the problem is you're not gaining any yards doing it. So, where those guys, you know, they pick a fumble up, and go 53 yards, they they handle and interception and go 30-something yards, these are all hidden yards. So at the end of the game, you have 172 of ‘em. 172 yards is hard to get back."

On if any turnover is forgivable: "No turnover is forgivable in my mind."

On how LBs Jason Taylor and Joey Porter looked playing together: "Well, I mean, I thought they both played pretty well. I thought that, I thought Joey, you know, made some plays in the run game this week, did a nice job that way. And I thought that Jason was pretty good with his hands first time on the tight end, and I thought he did some pretty good things during the course of the game that way. You know, pass rush was pretty good."

On if he can draw on the fact that last season got off to a slow start as well: "I mean, I don't know if I use it that much, but I mean, it's somethin' that we've done. So, it's not something that hasn't been done here, it's not like you're lookin' at losing one — I mean 16 teams lost yesterday. It doesn't make it good, you know, by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't think that anybody else is canceling their season right now [laughter]. I mean, for me, you know, I'm just lookin' at it as, ‘Hey, we got, we just figured out, I mean, we need to take a good look, because we just figured out where we are what we have to do to win'. And I think now, you have pretty good evidence that your team, about what you have to do to win. But there is some history there, yeah, some history of being able to do some of these things, you know, that maybe not too many people think that you can do."

On how LT Jake Long performed overall: "Well, I mean, it wasn't a winning performance, you know. So I think Jake would tell ya that. But, at the end of it all, I think he played against a pretty good player, he battled pretty hard out there, he got beat a couple times. There's not much excuse for it, you get beat, you get beat in some of those situations out there and whatever, the quarterback gets hit a few times, however it is, ball comes out. You know, I mean, the first turnover didn't have nothing to do with Jake, the first fumble out there. But, I think the guy competed pretty hard. He probably learned a good lesson in this game."

On RB Ricky Williams' performance: "Yeah, I thought Ricky made a couple of nice runs. He did have good burst yesterday. You know, their play counts were kinda maybe not so similar because Ronnie (Brown) was in there a few third down throws that we had him in. But I want to say they were about nine plays apart from one another in the play count, but I thought Ricky ran the ball pretty hard. I thought Ricky made the most of his opportunities yesterday when he got the ball. You know, I mean, he caught a pass, he turned it up the field, and I thought he made the most of his opportunities and ran the ball pretty hard."

On if anyone was open when Ted Ginn Jr. looked to throw the ball downfield: "No, and I mean, Teddy has the power of choice on that. You know, that was just one of those shop plays, and there was no one open. In fact, we had a little leakage inside, which forced him to have to get his eyes out of the secondary early, but there was nobody open to throw the ball to. So he made a good choice to get the ball back to the line of scrimmage."

On if everyone is healthy: "Yeah, to my knowledge right now. Just a couple of bumps, but nothing major."

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