Cottrell: They played a pretty good, solid game. They executed well, had good intensity, and tackled pretty well. I think we missed five [tackles] yesterday, but when we missed them, there was somebody right there. That was the good thing about that. There was good pursuit. It wasn't [a case] where nobody was there and a guy could run off for a big play.
Q: Did the defense play angry?
Cottrell: I think the whole team played with a purpose. We had talked about finishing the game strong. We talked about it all week long in practice. Everybody kept bringing that up at the end of practice; that we have to go hard and finish this thing on a good note. We were trying not to let happen to us, what happened with Cleveland, where we gave up a big lead. I read the comments Randy Thomas made about, ‘don't pat me on the back now because we got another half to play. Pat me on the back when the game is over.'
Q: Saturday night, there was a Chargers TV show that spoke negatively about you guys. Did that fire you up at all?
Cottrell: It got me a little excited. I was sitting there working on the game plan when the show came on. Everybody knows our stats were bad early in the year, but in the last three games, especially with our run defense, it's picked up. The run defense did well against Minnesota and Cleveland, and that was never mentioned, just how terrible we are and LaDainian Tomlinson can name his yardage tomorrow. So it got me kind of excited a little bit. So I mentioned it to the players.
Q: How about the third down efficiency?
Cottrell: It was really good. We did a good job. That was another area we wanted to improve on. I thought our guys did a good job of showing them different looks and disguises. Damien [Robinson], Jon McGraw, Sam Garnes, the linebackers, James Darling, and Ray Mickens – I thought all those guys did a real good job. We got some pressure on them too. Shaun Ellis did a good job of rushing the passer, and he played one of his strongest games yesterday. He played really solid and has been playing solid all year.
Q: Ellis has really responded in the last couple of weeks. Did he find a comfort level?
Cottrell: I think Shaun individually made his mind up to, and put it upon himself to be a good football player. We all know he has the talent. I'm so proud of him for doing that. He's practiced well and he's played well. He's been focused.
Q: Do you think the experiment to move him to tackle last year set him back a lot and that he's finally gotten over it?
Cottrell: Last year he moved around at a couple positions and never really settled in. The backend of last year he started playing a little better. But his consistency wasn't there. He came back this spring and you could see he had a different fire about him and a different focus. He's practiced well, his off-season conditioning [was good]. He's got his body fat down [and] his endurance is much better. The guy's become a heck of a football player. He's always had the talent and he made his mind up that he wants to be successful at his profession. That's what he's done and I'm really proud of him.
Q: Are you happy with the state of the defense now?
Cottrell: No, we're not happy. We got a long way to go yet, and they know they can play better with everything. We gave up a 12-yard run and a 16-yard run. W got to cut that down, and we can still put more pressure on the QB. That's going to help our pass defense. We still got work to do.
Q: How's the tackling overall though?
Cottrell: The tackling has drastically improved, but we want to get it down to where we have zero missed tackles. We won't be satisfied until we have one of those games.
Q: In your career, how many zero-tackle games have you had?
Cottrell: None, (laughs) but you always shoot for it though. We went from the low teens, down to three. That's quite a bit. But that's a goal that we have.
Q: How does that happen, going from the teens down to three missed tackles a game?
Cottrell: Just concentration and working on it. We kept working on it. We worked on getting your body in front of the ball carriers and receivers during practice. You can't go live tackling in practice, but we try to simulate it as closely as we can. But you have to keep stressing it to them. On the seven on seven, nine on seven, and teamwork drills, we always stress that. That's been a major concern. And the guys have been using the tackling machines a lot. Whatever you can do.