Coach, how do you defend Mike Vick?
I think you've got to give him different looks. Certainly we have to try to contain him. I say try because a lot of people have attempted to do so and have been unsuccessful. He's a very fast individual in space. He's throwing the ball accurately. He's got a quick release and a very strong arm. He's a challenge. Yet, they're still a team that wants to run the football and they've got two guys in T.J. Duckett and Warrick Dunn who are very good runners. We have to probably give them some different looks, spy them at times, some of the things a lot of people have tried to do. Just be very conscious of lanes and make him have to work laterally on the field and not give him a big alley where he can start working downhill because when he starts running North-South, he is very dangerous. He is big and he is very, very fast.
Will the defensive backs have to stay with the receivers?
There is no question. We use the word plaster, which is when a quarterback starts to scramble, that you have to get on a man. If you're in a zone defense, you stay with the guy in your zone. There's a time clock that goes off in everybody's head that once it gets past a certain frame, you're covering the man in your zone and then you stay on him no matter where he goes on the field. That term of plaster will be applied this week with him because he's a guy who, if you're trying to do all the things we talk about in terms of staying in lanes, a lot of times you're not generating that immediate rush that you'd like in trying to keep him somewhat contained. It's going to force us to cover a little longer. He presents those types of problems for you. He's making good decisions. He's taking care of the football. They're running the football well and they're playing good defense. This football team is 5-3, a missed kick from being 6-2. He's a big part of it.
Does having Kordell Stewart all these years help you prepare for Vick?
I don't know if it helps you. We don't game-plan against ourselves. We work against ourselves, but when you work in practice you're never live on the quarterback. You're never in a situation where you're truly rushing and trying to catch a guy and apply some of those things, because you never do that in practice. You go against mobile quarterbacks. There are a lot of them in this league right now. Certainly Donovan McNabb's the one guy that comes to mind. He can beat you with his legs. I thought he did that the other night in the big game against the Giants, certainly when you're playing Tennessee, (Steve) McNair all those years. He was another guy who could beat you with their legs. This guy is different. He's much faster. He's really fast. We'd like to get a good rain storm come in here that can just sit over Heinz Field for about 24 hours prior to kickoff at one o'clock on Sunday.
Would you spy Vick? And if so who would that be? And what would that take away from the defense?
You do at times. Certainly you've got to be aware of him, whether or not you're spying with a defensive lineman who's not involved with the rush, or you do it with a linebacker or a defensive back. Those are certainly some of the looks you look at. You try to fill all the lanes, potentially at times with blitzes, which give him less lanes to look at and you're occupying more space. Now, even with those blitzes you may be more under control than you would normally be. Your contain has got to be there. Your pressure lanes on the inside are probably more important than they've ever been, that you don't get overloaded or pushed to a side so he can just step up and go, so it's more of an awareness. Again, it's the different looks that you can present to him. Maybe at times you rush eight and other times you rush five and six, so you have to present him with different looks to create a little bit of indecision and not let him get comfortable in making quick decisions. Even in doing that, it's one of those situations that we're going to have to apply it all day long. Even in the best of plans, he's going to sometimes break a tackle or out-run someone and you have to stay back and live with that and not get frustrated by it.
Might you use Kordell on the scout team? Antwaan Randle El?
We don't tackle the quarterbacks but we're going to have the quarterbacks this week, I'm sure, simulate moving around in the pocket, in and out, people staying with people in coverage. The practice may be a little longer because these plays may take a little longer. Again, not to overdo the whole thing, they have more elements than Michael Vick that you have to be aware of. Certainly, he's the key element but Dunn and Duckett are two pretty good running backs that can present some problems. It's going to be a good test against our run game and our ability to stay disciplined in the secondary.
Would Charlie Batch continue as the scout-team quarterback?
Him and Kordell both.
I don't know. I haven't given it much thought at this point.
How many clips were there on Dennis Northcutt's punt return?
None. They didn't call any. I'm going to tell you, there are a lot of blocks we turned in that we thought were blocks from behind but they called them side blocks. You can't put yourself in that position. You go down there on the coverage, you've got to get a feel for where that returner is. You know what kind of leverage you have to have, and you cannot lose that leverage. And we did. James Farrior was one guy who probably underestimated his speed to get to the outside. But we lost it with Clark (Haggans), we lost it with Chris (Hope), the leverage on the outside. And Josh (Miller) didn't turn the ball back. It was a bad play. That was a big-time turnover. It cost us seven points. If you give up a return in the kicking game, I don't think you're going to find many teams with those games. That happened. We gave up a 61-yard pass. The score was 14-3 and my thought was ‘I guess we're going to find out a little bit about ourselves right now.' It was definitely a deficit that was not part of our formula. Ours is starting fast and try to take the crowd out of it. We did the exact offense.
How much did other things besides a bad kicker play into your fourth-down decisions?
There were three of them. First one, it was a makeable kick with Todd (Peterson). It was a gut instinct just to go for it. I wouldn't read any more into it. The second two, I think the second one was on the fringe. I knew that was going into the wind. It was right on the fringe for him. Again, fourth-and-four, I felt good about the offense taking a shot to go for it. The last one was not even a field-goal consideration. It was either punt or go for it on fourth-and-nine. I was really going back and forth with that one. Fourth-and-nine is not a real makeable situation. Maybe in hindsight, to punt it and give them a little bit longer field might have been the right thing to do. But in that situation I erred on the side of being aggressive. That was probably the one that was the toughest decision to make.
Do you think the Browns showed other people to come after Tommy (Maddox) early? Have other teams been doing that and you were successful at keeping them out?
No. People have come after him a lot. Not just for Tommy, but to take away the running game, bring the eighth defender in the box. No, he's always handled the blitz very well, particularly on third down. We've hit hots and even the touchdown we hit with Plax was a big blitz. No, we've done a good job with the blitz. I'm not that concerned about it. We're going to get it early a lot of times, more so to stop the running game.
Would you get it as much with Amos (Zereoue) in the backfield as you would Jerome?
Yeah. I think people look at Amos sometimes and they feel they like the match-up with him in protection. When he steps up and puts his mind to it, he can stone anybody. Sometimes he doesn't always do that. But I think Amos just gives you a different style from Jerome. He's effective. He played very well last week.
He was ready for the load. He handled it very well. He's a solid player. You're happy for him. He's a guy who came back from a lot this off-season. He used training camp to get himself in shape and he's gotten progressively better, just physically, with his body as this season's gone on. He went through a pretty traumatic off-season. So he's right where he needs to be and, really, right where we need him to be, particularly at this time when we've counted on him very heavily.
Is that unusual for a defense to line up like that, having 12 men on the field?
Do you think it might've been done purposely?
Oh, I'm not going to speculate into that. I don't know. I'm not going to start anything in regards to that.
Coach, talk about responding?
We always talk about responding. I think there's going to be ebb and flow in every game if you play good football teams. At some point, you've got to be able to respond and not overreact. Early in the game, you've got to be able to take a punch, sorta speak. We were able to do that the other day. That was big. That was very big.
How do you feel about being 5-3?
I feel very good about where we're at. Not just where you're at, but the state of your football team. Certainly we've won four games in a row and not coming off our best performance, but we overcame a lot of obstacles and some challenges this last game. We're sitting here with a two-game lead, it's good. You take that at the halfway point. We need to continue to play that way.
Could you talk about Maddox and Dan Reeves?
There are two guys in this league that I have tremendous respect for. Obviously, Marty Schottenheimer for what he's done over the years and the opportunity he gave myself. The second guy is Dan Reeves. For a guy to be a head coach in this business for over 20 years straight, trust me, that's a remarkable feat. This guy has accomplished a lot. He's been there. You talk about gimmick plays, Dan, to me, started all this kind of stuff. He started with John Elway and all the things he used to do with shovel passes and flea flickers. He's still doing it now with Michael Vick. I think he has a lot of respect for Tommy. He drafted Tommy. He always thought of Tommy Maddox as a good quarterback. And I have a lot of respect for Dan Reaves. He's the true dean of this league. He's that way because he's a good football coach. It doesn't surprise me the way they're playing.
[INFORMATION ALERT (FINALLY!)]
Stan Savran: Who starts at center? And with Jerome as listed as questionable, does that say Amos will most likely start?
Cowher: The first question, if Jeff is ready to go, then Jeff will go. In Jerome's case, let's see how he works this week. If he can go through the week, we probably would still go with Amos, but that remains to be seen. If he has a good week, we may go with Jerome. I guess we'll find out on Sunday.
Is this your deepest and most complete offense you've had here?
I don't know. We've always been pretty deep at running back. We are there. It was very nice to see Chukky come in and perform the way he did. I think that was a little bit of an unknown. I mean, he performed well in the preseason, but he stepped up in these last two games and performed very well and that was very encouraging to see. We've had some tight ends step up the last couple weeks. That was good to see. We haven't had Tuman. We got John Allred back for the first time. We've had people on both sides of the ball step up. That's going to be the test. It's an endurance test and your depth will be tested during the course of the year. In many respects that may measure the success you have as a team. We've got quality players that have the right mindset right now. When the opportunities come they're not dwelling in self-pity. They're just seizing the opportunity. They're very unselfish about it. That's a good quality about this football team.
Could you talk about the running backs for a third time?
They're very contrasting styles, like Jerome and Amos. Duckett's more of a downhill, big, punishing runner who does have outstanding speed when he gets into the open field. Warrick Dunn's a cutback bouncer who can slip through a hole even inside. He is a very, very good football player. Very good out of the backfield, excellent hands. Those two guys are very solid running backs, very contrasting in styles.
For all the right reasons. No, it's not a concern at all.
They didn't play any snaps in the fourth quarter did they?
I don't know. If it was the dime defense, than those three guys probably weren't out there. Probably not. For all the right reasons.
Will you try to get Kendrell back on the dime as his ankle heals?
Yeah. Clark Haggans has performed very well. He really has. He's been very, very productive, so it's a nice situation to have. I think Kendrell's getting better. It's nice to have him back on the field. He'll get plenty of opportunities this week. Like I said, these guys are going to try to run the ball. He and Casey, they can buckle up their chinstrap a little bit. We can go back to Jamal Lewis a couple weeks ago. We've gone back and forth the last couple weeks, but they'll be on the field.
Do you worry about your kicker's psyche?
No. I just worry about what you guys will say if I don't make it. More importantly, what my wife will say if he doesn't make it.
Is there any temptation to get Kordell involved in your gadget plays?
A report on [Douchebag] Sports Radio Network said -
Don't believe everything you hear.
But I get paid a bonus for mentioning [Douchebag] Sports Radio Network.
OK. Congratulations on your bonus. I'm happy for you. Thanks, guys.