Then we have six players who are probable: Plax (Burress) with an ankle; Lee (Flowers) with a shoulder; Jeff Hartings with a toe; Mike Logan with a hamstring; Aaron Smith with an ankle; and Marvel Smith with an ankle as well.
If we want to spend this and reflect back on the game, I will certainly sit here and answer any questions that you may have into any of the decisions that were made. Our football team will discuss it tomorrow briefly when they come back, but the most important thing is that we move on. It was a disappointing outcome. As I stated after the game, while we did not lose the game, we had more opportunities to win the game than Atlanta did. That having been said, you can certainly understand the disappointment when the game was over. We squandered a 17-point lead and we allowed them to come back and tie it; and we had numerous opportunities in that game - and it shouldn't have gotten to that, but even having gotten to that - to still come out with the win. Like I said, we'll reflect if you guys would like to. But I know, with our football team, we'll talk about it briefly and we're moving on. There's nothing that can be done about it and we're focusing our energy toward the Tennessee Titans.
Coach, would you change anything about how you played with the lead?
Well, when you look at some of the plays that didn't work out, yeah you'd like to be able to call something differently. But not relative to any of the other philosophical elements that may be in question, that people may disagree with, no.
Because the passing game has become such a part of the personality, would you consider utilizing that a bit more?
Oh, I think it's a good problem to have, but I think you still are playing to a situation where you're going to utilize the clock. We don't feel uncomfortable throwing it, but we don't feel uncomfortable running it. We like to think that we're a team that's very efficient at doing both. You've got to manage the clock as it is in the best interest of your football team. Like I said, it's nice to know you have balance and at this point we're probably throwing the ball more efficiently at times than we're running the ball. And we were close in the running game. You go back and look at the tape and it's one guy here, one guy there. We were really close. Then we had the big run and the holding call on Mark (Bruener). I think we're getting close in the running game and we've been persistent.
You are last in third-down conversions allowed. Is that due to strategy, execution, combination?
Probably both. That's hard to say. We've looked at every third down and we've got it documented. This was not just this game. It's been something that's been there this season. And it's something we have to do a better job of. … I wish I had an answer. After gathering all the information, there's nothing that clearly jumps out at you. I just think we have to execute better, be more aware of down and distance. We had three third-and-20s that they converted the other day. Now, you may give up one a season. We gave up three in one game, three in one half. It was one guy here, one guy there. Maybe in hindsight you'd have called something differently if you'd known those would've been the results.
Is there any way to get Kendrell Bell on the field on third down?
We can come up with anything. I don't think that's the reason they converted.
Were there common breakdowns?
There were no common breakdowns. They were three different defenses.
Coach, not making excuses for you, but Antwaan (Randle El) said he recovered his fumble and Bruener was shocked he was called for holding on that play. Anything on the film prove those guys right?
No. And I would not have expected them to say anything differently.
***Does scoring so quickly and so often place an added burden on your defense?
Oh, that's not a burden. You can ask the defense. They'll deal with that every game if that's supposed to be a burden. Listen, we've played well. We haven't put together the complete game. We've had good halves. We have not put together a 60-minute game. We still turned it over three times yesterday. We're still missing opportunities to put more points on the board.
How close did you come to calling that timeout as the clock was clicking down?
Oh, not very close at all. With fourth-and-3 at the 37, as I looked at Dan Reeves and he's looking at me, and I know that that clock's at about 49 seconds, 47, 46, I thought there was no question he's going for it. I mean, you're not going to kick a field goal from that distance, 56 yards; and at that point, with that amount of time, I'm not going to call a timeout, which makes his decision very easy. He's now got one timeout left, with the ball, fourth-and-3. I'm probably 40 yards away, or if you want to use the 30-yard line as a guideline, I'm 33 yards away; he's seven yards away. Who's got more to lose, me or him? And there's no guarantee that if we stop him on that down that we're going to have a chance to win the game. But if we don't stop him on that down, we lose the game. That call's on him. So I looked at him and I'm waiting for him to make the call easy for him. If I was sitting in his shoes, I'm not so sure what I would've done. But as that thing wound down, it didn't make any sense to call timeout, in my opinion. And that was the thought process. As I looked at it, I felt that it was his decision to make, not my decision. At that point, we had had our opportunities to win that football game and I think by calling that timeout we would've given ourselves an opportunity to lose the football game.
Were you really staring at each other?
Oh yeah. I was looking at him. And he was looking at me. He had the quarterback on one side of him and he's not sure what they were going to do. He had his special teams coach a few yards down, and they were kind of looking to see what we were going to do. And we just kind of looked at each other. It wasn't my call; it was his call and I wasn't going to make his decision easier for him. You say you fell a second short with the Hail Mary, but if you call timeout the Hail Mary's probably not the play you're going to use. I mean you're not going to use a Hail Mary if you have a timeout and you're trying to move into field-goal range. So I don't question that. I really don't.
If you call the timeout, does he punt?
No. Why punt? Why not just take a shot? … I think there's no question, if I'd called timeout with his quarterback right next to him, and you don't think he was telling him to go for it? He was telling him to go for it and just hoping that I'd call timeout, in my opinion. He was just hoping that I would aid him in calling timeout, which gives him more time to talk him into it. That had to be a quick decision. That's what I'm thinking.
Why didn't you go for it instead of kicking the field goal on fourth-and-2?
We tried the toss on second-and-1. I think with Amos you like to think you're going to get at least a yard. And then third-and-1 we tried the power play, didn't get one there. At that point, I asked Kevin (Spencer) if Todd (Peterson) was OK from here. He said, "Oh, yeah." And I wanted to give our players an opportunity to win this game. And I thought if he felt comfortable, it's well within his range, then I want to give him an opportunity to win it with a field goal. It wasn't like Cleveland where it was at the end of the half. This was a game decision, and a game decision on fourth down and 2 - maybe you think about fourth and inches - but on fourth and 2 and to bypass an opportunity to win the game, the decision was made to go for the field goal.
Was it a low kick?
Yeah, it was low. He's kicked higher balls. The kid jumped up and made a good play. It was a better kick than the extra point.
Do you have faith in him?
I think Todd Peterson's got as good a mindset as anybody, considering everything that's been done. He'll work his way through it. I think there are some inconsistencies that are there right now. There's no question we need him to be a more consistent kicker for us down the stretch if we want to go where we want to go. Now, no one's going to work harder than him; no one's got a better mindset than him. I don't think this field or this stadium will have any kind of effect on him. We'll work through the mechanics and see if we can find whatever it is that gets him to kick more consistently. I have confidence and I'm hopeful that he'll be able to do that.
Does he kick well in practice?
Yeah. I think he only missed one last week. We had nine kicks, he missed one kick. He hit eight of nine out here on this grass field. The conditions aren't always the same but we'll continue to work through.
Did you stop attacking them in the fourth quarter?
We kicked the field goal to go up 34-17. We got the ball back with 7 minutes to go with the score 34-24. We ran twice and threw on third down. Is that being conservative? I don't know. Again, you like to think with a 10-point lead and 7 minutes left you can get a first down and run some clock. The next time we got the ball there was 2:20-some to go and we have a 5-yard run, 3-yard run. We have third-down and 2 or 3 and were inches away from converting that. View it as you may. If you don't make the first down I guess it's conservative. I don't know.
What's the problem with the snap?
I looked at it the other day. It's hard to say. I couldn't put it on any one of them. I'd put it on Jeff and Tommy (Maddox). We get them in practice then not in the game. Then we'll go the whole week of practice and not have one and then in the game you have it. It's hard to explain and certainly something we can't afford to do.
Your players said you stopped attacking Vick. Did you?
Hindsight's always right.
Coach, what are your thoughts on the field?
Everybody else has echoed everything. I don't think I need to re-iterate. While I agree with everything that's been said, I do know that both teams are playing on it.
How good is Jerome at wearing down defenses?
It would be nice to have a fresh body in those situations. Not that Verron (Haynes) couldn't come in, but Jerome and Fu and Amos are three quality backs. You can keep them fresh into the third and fourth quarters of these games where you can now bring a fresher body in after you've been pounding all day. It will be good to get some of these guys back who will give us some depth at running back.
How's Tennessee doing it?
They're doing the things they've done that's won them a lot of games. They're running the ball with Eddie George. Steve McNair is making good decisions. He's scrambling with the ball a little bit more. (Derrick) Mason's back. They're getting healthy. They were banged up a little bit earlier in the season. If (Jevon) Kearse comes back this week that's just another guy they haven't had all year. Samari Rolle's back. Keith Bullock's playing very well on defense and making some big plays. They're playing mistake-free; they're playing tough football; they're running the football; making enough third downs and scoring enough that they're shortening the game and they're playing to their strengths. They're playing mistake-free as opposed to earlier in the year.
If Jerome comes back this week, would Amos be the guy penciled in and work Jerome back into the lineup?
I would anticipate that to be the case. We'll see how he works this week.
What were your exact words to Plaxico Burress about spinning the football?
When he came to the bench, I told him I was glad he came to chapel this morning because I think he got a gift. He was lucky.
Michigan State Alum: Did he get lucky or is that the rule?
Cowher: He got lucky.
MSA: What defines giving yourself up?
Cowher: Not spinning the ball.