Q: When you look at Ray Lewis and the way he is playing, does anything about his game right now suggest he is the kind of guy from a physical standpoint that he’s at the end of his career? How much different has this defense looked to you since he returned at the start of the playoffs?
BB: Schematically, I’d say that they’re pretty similar. They have their package of stuff they’re pretty good at. They did that when he’s been in there and when he hasn’t. Ray is an instinctive player, always has been. Very good in the running game, play-actions and screen passes and things like that; does a good job with the underneath combination patterns. He certainly controls the defense in terms of checks and adjustments, that kind of thing. He certainly adds a lot. I’m sure that they’re glad that he’s back in there for a variety of reasons: his plays, leadership, being able to quarterback the defense and certainly the front. He’s done a good job for them since he’s been back in there.
Q: Can you explain the
BB: We do the same thing with every player. Any players that are in for treatment yesterday and today, well everybody was in yesterday and the guys that came in for treatment today, we’ll take a look at them today, take a look at them tomorrow, make a decision as to whether or not we think they can practice. If we do, then we’ll put them out there and let them go through the early part of practice, the warm-up stages, some individual work and see how that progresses and make the decision as to whether or not to put them in the group for team drills that come later on in practice. We do the same thing with every player in that category. If they’re not ready, then they don’t practice or they practice on a limited basis. If they’re able to continue and do the things that all the other players doing, mainstream program players are doing, then they do that.
BB: I think that’s something that you should ask Vince about if you wonder what he means by it. I’m not really sure. I think they’re a good football team, they’re well coached, they have good players. They’re strong in all three phases of the game. They’re a tough team that won their division and that’s won many games on the road. They’ve been able to win games in different fashions – high scoring, low scoring. Big kick in Denver there – tough conditions, end of the game, long kick. They’ve had a couple of those this year. They’ve done a good job all the way around. They’re a good football team; like I said, they’re well coached. They have a good program from their owner, Steve Bisciotti, and General Manager Ozzie Newsome, player personnel people. They’re really a solid organization, probably one of the top organizations in the National Football League from top to bottom, from the owner all the way down to the their practice squad players. They’re solid all the way through. That’s the way I see it.
Q: Is it an even bigger point of emphasis to stop opponents from scoring at the end of halves, given how each half ended in your game and how Baltimore scored at the end of the half in Denver?
BB: Yeah, sure. As you said, it’s a point of emphasis every week. We never want to do that. We always think that the end of the half can get a little different than the rest of the game because of situational play and also sometimes offensively teams change their method of attack and what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and that kind of thing. So you have to adapt and adjust to what they do. We have to do what we’re doing better. It’s definitely a point of emphasis and I’m sure it will be important in this game. We’ll definitely work on it.
Q: Did you see on emotional letdown or change from your guys or does it just come down to execution on both sides?
BB: No, I don’t think it was – we were trying to do the right things and we did some things that were good, but then we did some other things that weren’t as good as they need to be. Houston was able to take advantage of some of the things we were doing. It’s a combination of better coaching, better playing, maybe better preparation and hopefully it will be better this week.
Q: Can you reflect back to when you guys worked on Torrey Smith coming out of college in terms of what the book was on him at that time and what you’ve seen from his development since he has come into the league?
BB: I’d say he was a similar player in college: big, fast, vertical receiver. I would say he’s had more production in the NFL than he had in college. Probably some of that’s a credit to his improvement and the coaching and just his development as a receiver. I’m sure part of it is related to the quarterback. He’s always been able to run and the guy that makes all the plays down the field. He can also run after the catch on the shorter and intermediate routes. If you give him a big cushion, that’s a problem too. He’s made a lot of big plays down the field on deep balls and that’s opened up things for him underneath as well. He’s been very productive. He’s been more productive than he was in college. He was productive in college, don’t get me wrong, but I would say relatively speaking, he’s made a jump to being a very productive NFL receiver and that was maybe less consistent in college. But again, a lot of that has to do – like any receiver’s production – has to do with the quarterback he’s playing with. He’s playing with a real good quarterback there with the Ravens. So he’s gotten some good opportunities, some good plays and he’s taken advantage of them, either getting open or in some cases going up and taking the ball away from the defender. He’s done a good job of that too.
Q: I know you always emphasize that players should go to the ball. What makes
BB: I think it starts with his skill set. Rob is a good athlete. He has good body control, good balance, good hand-eye coordination, all those things, in addition to being a strong guy that’s fast and has good quickness. Rob is an instinctive player and he’s played through the course of his career between down as a defensive end and on his feet as a linebacker. When we were more in a 3-4 defense, he was up on 3-4 plays and down on sub plays. He has a lot of experience doing both those things. I’m sure there are times when he’s down that his linebacker experiences as well as his regular role, but just having a little more experience of playing on his feet, especially on some outside runs and things like that, helps him. Vice versa, I’m sure there are times when he’s a linebacker that his training on taking on blocks and knowing how defensive linemen play that that helps him perform better in that area too. He’s a good player and he’s versatile and he can gain from his experiences playing the complementary positions. If he has to drop into coverage as a defensive end, he can fall back on some of the things he’s learned as a linebacker in terms of the drop, the technique, reading the quarterback, where the receiver’s primary routes are located, all those kind of things. His versatility as an athlete and his versatility as a football player compiled with his instinctiveness, all those things come together in favorable form.
Q: What kind of differences have you noticed, if any, in the offense since Jim Caldwell took over, in terms of the operation in general and the schemes?
BB: I’d say there are a few subtle things, a few things that have a little bit of an Indianapolis look to them, more so than earlier. I’d say it’s basically the same offense. There are a lot of things that look the same. Again, I don’t think you can change your offensive system in a week or two. That would be a lot to ask and I don’t think they need to. But they modified it. It’s probably a better question to ask them, as I’m sure there are some subtle things that are done internally that as an outsider you wouldn’t really be aware of.
Q: One of the more noticeable changes since you last played them is a different configuration on their offensive line. What do you see from that unit with Bryant McKinnie back at left tackle, Michael Oher at right tackle and the rookie at left guard?
BB: Right, it’s basically McKinnie in and [Ramon] Harewood out with as you said, the movement there you talked about. So it’s really four of the same five guys. They’re a big physical line, McKinnie and Oher are two big tackles that are athletic and the guard, [Marshal] Yanda. Those guys are big, physical guys. Birk is kind of the quarterback of the line, he’s an experienced guy, been in the league a long time. It looks like he controls the line calls and things like that. He’s a good solid player in there. Again, I don’t see a huge—like they’ve revolutionized their offense or anything. It’s like you said, a little different configuration. But they’re big, they’re strong, they’re athletic and they’ve had two real solid games here in the playoffs together. McKinnie would come in at times anyway in the past in some of their extra tight end sets but he came in at tackle. I’m sure that they’ve had a lot of time to work some of those things out. But they’ve used that combination the last couple weeks; it’s been effective for them.