Q: On the second to last defensive drive with about five big plays in a row, that series kind of strikes me as emblematic of what your defense has been able to do this year, making big plays in crunch time. Do you feel the same way?
BB: Well, we had some of those moments and I think yesterday was a good day for us situationally. We gave up some yards, but we played better or fairly well on third down, red area, goal line. Our situational defense was good and some of the in between situations weren’t necessarily as good. There have been other games when we haven’t been good on third down or haven’t been good in the red area and that’s led to a lot more points. We had an opportunity to get off the field with some three and outs, with some third-down stops, hold them to field goal attempts rather than touchdowns. That was the good part of the defense. And you're right; the drive you’re referring to was really a big part of it. There was another drive earlier after the two interceptions; they got three points out of that – a field goal and a missed field goal, or something like that if I’m not mistaken. We were able to stem the tide a little bit over there when they had good field position and when they had some momentum after the turnovers. All those situational things defensively were better, kind of on the plus side, compared to some other games. We’ve had our moments of that during the year. Unfortunately, there have been other moments where it hasn’t been good situational defense, even when we’ve had - like the Arizona game, we played some good defense but then situationally it wasn’t [good], red area and third down, we had our shortcomings there. Overall in the last few weeks our third down and red area – particularly third down – numbers have improved. I’m not saying they're great, but they're getting better.
Q: Dont’a Hightower’s name has been showing up in the stat box a little more lately. Can you describe his development this year and coming back from the injury?
BB: I think Dont’a overall has had a real productive year for us when he's been in there. As you said, he missed some games after the Buffalo game and was kind of fighting through a leg situation. We’ve really had three linebackers, with Jerod [Mayo], Dont’a and Brandon [Spikes] and two of these three are on the field in a lot of the nickel passing situations. Usually it’s Jerod, and the other has kind of been split between Dont’a and Brandon [Spikes], but with Brandon out yesterday, Dont’a got more of those reps. But I really think his overall production on a per-play basis has been pretty consistent as far as doing the right thing and handling his responsibility and all that. The big plays, obviously there are fewer of them than there are regular plays, so they're kind of spotted here and there, but Dont’a has been pretty solid for us all the year . He played more Mike yesterday, which as you know, puts an outside linebacker in the middle more, closer to more plays, so that gave him a few more opportunities yesterday which he did a good job with.
Q: We’ve seen Devin at safety going back to the
BB: Yeah, it really is. I think it was after the Seattle game in the seventh week, whenever it was, back in there. And of course that was about the time when Patrick [Chung] went out and Steve [Gregory] was out too and then Steve came back. We had some depth issues at safety and we acquired [Aqib] Talib and Alfonzo [Dennard] got more into the mix there at corner. And then yesterday, of course, Alfonzo didn’t play and Aqib was a little limited, so Devin and Kyle [Arrington] both stepped in there and played well and so did [Marquice] Cole, coming in and playing in the slot like he did in the St. Louis game. When Kyle went out in that game, he stepped in there and played inside in our nickel packages and did a good job. Devin gives us a lot of flexibility; he's such a versatile guy. He's an excellent tackler, which makes him a candidate to play inside at safety. Of course, you know about his speed and toughness, good ball skills, and the fact that he can go outside and play competitively in this game, where we needed him, or come inside when we needed him in there at safety and give some stability back there. He's so unselfish. He’s well prepared. He's got a good set of skills for either position really, corner or safety. He's a total team-first player and I think that’s reflected in the fact that his teammates selected him as a captain in his second year on the team. That’s pretty unusual. That's the way he is; he's very unselfish and does what he needs to do or where he's needed and he does it well. He’s come through for us defensively and in the kicking game in a variety of roles.
Q: When it comes to Week 17 and personnel decisions and resting guys, is there ever any consideration as to a possible short week of preparation for a Saturday playoff game?
BB: Well, I think there’s a certain amount of planning and looking ahead that, as a head coach, you need to do or organizationally, you need to do. We could be travelling in the playoffs, so we have to look at where we would stay if we have to travel in the playoffs, things like that. You can’t be totally oblivious to the possibilities that exist out there. As you said, it could be a short week. But because you don’t know on something like that – I mean, we don’t know when we’re going to be playing next or who we’re going to be playing next. There are quite a few possibilities. It’s really hard to be specific on something like that when there are so many possibilities. You're working on a 25 percent chance of something; whatever you're working on, there’s probably a 75 percent chance that you're wrong. I think when it’s 90/10, then maybe you can get a jump on it. It’s something that we look at. There are certain things that you kind of have to prepare for. I think the high probability is that [once] you know what you’re going to do, the more you can commit a resource to it. If we were to play next week, we know we would be playing one of two teams. So we’ll certainly start working on both of those teams this week, so that when we find out, if that’s the way it goes, Sunday night, then we’ll already have the information ready and we can jump on either Indianapolis or Cincinnati, if that’s the scenario that we’re in. We know we may or may not be in that scenario, but that’s the more immediate one, so that’s where we’ll plan next. And that’s a lot different than the regular season where you always know who your next team is, how long you have before you play them, all those things. Now there are more possibilities, so the most immediate one, that’s the one that we’ll take first and that would be the Wild Card weekend if we’re playing that weekend. We’ll definitely do as much preparation as we can on those teams this week to make sure that we’re ready to go on Sunday night or Monday morning if that’s the way it goes.
Q: As far as helping rookies prep, it sounds like it can be a lot more work as far as possibly preparing for two teams in one week. Is there any way to help the rookies?
BB: When I talk about preparing for two teams, it wouldn’t be the players. We’re preparing for Miami. But there are always people in our organization, on our coaching staff and on our scouting staff that do advance work. So while we’re working on Miami, their job is to work on the next team. When we were working on Jacksonville, they were working on Miami and so they always leap frog one week ahead of us so that as soon as that week is over, the rest of the coaching staff can file into the new opponent. From the players’ standpoint, they're kind of week to week. If we play next week in the Wild Card weekend, the team that we don’t play, I mean, the players will never even really know that we’ve worked on it because we won’t have presented that material to them or gone over it or anything like that. I think the challenge for the coaches and the scouting staff and the organization is to stay ahead of the curve so that when we have the players in here, we give them the immediate and most pertinent information for our next opponent. We do that every single week. We always focus on what we’re doing. It’s really hard to try to work on two or three teams at once. Occasionally in training camp you might work on a team you open the season with a couple weeks ahead of time, but even that is kind of tough because it’s just like you said: you're trying to juggle two or three balls in the air and that’s hard for any player – rookie, veteran or coach, for that matter. I think the big thing for the rookies at this time of year is that this is their 20th game – four preseason games, 16 regular season games and the big games are coming up. In college football, you play 11 or 12 games and a lot of those teams, even though they play that many games, there are a couple of them that might be against a lower level school or conference team that’s maybe not that hard to get ready for. So this is kind of like two college seasons. I think the physical wear and tear, bit more than that it’s the mental wear on them. Every week it’s a new game plan, it’s new adjustments, it’s a new matchup and techniques, things are a little bit different because of the way your new team does them, so that's kind of the challenging part, is mentally each week to prepare all week, to go take the test on Sunday and then come back in on Monday and start the whole preparation process all over again for the test the following week. Those weeks really, mentally, they add up. Physically it’s a drain and then mentally it adds up to. I think that’s the challenge for the rookies: to try to keep bouncing back from that each week and get into a routine so it’s doesn’t get a real high effort one week and then they have to drop way down the next week because they can’t sustain it, [but] to try to be at that high professional level, that 98-, 99-percent level with consistency.