Q:** At the start of the third quarter, you guys used an empty set with Tim Wright heavily involved. Is that something that you could have used with him a few weeks ago, and is that a sign of how far he has come in learning this offense?
JM: I think Tim is a smart guy, and Tim has done a great job of picking up our system and the things we've asked of Tim since he's been here. I think each week that he's been here, whatever we've had ready to go for him in the game plan, he's been on top of that. I don't think that's a concern. Overall, repetitions and experience in terms of seeing different things defensively and all those kinds of things against different coverages or different fronts in the running game or whatever it may be, those are the areas where you just can't duplicate experience and exposure from training camp or OTAs or whatever it may be in terms of the repetitions that some other guys may have had. Whatever we've asked of Tim, Tim is ready to go each week. Like I said, he's a good learner, he studies hard, [and] he works extremely hard to be prepared for the game. There are other roles, too. We always ask our players to be ready if something would happen to somebody else in the game that maybe that's not necessarily earmarked as something that you would always do, but you've got to be prepared to fill in for somebody else as well. I think Tim has done a good job of being ready to handle that as well.
Q: You guys have reversed the trend as far as what you do the first time you have the ball. Did that get to a point where you made it a point of emphasis, and what has allowed you to have success lately on your first possession?
JM: I think it's always been an important factor in any game, and I would never downplay the significance of that at any point in time during the course of the year. So, I don't think we gave it more significance because we were struggling or less significance because it was the beginning of the year. I think the players deserve all the credit for that. There are no magic plays that can automatically get you first downs or points without really good execution and doing good things on the field. I would say our guys have done a good job of being able to be ready and prepared early in the game and come out and get the results you're speaking about. It's always important to try to come out and play well early and try to get points on the board and help our team out in any way that we can. Hopefully, we'll be able to continue doing that as the season progresses.
Q: How do you decide when to use the quick snap when you're down near the end zone?
JM: We've always had the ability to try to do that, and it's been a productive part of our offense the past few years. I think that, ultimately, any time that you choose to do that and go to the line of scrimmage and try to snap the ball quickly and run any type of play, whether it's in the short-yardage, goal line, in the field, first-and-10, whatever it may be, you have to understand that there are going to be some times where the look on defense might not be exactly aligned perfectly because they're trying to hurry up and get lined up as well. Sometimes we've had great success because of that, and that's the reason for our success is because they haven't been aligned properly. And then other times you kind of fall into a situation where maybe you wish you would have let them get lined up because they ended up in a little bit better situation than what you wanted them to be in defensively as well. I think you've just got to make a choice each week about whether or not it's something you feel good about doing against the specific team you're going against in those situations and try to do a good job of giving the players an opportunity to be successful on the field in those situations when they come up. On a couple of those situations, we had a couple guys on the defensive side that made a really good play. Sometimes it's as simple as that, and they deserve credit, too. They were ready to go, and they made a good play and stopped us from getting it in there.
Q:** Tim Wright and Brandon LaFell have put up good numbers in the red zone over the past couple seasons. How important is their understanding of spacing in addition to their physical skills in having success in that area? Also, does a receiver have time to sell the run on play-action passes in the red zone, and how important is that?
JM: The spacing in the red zone for any skilled player certainly is limited, and we try to do a good job of explaining to our players that we're obviously working in a confined area. The defense doesn't have as much room to cover. They don't have to worry about the ball being thrown over their head 40, 50 yards down the field, so the safeties are tighter, the coverage is tighter, [and] the windows are smaller. And so our execution and our attention to detail and our readiness for the ball in the passing game, if it's a receiver running a pass route, need to be that much better. Our execution down there really determines the results. Brandon and Tim - look, they've both played in the league more than this year. They have experience in games and have been productive in that area of the field before. I think they're doing a good job of fitting in to our offense and doing the things that we're asking of them down there and then in a lot of other areas of the field as well. I'm happy with what they're doing at this point. I would say with the play-action, I think a lot of that just depends on what you're doing. It really does. Some of the play-action routes are shorter, some of them are deeper, some of them are shot plays, some of them rely on a better fake, some are quicker fakes. There are a lot of different varieties that you can use, and I think that the players - really our attention is that they're just on the same page. If the fake is going to take longer, then we have a little bit more time to sell things in the other end of the field, and if it's going to be a quicker fake, then there's no reason for the skill players themselves to sell anything longer than what the quarterback and the back and the line are doing up front.
Q: Is there a short list of what you need to do against Denver's defense? Also, does Denver's defensive quickness factor into your preparations?
JM: Obviously, this is an outstanding defense that we're getting ready to play. They're different than the one we played last year twice, and it's definitely a different unit. They were good last year both times we played them last year as well. I think they're very well coached. Coach [Jack] Del Rio does a great job, always has done a very good job of having his players ready to go. They play very fast. They know what they're doing. Their scheme, they give you a lot of challenges in terms of the things that they do, but there are very few opportunities where they miss an assignment or anything like that. It's a group that they have big guys inside and up front, they've got really premier edge rushers, they've got speed at linebacker, and they do a good job of finding the ball there, and then they've got very active players in the secondary. We've played against [Chris] Harris [Jr.] before, we know Aqib [Talib] obviously is an extremely talented player that is very dangerous and has already made a ton of impact plays this season for them and turnovers, and [T.J.] Ward is one of the better strong safeties we're going to see. He does a great job of playing down near the line of scrimmage at times and also does a good job of playing in the back end of the field when they ask him to do that, too. And [Rahim] Moore covers a ton of ground and is a guy that you need to be alert for on every snap. This is a very solid unit that we're getting ready to play, that does have great team speed, rushes the passer extremely well, tries to take away the running game with their front and usually does a great job of that, and then when they get their opportunities to try to create turnovers, they've been productive with those as well. We've got a big challenge ahead of us, and we're excited to start our preparation.
Q: Because of their new faces on defense, do they look a lot different than what you've seen in the past?
JM: The scheme - Jack [Del Rio] always adds some wrinkles in there. Coach [John] Fox and them do a great job of … They don't let you get comfortable. This is not a defense that is going to give you the same thing snap after snap after snap. They challenge you with recognition of the front, they pressure you different ways, they'll play different variations of coverages - some man, some zone, some blitz zone. So, this is a team that, like I said, they're very well coached. They'll have a game plan for us. I don't think you put on one tape to the next and say, 'Wow, it's the same defense every single week, they don't do anything different.' Quite honestly, I think there's a lot of changing from one week to the next in terms of how they play different people, so we'll have to see what their game plan for us is. We're going to try to prepare for what we've seen and how we've been played in the past and try to get our players ready to go and be ready to play fast and react to what we see and adjust as we need to on Sunday.
Q:** You probably want to keep the ball away from Peyton Manning as much as possible. Does that impact your play calling in terms of trying to hold on to the football with the offense?
JM: We've played against him a number of times, and obviously they have a very productive offense on their sideline, but our challenge is to try to go out there and execute against their defense and take care of the football and score points. If we start adding too many other things into the equation, sometimes you can get distracted by trying to check off boxes and not really do the things you need to do to win the game. Like I said, if we can take care of the ball and score, generally we're going to be doing the best things to help our team have an opportunity to win. Certainly this isn't a defense that gives up a lot of big plays, so in order to drive the ball down the field and put points on the board, you're probably going to have to possess the ball and take care of it and convert some third downs and execute snap after snap after snap to put together some long drives and hopefully finish those with some points. Like I said, we're going to try to keep it simple. We're going to try to get very familiar with this group. And again, our focus is strictly going to be on the defense and how we might best execute on Sunday and help our offense be productive.