Q. After the game S Rodney McLeod said the Rams pretty much did what you expected them to do. In a case like that, when you feel like you’re prepared, what happened on the field to lead to that result? (Dave Zangaro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, what happened on the field was I had a poor game plan. We had a very simple game plan. You guys know that the Rams use a lot of tempos out of their huddle, a lot of different motions and things like that.
The whole sort of theme was to try to make it as simple as we could. We’ve had success with that in the past. But in an effort to do that, also created a lot of conflict with what the guys were doing. It gave them a lot of stuff to look at.
What I thought would make it easier didn’t make it easier, it made it harder. Looking back at it, I came right in after the game and watched the tape. I really should have had a more complex game plan. It sounds funny to talk about, but a more complex game plan would have narrowed the focus of each individual player. Would have made it more difficult to execute, but it would have narrowed the focus. I think we could have done that.
We went to that after about three series. We made a little rally, but it was too late. I take that on myself. It’s my job to put the players in good positions. Particularly in the first three series, I didn’t do a good enough job of doing that.
It looked like we were having miscommunications or different things like that and that wasn’t the case at all. It was just guys having too big a scope of what they had to do in a particular play and their attentions were divided. Playing a lot of that stuff the Rams do is a little bit like playing triple-option football. You need a person on the dive, a person on the quarterback, a person on the pitch, all those different things. And that’s sort of what you had to do to them. That’s where we got derailed. I take 100% responsibility for that.
Q. If you come in with a game plan and have to change it after three series, how much more difficult does that make it? (Dave Zangaro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: We’ve done that before. You think back a couple years ago, we played the Giants. We were trying to set an NFL record for the amount of yards we gave up in the first half. We were getting beat by stuff like tempo, communication, stuff like that. Simple is what helped us.
In this game we didn’t get beat by tempo and communication, it was execution. It was very difficult to execute those things. Again, simple but more difficult to execute.
Like I said, we changed it. Probably one series too late on changing that. The first series you’re like, ‘Okay, we gave up a touchdown, let’s regroup.’ Second series, regroup. Third series, it’s like, ‘we need to make a change right now.’ I was probably a series too late on pulling the trigger and going to a different thing.
We went to a game plan that allowed the guys to focus more on their particular area, but it also became physically very difficult to execute because of all the traffic and the picks. You saw plays we gave up getting guys picked and things like that. That was a result of sort of where we went.
We had some success, got the game back in hand, then as it went on and on it put our guys in some tough positions. Like I said, I take 100% of that on me. It’s my job to put the guys in good positions. I don’t feel I did anywhere near good enough job doing that.
Q. If it was an execution issue in the beginning of that game, is it fair to say there’s a correlation between that and having so many new pieces on the defense? (Bo Wulf)
JIM SCHWARTZ: No, I don’t think so. Again, it was more execution comes from what I was asking them to focus on and things like that. I think I just divided their attention too much. Chase two rabbits catch none, that kind of stuff.
We had very experienced players make uncharacteristic mistakes. [S] Rodney [McLeod] talked about himself. Guys like [DE] Brandon Graham, who is one of the best backside run defenders I’ve ever been around. We got gashed on a couple runs because Brandon didn’t close the way he normally closes. [CB] Avonte Maddox, who is a young vet but an experienced player looking in the backfield, letting a guy run past him. [S] Jalen Mills playing the run when it was a pass.
When too many of those things happen, I don’t blame the players, I blame myself. You have one missed assignment, or you have one tough matchup, or a guy physically gives up the play, a lot of times you can’t lose confidence in your game plan and you can’t blame yourself for things like that. But when you get experienced players that start making those kind of mistakes, then you’re like, ‘Okay, we’re on the wrong track here.’
Like I said, I was a step behind switching to Plan B. I should have been quicker on the switch. There’s a lot of things in that game that weren’t us. Talked about guys like Brandon Graham or Rodney. I could go through every guy. You know I don’t call guys out in the media.
Things that we typically have been very good at over the last four years, we’re not very good at right now. Over the last four years, we’re the number one run defense in the NFL. We’re not playing like that right now. I think we’re number two red zone defense in the NFL over the last four years. Not right now. We’re like the number three third down defense in the NFL over those years. Not right now. We’re top 10 in takeaways. Not right now. Top 10 in points allowed. We’re bleeding points.
My message to the guys was even more than those areas. We got to get back to being us. We have a track record of being good over time in those areas. But the area that I’m more on high alert for is our response to adversity. Typically, in the past we’ve been a team that can weather through a lot of different things. We can set our jaws and make a play. A turnover happens, we get out and get a stop. We can change the momentum of a game with a takeaway or a sack or something like that.
I think even though we’re struggling in a lot of those other areas, the area I’d really like to see the most improvement is that, that ability to set our jaws and go out there regardless of the situation, regardless of anything, go out there and get those things stopped because we’re failing in that regard right now.
Q. Would you be able to illustrate that point a little bit further in terms of making the simple where it ends up being more complex. Is there a play or series you can run us through that illustrates that? (Tim McManus)
JIM SCHWARTZ: No. I’m sort of making an exception to talking about game plan. You guys know I don’t. I think it is important in this case because I did think that had a big effect on the game.
When the team is running, the tempos they run out of the huddle, no-huddle, quick break, all those things, or all the different kinds of motions. You saw guys flying in every single direction. You can mitigate some of those things, but then it puts stress on different areas.
We generally didn’t have a problem with the quick snaps or the motions, those kind of things, like having guys in that area. What we did is it caused them to have too much to look at. Again, it would have been easier if I would have made it more difficult from a scheme standpoint, but narrowed each player’s focus a little bit more.
Again, that’s probably my number one failure in this game.
Q. Do you have the personnel at linebacker to carry out all this that you talked about in terms of adjustment and getting things back on course? (Jeff McLane)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Yeah, I’m very confident in our players. I look at most of the plays in that game as I need to put them in better situations.
Early in my career we had a bad game. Probably first or second year as a coordinator. After the game I was really low. One of the other coaches came up to me and said, ‘What are you so low about?’
And I was like, ‘Well, this happened, this happened, this happened.’
He said, ‘Did you put them in good position?’
I was like, ‘Well, yeah.’
He was like, ‘You can’t do anything about a guy falling down, missing a tackle, a guy not jumping, not timing his jump right. If you feel like you’ve put them in good position, go home and get some sleep. If you felt you put them in bad positions, then you got some work to do.’
I think a lot of the things that made it look like we were outmatched physically was more just guys in poor position. There are different layers. One is I can help them more with scheme. It’s easy to blame a player if a guy misses the tackle in the open field. With scheme, maybe we can give him a leverage tackle instead of making it a one-on-one by playing a different coverage there. Maybe we can affect this area by doing something else. If we do something here, then that player is not all alone when it comes to that. There’s a lot of different things that we can do.
I think we did have a tendency in this game that it’s the age old thing, guys try to make a play. When they try to make a play, you end up giving a play. They were trying to shore up some areas. As a result, we were being exposed in other areas.
I’m very confident in our guys. I’m very confident in our players. We just need to get back to our formula. I need to put them in better positions. We need to keep improving over the course of the year.
Q. You mentioned the things your defenses have done well over the last few years. I would add that tight ends have rarely hurt you in the past. Obviously the three touchdowns Sunday, Washington tight end got lost on the coverage bust week one. Why are the tight ends hurting you now? (Jimmy Kempski)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I mean, everybody is hurting us right now. We got plenty of areas that we need to shore up. I wouldn’t just put it on tight ends. They were all sort of different in this game.
One was a little bit more of an execution thing. We were a step slow in getting to our coverage. Another one was, guy saw the wrong thing, really left us exposed. Another was a physical matchup. It was a tough physical matchup. Snake [LB Nate Gerry] was trying to fight through a lot of traffic to get him.
When you sort of play responsibility man like that, they create a lot of traffic. They create a lot of tough situations for those guys, a lot of pick situations. I think all those are a little bit different.
I wouldn’t solely focus just on tight ends. I think we have plenty of other things we need to work on.
Q. You talk about how a real hallmark of your group over the four years has been its ability to deal with adversity, work through it, and rebound. How much of that can you coach? This is a new group, a lot of new guys. How do you find that in them, get that out of them? (Reuben Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I think that’s the number one hallmark of coaching. Anybody can go on Madden and copy schemes, go to Wikipedia, do that kind of stuff. That’s not coaching. Coaching is understanding your players, what they do well, adjusting to the ebbs and flows of the season, those kind of things.
I don’t know where we are right now. I know last year at some time I had checked, we don’t give up 30 points very much. At one point, again I don’t know where it is right now, we were number one in giving up 30 points a game, meaning the fewest times we had given up 30 points.
That sort of is my delineation of NFL and then a poor game. You give up 30 points, I don’t think you can point to anything that you did well. You guys know, I always feel like if we can keep it under 20, we’ve really done a good job. 20 to 30, it falls into the NFL.
A lot of that is not scheme, it’s not anything other than just sort of knowing yourself a little bit and knowing where your problems are, how to bounce back from a bad game, how to also stop the bleeding during a game, those kind of things.
Like I said in that other question, I think that’s our biggest thing now. I think that’s the biggest thing with coaching. I always felt like I had a pretty good finger on the pulse of our guys. I need to do a better job of that. I need to figure out what our personality is.
What we did good last year, the things that we did well against the Rams two years ago, didn’t necessarily carry over to this year. Every year is going to be different. You’re going to have a different personality, things that you’re really good at, things that maybe you thought you were going to be good at that you aren’t.
I think that’s probably more of a hallmark of coaching rather than scribbling on a piece of paper and coming up with a blitz or coverage scheme that does something. It’s more on a personal level, more on a human level.
Q. Speaking of the red zone, seven of nine the other team is so far in touchdowns. You were kind of a middle-of-the-pack team last year. Drifted down a bit into that range. Now you’re really at the bottom. What is causing that drift? What’s not being done as well as it was a few years ago? (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I think any time you’re talking about the red zone, the first thing is stopping the run. Traditionally the teams that are the best in the red zone on offense are teams that can run the ball. Traditionally the teams that are best on defense are teams that can stop the run. Both of those things have correlated with us over the years.
We have a very good track record of being good in the red zone. The field is short. It’s hard to throw the ball into some of those windows. We do a good job of closing those down, matching up the pick routes. Haven’t been picked down there much.
I think probably the biggest thing is leaking too much in the run game. We’ve had the ball run across our goal line way too much. Defenses take pride in a lot of things, but number one is their physicality and getting runs stopped.
If we can stop the run, it allows a lot of those other things to play. We definitely have to get back on track with our red zone defense. You guys know, I don’t really care about a lot of stats, I care about points allowed, takeaways, red zone third down, and stopping the run in order to have that physicality and being able to control the game.
What’s been good for us in the past has not been good for us right now. It’s up to us to figure out what our formula is and get back to those things because they’re all key.
Q. Is part of the evaluation process figuring out which personnel needs to be on the field? Does that mean you could make some switches in personnel? Are you taking this one solely as execution? (Mike Kaye)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Execution is defensive coordinator. I mean, make no bones about where I’m pointing the finger on this one because it’s my job to put them in those better positions.
I mentioned Brandon Graham. Brandon is an outstanding backside run defender. When he started worrying about the boot too much, we started gashing at runs. It’s my job to narrow his focus a little bit more.
I think right now I’m not thinking about different personnel, I’m thinking about getting the guys we have executing better. I think that’s my job. That’s our coaching staff’s job.
Players play, coaches coach. I think we can help that execution with a better effort from the coaches.