Q. Obviously the offensive line played well yesterday, but you had G Sua Opeta in there for really the first time, I guess as a starter. How do you think he did when you looked at the tape? (Ed Kracz)
NICK SIRIANNI: I thought he played a really good game. He’s been there maybe not as many games last year, but in 2021, he played some big games for us, some meaningful games for us and so we had a lot of faith in him and I thought he played outstanding. Where 99 [Rams DT Aaron Donald] for L.A. lined up was a lot of times over him or [G] Landon [Dickerson]. I thought, again, just thought to hold him out of the stat sheet as far as sacks go, and then to be able to run the ball efficiently like we did, I thought he played a really good game.
Again, got a lot of faith in him. He stepped in, he’s a really powerful, powerful guy and you can see that in some of his pass sets, on some games and some stunts that were happening and just really pleased with Sua these last two games.
Q. Now that you’re through five games and especially after yesterday, what stands out about Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai’s in-game adjustments? (Dave Zangaro)
NICK SIRIANNI: Yesterday he obviously did a really good job of adjusting there. Like we talked about yesterday, they had really two drives in a two-minute drive in that first half, and so, got to some adjustments there in that second half with being the limited plays that they got in that first half, got to some adjustments. Obviously, you want to be able to see that.
It’s our job as coaches to put the players in positions to succeed, and you try like heck to do that as much as you possibly can Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but in reality, you have to do it some on Sunday as well based on how an offense or defense is attacking you. Sean has done a nice job, and that’s a group effort by the entire coaching staff over there, talking through the answers of when a certain guy like [Rams WR Cooper] Kupp is playing the way he is of what to get to and they did a nice job of getting to some of those answers.
And then, with all that being said, even though they get to the answers, a guy has to go out and execute, and again, try to do our best to put them in the best position to succeed and then it’s on the guys to execute and both were on fire yesterday there in the second half.
Q. You’re past a quarter point of the season, and there’s lessons you learn about the team, each iteration of the team. What have you learned about this current roster that you didn’t know through training camp either on or off the field? (Chris Franklin)
NICK SIRIANNI: I think, again, you just have a team that likes to have fun with each other and holds each other accountable. I think those are the things that stick out. We have won in a couple of different ways and that kind of shows the character of your team. I think you see — you guys get to see it Sunday. I get to see it Monday through Saturday, a team that really works hard and has this growth mindset. You can’t have a growth mindset and then not go out there and practice your butts off. They go together, right?
So, our practices have been intense through these first five weeks, and we’ve handled the different scenarios, right. We had a West Coast game, we had a Monday night game, we had a Thursday night game, we’ve had a one o’clock game, right.
Just understanding that every game is different, every scenario is different and controlling what you can control and our guys, I just think they have this mindset of we’re going to get better each day and control what we can control. High character, guys that love being around each other, playing for each other, don’t want to let each other down, all those things are very obvious, and guys that are having fun out there together. Those are all things that have been very obvious to me through the first five weeks.
Q. With the slot, you mentioned some of the adjustments on defense. But coming into the game, the slot plan, you sort of piecemealed it together, or was that the plan to rotate those three? (John McMullen)
NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, obviously [CB Bradley] Roby has done the most of it in his career, but we didn’t want to put him in a position where he had to play the entire game. That just wouldn’t have been fair to him with being off for the last couple weeks.
And so, there was going to be a rotation, and I thought the guys did a nice job. Again, Cooper Kupp is a really good player, and he was able to get some things going on early on, but with [CB] Eli [Ricks] and with [CB] Mario [Goodrich] and with Bradley, they did a nice job collectively of playing that game.
So, we’ll see where we are moving forward. But again, I thought all those guys did a nice job under the circumstances we were playing under.
Q. There’s not a lot of defensive tackles as rookies that do what DT Jalen Carter is doing, what has been critical in his work that is leading to this? (Tim McManus)
NICK SIRIANNI: First of all, phenomenal player who works really hard to continue to get better, and that’s been a phenomenal player through the first five weeks, right and so he’s just got to keep doing it. We saw that he was a phenomenal player in college, right. He’s had a great first five weeks. We have high hopes for him.
He has to keep proving it over and over and over again. Because if you want to be considered in the top part of this league as a football player, it’s about consistency and it’s about doing it year-in and year-out. So, he’s had a good start. He has to continue to put the work in. We know he has the talent.
We know he’s a phenomenal talent based off of what you’ve seen so far, what we’ve seen in practice, what we saw in college and now it’s his job just to continue to grow. He’s got great guys to lean on with Fletch [DT Fletcher Cox] and BG [DE Brandon Graham] on that side. He’s getting great work in practice against Landon, against [C] Jason [Kelce], against Sua, against [C/G] Cam [Jurgens]. He’s just got to continue to be on the rise. I think you’ve seen that he’s gotten a little bit better each week.
We won’t put him in Canton yet. He’s got to just keep going each and every day and getting better, and it’s about consistency. He’s got the ability to do it. He’s just got to be consistent with it, and that’s by working hard and growing each day.
Q. You have had a little bit of time to reflect on how well your coaches and your players performed in that 32-second drive and WR A.J. Brown, his toughness during that drive and the fact that he didn’t react to the penalties when he got hacked two times, could have, you know, gone off the deep end a little bit but he didn’t. He stayed within himself, and you guys pulled it off. Can you talk about that? (Al Thompson)
NICK SIRIANNI: Man, it’s really hard to score a touchdown there from that. You’re trying to get yourself into field goal range and see what happens, right. And so, we were able to get ourselves into field goal range by just a phenomenal play by [QB] Jalen [Hurts] and A.J. on that slant, and then obviously they made a mistake with the horse collar there. That put us in position to be able to play for a touchdown once we got into that position.
And then again, another good play by Jalen and A.J. to get us to the 1, and we went into the quarterback sneak after that and scored a touchdown. I think, yeah, I think A.J. did a nice job of keeping his composure. Sometimes when you get pulled down like that or interfered with, and you want that touchdown, your emotions can take over. He did a good job of keeping his composure, playing the next play and being completely under control. We needed both those plays that A.J. made to get to us that point.
And so, I can’t say enough about how well the players executed that drive. A little unconventional, right. I think that drive started with 32 seconds, and we got the first down play was a nine-yard gain and then we had an incomplete pass off of a scramble, and then we had — I think that was the next one, we hit the big one to A.J.
Even though I didn’t have a lot of time to watch that tape, I do remember the sequence of the plays. Then it went to the fade in the end zone and then to the quarterback sneak. So that was something else, how the players executed that drive. [Offensive Coordinator] Brian [Johnson] did a nice job of calling that. We tried to put ourselves as coaches in those positions as frequently as we possibly can.
That was unique. That’s a unique scenario that we were in yesterday and we did — Brian did a good job calling it. Even better job by the players executing it. And that was a big momentum swing, right. They had all the momentum after the touchdown to number 17 over there. They had all the momentum. And then we were able to flip that momentum because that was an emotional minute and a half. It was emotional being on the field and it was emotional as a fan. That was an emotional minute and a half of football; there were some really big momentum changes. We were able to get momentum going into halftime and keep that momentum for the most part for the rest of the game.
Q. Yesterday you spoke a little bit about some of the red zone inefficiencies that you faced. I know you had also mentioned that you wanted to take some time just to go back and look. Was there anything else aside from getting into those third-and-long situations that you felt like were some of the root issues of some of the inefficiency in the red zone? (Olivia Reiner)
NICK SIRIANNI: I’m always going to put us in position first as coaches that we’ve got to put them in the best positions to succeed and then the execution, right. So, there are some times where we are going to want to play calls back or some schemes back, that really, it’s schemes and play calls. Hey, maybe we should have called this in this scenario.
That’s what you have to go through as a coach; you have to be willing to just drag yourself through the mud and say, ‘hey, I wish we would have maybe had this scheme look a little bit different in this scenario or went with this scheme there.’ So, it’s not always about what the play call is at the certain time, and I’m just trying to, you know, explain this to you guys. So, it’s not only about calling the right plays in the right scenarios but it’s also about, ‘hey, was this scheme the best scheme for this defense, looking back at it.’
So that’s the evaluation you go through as a coach. So sure, we are going to want some of those things back. We’re going to want some of the execution things back. Also, when we look at it like hey, maybe we — again, we’re all in this thing together. And so that’s been the process so far is, hey, did we love this scheme here in this scenario, did we love this scheme here in this scenario and just some of the executions.
But at the end of the day, two-for-five there, again, I won’t count the last one, it was kind of a concede and there were different reasons and there were different variations of why the drive didn’t play out. I’m not saying I always do this but I’m kind of convicted in areas of like, ‘hey, with your third and two and you lose yardage, that’s tough to go in’ and then try to get a fourth and three after you’ve lost yards. I’m not saying it’s impossible but, in that scenario, I chose to kick it in that scenario after the lost yardage on a little bubble that we ran.
And so again, there’s just variations of why it’s our job to get it fixed and to be more efficient in that area like we were in other situations. We’ve been really highly efficient in two-minute situations. We’ve been highly efficient in four-minute, third down. It’s just red zone right now, we are struggling a little bit.
Again, when you’re struggling a little bit, there’s always reasons why, and it’s never just one thing. And so again our job is to get it fixed and we’re working like crazy to do that.
Q. You mentioned your dad yesterday, about his battle when he was going through the cancer and everything, what was going through your mind when all that stuff was going on and second, what do you take away from that fight that he had? (Chris Franklin)
NICK SIRIANNI: Shoot, yeah, thanks for that question. What goes through my mind when I talk about something like that is, you all know, I’m an emotional person and so it gets you a little bit emotional at first.
But one thing that my dad, man, as hard as that was, and you ask my dad, he’d say the same thing, you ask my family, they will say the same thing I’m about to say — as hard as that was as a family, and I was young, and my parents did a great job of being able to give me information that I needed at that time and keep information from me that I didn’t need at that time. As hard of a time as the cancer battle was for my family and my dad, when we look back on it, it’s something that made our family stronger, closer, knows how to fight through adversity.
Man, like so many things that I can look at as a coach and I have so many coaching mentors out there, [Former Mount Union Head Coach] Larry Kehres, [Current Panthers Head Coach] Frank Reich, my dad, my brothers, so many coaching mentors that I have out there, coaching is teaching, right, coaching is life. Like so many things that I think back like, man, I was learning things as a kid, getting ready to be a coach, based off of things that my dad taught me, right.
So, my dad doesn’t complain, ever. My dad didn’t complain through that. When he wanted to rest when he was tired going through the chemo, he went upstairs. He didn’t let us see him down. And so really, that cancer battle, you ask anybody in my family, it was good for us in the sense of we see the light — we had to go through that as a family because it made us stronger as a family and all those different things.
Another thing it taught me is my dad is the toughest son of a bitch I know. Like even now, if you ever see my dad, he’s got a drop neck, so he’s got to hold his head up to look forward because he can’t hold his head up on his own because of the muscles in his neck don’t work anymore. I’ve never heard him complain about that. So how do you get that as a man? You get that as a man through the things that you went through. My dad was tough as hell when he went through cancer and he’s tough as hell now and he’s 75 years old. And now I’m going to get emotional again.
When I’m able to wear anything like this [points to Crucial Catch hoodie], the first thing I’m thinking about is my dad and what that’s done for our family. Shoot, they have this thing in Buffalo, “Ride for Roswell.” It’s a cancer ride, a bike ride. And what was really special, I got to do that with my brothers and with my dad, this bike ride there; and everyone who survived cancer puts their hand up. And that was so cool to see my dad standing there proud, like I beat cancer and that was a cool moment for us to share.
Q. Good stuff there, Nick. Yeah, makes my question feel inconsequential, really. I want to ask you about that touchdown at the end of the first half, the quarterback sneak. It didn’t look like you were lined up like you were going to do that so-called brotherly shove thing, but the Rams called time out, and then you came back out and then you were in that formation. So I don’t know if you switched plays or if you were going to motion into it? (Ed Kracz)
NICK SIRIANNI: Maybe we were, maybe we weren’t. I’m sorry, I think I just want to keep that one for maybe late.
Q. The disparity of snaps between WR Quez Watkins and WR Olamide Zaccheaus, are you comfortable with where that is or is there a chance that we could see that gap become a little closer? (Dave Zangaro)
NICK SIRIANNI: That was our plan. [Olamide Zaccheaus] OZ has done a nice job, he really has, and he does some things really well. And one thing with Quez is sometimes Quez’s abilities aren’t always shown. Like Quez has to share the ball with a lot of guys, right and so you’re not going to see — like what Quez did in 2021, you might not see as much because we have A.J. and we have [WR] DeVonta [Smith] and we have [TE] Dallas [Goedert] and we have [RB] D’Andre [Swift], right, all these different targets. But what is unknown about Quez, what can’t ever show up on a stat sheet with Quez, is his ability to stretch the field. His speed is real. And so, there’s a lot of things that happen where maybe it’s a slant that A.J. catches where Quez clears the middle to make it a cleaner throw. So Quez’s speed brings a real factor.
And so, we were comfortable with the way that looked and I’m still comfortable with the way that looked of our snap counts yesterday. That’s a game-by-game decision. Again, very pleased with OZ and the things that he can do. And obviously like I said, Quez’s speed is something, that the defenses have to account for, and I’m sure glad we have him back playing football.