HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
RB Tyler Ervin’s big return set the table for you guys. Is that what you’ve been hoping for all along?
“Yeah, I think that’s a big part of the formula for us if we can flip the field with special teams and really play a good field position game. In our wins, we’ve been able to do that. In our losses, we haven’t. It really helps you. So when Ervin made that return, that was big for us to have the ball on the six yard line. The other thing about it is our coverage units – Don Jones, Tyler Ervin, Stephen Anderson – they all came up with some big tackles on kickoff and on punt. That helped us too.”
How do you like the way the offensive line is playing with T Duane Brown back?
“I think Duane is playing really well, I’ll say that to start off. I think he’s having a really good season. I think overall they all played a good game yesterday. Duane, Xavier (Su’a-Filo), (Greg) Mancz - give credit to Mancz, going in there as basically a rookie playing the way he’s playing is good. I thought Jeff Allen played really well yesterday. (Chris) Clark battles every game. (Kendall) Lamm goes in there and does his job. C.J. Fiedorowicz is doing a good job. Ryan Griffin is blocking well. Jay Prosch will get a game ball because I thought he was a very good lead blocker in the game. I give all those guys credit. Whenever you rush for 180 yards, it’s not just the backs obviously. Those guys upfront are doing a good job and that was good to see yesterday.”
OLB John Simon always seems to fly under the radar but is having a great season. What did you think of his game yesterday?
“You’re right, he is kind of an unsung hero type of player. He’s a guy that personifies doing your job. He does a good job every week of just going out there and doing what he’s coached to do. (Mike) Vrabel does a good job of coaching him. John loves playing the game. He’s in here all the time. I mean, he just loves being around it. He’s tough. He’s playing banged up, which everybody’s playing banged up this time of the year, but he’s pretty banged up in a couple different areas. He’s doing a good job for us.”
What did you think of RB Akeem Hunt’s performance?
“I thought he gave us a spark and that’s what we were looking for. I thought he had earned the right to be on the 53-man roster through his play on the look team, the scout team and on the practice squad. I thought that he came in there and did a nice job for us. One of the plays that he had got called back on whatever that call was. He had a good game for us, good spark.”
Do you notice during practice that RB Akeem Hunt is very lively and dances around?
“Absolutely. He brings a lot of energy to the practice field, a lot of guys do. He’s definitely one of those guys that brings a lot of energy and he has a ton of fun playing football, whether it’s out on the practice field or playing in games.”
Is Offensive Coordinator George Godsey calling plays again?
“I’d say it’s a collaborative effort. It changes all the time. We do what’s best for the team. We really do. I’d say that yesterday George called the majority of the plays, but we’re doing it together if that makes sense. We’re talking about – not play-to-play but series-to-series – George is a very bright guy and I think it’s what’s best for the team. What I found out is you can’t just stay the same. If you think you’re doing something that’s taking you down the wrong path, then you have to fix that. That means this year, in 2016, George and I are working closely together to call the best plays we can during the game. That’s how we’re doing it.”
How hard is it to be a head coach and call plays?
“Look, I’ll just speak for myself. I can’t speak for any other head coach. I think that your job as a head football coach is to manage the game, is to really understand how the game’s being played, you know, how is your defense playing, how is your offense playing, how is it going on special teams, what is the timing of the game - whether it’s a play-clock issue from play-to-play, end of the half situation or end of the game situation. So, I think it’s really important to, obviously, be on top of that on gameday. Look, it’s not the easiest job in the world but that’s what we’re paid to do, so as head coaches we’re always trying to do the best we can.”
What’s been the difference in the run defense the last two games?
“I think that you have to give those guys, those players, a lot of credit. We’ve done a good job of setting the edge of the defense, building a wall inside against Detroit and against Jacksonville. We’ve tackled well. I think Benardrick McKinney’s played well. Brian Cushing has really controlled the middle. He’s played downhill football. I think our outside backers have done a good job of setting the edge. I think Jadeveon (Clowney) has been disruptive in there and made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage over the last two games. I think it’s a collective effort. The safeties have tackled when it’s gotten to the safeties, and that’s a good thing.”
You have five running backs on the active roster right now. I imagine it’s not easy to make a decision on who you want to have on the active roster versus sending a guy back down to the practice squad.
“Yeah, a lot factors into that. Like, you have to look at special teams. You know, when you look at (Akeem) Hunt yesterday on special teams – forget about offense, that’s pretty obvious how he played on offense because he had the ball in his hand and he made some good plays – but on special teams he was disruptive, too. He may not have shown up as much in the stats as far as having a tackle, but he was down the field – him or Don Jones were down there first, first or second, and making the returner, (Arrelious) Benn or whoever the returner was, have to make a first move before they really wanted to. So, that’s part of it too. Like, how is that guy going to factor into special teams, unless it’s an offensive or defensive lineman? The other thing we have to look at, whether it’s Jonathan Grimes or Lamar (Miller) or Alfred Blue, this is the time of year when those guys are banged up and they need a rest, they need somebody to be able to come in and play for them and help them. That was part of the decision, too.”
You guys could have kneeled the ball twice at the end of the game and you ended up running the football. Would you have done that differently?
“Yeah. So, when we converted the third down with (DeAndre) Hopkins, which was a heck of a play by Brock (Osweiler) and by Hopkins, they had one timeout left on that play and we felt like they were going to call that timeout right away. They didn’t, so we felt like, OK, they still had the timeout so we were going to run it on that first down play, and what we should have done is we were OK running it on the first down play, when they banged their timeout after that first down play we should have kneeled it on second down. That’s the mistake that I made and it won’t happen again.”
What do you think about how the Raiders are playing right now and some of the challenges that they present?
“I think they’re playing as one of the best teams in the league. I think that they’re very athletic. I think offensively just watching a lot of their film here over the last couple days, big, big offensive line. Downhill running attack. Derek Carr is playing very, very well. He’s playing good situational football. He can run. He’s got a quick release. He’s accurate. They’ve got some go to guys in the passing game with Amari Cooper and (Michael) Crabtree, (Seth) Roberts, (Andre) Holmes, the tight end. Like I said (Latavius) Murray, the back, downhill guy, so it’s a tough challenge for our defense. Offensively, our offense versus their defense, you know, they really challenge you. No yards are going to be easy. So it’s going to be a very, very challenging game for us. Give our guys a couple days off here. Come back ready to go on Wednesday and do the best we can to prepare for a very good Oakland team.”
Now that you’ve watched the tape, what do you think about NT D.J. Reader’s performance and also DE Joel Heath?
“I thought that both those guys played well. I thought that there’s always things that young players can improve upon, but to get their first extensive action like that I thought that they really showed out pretty well. They held the point pretty well. Joel Heath drew a holding call because of how he rushed the passer on a play. D.J. did a nice job, had a sack and did a nice job against the run. So that was good to see.”
Can you share some thoughts on taking the team to Mexico City and playing down there?
“We’re excited about that. I know that Mr. (Robert C.) McNair and the NFL feel strongly about international play. It’s a pretty short trip for us. We know we’re going to have a lot of fans down there, which is great for our team and our organization. I think it’ll be great to go down there and play an international game in a very, very famous stadium with a lot of tradition. I know there will be a lot of people there and we’re looking forward to it.”
Are there challenges of playing in Mexico City?
“I would say there’s challenges to every road game, you know, just because the routine is a little bit different. The challenges of going there relative to going to Jacksonville or somewhere else, other than maybe having your passport ready, it’s all pretty relative.”
Do you believe that your team is getting proper respect for being 6-3?
“I don’t really think about that too much. I think that’s an interesting question. I think that if you talk to the teams that have played us this year, I think they respect us. I think that our players work very hard. I’m a big believer in our players and I know it hasn’t always looked pretty, but we’re playing the games the way we feel we need to play them. I think the way that we won that game yesterday, I don’t care what Jacksonville’s record is. I don’t care what anybody’s record is. When you win a game in the NFL the way that we won that game, I think that’s a testament to our players and our coaching staff. If some guy in New York City or LA doesn’t respect us, like, too bad. I know that our opponents respect us and there’s a lot of hard work and tough football players in this building.”