Rams Head Coach Sean McVay – Media Availability – November 13, 2017 **
(On if there is an update on OLB Robert Quinn)
"Yeah, we're in good shape. He's set to start to return back to practice and that's a good thing for Robert (Quinn). In terms of his availability for the game, that will be something that we'll have a better idea just moving towards the latter half of the week. But, he's going to be able to be a participant – more likely in a limited role on Wednesday, but we'll have a little bit more of an update again tomorrow on some things with Robert. We came out of the game clean – some guys got banged up a little bit, but we got good news back on (OLB) Connor (Barwin) and some of those other guys that you saw – (G) Rodger (Saffold) got a good ankle sprain, but he's going to be okay and thankful for those things."
(On if the one week at a time approach gets tougher now that the team is slated to face some top teams in the next couple of weeks)
"I don't think so because I think what's important for us is to continue to even be in that company, you have to take care of it one day at a time. The way that our guys have approached every single week with that focus, that concentration – I've been very pleased with them and I think that being process driven is the right way to go about it. Our players believe in that, I know we do as a coaching staff and I think that's what's allowed us to be able to do some good things when we've played this year. We've got a great challenge ahead, just like every week in the NFL presents with just the players, the coaches, but Minnesota has done a great job. We're very excited to kind of jump into the preparation getting ready for these guys and I know our players will be excited when they come back on Wednesday as well."
(On if this game is going to be his team's toughest challenge to date)
"I think each week has presented a bunch of different challenges. We've played a bunch of different good units, a bunch of different great players. In terms of just having a little bit of history going against (Vikings Head) Coach (Mike) Zimmer, I think he does an excellent job. They present a variety of issues with their schemes and then they've got players to match as well. Just kind of starting to dive into that tape this afternoon after we finished up kind of our cleaning up the Texans game and moving towards them. Just kind of started to really get into that preparation, but I just know from going against him in years past, there's a variety of issues that come up, it's a great scheme, they've always been extremely efficient – really, that's kind of why Coach Zimmer is such a great coach. He's known similar to (Rams Defensive Coordinator) Wade (Phillips) for great defenses and he's got a lot of different things that you see other teams in the league running because of the success that really he started doing a handful of years back. It's going to be a great challenge. But, certainly you get excited to go against a great team and a great defense like this for sure."
(On what he's hoping to find out about his team this week)
"I don't know if you're hoping to find anything out, I think you're just excited about the week of preparation and watching these guys take that one day at a time and then hopefully peak on Sunday when we play Minnesota. I think these guys continue to demonstrate all the things that we talk about. Been very pleased with just where we're at as a team in terms of just their mindset, their mentality, we've got the right players in that locker room and I think it's showing right now with some of the things that we've had to overcome and some of the things that we've done a decent job with through nine games this season. But, I think this week offers just like any other week, a great opportunity for us to play another game. The challenge for us is can we go 1-0 this week?"
(On what it says about the depth of the team when guys like OLB Samson Ebukam and DB Blake Countess make big plays in games)
"It's big time. I think these guys have done a great job getting a little bit more time these last handful of weeks. Samson is a guy that continues to demonstrate why you liked him so much coming out of college – he's explosive, he can play in space, you see how quickly he closes to (Texans QB Tom) Savage when he forces that fumble. He made a handful of plays on special teams as well, a big block that sprung (WR) Pharoh (Cooper) down the sidelines, so Samson is doing a lot of really good things. Blake is a really important part of our team because of the versatility that he provides being able to play the nickel, corner, the safety position – he's excellent on (special) teams for 'Bones' (Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel). He's done a really good job and it's exciting to see those guys be able to make some plays a little bit later on in the game and it ended up being very important for us. Getting four takeaways is huge and really, since the bye, to be plus-seven because at the bye we were even and now you go plus-three against the Giants and plus-four yesterday against Houston. Those guys have done a great job and that's why they're leading the league in takeaways right now, so defense has been outstanding."
(On if there is anything that he thinks they have gotten away with that needs to be corrected moving forward)
"Yeah, I think there always is. Specifically, I think the defense has played really well, you always want to try to limit the big plays and the communication and just making sure that we're sound with our gap integrity and then some of the things that we're doing on the back end, whether it be formation adjustments. But, that's where you're always process over results driven. Specifically, just looking at yesterday from an offensive standpoint – credit to (Texans OLB/DE) Jadeveon Clowney and the Texans defense, but we put ourselves in some really bad situations on third down that hurt us. I want to say that we had a handful of third-and-11 pluses in that first half. It was hard to get some continuity going. It starts with me. I made some bad decisions with some of the selections of the play calls when we might not have been efficient on a first down – second-and-10 you're taking some negative runs or you get a first down and you run a toss crack to Clowney and it ends up being a negative-seven (yard) play or after a gain first down. That's where you look at yourself as a play caller and you say, 'Well, we didn't get into a rhythm, but did you really allow your players to get into a rhythm when you're exposing us to some negative plays like that, that probably aren't the best decisions.' They aren't the best decisions on my part when you go back and look at it. To the players credit, what we have been pleased with is that we haven't faced a whole lot of adversity the last couple games when you're talking about the Giants and the Cardinals. The way that the defense played, looking at the way that after we missed the fake punt, to see (LB) Mark Barron make that pick and then get out of that situation clean, watching the way offensively we didn't really do a lot of things and then the end of the first half, I thought represented kind of a turning point where Jared did a great job making some completions, getting us into field goal range – (K) Greg (Zuerlein) hits the field goal and then to go up 9-7 at the half, I thought was huge for us. Make a couple big plays here and there and it seems to alleviate a lot of the stress on you offensively. It's always going to be about just playing good, efficient football – always talking about turnovers and situations and those are the things that we'll continue to emphasize. Yesterday it almost hurt us, and fortunately our defense kept us in the game and then we were able to capitalize on some of those turnovers that they made."
(On if he appreciates the tactic of not announcing the starting quarterback until the end of the week)
"Sure. I think you can and they've got two good quarterbacks that are available with (Vikings QB) Teddy (Bridgewater) being available again. And then, what an impressive job (Vikings QB) Case (Keenum) has done stepping in when (Vikings QB Sam) Bradford gets hurt and playing very good football. Whether it be playing on schedule, creating off schedule, he was a guy that – he's a great competitor. He's got the ability to kind of throw off a bunch of different platforms. I think he's been a huge reason why they've been so productive offensively. I want to say yesterday he throws four touchdowns and whether it's him or Teddy, you know that you're going to be facing a very good quarterback and that offense is playing really well behind (Offensive Coordinator Pat) Coach Shurmur's leadership."
(On how much WR Pharoh Cooper has brought to the return game)
"A lot. He's done a good job. I think he's really brought a spark to our return game as a whole. He's got so much confidence that we want to be smart about some of the decisions in the kick return game, as far as when we're taking it out, when we're not. But, you look at the punt return, how consistent he's been catching it and then he's just got such a good feel, he can set up the blocks. On that one down our right sideline, he just does a really nice job of being able to kind of skinny through, set guys up. Guys are competing hard for him. It definitely takes all 11 on that unit and those guys have done really good job. (Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel) 'Bones' and (Special Teams Assistant Tyrone McKenzie) Ty set it up really well and Pharoh's been a big-time contributor. Pharoh's just a good football player. I think when the ball is in his hands good things have happened. Whether it be on offense or specifically in the return game, he's definitely brought a spark and it's been instrumental for us."
(On if he thinks he has the best special teams unit in the NFL)
"I think we've got a great special teams unit led by a great special teams coach. The goal is to always try to be the best. To say that I have a good enough feel for all 31 teams in terms of just understanding the nuances of what everything is involved in that, wouldn't be fair to make that comment. But I do know this, we sure have a lot of confidence and trust in all of our phases of special teams and the guy that's leading them and coaching them, and then the core players that we're relying on. You can see it's important to them, they play together, they're fundamentally sound and that certainly is a good thing for us to have. I definitely feel confident in our special teams, if that answers your question."
(On if there was any hesitation having QB Jared Goff drop back in the end zone and attempt a deep pass on the long touchdown to WR Robert Woods)
"What it was is, it was a similar look to kind of what they had presented when we tried to run that play earlier in the game and we jumped offsides. They did a good job of getting to some moving clock blitzes when we were kind of going tempo, speeding up the pace a little bit and we had not a great run, but a solid run that kind of got us on the hash that we wanted to be on. And it was a play that we felt good about. Certainly, you always think about those things, but I think we have a lot of confidence in our players to be able to execute in those situations and it led to – we liked the play versus the looks that we were hoping to be able to get and to the player's credit, they make you right on those decisions to be aggressive. You don't ever want to be reckless, but I think you want to be smart and we felt like that was an opportunity where they were presenting some looks on the back end that might give us a chance to go down the field and we had a play-action protection on that we felt like was going to be sound against that if everybody got their blocks. You look at what a fine line it is, (T) Rob Havenstein's urgency to be able to come back and get frontal on Clowney was what allowed Jared to take that one hitch that he needed to launch a perfect ball over the top for Robert Woods. You look at the line being able to zone off and take care of the 'WILL' linebacker rushing inside. And then (RB) Todd (Gurley II) to be able to block the corner and that's why you appreciate – it takes all 11 in this game and that play is a great example of that."
(On if he would have made that call earlier in the season or if it was a testament to his growth)
"That's a good question. To say that you have more confidence…I've always been confident and we've always had a lot of confidence in Jared – I think you probably would have. I think you certainly continue to gain confidence in him because he's playing so well and he's doing a good job of continuing to improve, but to say you wouldn't have made that decision, I think we probably would've. But, that's been a play that we've worked a lot…a similar type concept. Guys feel comfortable running that and I think it showed with their ability to execute it in what was a very important part of the game right there."
(On what he thinks it took for the defense to get right after the first couple of games)
"I think part of it is, you play some good offenses and they do some good things and I think it's continued to just get a little but more comfortable with some of the nuances of what (Defensive Coordinator) Coach Wade's (Phillips) looking for. I think what makes him such a good coach, too, is that as you get more familiar with your personnel then you're able to adjust within the framework of your system. I think you guys have heard him say this before, you don't ever make your players fit to your system, you adjust to them. That's what good coaches do. That's what Wade's done. I think when you get a guy like (DT) Aaron (Donald) that maybe wasn't here for some of the time and then you watch how impactful he is on our games and really as a whole. We had a lot of starters and they didn't get a chance to really play together a lot throughout the course of the preseason just based on trying to make a decision on what's going to be best for those guys for the regular season. To their credit when you really look at it since that Dallas second half, they've been outstanding. They're leading the league in takeaways, I want to say when you look at it since then, they're up there in all the important stats, you know the stats that really matter. But, ultimately it's about wins and then the next most important stat is takeaways and points from a defensive standpoint. They've done a really good job of keeping people out of the end zone and getting the ball back for our offense and I think that's a big reason why you see them leading the league in takeaways and then we've been fortunate to capitalize and turn that into points. I want to say we're up there in that stat as well."
(On if he thinks that RB Lance Dunbar's role can expand as the season goes on)
"I think it could. It's an interesting question. I think because of some of the struggles we had. You had 10 plays in the first quarter and you get into some of those where you're not able to really get into a rhythm and a flow. You would've liked to have gotten (WR) Tavon (Austin) a little bit more involved yesterday, that was the plan. But, just based on the flow of the game, you want to still keep (RB) Todd (Gurley) in there, get him his touches. It didn't work out like that, but what you will say is, is that Lance did a nice job closing it out in a four-minute situation. I thought he demonstrated good patience. It's a real credit to Lance, too. When you look at how much he's gone through to even get to that point where working through a tough knee injury. Plays last year, really guts through it and then coming back this year and just continuing to take it one day at a time. Very pleased for Lance. I think he'll be ready if his number is called. As far as how those games play out and kind of what our game-plan will look like against Minnesota, it's tough to say. But, with what he did yesterday – very pleased with him."
(On if he will allow himself to envision returning to U.S. Bank Stadium for Super Bowl 52)
"I don't think so. I think you know as you're asking that question. And really, what a great thing that is, but if we don't get to our eighth win then nothing else really matters and that's what's important for us right now. It's really one of the first times that you continue to say something over and over, because you hear it a lot, but what I do think is unique about our team right now is guys really believe that. You kind of just speak something into existence and you talk about it so often you almost really do put blinders on because of what a competitive, tough league this is and how humbling. Certainly, you have an awareness and an idea of what's going on. That's not to say you don't know and pay attention to the other teams in this league. But, to truly say that all that really matters for us is we're focused on Minnesota and against a great football team – how can we find a way to get to 8-2. That's the truth and I think our players feel that way. I think that's served well through nine games and I think we're going to continue to take that same approach."