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Transcript: Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo

Eric from BBI : Admin : 9/17/2015 5:09 pm
Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo

September 17, 2015

Howís everybody doing? Let me just say this really quick, then Iíll let you fire away. Itís hard on a Thursday to go back to Sunday, but I know youíll probably all have questions on that. Look, Iíll tell you this, I was very, very proud of the way the defense played. None of us felt like we came away with anything, because the bottom line is winning the game. But I certainly felt like we gained a lot in regards to finding out a little bit about who we are and what we can do and how we can play, and what we can be about. So I think thereís something to build on there and I let the guys know that on Monday morning. Unfortunately, we donít have anything to show for it because we didnít win the game. This is a team sport. Having said that, Iíll open it up now. Those are just my quick thoughts on the Dallas game.

Q: Was there a playeróa Landon Collins or a more unproven player, not necessarily DRC or Prince, who really showed you something where you said, ďThatís a component we actually have that I wasnít so sure of two, three weeks ago?Ē

A: I donít know that I could pick out a specific guy. But I had the feeling during the game that this group cared passionately about what they were doing. Weíve talked all training camp long about how we would chase perfection, but rely on relentless. And I felt like they were giving us that. I think if you get that, I can work with that any time, I really can. Not everything is going to go our way during the game. Thatís a good football team we played, I think everybody recognizes that. Thatís a good offensive line. Thatís a really good quarterback. And some really good receivers. I know Dez got hurt a little bit there at the end. So it was a really good test for us. I did like the way the guys approached it, I liked the way we came out early in the game. When itís all said and done, the stats donít look good, but I felt like we played fairly decent. What weíd like to have back, obviously, is the first drive of the second half and the last two.

Q: With Dez, obviously you mentioned Dez, that last drive I donít know if you guys were aware of his availability because we certainly werenítówhether he was going to be in or out. In hindsight, would you have done anything differently coverage wise, knowing he was not on the field?

A: Well, I knew he wasnít on the field.

Q: But that he was not coming on the field?

A: I kept asking, ďWhereís 88? Is he in there?Ē So I was aware, we were all aware of it. And even going out, because there were coverages in the game plan to take him away. When we were on the sidelineóI canít remember exactly when he got hurt and when he wasnít coming back. But I remember us saying, ďHeís not in now. Okay, weíre not going to run that coverage, so weíre going to go to this or do that.Ē I wouldnít have done too much different. Look, I think it still sticks right here and everywhere that we werenít able to close the game, regardless of what happened before that. Thatís our job to go out there and stop them. In my mind, I was trying to make the conscious decision of, do we do this or do we do that? Iím not going to go real deep into it, because weíre playing Atlanta, so Iím not going to go real deep into what we do in two-minute. But we made a conscious decision that could have went one way or the other, but some of it was based on how Tony Romo was handling us prior to thatówhat we could and couldnít do. And he made one more play at the end than we did. How much time was left? I was thinking we had two more plays: the one they scored on and one more. If we could defend the goal line on those two plays, I felt like we were going to win the game.

Q: How do you look at the fact that Romo, I think, was hit once?

A: Yeah. Weíve got to get to the quarterback more, no question about that. How do you do it? Weíll try to figure it out. Again, I thought their O-Line did really well. He does a really good job. If you go back and look at the pressures we did bring, his hard count got us in trouble. We gave some things away early, he put the protection where it should be. And look, thereís a lot of other bullets we could have went to the game with, but youíve got to make the decision. When youíre sitting here right before the game, ďDo I put too much in and paralyze them a little bit with all the thinking or can we win with what weíve got?Ē Well, our guys played well enough to win. But there were other things we can have to offset what Tony was doing. But heís good, heís a good football player.

Q: If you look at what they did, it seemed like you got burned more on the underneath stuff than anything over the top. Is that something that youíve got to defend better?

A: Iím better off with thatóor weíre better off with that, than the other way. We did talk extensively during the week about keeping all receivers inside and in front. We were going to try not to let Dez wreck the game, because he can wreck a game. So I felt we accomplished that. And we werenít letting balls go over our head, which I think is good. Anytime you can do that, I think you can be in the game. What that means is youíve got to play really good in the red zone. We played good a couple series, we didnít get it done in the end. Then youíve got to find someone to make a play. Look, the three turnovers helped, thank God we had those. I think thatís a credit to the way guys played. They were around the football and we came up with it.

Q: You see what you have at cornerback, is that the strength of your defense? Do you sort of have to build around that?

A: I agree with that. And weíll do more of that. Weíll pick and choose our coverages because of that. Itís funny you say that, I was just in there with Dominique and Prince talking about that. I watched their last yearís Atlanta game, I thought they played pretty well.

Q: What experiences have you had with Julio Jones?

A: A number of them. Two games in 2012. Iím trying to remember where else, I know thereís another one in there somewhere. He sat in my office in St. Louis when he was getting ready for the draft. I was like, ďWeíve got to find a way to get this guy.Ē But then there was no way when Atlanta jumped up for whatever they gave up. Look, heís as impressive a guy as Iíve ever sat and talked to. Iím talking about as a person, a football player, how smart he was, his goals, his vision, the whole thing. He was impressive.

Q: On the field, physically, how does Julio differ from Dez?

A: Good question. Similar in size. I donít know that. Very, very similar. Big guys, they can run, competitive guys. They want the ball in critical times in the game. Very similar. Very similar.

Q: Have you lost any, I donít know if confidence is the word, but Iíll use it, in being able to get a pass rush with four guys?

A: No. Iíll tell you, one of the things that did happen, and youíll go back, youíll look at itóit was either 11 or 13 third downs, I canít remember what it was. And nine of them were under five. Those are tough downs. The other thing that Tony was doing, he was getting the ball out quick. When itís 3rd and 3, 3rd and 4, 3rd and 5, the ball comes out quick because heís just trying to get a first down. I think that had a little bit to do with it. So what does that go back to? That goes back to first and second down. The rushing yardage wasnít real high overall, but it was five and six, but it wasnít 10 and 12 and 15. There was one 15-yard run. I think that added to it, the fact that the third downs were very manageable for them. Iím sure thatís what they were trying to do, thatís what every offense tries to do, and they did a good job of it.

Q: Is there more youíll want to do schematically or is it guys winning battles that it boils down to?

A: Itís probably a little bit of both, yeah, little bit of both.

Q: Because you were playing Dallas, do you have to go with maybe a bigger lineup and less nickel, less pass rush packages?

A: Thereís some truth to that. There may be some teams we play that get four wides out, and they donít get as big with tight ends. But itís a matchup game, thatís what the NFL is all about. Typically weíll try to match what they put out there.

Q: Is Jasper Brinkley ready to go on defense?

A: Heís getting there, yeah. Itís a lot of catching up to do. What happens now is there really is not a lot of practice time. I mean you say somebody is here two weeks, but itís four practices, thatís not a lot. And weíre really trying to get other guys ready, so heís not really getting that many reps. But Iíll tell you what, heís a pro, heís a good football player. When we got him, I had texted Leslie Frazier whoís a good friend of mine. He had him in Minnesota, he thought the world of him, and he was right. Jasper is good.

Q: How much difference would Jon Beason mean to this defense if you had him?

A: Well anytime you lose a good football player that helps and his leadership, and is vocal. You know Uani, I thought Uani did a great job. Talk about production, for a young guy going in there. I wish we would have won the game, I think he would have had a chance to get one of the weekly awards that go around the league because he played that well. But losing Jon, we lose that guy who can go out there and maybe offset what Tonyís doing in the middle of a down.

Q: How about Nix in case Kuhn canít go?

A: Louis Nix?

Q: Heís been here less thanó

A: He hasnít been here as long, but playing D-Tackle isnít quite as complicated as playing linebacker. But weíll see where it is when we get to the end of the week and Coach decides whoís up and whoís down. Iím glad we got him with Markus being hurt now. Markus, heís been a strength with everything weíve been doing from training camp. Itís kind of sad that he got nicked there, but weíll get him back.

Q: Are you optimistic with Beason from what you saw today?

A: I think so, yeah. I just can go off of him and what the trainers say. Right now with this game facing us, weíll see where weíre at, at the end of the week. But weíre hoping to get him back.
Eric from BBI : Admin : 9/17/2015 6:17 pm : link
is a really good interview.
Eric from BBI : Admin : 9/17/2015 6:22 pm : link
no questions about Unga in coverage.
I think the most damning thing that Spags said ....  
Manny in CA : 9/17/2015 7:06 pm : link
Was his conclusion about the need to switch coverage styles when Dez went out ...

His replacement (Terrance Williams), not Bryant's equal but very similar, made us pay right-away. It's almost like the whole defense sighed a sigh of relief - THAT was the beginning of the end.

Knowing full-well that Dallas was in a two minute drill, with a gob full of yards to traverse and our D-line not able to pressure Romo, he didn't take Unga out and let him be exploited by speed guys - NO excuse for that.

Spags' been around, he knows what to do - go to three safeties. They don't have the time to run the ball.

I love that Steve is here, but I'm sad to say - I'm really disappointed in him, right now.

What I'm saying ....  
Manny in CA : 9/17/2015 7:16 pm : link
Use SAME defense that's been working all night (to take away Williams, best player on the field at THAT time) ...

Only "fix" necessary at the point was to get Unga off the field. At that point with time running out and the offense desperate your most important asset is speed.
Everytime they showed Spags  
Tom from LI : 9/17/2015 7:45 pm : link
on the sideline he was coaching.. and more coaching and even more coaching.

I am not saying that never happened with Perry, maybe he wasn't as animated but there is something reassuring when you see your coordinator out there coaching it up with the guys.

I have no doubt they will get it together..

And the other thing with Romo changing protection. I told my son's that the D is declaring blitz too soon and not backing out. Albeit Romo was moving protections and that was causing him to snap at 0 or close to it.

Growing pains.. that's all.
Being a protege' of Jim Johnson ....  
Manny in CA : 9/17/2015 11:41 pm : link
Nothing wrong with that, per-sa', but ....

He's just too predictable with his blitzes in the Red Zone, just like Johnson used to do with the Eagles.

With most of the linebackers crowding the L.O.S., it was easy to loft an easy pass to Witten at the goal line (with the inexperienced Unga backing away from him).

It was hard seeing Tony Romo snickering while his team-mates patted him on the back ..

- The Cat that ate the Canary -

So, I guess I'm saying the same thing, Tom ...  
Manny in CA : 9/17/2015 11:46 pm : link
Good observation.
Glass half full.  
CT Charlie : 9/18/2015 7:31 am : link
I'm guessing Spags learned a whole lot from the loss, and I think it'll be a help. This was his first game with this group -- starters facing starters -- so I'll give him a pass.
That is a good interview  
gidiefor : Mod : 9/18/2015 7:44 am : link
and very cogent -- and expresses a few points I've been trying to make to all you bellyachers this week : )
I almost think Dez going out hurt us  
nicky43 : 9/18/2015 8:19 am : link
We had a decent plan to protect against Dez but when he went out so did that plan and maybe we needed a better plan B.
So basically,  
Curtis in VA : 9/18/2015 8:26 am : link
they played vanilla defense because Spags didn't want to paralyze them with too much information (shades of 2007) and Unai (poor kid) did in fact get owned by Tony Romo.

Having Beason in there to counter Romo might have made a really big difference.
Somewhat off topic - how does the sideline know when a player  
jcn56 : 9/18/2015 8:27 am : link
has left the game injured? With Dez, did the Cowboys need to report the player's status officially somehow? Or does Spags basically learn he's not coming back at the same time we do, from the TV broadcast (not directly, obviously)?
Romo owned the ENTIRE Giants defense ....  
Manny in CA : 9/18/2015 11:48 am : link
On the filed, and the coaching staff on our sideline.

It's hard not to feel like Dennis Green did, back when (we let them off the hook) ...
Off topic also but  
mrvax : 9/18/2015 12:00 pm : link
how does the Cowboys game clock manager manage to totally get away with clock massaging? That's at least 2 games where the clock was slowed down to favor the Cowboys and it was quite obvious.

Has anyone else seen a few Romo snaps that got off at -1 seconds?

RE: Off topic also but  
rickrossa : 9/18/2015 5:04 pm : link
In comment 12489804 mrvax said:
how does the Cowboys game clock manager manage to totally get away with clock massaging? That's at least 2 games where the clock was slowed down to favor the Cowboys and it was quite obvious.

Has anyone else seen a few Romo snaps that got off at -1 seconds?

There were at least 5 of them but the official go by there own clock which should by synched with the game clock on the field but it is not always exact.
RE: surprised  
Randy in CT : 9/18/2015 5:09 pm : link
In comment 12488608 Eric from BBI said:
no questions about Unga in coverage.
Meaning Unga's INT?
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