Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan
January 5, 2017
Q: How much advantage can you take knowing their defensive secondary is banged up and guys are playing out of position?
A: The first thing that we see, and the first thing we think of with that defense, is the fact that they've got 40 sacks. They're sixth in the league with 40 sacks and in the past four games, all important games for them, that put them in position, they have 13 takeaways. So they're doing a lot of good things that whoever is in whatever role they decide, we know that they're going to be ready to play. I think it really all starts with what they have upfront, their ability to get to the quarterback, and they've been doing a great job taking the ball away from the offense.
Q: On Marshall Newhouse.
A: Marshall stepped in, did a great job. We've got both guys ready to play, but I'll let Ben McAdoo address the injury report and all those types of things, but we're definitely pleased with things that he did and a lot of things that whole offensive line did last week.
Q: Do you believe there's a formula to win a playoff game on the road?
A: I think it all starts with taking care of the football. It's something that seems cliché or tripe but really, you talk about all throughout the year, but the one thing with the NFL, with the playoffs, it's not a seven games series, it's not a five game series. Any of the struggles that have happened throughout the course of the season, as well as any of the success through the course of the season all go out the window; you've just got to win that one game and you have to make the most of every opportunity, every position. So, the number one focus for us from an offensive standpoint, on the road, against any opponent, certainly a great one like Green Bay, is to take care of the football. That's got to be paramount and it all starts with that.
Q: What do you think is the biggest difference in the offense now compared to week 5 when you played Green Bay?
A: I think we've made some progress running the football. We're really excited about a lot of the things that happened, particularly last week, in a game where the opponent had to win to get in, and to be able to have 40 rushes and put up those type of yards and not have any negative rushes is something that gives us the type of confidence and momentum that I think you need. Whether it's, certainly we don't expect it to be 75 degrees and sunny there in Wisconsin on Sunday, and to be able to have an all-weather type of offense and do those type of things is going to be something that we need to rely upon.
Q: How much better do you feel now about the running game than you did three or four weeks ago?
A: It's continued to improved, we've seen flashes where we've made progress, it's been steady. I think to really put it all together like last week is something that I think everybody, and I say everybody, you initially would think the offensive linemen, think the runners, the tight ends, the receivers did a good job on the perimeter, helping trying to finish blocks and showed a willingness to put their faces in there and get on their man. I think they all know that, that also opens up some of the play action passes, some of the fake passes and so forth. To have that type of consistency in an important game, a final game, one in which we treated as such as that we wanted to go down there and be at our best and win, I think it is something that we feel good about and can hopefully carry that momentum into the postseason.
Q: Has Paul Perkins separated himself from the pack?
A: Paul did a great job, I mean he did a phenomenal job, made some guys miss. He's done some of the things that we've seen throughout the season; whether it's being able to make guys miss or break arm tackles. I think Rashad Jennings did a lot of good things as well. You look at him picking his feet up there, the touchdown run that he had, the two guys complement each other. Bobby Rainey gets called into action in terms of some of the two minute, 3rd-down situations, and so we feel very fortunate that we got three guys that we can count on to carry the load for us.
Q: Do you worry about Paul Perkins, rookie aspect, going into a playoff game?
A: I think we, and it starts with the head coach, with how Ben has addressed things with the team. We're not approaching this as the playoffs or as a wild card game, it's a game against the Green Bay Packers. A team we played earlier in the year, a team that is playing well on both sides of the football and on their special teams. So it's really been a matter of zeroing in on the preparation and going out. Had a heck of a day today, it was great to be outside. A lot of speed work. Whether it's a young guy like Perkins or Sterling Shepard, some of the other young players that we have, it really boils down to the investment that they all make throughout the course of the week, the meetings, on the practice field, that's what they're going to draw upon to go out there and play. It's still football, just going to have a little bit heightened, as we all know, intensity, energy and speed. The investment they're making this week; we feel really confident about them being able to perform at a high level on Sunday.
Q: Perkins, is he a quick decision maker?
A: I think that's a good question in terms of, do some guys have the vision and the instincts, but maybe the body doesn't move them as fast as they like. The spirit is willing but the body is weak. He does have, I think, a lot of those traits that you like, in terms of the short area quickness, the ability to put his foot in the ground and make a cut, and there's also a good instinct and vision that he has that enables him to do that. It's been a nice mixture, he’s showing improvement, and we're excited about it.
Q: Did you see those things back in training camp or have you seen more of it the more he's played?
A: The offseason was limited with him, as you know, he wasn't with us in the spring because of the core system in UCLA, and then he was behind the power curve throughout a lot of the preseason because he was just trying to play catch-up. We ask a lot of the backs, not just in terms of running the football but pass protection is a huge part of what they do. And then, getting out into the pattern as receivers. It's taken him a while, but we've all seen instances where he's shown some of the things that you mentioned, as far as having that vision, having the ability to cut, having the ability to make guys miss as well as to break some arm tackles. We're also excited about how he continues to improve, I've said this before, from a pass protection standpoint. Not just the willingness, which you have to have before you can do anything else, but also now the knowledge. He's definitely made huge strides in that area, pass protection, from the preseason.
Q: Back in week 5, Bobby Rainey led you in scrimmage yards. When you look back at that, does that seem like a different offense compared to where you guys are at the end of the season?
A: You mentioned, obviously Bobby played quite a bit. Rashad was not in a position to help us there. Paul was at a different place in terms of where his experience level was and his level of confidence and where he's playing. I think overall, we didn't run the ball very well at all in that football game. A lot of the two-high coverages, a lot of commitment to try to take Odell and the receiver out of the game and as was the case and several instances this season, our own worst enemy as far as the turnovers, as far as, ‘Okay here's a big play, and oh, there's the penalty.’ That's really the first thing that comes to mind when I think about that game, and then just as we really try to zero in and study, ‘Okay, this was their approach, what's going to be the same, what are they going to try to counter with.’ Obviously, Dom Capers is a tremendous coach, a great defensive mind, so that's really more the focus in terms of the things that we know we need to do better.
Q: Can someone like Paul Perkins have a positive impact on Rashad once Perkins gets into a groove? Can that trickle down to Rashad and other running backs?
A: I think when any player is performing well, it's contagious. It helps guys be motivated. I think it's had an effect, whether it's Rashad scoring his touchdown, you ask about Paul, some of the things he's done. That makes the receivers feel confident. They see that happen and they don't want to let him down, they want to finish their blocks. They know this is going to do some good things and of course is going to set up those play action passes. They get motivated, the line gets motivated. They're like, ‘I’m holding onto this block, and maybe it's not quite perfect, but if I can just stay on him long enough then I got a guy that's going to be able to make a play.' I think the two do feed off of each other, and Bobby Rainey. It's a very close-knit group, that position, and quite frankly, within the offense a lot of guys are really pulling together, trying to put the bad behind us, learn from our mistakes, and excited about being in the tournament.
Q: What are your recollections of that 2012 playoff game in Green Bay and what stands out?
A: I remember the 2012 game; it wasn't as cold as the 2007 one. The 2007, I can remember with Pete Giunta the secondary coach, trying to go get a cup of coffee in the morning before, it was a night game, and thinking, ‘Oh, I'm tough, I don't need to have hat,' and about 15 feet out, I didn't know if I was going to laugh or cry or throw up or pass out or whatever, it was miserable. The first thing I remember about that game you mentioned, it wasn't quite as bitterly cold. The second thing, I think, it's the playoffs, it's a great atmosphere. It's an excellent organization with a lot of history. The fans are very passionate, and they were certainly heavily favored and were playing well on all phases, and we were able to put things together at the right time. Just comes down to, like I said, win one game.
Q: What are you recollections of the Hail Mary at the end of the half?
A: I didn't see it, I was in the press box at the time and it's a long ways to get from the coaches box down and at half time, it's not like the movies, it's boom, boom, boom, you're out fast. So I literally, and it's not like you're hearing cheers, but then I heard some hooting and hollering by our guys and they said we scored a touchdown, so I didn't see it until looking at the game film after the game, I just heard about it. Was happy about that.
Q: We hear about Eli being a different quarterback in the playoffs. This week have you seen or noticed anything different with him?
A: Eli is a model of consistency and steadiness. He prepares like a true pro and puts the time in. There's no one that's going to be more focused, no one that's going to be more prepared to be at his best. He's been able to have success in those postseason games in terms of it all coming together. It's been brought up a few times, postseason Eli, regular season Eli; he's just a great competitor, he's a leader to this offense and he's working very hard. Had a great day today.
Q: Can you put your finger on why he has that success?
A: There's no specific trait or something, a magic button, and there's nothing specific that I can point to other than the fact that I think when anyone approaches their work with a level of consistency and they don't get caught up in the setbacks and they don't get caught up in the negativity, the criticism, nor do they get caught up in the praise, it's just this laser, steady focus that he has; and I would imagine being able to do that is what allows him to get the negative out of the way, and he doesn't get caught up in the positives, and be able to be at his best so hopefully that'll be the case Sunday.