Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: That was a good team win. That was a quality team we played against, very talented, very well-coached. Give a lot of credit to those guys. They played very balanced as a team. Think (Raiders Interim Head Coach) Richie (Rich Bisaccia) is doing a phenomenal job coaching these guys. I think he's doing a really good job of keeping these guys within the situations, competitive and active in every game. Thought their plan to come out and how they were able to move the ball – there were some things we had to adjust to as a team. Thought (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat (Graham) and his staff did a nice job adjusting to what they were doing offensively. I thought (Special Teams Coordinator) T-Mac (Thomas McGaughey) on the kicking game was able to make some adjustments throughout the game, give us some plays down the stretch. Thought (Offensive Coordinator) Jason (Garrett) and his staff did a good job throughout the game in terms of using some personnel, different adjustments and some different things. I was proud of the way the team responded this week to a lot of things. It was a short week. There were a lot of things – coming off of a short week, the deals we had with the COVID stuff, guys in and out of the building, so I was very proud of the way the team came out and responded and prepared to whatever we got thrown his week. That was a good, well-earned team victory. With that being said, I'll open up to any questions you guys have.
Q: Obviously, every game is important, but how much more important is it for the psyche of this team heading into the bye week?
A: I say it all the time, every game is important. In terms of the psyche, I think I would bring that back to the truth of what's on tape. We talk all the time, this was a very good team we played today. We know when we play our best, when we play the way we're capable of, we don't do things that eliminate our opportunities to have success, we know that we're a good team, too. We just can't do things that remove opportunities to have success. There's a very small margin of error in this league. In terms of our psyche, our guys come back to work every week. When you turn the tape on and you can show them the evidence of what they're doing well and the evidence of what we have to go ahead and correct and what our plan is to fix it, that to me is what brings the psyche in the mode it's got to be in. When someone shows you on tape the truth of 'this is what you are as a team – don't worry about anything on the outside and what they're saying, don't worry about any opinion or whatever it may be.' You look at the tape, you see what it is and let's build on what we do well, let's correct what we have to do better and let's keep moving forward as a team. I've seen a lot of things in terms of our players. They've responded well to a lot of situations thrown their way and they've done a good job as a team sticking together and improving on a weekly basis.
Q: How hard was this week for (Safety Xavier) Zay (McKinney) that he had to go through testing and then to come through with the two interceptions?
A: He pulled his best Ferris Bueller this week, didn't have to show up for work and had a career type of game. He did a good job staying prepared, was in all the Zoom meetings and all that stuff. Not speaking for Zay, but you could see the frustration level throughout the week – if he's in the Zoom meeting, the team's on the field practicing, he's not able to be active and involved, you're kind of one foot in in terms of am I going to be able to play. Obviously, when he got cleared, that was big for us as a team. This guy went out there, he had a good day preparing on Friday, there was a lot of things he had to get in. That was really the first day of him moving around since the Kansas City game – on Friday – so we get in there and for him to go out there and really kind of get a different workload than a lot of other guys on the team to get his body back and moving, then to get his first reps from a scheme standpoint and an adjustment standpoint, he did a very nice job staying engaged, staying ready, preparing. We had a number of other guys on the team – there were a lot of floating pieces this week. There was a large element when we start talking about the actives for the game, the inactives, who's going to be available, who's going to be maybe be a COVID flex. We went into this week truly with everyone has to be ready, and we say that all the time. This week was one of those deals where – normally, we're able to talk through some of the inactives early in the week, anticipating. Maybe it's through possible injury or game plan having to play something. This was a week I had to look the coaches in the eye in the staff meeting early in the week and say, 'Hey guys, just have them all ready. When we figure this out in terms of who's going to be available, we'll figure it out. But have them all ready.' And I think Zay was in that crew of obviously staying ready, doing a good job preparing, and obviously came out today and did his job well and made a lot of plays for us.
Q: You talk about how they responded. What does it tell you about the type of team you have from the way they responded this week with all the stuff?
A: A lot of things just kind of reaffirm all the things I've known about them all along. We have a very resilient team, we have a very mentally tough team. To me, the most complimentary word you can use for any group of people is 'team,' and they stick together and they work together. They challenge each other, they come back, they respond. They come back after tough losses. You can sit there and you can lick your wounds or you can look forward and say, 'What do we have to do to be successful this week?' The ball is going to kick off today at one o'clock regardless of what happened last week, so we couldn't dwell on what happened on Monday night. We can't dwell on any previous game, success or failure in those games. The team really just shows up and works hard every day, they work with a good attitude, they accept the challenges that we throw their way, they embrace the challenges other teams are going to give them and they keep moving forward.
Q: Can you talk about your running game, what (Running Back Devontae) Booker gave you and then also when (Fullback) Eli (Penny) had to go in there with Booker being hurt?
A: I think both backs did a good job today. I thought Book and Eli both ran strong with good ball security. This is a team we talked all week about (how) they're a very effective team at punching the ball away from you and stripping the ball from you, and you see a lot of examples of those guys holding you up going for the strip out of the pile. Even on our kickoff returns, same thing. They were definitely looking for the turnovers and that's the way Richie coaches. They do a very good job of understanding the fundamentals of the game, what really makes the biggest impact and that's the turnovers, the penalties, the mental errors. So, we knew going into this game that that was going to be a big part. We had to make sure that we had very good ball security, we didn't give them any extra opportunities and we had to make sure that we were able to capitalize on the opportunities they gave us. In terms of the running game specifically, the offensive line did a very nice job moving the ball. They've got a really good defensive front, they really do there. A penetrating front, they're very disruptive getting up the field. You have to deal with an element of size and speed. They're very long, they play with good extension. This team does a very good job disrupting your running game. I thought the game plan we put together this week – the offensive staff did a good job of seeing what we do well and what we can match up against them in terms of where other teams had success. Thought they found the right formula with that. We also left enough flexibility in the game plan – we always do, but this week especially not knowing who was going to be available – that as we lost (Tight End) Kaden (Smith) in the game, you saw a lot more of (Offensive Lineman Korey) Cunningham playing that kind of jumbo tight end and create some situations that we could run through favorable looks and create situations that we wanted to see, certain looks on the field from their defense.
Q: What's the difference in this defense the last three weeks? You look way more the last three weeks like you did last year, whereas early in the season you didn't.
A: I see the team as a whole, but directly on your question about the defense, I just see guys improving. When you talk about what helps you improve, to me you just keep it simple (and) go back to what's really important in this game. It's fundamentals. You go back to playing with good zone vision, good man leverage, good breaks on the ball, good footing, good anticipation, not having bad penalties within the game. We've got to keep playing with better pre-snap focus and post-snap execution. We've got to keep doing a good job of that, but in terms of this defense and why they're improving in terms of doing it, to me it comes back to just how they stay committed to working every week. One thing I've seen is a lot of situational improvements – red zone defense improving throughout the season, the two-minute defense improving throughout the season, finding different ways of creating pressure or if you're not getting a lot of pressure, having coverage combinations to change it up. The other thing too is these guys are really learning how to communicate and work and play next to each other. Pat had a couple of calls that he literally drew up in the sand. We talked about it last night in the staff meeting – whatever we've got to do. We understand with this team as an offense, defense, kicking game (that) if you've got to make an adjustment, get it. I don't want to come out of this game and say if we could only get to this call, it would have helped us. Pat and his staff sat there, they drew up a couple calls on the sideline, guys understood the fundamentals of how to play it, communicated well and they were able to make some plays on it. That was big for us.
Q: You came into this game with only two running backs, one halfback and one fullback. When Booker goes down, in the back of your head, were you thinking 'Oh boy, now we've only got one fullback'?
A: Well, (Fullback) Cullen (Gillaspia) can play as well, too. Cullen Gillaspia works all the time in practice, he's played for us in preseason, as far as scrimmage stuff. This guy can play, too. Everybody is accountable to be productive at their position. In terms of coming into this game, we came in with three backs -- Booker, Penny and Cullen -- and they were all ready to go.
Q: The fact that when you were going to run, (Fullback) Eli (Penny) was the only back there running and he gets 21 yards on two carries when everyone knows it's coming, how satisfying is that when you can do that with that kind of scenario?
A: It shows to me that we're becoming a balanced team. Balanced teams can run when they have to run and throw when they have to throw, and that was a situation in the game where we had to go ahead and run and run as much time off the clock, be productive moving the ball and try to keep their offense off the field. It became obvious in that situation – not that we didn't throw, we did throw it – but it became more of a primary. You want to run the ball and be productive moving the ball. I think Eli did a good job as far as breaking tackles and extending the offensive line. The tight ends did a good job as far as getting it going and making the blocks and moving them off the line of scrimmage to take advantage of it. I say it all the time, we have confidence in all of our players, we really do. I don't blink no matter who's in the game. When they come over and they tell me Booker's down, my thought process is 'Is he OK'. I'm never worried about 'Oh no, he's out. Who's in?' To me it's, 'Okay, they all prepare. If they're at the game, they should be prepared.'
Q: You mentioned Pat drawing defensive plays in the dirt, were any of those on that last drive?
Q: Anything in particular that you can mention?
A: I'm not going to go too specific into it, but he had a couple calls that he made adjustments on the bench before we go out there on that last drive. You talk about the guy that's killing us was (Raiders Tight End Darren) Waller. That guy is a good player. They were finding this guy down the field in the seams and all that stuff. He's a big target and he's got good hands and he's very fast and athletic. Obviously, (Raiders Wide Receiver Hunter) Renfrow early in the game, too. I mean those two guys, they're an issue to deal with. You start tying in the backs and you've got to focus on 83 and 13 and Richie did a good job with (Raiders Offensive Coordinator) Greg (Olson) and those guys obviously making the adjustments and (Raiders Quarterback Derek) Carr finding the backs underneath. They kind of created the handoff just through the checkdowns.
Q: This is a quick follow up, you guys have obviously had some difficulties in the fourth quarter this year. What did you think about that last defensive stand? That's a pretty stressful time.
A: That was obviously a big part of the game to end the game that way and end it with a turnover. I'm always talking through the scenarios, so as that's happening, I'm clicking back and forth talking to Jason, 'Okay Jason, we're going to use a timeout coming up here, just be thinking about it if we're down. Is it a tie game? Are we down by one if they go for two and we've got two timeouts? So, think about getting in range for a field goal. Let's think about what we need. Start going through the menu.' I'm clicking back over to the defense, 'Okay, what are we thinking here?' One of them we wanted to call a timeout based on seeing what they were going to do, so I used that timeout in that instance to make sure we had an understanding of offensively what they were looking for out of that personnel grouping, what they want schematically that matches with and that was something that matched up into what Pat was kind of drawing up on the sideline. So, we had kind of a new call, a new personnel grouping from them and we wanted to make sure we were on the same page and it ended up being productive for us overall.
Q: What have you seen from (Linebacker Quincy) Roche? Obviously, he's come on in the last couple of weeks, but that final play from your eyes, did you see the play as it was happening?
A: Yeah, I could see him kind of making his way and getting through the block and getting to him, but I'd say this guy just works hard. He's a guy that when you watch his tape coming out, we liked him. Obviously, we didn't get him. He was drafted and went to Pittsburgh, but we were able to get him through the 53 cut, so that was something that when it happened was very good for us. I see a guy who works hard. He's got a high motor and he's really learning the game. He's got a skillset, like all these young guys do, but all these rookies are really, truly learning the game. When you start talking about the pass rushers on the edge, you look at these guys throughout the league, throughout just time, it takes these guys a little while to get caught up. There's a big difference between playing against the tackles and the protections in the NFL versus college. It's just the reality is it's very different. Every one of those tackles, they're big, they're long, they're more athletic. They play with better anticipation. Normally, it's tough to get these guys off the spot and just go ahead and walk across their face, so you have to have what's your main move? What's your change up? What can you go to in the situation? But he's done a good job being productive for us. He's made some plays in the run game. He's made some plays on some pass rushes. He's doing a decent job for us in the kicking game. Like every player, there's a lot of things he has to keep developing. This will be a good week for him in terms of coming off and having a couple of days this bye week of getting a better understanding of some things as we get through this stretch of the season, but I see an improving player.
Q: (Wide Receiver) Kadarius Toney didn't get a target until I believe the third quarter. You tried a couple gadget plays early, but why was it so difficult to get him involved in the passing game?
A: We want to get all of our receivers involved. Honestly, they did a good job taking these guys away at different times. A large part of our game plan today, obviously, was turning to the run game. We were running the ball very productively. We were moving the ball. KT made a big play for us getting a first down down the stretch right there. That was big play for us. (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay) made a couple of big catches for us as far as moving the ball. But again, we're going to kind of go through the game plan and take what the defense presents us, and we had the opportunity today to get the run game going. I'm not sure the exact statistics all the way, but we had some good production in that and it was beneficial.
Q: Is Kadarius limited physically at all at this point? I mean, he had the ankle recently.
A: Everybody in the National Football League has something at this point. In terms of that 100 percent, once camp starts, no one's 100 percent for the duration of the season. I won't go specifically into what it is. Obviously, he was medically cleared to go out there and play. I think KT's a guy that plays through a lot of things. He's a tough dude. He plays through a lot of things. He doesn't ever use that as an excuse, and we don't either.
Q: Did you get an explanation for the first quarter unsportsmanlike on the punt and what was the explanation?
A: I don't know exactly what they saw. I'll look at the tape myself, but it didn't look like he went to the head area. I think (Cornerback) Keion (Crossen), he just explained to us that he saw (Wide Receiver Pharoh Cooper) Coop coming up the field, made a missed tackle, he stuck his foot in the ground and looked like he went up to what we call it, 'next level' and make the play on the person in front of you and the thing creased and got going. I don't know if he even knew at that time it was the punter. We're not going to take cheap shots on anybody – quarterbacks, specialists or whatever it is. But at the same time, if it's an interception or it's a return and there's somebody in the way where we're going to run the ball, you've got to block them and open up that seam. I have not seen the tape. I caught a bit of it out of the corner of my eye. I'm going to take a look at it right there and if it's anything that we have to correct, we'll correct.
Q: Big-picture-wise, this is around the time last year where you guys started putting it together. You talked about eliminating mistakes, big-picture when you look at this team, you see some similarities as you've won two of three and when you started to win four straight last year. Do you see some similarities big-picture-wise?
A: I think it's easy to draw parallels between a lot of different situations that we've all been through in the past. This is its own team. It's a completely unique and different team than last year. The important thing for us is to just keep improving and playing better ball every week. I say all the time, the goal is to be the best team you can possibly be at the end of the season and I see us improving week by week. We've got to keep on that trend and make sure we come back and get as healthy as we can and get rest over this next week. But then also at the same time, take advantage of the time we have to improve going forward and then we've got a tough stretch coming up, so we've got to come back ready to play our best football.