Buffalo Bills head coach and AARP spokesperson (maybe) took his turn on the speaker Wednesday afternoon, getting probed by St. Louis' media folks ... a process that isn't as painful as it sounds. The Rams head to the colder, Northern section of the Rust Belt this week for a date with Gailey's team.
The Bills are currently favored by 2.5 points, which is pretty standard for the home team hosting another five-win squad. An gutsy win over the 49ers aside, this isn't going to be a scrimmage for the Rams. Buffalo has a tough run game and a familiar quarterback who can occasionally surprise. On the other side of the ball, the Bills defense is coming to life too.
Gailey talked about all that and much, much more. Let's walk through the notes from his conference call.
Q: What kind of difficulties does preparing for a team you do not play that often present?
A: Well there are advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is we do not know a lot about them. We do not see them a lot. We do not have any familiarity with their defensive scheme or their offensive schemes. The advantage is they do not have any familiarity with us. It kind of works both ways. It is good and bad, but it is very difficult (because) you would like to have a better idea of what to expect.
Kind of an interesting take when you consider the Rams' situation of being 4-0-1 inside the all too familiar NFC West and 1-6 outside of it. That one win was Washington, a team the Rams have played every year since 2006.
Q: Your team seems to be playing better defensively. What have been some of the factors that have led to the improved defense?
A: Stopping the run. That is the one (thing). If you can stop the run and make a team somewhat one-dimensional, then you help yourself as a football team. We have given up fewer deep passes and we have stopped the run. Those two things, I do not care what defense you are, that helps you when you do not give up the deep pass and you stop the run. Then it is a dink and dunk game. That is the game you would like to be in.
What if he really said 'well, we reminded Mario Williams just how much money we paid him"? Obviously, Williams' slow start hasn't been the only problem for the Bills defense. Something else that stands out about the defense also mirrors what the Rams have done: win the turnover battle. Buffalo has a +4 turnover differential in its last three games.
Q: The Rams have RB Steven Jackson and the rookie RB Daryl Richardson. What do you see on film from those two?
A: Well first thing is you better not let Jackson get started because he is hard to tackle and hard to bring down once he gets going. We have talked to our football team about trying to not let him get free and let him get clear of the line of scrimmage because he is real trouble. He is tough enough in the line of scrimmage to tackle. Once he gets a head of steam up he is really tough to tackle. So we have talked about trying to corral him and keep him at the line of scrimmage or close to the line of scrimmage as much as possible.
Then when the other guy comes in he has speed to burn. So you have to be alert for the outside game when he is in there because he will bounce it outside and he is gone in a heartbeat. So you have to pay attention to that.
"The other guy" ... lol. It was encouraging to see the Rams stay with the run last week against the 49ers, even when it wasn't getting much in the way of yardage.
Q: What have you seen in the growth of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started his career here?
A: He threw some interceptions earlier in the year. He has got a lot of gunslinger in him. That is just his makeup. That is how he has made it to where he is. He has got that in him and you get a lot of touchdown passes, but you get some interceptions that go along with that. What we are trying to do is cut down on the interceptions, but still keep that gunslinger mode in him. That is a hard thing to do breaking a guy of that. He has done a good job of working through it. He has thrown a lot fewer interceptions in the last six games than the first six games. We have felt like his progress has been very good. I am excited to watch him play again this week. I think he brings some excitement and toughness to a football game.
He's breaking out the gunslinger moniker! He's done something right though. Fitzpatrick only has 12 interceptions this year, and unless something goes totally haywire in the next four games, he'll finish well below his league-high of 23 last season.
Q: What is it like coaching a quarterback from Harvard?
A: Well it is not something that I relate to very well (Laughs). He is really so smart it is unbelievable. I say all the time ‘He knows a lot more than I do.' I ask his opinion and we have a good give-and-take about what we need to do. He sees his picture extremely well and I try to add the big picture thought process to it. Between the two of us hopefully we come up with something that is good enough to win with.
My only question here is which radio station beat reporter asked that.
Q: Has this been RB C.J. Spiller's best season in his career and is RB Fred Jackson all healthy now?
A: Yeah (Jackson) is. He is very healthy now. C.J. (Spiller) is a dynamic back. He really is. I think he is a lot stronger than people give him credit for. He is able to run through some tackles that he was not able to run through as a rookie. He sees things a lot better. He has more patience behind his blockers now than he did when he first got here. He was trying to make everything just first cut, first thing he saw he took off and he has learned some patience. It has helped his running a great deal. We look at him and Fred as we have two really, really good backs. We are fortunate to have two great players. So we have a one-two tandem that we feel good about at any point in the game.
Spiller's the guy the Rams absolutely have to account for this week. Stick Cortland Finnegan on Stevie Johnson and make sure everyone else keeps the running lanes closed. Spiller is averaging 6.6 yards per carry this season.
Q: FS Jairus Byrd went to high school here in St. Louis. What does he bring to the game?
A: He is an extremely smart player. He is dedicated in that he studies the game and he works at it. He is a true professional and he has a great instinct about finding the football, getting to the football and making the play. I do not know how many interceptions he has got. It has to be five. He has done a great job of getting around the ball. He had an unbelievable year his rookie year and he kind of set the bar extremely high, but he is playing well again this year.
Let's help Gailey out here; it is five interceptions. Also notable is that Byrd is scheduled to be a free agent after the season, and would look absolutely fantastic in a Rams uniform. Unfortunately, the Bills are already in the early stages of contract talks.
Q: Can you coach that ball hawking instinct or does it either have to be there or not be there?
A: I think for the most part it is either there not there. A guy has instincts and he sees the field, understands the routes and can feel where a quarterback is getting ready to throw the football at. I have always had a hard time at trying to get that taught. I think it is something that a guy either understands the game or he does not understand the game.
Just ask Janoris Jenkins.
Q: Are the playoffs an incentive or is your mentality it is a one game at a time kind of deal?
A: It is both. I think you talk about it. I do not think you just do not talk about it, but at the same time I think it is one game at a time and you do the very best that you can each game. I have said you work as hard as you can work, win as many as you can win and after 12 games you stick your head up and see where you are. Then you put your head back down and you go to the end. We are past 12 games so we know where we are. We put our head back down and keep going. So yeah, we talk about it but we understand it is one game at time too.
Huh, see the parallel here with the Rams? Is your mind blown or what?
Q: You have to figure like you are right in the mix, don't you?
A: Well we have a chance. What I told our team was ‘The World Champions were 7-7 last year. Let's get to 7-7 and see what happens.' That is how I have kind of talked to our team.
Q: QB/WR Brad Smith played at Missouri. You use him in a lot of different ways, don't you?
A: Oh gosh. He is such a valuable player for us. Kick returns, kick coverage, running our Wildcat, playing wide out and he is our third quarterback on game day. He wears a lot of hats and he wears them extremely well.
Local angle. Nicely played.
Q: If you are the other team you have to prepare for all of that, don't you?
A: I hope so.
Q: So what is the weather going to be like up there?
A: It is going to be rainy, cold and maybe spitting a little snow. It is just ideal.
You think Tony Softli asked the weather question?
Q: Not ideal for a team that plays with a roof over its head, right?
A: Well I am just speaking for my team.
Ohhh, the adversity, because no football player ever has played in cold weather. Okay, that's maybe true for the ACC, but the ACC's problems go well beyond the weather.
Q: Does seeing the Rams play against teams that you are familiar with help at all?
A: A little bit. Not a lot, but a little bit. You can see how they played and how they matched up. Really you get to see match-ups as far as you know the Jets, Miami and New England very well so you get to see how they matched up with those teams and you get a feel for it. Just like I think we are a different team now than we were four or five weeks ago, I think the Rams are a different team than they were four or five weeks ago, too. I think they are playing a lot better than they were.
We kind of already hit on this question, the first one.
Q: What are your impressions of QB Sam Bradford and what are the challenges that the Rams defense presents?
A: Sam (Bradford) is a very athletic quarterback who has some gunslinger in him, too. They'll throw the ball down the field. They are averaging about seven shots a game down the field, so it really presents a challenge. You cannot sit there, squat, play the run and do those things that you would like to do versus a strong run team like them. Doing what they are doing really creates a problem for defenses. He is playing well. I think he is playing better as of late than he did early in the season. They are hitting a few of those deeper balls. They hit some and they do not hit some.
Their defense is...probably the front four is as active and as strong as we have played all season. And we have played some pretty good front fours. They get after it now. Does not matter who they put in there. They play extremely well and make it tough for pass and run for you to get anything established and get something going point wise.
The balance thing he mentions is clear. When the Rams stay committed to the run, instead of try to get cute and pass it on each and every snap, the offense does a much better job. Balance. It's a pretty simple thing really. As for the defense, what the Rams did against the Niners is actually a good sign for this game; strong play from the defensive line that lets the rangy linebackers like Dunbar and Laurinaitis do their thing.