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LA Rams transcripts 1/17: Head Coach Sean McVay and Def. Coordinator Wade Phillips

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Two legends weigh in on this weekends NFC Championship game

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Rams Head Coach Sean McVay, January 17, 2019

(On how the team has maintained its level of concentration getting ready for Sunday despite the distractions surrounding the game)

”I think it’s just having been in somewhat similar experiences and, really, atmospheres earlier in the year where we had to deal with some of the things that went on in the community, dealing with the fires. Our players just seamlessly adjust and adapt to whatever circumstance we have to deal with. We talked about it today. We’re not going to allow the weather to be any bit of an excuse. We felt like this was a better option and alternative than having to travel somewhere else. So, we’ll get some good work in today. I trust that guys won’t be affected by it. Even though it’s not exactly like the environment that we’ll play in, being indoors, but we’re not going allow it to be a distraction. We know we’ve got a great opportunity to play against the Saints for a conference championship and that’s solely what our focus is on.”

(On how the veteran leadership on the team factors into that)

”That’s exactly right. I think that, to me, is as strong an influence on what we do as anything is those veteran players having the ownership, having the understanding to worry about things that we can only control. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control where we’re practicing just based on where we’re at. All we can control is having a great day of preparation.”

(On the way that RB Todd Gurley II has accepted the role of RB C.J. Anderson and if he had to have a conversation with him)

”(RB) Todd (Gurley II) knows he’s a special, unique football player. I think he’s very secure in himself so that he understands that (RB) C.J. (Anderson) helps us. Really, for Todd, just getting back in the flow, being able to kind of just get his wind back and be able to have as productive of a game as he did with him having really had a month off, I think, is a large credit to Todd. But, then, also his understanding and security to be able to be supportive of C.J. If there’s one thing that you hear about Todd that I think says as much as anything, any time that he’s asked about how we’re doing or the running game, he’s always quick to give credit to everybody else. He’s definitely recognized what a good job C.J. has done to help our football team. I think when your best players have that mindset, as far as, it’s about the team and it’s about how can we best win a football game. I think knows that being able to stay fresh while he’s still our guy, but also then giving C.J. an opportunity to make some plays is best for the team right now. I think that’s a large credit to our leadership and Todd being one of those key leaders.”

(On today’s plan for practice)

”Yeah, we’ll get outside. We’re going to try to get some of that work in that we try to do with some of the fast pace, up-tempo periods. If we feel like it’s to the point where we’re not getting as much out of it, just based on the field conditions – we had a tarp over the field. So, it seems like it’s in good shape right now, but worst case scenario, we can always bump right inside to that nice, big tent that you guys see out there.”

(On if the team explored going to other locations to practice and, if so, where were they considering and how quickly did the situation to bring in the tent come together)

”Really, when we looked at what the weather was going to be last week and then when you start to explore the options, to actually think about having to go off-site and have the players leave their families and their kids – and the coaches as well – earlier, we felt like that wasn’t going to give us the reward. We wanted to be able to keep our normal rhythm and routine, even if we did have to practice in the rain. The tent was a result of once we made that decision that we weren’t going to explore any of those other options. It would have to be so far that we would have to travel. I think the most important thing is keeping our guys in a normal rhythm and a routine. If there’s one thing that they’ve demonstrated, especially as you get this late in the season, it’s that they have the ability to be able to take a lot of mental reps, maximize some of those physical reps and then have it translate to the game. You don’t take for granted the importance of those physical reps during the course of a week, but if you said we’re going to supplement that to be able to stay here, get some more mental work as opposed to picking up and traveling and going somewhere else. We just felt like that was going to be best for our team to keep it in-house here.”

(On if there is a scheduled plan on how they’re going to rotate Anderson and Gurley)

”I think it’s more of a feel than anything else based on the flow of the game. Thought (Running Backs Coach) Skip (Peete) did a great job. We want to be able to get those guys both involved, but certainly, when Todd is rolling you want to keep him rolling. I think it’s more of a result of, ‘Okay, how is the flow of the game going, certain situations that come up.’ But, you do feel good about having two very productive backs and their ability to be able to kind of spell each other. Todd is going to go and he’s going to make a lot of different plays and he’s going to get a lot of opportunities. But, I do think with Todd having played basically almost 100 percent of the time prior to taking a little bit of time off with his knee, this has provided a good opportunity for us to say, ‘Hey, you’re still our guy, but now if C.J. comes in, he’s played productive football.’ I think that’s the biggest thing that gives Todd a quieted mind when he wants to come off. He’s such a team guy that he doesn’t want to come off because he doesn’t want to feel like he’s letting anybody else down. But I think as a result of some of the production that you’ve seen from C.J., he can feel good about getting his good work in, but if he needs a blow then C.J. is coming in and doing a nice job.”

(On if he is noticing defenses lining up a certain way when Anderson is in the game that is affording them to be able to do some things off of run action)

”I wouldn’t necessarily say that. We’ve only really had one game with those guys playing together. C.J. has made some plays in the screen game. He can catch the ball. The first week he was here he made a couple big-time, one-handed snags on some routes down the sideline and stuff. So, don’t sleep on him (laughs).”

(On if there was a particular shortcoming from the first matchup with the Saints that he believed they needed to commit to focusing on the rest of the way)

”I think, really, just our ability to kind of – we fell behind. They capitalized on some of the turnovers. We ended up not converting on a fake field goal opportunity. They’re so explosive and I thought they were so efficient in the red zone, they were so efficient on third downs. I thought there was a point in time where once we came out of the half, I thought getting a field goal at the end of the half to really cut it. (K) Greg (Zuerlein) hits a big-time one with our offense operating at the end of the first half. Then, you come out and you find a way just to creep back into it and you get it to 35 all before you know it because the defense started playing really well. But, I just think when you fall behind against such an explosive team, then they can start to dictate a lot of different looks defensively. They can speed it up or slow it down on you offensively and they’re so dangerous with their special teams and some of the things they present as well. Really, it’s just a matter of falling behind and then some of those situational things that we could do a better job of.”

(On how much of a challenge it is as play caller when you’ve seen this team in Week 9 and now on a stage of this magnitude)

”It’s a great challenge because they’re a great defense. I don’t think it’s necessarily exclusive to the fact that we’ve played them already. There’s been so much inventory and so many snaps that have taken place since we’ve played them dating back, so you’ve got a lot of different things that they’ve done. There’s a lot of different things that we’ve done and it’s about figuring out, ‘Okay, what’s the best way to put our players in situations that put them in spots to succeed, that accentuate their skill sets, but also gives us answers versus the defensive structures that they’re presenting or the offensive things that we expect (Saints Head) Coach (Sean) Payton to present to (Defensive Coordinator) Wade (Phillips) and our defense.’ I think, really, it is a great challenge, but it’s because it’s a great football team we’re playing, not necessarily because we’ve played them already.”

(On what QB Jared Goff improved with from the time he was struggling a little bit)

”Sometimes it can be just the fact of a ball bouncing one way or the other. The quarterback is under such a microscope with every single thing. Sometimes if you have a game where a play that you’re aggressive, you try to fit it into a window, two of those times where it gets tipped up and they end up getting picks on those plays where sometimes they go incomplete or you fit it in there for a completion – that’s the difference in somebody being evaluated as in a slump, out of a slump. So, I think it’s such a fine line. But, what he’s done a good job of, is the consistent decision making down-in and down-out. I think the ability to distribute the ball and get a variety of play-makers involved – whatever phase of our passing game that we’re operating in. I thought he did do some really good things in the Philly game. Then, we’ve talked about, really, going back to the Chicago (Bears) game – that was a collaborative effort and it started with me there. I think everybody wants to make a big deal of the way that he was playing. But, I think it large part, it’s because he was playing at such an elite level, he almost became a victim of his own success. But, he really didn’t fall off at all. I think it was just some of those things that bounced one way or the other. Then, defensive guys made some good plays. So, he’s settled in. I think he’s done an excellent job over the last month of the season and most importantly, I think our team’s in a good place. We had a little bit of a lull there where everybody was ready to press the panic button, except for everybody in this building. I think that’s what’s a credit to our players, our coaching staff – finishing up the season in the right way. Got a little bit of momentum having played the way that we did against a great Dallas (Cowboys) football team and we’re excited about the challenge for the Conference Championship this week.”

(On each of the last 10 Conference Championship games have been won by the home team and how much of an advantage it is for the New Orleans Saints)

”It’s definitely an advantage, especially when you look at the type of atmosphere that you’re going to have in New Orleans and having been there, you have a respect for that. We’d love to be at home, but it’s a great opportunity for us to go into their place, try to play a great game and see if we can break that 10-year streak.”

(On getting T Andrew Whitworth last season and if he’s ever seen a player at that age perform the way that he is)

”I think until you actually go back and – I didn’t know enough about him to realize what a special person he was. So, I think the appreciation that you gain from being around somebody like that, just increases as you’re around him more. Watching the way that he leads, watching the way that he’s made me a better coach. Just seeing the way that he interacts with his coaches, his teammates and what he’s meant to this organization. I don’t think you could really put a price on it, how instrumental he’s been with what he’s done and how he’s influenced and affected his teammates over the last couple years and really, this overall culture that you hear us talk about. The production has been incredible. I thought he played his best game of the year last week, too. He looked fresh. He looked healthy. He was explosive – finishing blocks in the run game. He was patient and used his hands in protection. It’s really incredible. If you look back at the numbers, it really hasn’t been – there’s only a few guys that have ever done it in the history of this league. For him to be playing at this level, for him to be able to lead the way that he does, that’s why games like last week were so special because you care so much about those guys and seeing them have success. That’s what you love about this game. That’s what makes you want to work that much harder. But, I don’t think you could put a price on how important that guy is. You can’t say anything else, but, I’m sure glad that he got here, and you love (T) Andrew Whitworth.”

(On how he’s going to prepare for the crowd noise with practicing outside and how Whitworth has made him a better coach)

”So, the first part of it, we’ll have the speakers out, like we normally would. I don’t think you can truly mimic and emulate that noise that you’re going to have. So, that’s how we’ll do that as far as just kind of getting acclimated to the noise, specifically when our offense is operating. Then, I think, really, just the players perspective that Andrew gives you with regards to things that he might see because he has such a good understanding. I didn’t play offensive line, but some of the things – tips, tells or just based on his overall vantage point and experience that he’s able to give you that you don’t have unless you’re a player, make you more in-tune with some things as a coach. But, I think what you learn more importantly, is just how you lead in an authentic and genuine way. Watching him operate has definitely been one of the things that’s kind of changed the way that you view what true leadership is – the way I view it. I think it’s because it comes from such a just natural place because he’s got such an empathy for people and it’s an authentic way that he’s connecting. He doesn’t necessarily have to say it all the time, but he just does right all the time. He touches guys individually and it’s something that’s been really beneficial for our football team and to be able to see it, you can’t help but get better being around somebody like him.”

(On how he monitors himself so that he doesn’t get too conservative or too aggressive during the NFC Championship with fourth down conversions and fake plays)

”I think it goes back to the communication that exists amongst, really, our coaching staff and really kind of following our process. Then, there is an element where a lot of those decisions – I see the stats and different things like that, but so much of it is a product of a gut feel. The one thing I think, especially when you’re talking about football compared to some of the other stats where you use those numbers, you’re talking about 22 moving parts on every single snap – matchups that occur. I get what it says on the fourth-and-1 – here’s what the chart says – different things like that. But, if you feel like you’re getting good knock off, you’ve got confidence and a belief in your players to be able to execute – that’s more of a gut thing, then sometimes it is. Same thing with the QB sneak that we did in Seattle. So, I think we are an aggressive team by nature. I think that’s our mindset, that’s our mentality, but you don’t want to be reckless. So, there’s an element of making sure that that communication is amongst your coaches where you’re utilizing those resources around you. But, then there’s also a feel where, man, we feel real confident in our players ability to execute and we’re going to play not fearing failure, but to go attack an opportunity to go win a conference championship. I know they have the same thing – that’s what I respect so much about the Saints is that they’re aggressive. They’re down 14 from the two-yard line, they go for it and they deliver in a big way. That gets them back into it. You look back at the Baltimore game earlier in the year. So, I have a lot of respect and admiration for (Saints Head) Coach (Sean) Payton and the way that he calls a game to go win it – not being afraid of losing it. I’d like to think that’s something that we do at the Rams as well. We’re going to continue to do that going into this weekend.”

Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips, January 17, 2019

(Opening statement)

“I have a history with this team also. It’s pretty much up all of them. These guys, obviously scored 45 points the first time we played them. They got two great running backs, all-time great quarterback and the leading receiver in the League. A really good offensive line, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us. But like I said last week, each game is its own entity. Everybody said, ‘You all can’t stop the run. You aren’t going to be able to run on them.’ All those things. Whatever happens this game is going to happen. I feel like we’ve been playing better defensively as the year went along and we played well last week, so that’s what we expect”

(On if he agrees with head coach Sean McVay that DT Ndamukong Suh played his best game against Dallas)

”I do. Especially with the head coach. I don’t want to (inaudible) with him. That’s why I’m here now.”

(On what made Suh so successful against the Cowboys)

”Well, he just played really well. He used his talent. He’s got great talent and he utilized it. Hopefully we put him in a position to make some plays, but, it’s the players themselves. I think he was really motivated to play well and he did. We were pleased with that and we expect more from him.”

(On how having CB Aqib Talib back changes the defense)

“Well it changes – as you can see, since (CB) Aqib’s (Talib) been back, we haven’t given up a lot of big plays in the passing game. He helps out there. He helps with communication, he helps with his talent and we don’t have to change people around to cover up for a guy that hadn’t been playing. It gives us a versatility that didnt have when he wasn’t in there and I think we’ve played better since he’s been in there.”

(On if it took a while to figure out how to best work Suh and DT Aaron Donald in combination)

”I think it’s the whole defense. That’s what you do, is try to get a feel for what they really do well and what their real strengths are, and if they have some weaknesses, try not to put them in those situations. I said earlier, I did that with (CB) Marcus Peters. I did a disservice to him in that first game because he didn’t have any help with the receivers. We learn as we go. I’m just about to get experienced enough to learn how to do it. That’s what our job is – try to get them in good position to make plays.”

(On having a fully integrated OLB Dante Fowler Jr. this time versus the Saints)

”Yeah, I mean (OLB) Dante (Fowler Jr.) was new with us last time we played. I think he’s a lot more comfortable with the defense. He’s made some big plays since he’s been with us. The more he learned, the more we were able to learn what he could do. We expect him to have a good game.”

(On Talib’s leadership)

“He’s a natural leader. He was that way in Denver, the same way. He was a real driving force in our playoff, championship and Super Bowl win as a leader, also. He played really well, but he was a big factor. There were a lot of things that came up in the locker room, all those things, him helping prepare the team just like coaches do.”

(On teammates naturally gravitating to Talib or is he proactive about it)

”He’s pretty proactive about everything. He’s a big personality so you can’t help but be drawn to him. I tell him he always takes the other side. Whatever side you take, well he’s going to argue the other side and those kind of things. You know, that’s him. He gets going, he gets excitable about a lot of things and he’s a lot of fun to be around. And he made me ‘drippin’ in the Super Bowl so that was nice.”

(On how Talib’s ability to be proactive help from a communication standpoint when facing Saints QB Drew Brees)

”(Saints QB) Drew Brees is not only one of the greatest of all time, he’s having an even better year than he had last year when he set the record for highest percentage of completions. He’s a tremendous quarterback. He knows what you’re in most of the time, so you got to be able to play whatever your technique is and play it really well when he does know what you’re in. We still try to disguise things and certainly we are going to move around on him, but it’s hard to catch him not knowing, basically, where the weakness of the defense is, or where his one-on-one situation with (Saints WR) Michael Thomas. If he sees that, well then he’s going to try to hope his guy can beat your guy – he knows that. It goes to him in those situations. If you double one guy, then he knows to go somewhere else. And if you’re playing zone, he knows the weaknesses and sweet spots of the zones are.”

(On similarities he sees between Saints head coach Sean Payton and McVay)

”Well the big things, obviously. They’re well-disciplined in what they do. They know what they’re doing and know how to take advantage of defenses. When they see something that you’re in, they come back with something that will hurt it – those kinds of things. Coach McVay is not only a really good offensive coach, he’s a heck of a head coach. He helps us on defense, too.”

(On what he recalls seeing from McVay that really made him believe that he wanted to coach on his staff)

”Well it was mostly my son, Wes (Phillips), who worked with him, you know, with the (Washington) Redskins. Wes told me all about him. I had met him (McVay) before, but Wes told me all about him, all the great things about him. Wes had already said he thought he was going to be a great head coach and he has great command of the room and all those things. So it was really from Wes. Wes is a young, offensive coach that knows Sean McVay, just if anyone is looking for a head coach. He knows him real well.”

(On his son, Wes, not being wrong about McVay)

”Oh no, Wes was absolutely correct, which he usually is, and that’s why he’s a really good coach.”

(On how tough of a matchup Saints RB Alvin Kamara is)

”Yeah, he’s a matchup problem. I go back to the old days, (Hall of Fame RB) Marshall Faulk was that way. He could run with the ball great and you could put him out as a wide receiver and he could run wide receiver routes or he could beat you out of the backfield. You know, it’s the same type of guy with great ability. I’m not going to put him in the Hall of Fame yet, but he has a lot of similar traits that are hard matchup problems for you.”

(On the challenges Saints QB Taysom Hill presents)

”They’ve utilized the ability he has, certainly. Special teams, he’s a good special teamer, but he’s got a lot of speed, he can throw the ball at quarterback. When you throw a guy in that can play tight end and all of the sudden he’s playing quarterback, he’s very versatile. It causes you to say, ‘Hey, you know if he’s playing tight end you do this, if he’s playing wide receiver you have to do this, if he’s playing quarterback you have to do this and even running back.’ It makes you prepare for a lot of different things and you have to be real sound in what you do. So, they utilize him really in that way.”

(On if he was surprised by all the talent acquired on defense – Talib, Suh, Peters – during the same offseason and how to get them all acclimated)

”That’s what (Rams GM) Les (Snead) and Sean do, is try to get talent. They go out and do a great job of it, obviously. We are 14-3 now, so we got a lot of talent. It’s not all coaching. They do a good of acquiring players and those two guys are veteran guys that have played really well in the league and are smart players. I think that bodes well for any team.”