Miami Dolphins Post Game Press Conference 11-1-20, Flores, Tua, Ogbah, Wilkins, and Grant

Sunday, November 1, 2020
Postgame – L.A. Rams

Head Coach Brian Flores

(I know there was a lot of talk going into this week about QB Tua Tagovailoa, but it seems like the defense and the special teams were able to carry him and the offense towards this win. What did you think of their performance in light of the offense’s struggles? “It’s like what we talk about on a daily basis. It takes a team effort. There’s 11 guys on the field, there’s 53 guys on the roster, 16 guys on the practice squad. All these guys work hard. Everybody’s role is important. But total team effort, offense, defense, special teams. I thought it was a really good drive by the offense at the end, picking up a first down when we really need it, and we needed that in the fourth quarter. As far as the rest of the game, plays in the fourth quarter are critical, and they showed up for us and got us a big first down late. A lot of things for us to improve on, like there are every week, but good team effort. I think our guys showed a lot of mental toughness this week, a lot of quarterback change and a lot of … I thought they showed a lot of mental toughness, and I thought there was a lot of other things going on basically aside from football I would say, and those guys kind of put that stuff to the back burner and really focused and prepared and played well.”

(It felt like that interception from DT Christian Wilkins early on kind of changed the way the game was going, especially when QB Tua Tagovailoa came back out on the field, it felt like everybody was a little bit looser. Can you talk about that momentum shift and that moment? “We got off to a slow start, so when I talk about the mental toughness of the team, I think that was part of it. Got off to a slow start, had a turnover, they scored, we were down, I think they got the ball back and we just kept playing hard and it was a big interception by Christian (Wilkins). He’s always talking about how great a hands he has, now I’ve got to listen to that moving forward. He’s going to ask for the ball in goal-line situations and things of that nature. And it’s worthless until I guess if he’s going to make good plays like that. But it was that play, multiple other plays. Jakeem (Grant) I thought played a great, great game and we’ve been talking about one block away in the kicking game really all year, and we broke one today, and it was a big play, along with a lot of other plays.”

(What was your plan for QB Tua Tagovailoa going in, and did the way the game went make you change that plan? Obviously up three scores you can be a little bit more conservative.) –  “Every game is a little bit different. You’ve got a run game plan, a drop-back plan, a screen game plan, a play-action game plan  based how the game is going, based on how they’re playing things defensively, we really have to adjust that game plan. What was the plan? It was … We could go through a lot of different scenarios. There’s a lot of plays on (Offensive Coordinator) Chan’s (Gailey) call sheet. But the plan was to play good, efficient football, move the ball efficiently in the run game and the pass game. Look, there are some things we need to correct and we’ve got to play better in all phases, but it’s good to make those corrections after a victory, and the other guys picked them up.”

Regarding QB Tua Tagovailoa, just in general how do you feel he played today? “We won. We won the game. And again, it’s a team football game. I can’t stress that enough. It’s not a one-man show. I think he made enough plays for us to win the ballgame. I think collectively, look, if we don’t play well in one phase we need to play well in other phases, and we have a lot of confidence in him. He had a good week of practice and did some good things, but obviously, look, it’s his first NFL game against a real good defense, one everyone was … We talked about all week, Aaron Donald and their defensive group and their front, they played well. They’re hard to move the ball on. We’ve got to take that into account as well. Look, the rest of the players on the team picked him up and we got the W and we’ll make the corrections over the course of the week.”

(From DE Emmanuel Ogbah to LB Kyle Van Noy to DE Shaq Lawson, you guys were just seeming to pounce all over the quarterback and that offensive line there. How did you feel about the synergy by your defense and how they were able to kind of lead the way today? “I thought they played well. I thought they got a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We could have tackled a little bit better. But we turned them over, scored defensively. Again, in every game there’s corrections that can be made, but those guys, I thought they … There was good communication. They executed the game plan. It was good preparation throughout the week, and we executed. If we do that … And we played a lot of defense today. We did. Guys were a little bit gassed at the end. I can always talk about conditioning now. That’s a good thing, and we’ll get better from that standpoint. But I thought they played well, and it was great energy on the field, really on all three sides of the ball.”

(Being a defensive guy, how much fun was it for you to coach in a game like this where your defense stepped up the way they did?) – “I love defense, but I love offense, I love special teams, too. I think you all know I got my start in the kicking game coaching. I love all areas of the game. I thought the defense played well. I thought the special teams played well, and then offensively we made plays when we needed to make them. But more than anything, I love winning, and I love the guys seeing the fruits of the preparation, of the practice. I’m happy for them. I’m happy for our coaching staff. I think (Defensive Coordinator) Josh (Boyer) called a great game. He really did. (Offensive Coordinator) Chan (Gailey) called a good game. (Special Teams Coordinator) Danny (Crossman) called a great … He did a great job from a preparation standpoint. I think we’re all getting better on a week-to-week basis. We need to continue that. That was my message to the team. We just need to keep preparing the way we’ve been preparing and continue getting better.”

After QB Tua Tagovailoa’s first drop-back and he loses the ball, do you say anything to him when he comes to the sideline or do you just run him back out there again? “I said to the defense we’ve got to pick him up. I said to the kicking game we’ve got to pick him up. That’s team football. Again, I don’t know how many different ways I can say this. It’s a team game. We’re going to pick each other up. Tua (Tagovailoa) is going to pick us up at some point. We just need to stay with that. Look, we encourage him but we encourage everyone. We try to pick each other up.”

(I wanted to ask you about QB Jared Goff in terms of how many different looks and packages that you threw at him because he seemed kind of confused and rattled. Was that the game plan, to give him so many different looks?) – “I think every week (Defensive Coordinator) Josh (Boyer) and our defensive staff, they did a really good job this week coming up with different things that we think will give them some problems. Again, in a week’s time, there’s only so much we can give the players, but what we gave them, they executed, and we were able to put some pressure on the quarterback, and just looking at the stats here, they did run the ball pretty effectively and we did give up some passing yards but I thought we were able to put pressure on the quarterback. I thought overall we played well and we kept the points down and got off the field on third down quite a bit. But yeah, different looks, trying to put pressure, trying to apply pressure. Sometimes it’s not necessarily the sack total but I think you can watch a game and see that a quarterback feels us. I think that’s essentially what you’re looking for. I’m not sure how many sacks we had today, but I know that we applied some pressure and forced them to do some other things offensively maybe they didn’t want to do, not just keep a back in, keep a tight end in, things of that nature.”

(Just as a follow to the question about after the fumble, what does it say to you and to the team that QB Tua Tagovailoa is able to have a start like that, obviously not an ideal start but able to bounce back, not let it get in his head and do the things he needs to do to help the team win?) – “I think as a team we all bounced back, and the idea there is to pick each other up, to support one another. I think you saw that. I think you saw that from our defense. I know Bobby (McCain) went right up to him and said, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. We’re going to pick it up for you.’ The o-line was that way, our coaching staff was that way. I think they went out and did that, defensively, special teams, in the kicking game, offensively. We were able to bounce back. I think that shows some mental toughness, especially against a good team. That’s a good football team there. That’s a well-coached team. They were 5-2, they’re just coming off a big win on a Monday night. This is a good football team. So look, they’re going to make plays. I think we all … To think that that’s not going to happen, that we’re not going to have bad plays it’s silly in a lot of ways to think that we’re just going to play a perfect game every week. But when we do make mistakes we’ve got to pick each other up. We can’t go in the tank. We didn’t do that. We need to when that happens, I think it’s a good … Just moving forward, hey, we can come back, we can turn things around. Hopefully we’ll continue to do that.”

QB Tua Tagovailoa

(Just in general, how do you feel you played today?) – “I don’t think I played to the standard of what this offense is capable of. There were certain plays where I could have stepped up and made the right throw, made the right decision. But I’ve heard it many times from the guys in the locker room; it’s good that we still came out with the win. Aside from that, thank God we’ve got a good defense, so when we do start to string good plays together, we know that we can be able to make plays and then get the ball back and continue to try to do the same.”

(Just curious what the conversations were like on the sidelines with your teammates, whether it was QB Ryan Fitzpatrick or maybe anyone on the defense, when let’s say after the first series, the fumble or throughout the game, if they saw something, what the words of encouragement were throughout the game from them?) – “It’s a long game. It’s a 60-minute game. The guys never really needed to say anything. It was more so we came to the sideline and I was kind of telling the guys, ‘Hey, that’s my fault. We’ll get it the next series.’ But a lot of the chatter was just talking about how we could fix certain things because they were giving us a little different look than what we expected and what we had seen in practice, and so we tried to kind of fix up what we were trying to do on offense.”

(Obviously, this was your first start. Can you take me through the emotions of, one, first getting out there, and two, your first touchdown pass to WR DeVante Parker?) – “It was fun just being able to go out there and play a full 60-minute game now. Being that it was my first start in the NFL. We really faced a really good defense. I’m proud of what we’ve got to do offensively, but I do know that there’s still a lot of things we need to correct come Monday. But you can’t say that this defense is really good – they’ve got (Michael) Brockers, they’ve got Aaron Donald, they’ve got (Taylor) Rapp, Jalen Ramsey and all these other guys – and not expect to be stopped a good amount of times. That’s just not realistic. We’ve just got to continue to work and see what we can do to fix, to see what we can do tomorrow with what we need to fix in getting ready for the Cardinals.”

(It’s been a long journey for you, but could you take us into the moment after you slung that pass to WR DeVante Parker in the end zone and just the celebration that happened afterward and if you have any plans for the ball?) – “That was fun. That was really fun. It always feels good throwing a touchdown and being able to celebrate with your team and your teammates on the sideline are celebrating, as well. It’s not easy, especially like I said, scoring against a defense like that, but just enjoying the moment every time, just enjoying the moment. And I’m keeping the ball.”

(We all saw your first drop-back and you landed on your back and fumbled the football. What was that sequence like? It seemed like a real prime welcome to the NFL moment for you.) – “That was a good hit. That was a good hit. It’s football. I tried to step up, make a throw, Aaron Donald swiped at the ball behind me, and I don’t know who the guy was that took me off my feet and pretty much body slammed me, but hey, that’s football. I’m not going to lie, I did enjoy getting hit that first time. That was definitely a welcome.”

(Did you have a chance to talk to your parents?) – “I didn’t get a chance to talk to my parents yet. I’m going to go home after this and probably see them. I’ll get to talk to them then.”

WR Jakeem Grant Sr.

(Take us through that punt return, and seems like that was a long time coming for you. You came close a couple times. You finally got to break one.) – “Coach (Brian Flores) went into it. He told me that I was going to get an opportunity to field one in. We know that (Johnny) Hekker is a great punter, so it was only one opportunity that I got a chance at and made the most of it. Like all credit to my teammates that were on the unit. I don’t even think I got touched, so like I said, man, it’s all credit to them.”

(I’ve been through this a few times with you before, and every time I ask you, you always say that you haven’t reached top-end speed on a particular play. How fast were you going today?) – “Probably I would say about 80. I’d say we were going about 80 to get around the edge and just a little short burst to get to the end zone just to make sure nobody was behind me. So yeah, I mean, until somebody is actually right there, then I’ll run full speed, but until then, no point.”

(What do you think it meant for the special teams to come out and perform and you play a big role, especially on a day when the offense didn’t have it going?) – “Man, it was very important. You know, like every phase of our team, like offense, special teams, defense. When one thing is lacking the other thing has to pick up. That was big important. That was a big play in the game, and I’m just glad that my teammates were there to help me spring it.”

(Now you own the franchise record for career punt returns for touchdowns and overall kick returns for touchdowns. Can you wrap your head around that and what’s that mean to you?) – “It means a lot. You know, like I said, I feel like that’s just one stepping stone of Mount Everest and the season is not over and I can still continue to break that record, and that’s my goal. And I’m going to continue to try to break it each and every game, so I’m not done. I’m not finished.”

(Can you kind of describe maybe how the turnaround has been like for this team from the first half of last year to where you guys are now?) – “Man, we’ve got a lot of talent. We’ve got a lot of guys that truly care about each other. We’ve got a lot of guys that sit there and we play together. There’s a lot of leadership on offense, defense and special teams. It’s not just because you see a guy being a captain doesn’t mean he’s just the only leader out there. Everybody on our team has their leadership role, and I feel like that’s what’s making our team a good team.”

DE Emmanuel Ogbah

(There were so many big plays today, it’s hard to ask you about just one, so I wanted to ask you about how you affected Rams QB Jared Goff. Did you feel at some point that he didn’t want anything more to do with you guys, that you broke him a little bit today?) – “The key to the game was just attack Jared Goff. As a defense we did a good job rushing them, rushing coverage, going head-to-head, rolling all them boys back; that did a great job for us and we got a chance to get back there.”

(You talked about everybody working together and that synergy. When you guys are at full strength like this, is this something that you guys can turn in week-in and week-out, a dominating performance that can really help you guys move forward?) –  “We’ve just got to keep stacking good days, try to keep getting better every week. We’re playing together, we love each other, we want each other to do well. We’ve just got to keep it going as a team.”

(I wanted to back to the strip-sack and the fumble return for LB Andrew Van Ginkel. Looked like you had Shaq Lawson on the same side as you there.  What does that do to kind of free you up to get that free rush on Rams QB Jared Goff and get that free run at the quarterback?) – “I was surprised they left me unblocked, but I just ran as fast as I can, and I just saw the ball sitting in his hand, so I just really kind of went for the ball.”

(What is it about this defensive scheme that allows y’all to frustrate offenses so much and for you to kind of get your skillset playing as well as you are?) – “It starts with (Defensive Coordinator Josh) Boyer. He calls a great game plan every game and we just go out there and execute. That’s why we’re here.”

(In terms of the coverages and rush schemes that you guys use, was the key to confusing him keeping him off balance in terms of Rams QB Jared Goff?) – “Yeah, we know if we could get back there as fast as we could, we could affect him, so that was the whole goal”

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 18: Christian Wilkins #94 of the Miami Dolphins jumps over Brandon Jones #29 to celebrate after a defensive play that resulted in a loss of yardage for the New York Jets in the second half of their game at Hard Rock Stadium on October 18, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

DT Christian Wilkins

(A couple weeks ago we were asking about you jumping over a man. Today we’re asking you what was that interception like?) – “You know, well, it was a – let me take you out to the play. Let me take you to the mind of a defensive back. They called me to drop, it’s all in the hips. I just really had to open my hips and break on the ball. You know what I’m saying? I saw the line of the quarterback. I saw where he wanted to go so I just had to break, follow his eyes. I was able to break and make a nice play for the team. Just happy to make plays that can help us win.”

(I think you did a good job not throwing away your shot on that play) – “Yeah, I would agree. My man – whoever said that. That’s good stuff right there. (laughter) I would agree.”

(I do actually have a question there. You were here last year when y’all started off 0-7 and now y’all are in the playoff hunt. What can you say maybe about the turnaround the team has done from the first half of last year to where you are now?) – “Well, I just would say that we just kept getting guys who were just buying in and keep working hard and it starts up top because ‘Coach Flo’ (Head Coach Brian Flores) does a good job of setting the mindset for the team – for the organization – and we all just kind of take on that personality. We just all have the mindset to get better each week, get better each day and this team has got a lot of guys who work hard and just love each other and we enjoy working with each other every day. When you’ve got that kind of energy and the right people around the organization and in the building every day, you’re bound to do some good stuff. But we’ve only got – we’re in the hunt, like you said, but our work is not done. We’ve just got to keep preparing and keep that mindset each and every day and each and every week.”

(Describe the confidence that’s on this defense right now after all these wins you’ve stacked up and the way you’ve shut teams down.) – “Really, like I said, it just goes back to just getting a good game plan each week and executing and preparing hard each week.  Like I said, we’ve got a lot of guys who enjoy working with each other, who care for each other, so we play for one another and we don’t like to let each other down. When you get that, guys just playing hard, you’re bound to do some good stuff.”

(Head Coach Brian Flores was joking earlier that he’s going to have to hear you talk about your hands a little bit more this week after you made that interception. How often are you in his ear about getting you in in certain special situations like last year where you had that touchdown catch?) – “I’ve been saying it for a couple years now that I could play a legit receiver in this league or be a legit offensive weapon, and hopefully coaches and everybody else will start taking me a little more seriously about that because ultimately, like I said, I just like to help the team. (laughter)”

(At one point the Rams had two completions and three balls tipped at the line of scrimmage. How does that get in a quarterback’s head? He’s not a small guy at 6’4, but how does it change what he does?) – “Well, I never played quarterback, but I just know when you’re doing things to – whether you’re getting pressures or getting batted balls or even just touching them, know what I’m saying, just little things like that, we try to emphasize that just so that we can make plays and just bring juice to the defense and just keep good positive things going.”

(You guys were on the field for 92 snaps and it was pretty hot out there today. What was that fourth quarter like? Was it just survival? What was that?) – “Ooh. Well, I will say, yes, that was quite a challenge. It was hot out there and everything. But you know, we just pushed through it. We just had to dig deep and fight hard, and luckily for us we’re in the toughest of conditions every day when we’re out there at practice with the humidity and the heat, and we get a lot of snaps and a lot of reps. So we were pretty much prepared for it, and we just had to dig deep, which was good to see that we could push through it through the elements.”