Jon Gruden
The Tampa Tribune, published 27 October 2003

Any opening comments?
“I’d just like to say I’m very proud of our team. It was a great win for us. (There were) a lot of contributors defensively that played extremely well. We made enough plays on offense to win the game.”

What were the Dallas defense playing like ?
“They have the number one defense in football, and they made some plays, honestly. We just hung in there. We knew it was going to be a game of opportunity, and when opportunity knocked we had to cash in. The flea flicker was one of those plays I was talking about. What can I say? They are a great defensive team. They are number one in just about every category. They’ve been playing extremely well for the past few years, and we were trying to do everything we could to move the ball and score. But it was a defensive struggle in a lot of ways, and somebody had to win the game.”

How did all the back-ups peform ?
“I’m very proud of those guys. Corey Ivy, Tim Wansley, John Howell, a number of players, and Romen Oben playing with a broken hand, Jason Whittle playing injured. We were pleased with our team, and they responded with their backs against the wall today.”

Was the conservative game plan anticipated ?
“Well, when you get a 16-point lead and you’re playing great defense the last thing you want to do is be victimized by a turnover. Dallas has been very reckless on defense in terms of blitzing in the last three or four games, so we took that into account and maybe were a little bit conservative, yes.”

Did the defense have something to prove this week ?
“I think we all did. You always have something to prove in the NFL. You have to establish yourself every week. We’ve proven that, and I think every team in the league would agree. If you’re not ready to play and you don’t establish yourself every Sunday, with the way the league is set up you will be defeated.”

How did Michael Pittman play ?
“Dallas played a lot of, I don’t what you call it, I know we call it a lot of double zone man-to- man combination coverage. They can double the wideouts. The two safeties are quick run support guys. I said it all along, they’ve got two great corners in Dallas, (and it’s) very hard to throw the ball against, very hard to run the ball against because of the quick support of the two safeties. But Mike Pittman is a great football player for us right now and clearly a loaded option that we try to get the ball to.”

Was it nice to be back at home in front of your own fans ?
“It was strange. It was really weird waking up at home today. You know, four-out-of-six games on the road. San Francisco, Philadelphia, we’ve been all over the country. We’re a 4-3 team. We’re not dead. The heartbeat is still pounding. We just have to keep pounding that rock. I know our fans are with us, and it was great to see them.”

How tough was it playing with an injured hamstring ?
“I do what I do every week regardless of circumstances. A pulled hamstring, broken thumb, torn ACL, whatever the circumstance, I come out to play.”

What was the difference between the defense this week and last week ?
“We played with a purpose today. We talked all week about playing with a frenzy. Guys were playing one play at a time, doing what they have to do, and playing as hard as they can all for one play. And Derrick (Brooks) does it every single snap and it shows on the field.”

What was it like with such a young secondary around you ?
“It was different (playing without S John Lynch and CB Brian Kelly), but it was what we had to do. Tim Wansley stepped up. Corey Ivy stepped up. Jermaine Phillips is going to be a heck of a football player. I think everyone is starting to realize that right now we have to ride with what we have.”

What was the turning point of the game ?
“They missed the field goal. We had a couple of big defensive plays and the interception was a big momentum turner. It was a lot of things. I think we just played hard-nosed the entire 60 minutes. That was our game plan and we did it.”

Did it ruffle your feathers that the Cowboys were the No.1 defense going into this game ?
“We just wanted to be the best defense every snap. Every snap we wanted to be the best on that play. We receive a lot of criticism and we just go back to work. You don’t talk about it, you just go back to work. You put in the work and you saw the result. Work was put in all week, you saw that today.”

Did the criticism the defense got this week hurt ?
“I’m not going to say it hurt. The film speaks for itself. We don’t have to talk about how bad we played. We know what we have to do to correct it and we went back to the basics, to what makes the defense what it was. I just thank God we went out there today as a unit and tried to make that statement. We have to start all over again tomorrow, and try to be the best tomorrow. Let the week days take care of themselves and on Sunday just go out and have fun.”

Did you want to establish the running game early ?
“We wanted to come out the very first series and stress the run, and we thought we had three very good runs. We wanted to pound the rock.”

Did Dallas blitz you a lot ?
“They had all-out blitzes the last two-and-a-half weeks, and I didn’t get blitzed once. It says something about what we’re doing pass-protection wise and us getting rid of the ball and completing a lot of balls.”

Was it an ugly win ?
“A couple weeks ago, we had a great moral victory but it turned out to be a loss, and I didn’t need that. I’ll take an ugly win any day of the week, and today was one of these days for us offensively. But we did some great things, too. Obviously, we would like to score more points, but I’ll take the win every day of the week.”

What was the flea-flicker play to Ken Dilger all about ?
“We’ve been working on it and hoping to get the right look, but you don’t know if they’re going to bite on it. We’ve been trying to set it up, and it obviously was a big play for us. It changed the momentum of the game, it changed the feel for us and we actually ended up scoring a touchdown on that drive.”

Were the Dallas defense as good as you expected ?
“They are very, very stingy with the yards. I expected a lot more blitzes and a lot more man-to-man coverage. They are a very tough defense, and there is a reason why they are 5-2 and winning their division and have a good chance to win the division when it is all said and done.”

Any comments on the game ?
“It was tough losing to Carolina and Indy, so we needed to get a victory at home. We won this one, I guess you can say convincingly, because they didn’t score. Our defense played extremely well. When we needed to score, we scored on offense. Whether it was field goals or touchdowns.”

Is it important to be playing well at this point in the season ?
“I think (it is important to play well at this point of the season). We have three losses in our loss column and we can’t afford to get more. We won the Super Bowl last year, but that was last year. It is important to get on a winning track and get back to the way we are used to.”

Why did you play with a broken right hand ?
“I didn’t want that to be another excuse or another reason why we weren’t playing well. I felt like I could suck it up and go, and that’s what I did. I’m just glad I was able to get in front of the guys long enough to help my running and passing game. It wasn’t pretty, but it got it done.”

How did the offensive line perform ?
“I think we play well together, and we ran the ball a lot more this week. That was an indication of coach wanting to put it on our shoulders. I’m just glad that we all responded.”

Did you have to adjust to playing with the injury ?
“It was difficult, but it’s something I just have to get used to. It’s going to be a three or four-week deal, so I’m going to have to get better each week. Hopefully, next week will be better than today was.”

Your first NFL pick came from an old friend, Quincy Carter
“He threw my first touchdown pass in college and he threw my first interception in the pros. That’s kind of funny, ironic and exciting.”

What was it like ?
“It’s exciting. You’re always looking for the first one. Now I’m just looking for many more to come.”

Does your versatility to play corner and safety help ?
“The coaches were training me in training camp to play both safeties so I know (how to play both). They don’t let me get comfortable on one and hone in on one. They want me to study both. That’s what I’ve been doing and it’s paid off.”

Any comments on the young Buc secondary ?
“I know there were a lot of question out there. I don’t really know what was said, I know people said we had injuries and thought we were vulnerable back there. But we have capable backups on this team. That’s the one thing we live-up to, is our depth and we thrive on it. It’s just time for us to step-up to the plate and to make some plays. And that’s what happened today.”