Do you concur with the vote that
RM: “Yeah, I concur. It’s rare that you find guys like him with his talent, his leadership and everything he does. With his play this year, he was hands down one of the best linebackers in the league. You can look around the locker room -- many guys did good things … what separates him from the other guys like Marvin (Jones), Andy (Dalton), A.J. (Green), who knows? That’s on everyone else to decide who they want to be MVP, and he got MVP and I stand behind that decision.”
How did your role in the upcoming movie Million Dollar Arm with Jon Hamm come about?
RM: “The role was for an NFL football player, a football player of Samoan descent. I just so happened to get a call from my agent, and Domata (Peko) and I tried out for it. I guess his agent told me about it. I did an audition tape. I didn’t think anything bad was going to come out of it, just figured I’d try. I had an opportunity to Skype the producer and he liked what he saw and was like ‘You’ve got the part if you want it.’” It was after the OTAs (this past year). The casting agency was looking for a Samoan football player. And what better Samoan football player (than me)? I got a bunch of people on Twitter who will tweet me and say ‘Congratulations. I tried out for that part, too’ and they weren’t even football players. They were just Samoan guys.”
Where did they shoot your scenes?
RM: “Atlanta. I guess that’s where everyone does it because of taxes, or there’s not taxes to shoot a movie there (I believe).”
Is it a big part?
RM: “No. It’s just a little (one). I made the trailer, so I have no problem with that. I looked it up, I saw it and it came out good. I was nervous, I didn’t know how I did.”
Did you have a few speaking parts?
RM: “Yeah. It was like three scenes. When I looked at the script, I saw my lines were on the second page so I said ‘All right – I’m going to get to be in the movie.’ I don’t know – hopefully, I did good.”
Is acting something you’ve been thinking of doing after football?
RM: “No, I never thought I would do that. I’ll be in the shower or something and (think about it), but (did I) think I’d ever be able to act? No. But they told me to be myself, don’t act out of the ordinary. They liked what they saw.”
Would you like to act again?
RM: (Knocks on wood). “I’d like to be the next Rock (Dwayne Johnson). They might make me shave my head, but it was something new, something different, and something that I enjoyed doing. I enjoyed meeting these people; they all seemed cool. I met the main actor. He was a nice guy. It was before the ESPYs, so he asked me if I was going to be down there and if I wanted tickets, so I thought that was cool of him.”
Did you shoot your scenes in one day?
RM: “Nah, it was a period of three days. I came back home for a week and they flew me home for another weekend.”
AW: “Just basically a way we want to practice, if we like doing something a certain way in practice. Or maybe when we’re traveling, being able to do this or that -- just something the team kind of wants. It can vary from music in the locker room to just all those little things.”
Is that new?
AW: “No, we’ve done that before. I think that this team now, though, is at a point where he (Coach Lewis) believes in the maturity and professionalism of our group. It’s easier for him to make the decisions that we want to make.”
AW: “Oh, I think it’s huge. Here the last couple years, that’s one of the reasons I thought we were getting better each time we step on the field. This a young, young football team with a lot of young talent, but more importantly, it is truly a family environment. Every guy that comes here, the first thing they tell me as a leader is they say ‘Hey man, I don’t know what y’all have done, but this is the biggest family I’ve been a part of. Everybody’s cool, no one is fighting each other or any of that kind of stuff.’ We treat it like a family. When you’re not just out there thinking about yourself, how much money you’re going to make or the play you need to make, you’re out there thinking, ‘That’s my brother over there. I’ve got to get his back.’ Or the offense just had a turnover and the defense is thinking, ‘Man, let’s get those guys back the ball.’ When you’re playing that way for each other, that’s when you start to have something special.”
This locker room in years past, I’ve seen people gravitate to one player or so in particular and this is the first year I’ve seen reporters talking to everyone. Everyone’s come into their own and getting a fair shake because there’s no “I” guys. Would you agree?
AW: “Exactly. That’s kind of when this thing started, with Andy’s regime. What I wanted guys to understand is this is the first time we don’t have an individual locker room. The whole time, we’re not going to watch Chad (Johnson) put on a spectacle of an interview, or T.J. (Houshmandzadeh), or whoever it is. I don’t know if I’ve even heard a guy in here talk about salaries or catches or anything they do. We’re in here talking about who’s better -- LeBron (James) or Kobe (Bryant) -- like sitting in a circle. That’s the nature of this team -- a lot of really humble, young guys that like to sit around with each other.”
Is that a relief to you to know you can have stars like
AW: “It’s amazing. It’s amazing. It’s one of those things where as proud as I am of what we’ve done on this team (as leaders) -- in Domata, myself and
Will it be disappointing to you if this game is blacked out on TV and not sold out?
AW: “You know, I think that’s something that’s disappointing to the marketing department or ticket sales office. To me, I get to do this, get paid and play this game and there’s a lot of ways you can support us from watching and everything else. Truth is, I want the people that are here to give us everything they got, and outside of that, I’m thankful for the other people that support us, too, because we get to play this game, and get paid what we do to play this game, because of TV ratings, because of fans in seats, because of all those things. I’m not going to call people out who may not have the money to come here just because you want them to come watch your game. I want everyone here who wants to be here.”
GB: “Just do whatever we have to do on offense. It starts up front. If you can run the ball, create big plays running the ball, it’s going to open up the pass. If you can pass, Andy’s going to feel comfortable, deep balls are going to be open, A.J. is going to be open, Marv(in) is going to be open. It really just opens everything, so we just have to start at the line of scrimmage and control that and see what we can do.”
Does having played San Diego earlier in the regular season help you prepare for this game?
MJ: “Yeah. We kind of know the stuff they do. They’re a hard-nosed defense and they’re a good offense. We played against them, we’re familiar with them, but we have to go with our game plan and execute.”
How important is it to get this game sold out?
MJ: “We want our fans to come and support us. Other than that, that’s it. It’s been great so far at home (this season). It’s been a great atmosphere and the fans have been giving us a spark.”
Do you feel like there’s any more pressure this year to win a playoff game?
MJ: “No. It’s a new year. It’s a different team, and we’ve been doing good so far and we just have to go out and do it. We know the potential is there and we just have to capitalize on that potential, and I think we’re well on our way to do it.”
Is it an advantage having been to the playoffs the last couple of years?
MJ: “Yeah. Everything spikes up in the playoffs. Details are enhanced and having playoff experience does help.”
What do you remember about your former University of California teammate Keenan Allen?
MJ: “That’s my little brother. I remember a lot of stuff about him. We spent a lot of time together and he’s a great player. From Day One, he’s been explosive. He’s explosive and he’s a game changer.”
Have you talked to him at all this week?
MJ: “I’m going to call him today. I’ll talk to him right before a game – it doesn’t matter.”
Is it cool that your biggest game of your career so far comes with him on the other side?
MJ: “Yeah. It’s fun. It’s fun and it’s cool how that unwinded. He’s been having a great season and I’m proud of him and it’s going to be good for him to come out here now to play. It’s a good feeling.”
Did you guys sit down and have conversations about what it might be like to play on a stage like this?
MJ: “Yeah, definitely. We’ve had a lot of time to talk about everything and that’s one thing we always talked about -- when we go on a big stage, whether we’re on the same team or play against each other and things like that, and now it’s happened his first year in the league. It’s pretty cool to see that happen.”
How are your games comparable?
MJ: “He’s a student of the game. He could play in all positions, he can play in the inside, on the outside – he just makes plays. When the ball goes his way, he takes advantage of the opportunity and he’s elusive for a big, taller guy. He just makes sure he’s not denied.”
How would it feel for you to see a sellout crowd on Sunday afternoon?
DP: “It would be awesome. Right now, we’re undefeated at home. This is a home playoff game. We want to encourage all of the fans to go out there. We can’t wait to put on a show for you and get our first home playoff win for you in 23 years.”
Talk about the opposing players who have said it’s getting loud at Paul Brown Stadium this year:
DP: “After a couple of games, people from other teams have come up to me and said it’s louder than they’ve ever heard it before here. This is my eighth year here. I can attest to that. ‘The Jungle’ has been rockin.’ So, everybody go out and get your tickets. We want to see this place rockin’ on Sunday.”
Does having playoff experience from the previous two seasons give you additional confidence?
DP: “I think so. This is our third playoff game in three years. A lot of guys in here have been here for the last two years.”
How much of an advantage does having already defeated the Chargers this year give the Bengals?
DP: “It’s good. We are able to watch the film and see what they were trying to do to us and see the plays that they were successful on against us. It’s always good to play a team that you’ve already seen in the season. You can get a feel for what they are trying to do against us.”
Talk about Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers:
DP: “He’s been having a hell of a year. He’s been really accurate with the ball. They are No. 1 in the league on third down. That’s going to be one of the keys to the game. They are almost 50 percent on third down. Philip Rivers has been playing for a long time. He knows where players are going to be. He gets the ball out quick. He can sling that thing deep. He’s a real competitor. We can’t wait to get after him. It all starts up front. We have to start by stopping the run. After we establish we are stopping the run, we can get after him, and get in his face.”
Are you looking forward to a cold, snowy day on Sunday?
DP: “Yeah, man. We are in the AFC North. We love the snow. We love the cold weather. Hopefully, it gets down to zero or really cold for these California boys.”
How much fun is it when they use you on offense?
DP: “I love it. It’s a blessing. Whatever the coaches want me to do. The more I can do the better. I love to play offense and defense. There’s nothing like playing fullback and going down to hit people for fun.”
Are you ready to get a carry or catch a pass?
DP: “We’ll see what happens. I just do whatever the play calls. If it’s a pass to me, that would be awesome. If it’s a run to me, that would be even better. I just do what they call.”
It’s already a good football week for you with Michigan State winning the Rose Bowl (24-20 vs. Stanford):
DP: “Yes. My Spartans pulled it off. Shout out to Coach Dantonio and all of the Spartans. Go green! Go white!”
Talk about Vontaze Burfict going from undrafted rookie free agent to the Pro Bowl in two years.
DP: “I don’t know the history of that, if anybody else has ever done that, but that’s awesome. He came here and since Day One, he’s been very impressive. I remember last year saying ‘Who is this kid?’ He plays with an attitude that you can’t teach. He has that really aggressive, physical nature. That stuff is contagious. We’re so excited about how he’s been playing for us all year. A lot of guys have talked about us losing Leon (Hall) and Geno (Atkins), but we still have guys here. Guys like Vontaze. He’s been leading us.”
What jumped out to you the first time you saw Vontaze play?
DP: “His intensity. How he flies around the ball. He plays like his hair’s on fire. He plays with that fire (grabbing his chest). You can’t teach that. That’s awesome to see. Just the way he plays. It’s contagious.”
Is he a vocal leader that tries to fire guys up?
DP: “It’s just his body language. He plays with that fire. That gets us all going. If all of us play like that, and that’s what we’ve been doing, we’re a heck of a defense. A lot of credit to Vontaze and the linebackers; they’ve really stepped up this year.”
He gets beat up and takes a lot of shots. Have you ever thought about him getting out of the huddle?
DP: “I’ve never thought about that with him. He’s a tough son of a gun. That’s what I love about him. He would run through a brick wall for you. He’ll do anything for this team. That’s why I love when he makes tackles, makes plays. He throws his body around. He does all of that for the team. That’s what I love about him.”
What are you seeing in him now that you weren’t seeing in him last year?
DP: “I’m seeing a lot more confidence in him. Not only that, he understands the defense now. He understands where he’s got to be and where others should be. He’s doing a great job of being a great leader on the field out there for us.”
How does it feel to be this season’s Cincinnati Pro Football Writers’ Association Bengals team MVP?
VB: “It’s good. To have a bunch of playmakers on the team and somebody awards me this, it’s awesome. Especially in the NFL.”
Hard work pays off?
VB: “Yes, it does. Going back to the offseason, I did a lot of hard work. It’s all paying off now. I would like to thank my coaches and teammates. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. They are on the field with me. Especially the D-line and secondary, a big shout out goes out to them.”
CHARGERS HEAD COACH MIKE McCOY
Do you think the Chargers are playing their best football going into the playoffs?
MM: “Well I think we finished strong the last month of December. The guys were getting better every week and we finished a big game the other night.”
On the young players adapting to the speed of the playoffs:
MM: “It’s just a message to the players. The same thing we’ve talked about way back in OTA’s and the first meeting saying that when you go through OTA’s, minicamps, you go through a certain speed as a learning phase. Then you get into the training camp part of things, you get into the preseason part of games, then you get into the regular season games and as it gone for us the last month, the tempo’s picked up and people are fighting for their lives, then you’re getting to a playoff game and each round the stakes go up. Everyone’s (playing) survival of the fittest week in and week out now. It’s all or nothing.”
Any thoughts on Keenan Allen being named Rookie of the Week for the fourth time this season?
MM: “It’s well-deserving and he’s done a great job all year long of doing what was asked him to do and getting better. I think anytime he has success it’s because of the way he’s worked. He’s never been satisfied. He just shows up to work every day and keeps fighting and does a great job. Fred (Graves) and Nick (Sirianni) have done a great job with him. I think the timing with him and Philip (Rivers) is getting better every day and we’re adding little wrinkles to the package and this offense is still evolving every day and the more time we spend together the better we’re going to be in the long run.”
What’s the most important thing that Ken Whisenhunt has brought to the offense this year?
MM: “Number one, I’d say the whole entire staff works so well together with his leadership and he’s given everyone an opportunity (since) when we first sat down to have their input. As a whole, he’s got to make the final decisions in there in the meetings and as you go through training camp and do things with the whole entire staff, it comes game day and he’s making calls, people are making recommendations to him what to do and as a play caller, you’ve got to be able to tune all that out and say, ‘Okay, this is what they’ve said, but this is what’s best for us.’ They’ve done an outstanding job of making the adjustments during the game and Ken’s called an outstanding game all year long. But he’s an experienced guy who’s done it for a long time and had a lot of success, so we’re very fortunate to have him.”
What advice would you give to guys that are trying to manage their current coaching jobs and handling speculation from other teams looking to fill head coaching spots?
MM: “Win the next game. Unfortunately we didn’t do that (in Denver). It’s all about winning. Stay the course. I think it’s important for those guys to do it if there’s a great opportunity for them. There are rules in this league for certain reasons on how we do things when you have that opportunity, or if they deserve the opportunity to do it. I think someone from another team made a good point the other day that a lot of guys dream to be head coaches in this league and there’s only so many opportunities. So when those opportunities present themselves, you take advantage of it. But I think every coach, you go out there and try to do whatever you can to help your team win. You tell the same thing you tell an owner that if we’re in the same position, you want to make sure that guys are focused on winning the next game.”
The last three Super Bowl champions came into the playoffs with a record of 9-7 or 10-6. Is there a commonality that you can apply to your team or a message there for your players?
MM: “Well our big thing was, just get in. That’s the most important thing. Get in and anything can happen once you get into the tournament. We’ve worked extremely hard to get to this opportunity and we’ve got to make the most of it.”
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR KEN WHISENHUNT
Are you guys playing your best football going into the playoffs?
KW: “I think we have been pretty consistent all year. I don’t know who makes the assessment of if we are playing our best ball. I think we are doing a good job. We just have to continue doing what we have been doing.”
What disappointed you the most about the first time you played Cincinnati?
KW: “Turnovers are really what hurt us. We had opportunities to get in the red zone and to try and score points, but we had turnovers at critical times. When you are playing a good team like that, those are things you can’t do.”
How do you balance ball security vs. explosive plays?
KW: “You make an emphasis of it during the week and you talk about it, but you don’t think about it when you step on the field. This is the playoffs and the level of intensity steps up a notch, so you have to make those plays. The windows are going to be tighter. You have to make those catches and you have to work hard to get open. We have to be able to hit the gaps in the run game. It’s all those things. You can sit here and talk about clichés all day. Really it comes down to cutting loose and making some plays. If you look at our season in total, we have made a lot of plays this year. I think we have a lot of confidence going in that we can continue to do that and cut it loose on Sunday.”
How valuable is it knowing you can win on the road?
KW: “I think we recognize that winning on the road in the NFL isn’t always easy, but we have done that. I think the factor of knowing the routine – we know when we are going to leave, we know what we are going to do Saturday and we know what to expect with a one o’clock East Coast game on Sunday. None of that is a surprise to us. Hopefully that will help prepare us.”
Do you constantly learn new things that help broaden you horizon?
KW: “I think you get new ideas all the time, not just from working with coaches, but things you see on film. I think one of the most important aspects of this job is trying to do things that fit your personnel. If you see something that you think is a good fit for something you are trying to get done, sure you incorporate it. We have done a couple of those things. We are not regimented into ‘This is what we do and this is all we do.’ We are always looking to expand and I think having guys like Antonio (Gates), Danny Woodhead, Ryan (Mathews) and certainly our receivers, it gives you flexibility to do a lot of different things. You have to be, because if you give the defenses a chance to get a beat on what you are doing, it makes it hard.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOHN PAGANO
How much fun was Sunday for you?
JP: “It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of emotions. It was crazy. I’ve been telling people that could almost be a movie, just the last two weeks of this whole season and then just that game. It was good that we came out and got a win.”
Who would play you if they made a movie?
JP: “Danny DeVito probably.”
What kind of adjustments are you making on defense from the first time you played Cincinnati?
JP: “The biggest thing is that we’ve got to come out and stop the run. They established it last time against us and for the most part, we can’t give up those shot plays to number 18 (AJ Green) and then we’ve got to be aware of
Can you speak to the defensive unit’s progression over the last few weeks?
JP: “I think the big thing is guys really playing together and having an understanding of, the more reps you get with each other, the better understanding of the defense, and being out there and going to execute and guys communicating, number one, playing together, number two, and three, finishing plays and tacking. I think over the last five or six games, we’ve played at a high level defensively. We didn’t want to be where we wanted to be at the beginning of the year of some of those games, but it’s coming down the stretch of how you played and finished. It probably wasn’t our best looking ball on Sunday, but it’s about winning and losing in this league, and that’s all that matters.”
Can you take me through your emotions during Ryan Succop’s kick at the end of the game?
JP: “I think they called timeout right before the kick, Kansas City did, and I didn’t move from the spot where I stood. And I was just looking out and to hear that crowd scream like that, it was something special just for the work these guys have put in. Not a lot of emotion because you’ve got overtime. We had to make sure we gathered ourselves up and the emotion that we spent, not only prior to the game but during the game, there’s a lot of things that happen and if Donald (Butler) catches that ball and scores a touchdown, it’s a whole different scenario. But it’s the whole 60 minutes and that’s football. It was an emotional day, yes.”
How quickly do your thoughts go to the veterans after a win like that?
JP: “It’s awesome. It’s such a testament to those guys because of what they do and the work ethic that they put in and the effort for preparing and understanding the scenario. We always talked about it for weeks. We’ve been in crazier playoff situations here, with four games down, four to go. I’ve been in another situation, three games down, three to go. And now this situation that happened on Sunday. It’s satisfying to see those guys and all the hard work paying off and for our coaches, just the whole organization, it’s something that, like I told them now, everybody can go breathe. We can relax and go breathe and go play.”
What does it mean having Melvin Ingram and Jarret Johnson this time around for stopping Cincinnati’s run game?
JP: “It helps. And not to discredit any of the guys in there, but that’s what those two guys are. They’re big, physical players that can set the edge and get after people and that’s what Jarret and Melvin are about. They’re big, physical guys that create havoc and you need that when you’re playing on the edge and it’s been good because I think the last time, we were probably just making the transition of Reggie (Walker) going to outside linebacker. He’s played just about every spot except in the secondary for us. He’s been everywhere. He’s learning. But getting those guys back and being able to roll those guys in and out, it’s been a plus. You never can go wrong when you’ve got four guys at outside linebacker that you can roll in and out.”
Your last game against Cincinnati was one of the worst of you career, how anxious are you to get back out there?
AG: “It was a learning experience and with all that being said it is still a very good defense. They did some things to disrupt the timing in our passing game. Being able to create turnovers, to me, is a cornerstone of what they do defensively. It is definitely going to be a challenge to go on the road in an environment of that kind and try to come away with the win. We just have to be proficient offensively and execute. That’s what we are going to need and then some, plus a little luck probably to come away with the win.”
You guys only reached the red zone once during the last game against Cincinnati, but you guys seem to be a different team now. What has been the difference?
AG: “The red zone is something we have emphasized over the last month. Just being efficient in the red zone is something we try to do every single week, especially a week like this against a team like Cincinnati. You can’t leave any points out there. For us, it’s just one play at a time. That’s how we were able to have an opportunity at the postseason. That’s what we will have to do to continue to play. We just have to take it one game at a time and one play at a time.”
Do you feel you guys are more mentally tough than when you played them a month ago?
AG: “I think we have grown and matured a lot as a team. One thing about it is when you have a new staff and guys coming in and out from different places, you are adding guys to a team, then you have the core guys that have been here, it takes time to build that continuity. Fortunately we were able to overcome some bumps in the road early in the season to still be fortunate enough to play in the playoffs. Now, you see a sense of urgency. You can see the confidence and belief that we have. Not only did we have it all year, but you can kind of see how we believe and we know what guys can do and we trust in the calls that are being made from the offensive staff. We can just see that this is a different team in a different situation. Mostly that has to do with winning football games. When you win you build confidence. That’s what we have done over the past four weeks and hopefully we can do that in the post season.”
Every week someone seems to step-up and help you guys win. Who is it going to be this week and what do you have to do to make that happen?
LG: “There is no telling. We have a lot of playmakers on our team and whenever someone is doing badly we have someone step-up and bring their A-game. You never know who it is going to be.”
How happy are you for a guy like Antonio Gates to get back in the playoffs?
LG: “That’s who we are doing it for, people like him, Philip (Rivers) and Nick (Hardwick) who have been here for a long time. We always trying to help them the best we can.”
On playing in cold weather:
LG: “The coldest game I played was in Kansas City, so I’m not too used to the cold weather being from Florida.”
What notes did you take away from the first time you played Cincinnati?
PR: “It was our last loss and we are not far removed from that game, so you have to watch film. What you remember most from the game is we moved the ball decently, but we turned the ball over a few times down in there. Then we miss a throw here and there down in there that stop drives. There were many times when we got the ball back in the first game that the score was 7-7. We had the chance to take the lead and never did. It’s a tough opponent. It’s a good defense. I don’t know exactly where they are statistically. I know they are really high. It’s evident when you watch the tape that they are really good. They have won all eight of their games at home. We definitely have our work cut out for us.”
How much different is the playoff atmosphere compared to the regular season?
PR: “It’s certainly different. I think you can overstate it sometimes. I don’t know if there is an advantage, but if there is anything we had from a mindset standpoint is we have been in playoff mode for about a month now. We knew that if we had any shot of getting in, we had to win the rest of them. After we lost to Cincinnati it was like ‘Alright if we get to eight then we are done.’ We have been in that playoff mentality of win to stay alive or lose and go home. If anything, hopefully that can help us not make this game anything more than what it is. We obviously know what is at stake, but we have to have the same mindset we have had all month. Everything gets turned up a notch and there is a little more at stake no question. The defense can play much harder, because the way they have been playing has been impressive. We are all going to play the way we play – play hard and battle like crazy to advance.”
What’s it like to face a Mike Zimmer lead defense?
PR: “I don’t know him personally, but you just know what type of coach he is by the way his defenses have played and you know the respect he has in the league. I think the fact that he has been there for a number of years, it’s very clear the system they run and his players know it very well. Not only has he been there a number of years, but they have a handful of guys that have been together for a number of years mixed in with some additions they have made over the last couple. They play together. They know what they are doing. They believe in what they are doing. Those couple of things added with having a couple really good players makes it a heck of a defense. It’s a solid defense from frontend all the way to the backend.”
What do you have to do to be effective against that?
PR: “You have to find a way to score touchdowns. We were able to move the ball some in the first game, but we just have to find a way to get in the end zone. It’s a team that has some offensive weapons and fire power over there. Baltimore was a perfect example last week. They had two early turnovers, went up 6-0 and then A.J. Green scores a touchdown and it is 7-6. You have to capitalize if you were able to get a turnover and you have to capitalize when you get in the red zone, not spend all day kicking field goals.”
Does the defensive line pose any challenges because of their height?
PR: “They are good. They are certainly long and rangy and strong. You have certainly seen them get hands on some passes. If your question is, am I going to change my release this week? Then no.”
On working with Frank Reich for the first time this year:
PR: “It has been very positive. There is something about being coached by a guy who spent 14 years in the league playing the same position on a team that when to the Super Bowl four years in a row. He had a hand in a lot of those games to get them there. There is just a wealth of knowledge there. That has been a huge plus. For me, it’s just his steadiness week in and week out. His demeanor is very calm yet very fired up at the same time. Week to week with coaching points has been very steady. It’s been real positive. I have always been thankful. Charlie (Whitehurst) has been a part of this quarterback group for a long time and he is very valuable to the team. From a personal standpoint, I certainly appreciate having him in there and Frank has been great this first year.”
Do you and Frank talk much during the games?
PR: “We talk as needed. He, having played that position, doesn’t want to overload you with information. He doesn’t want to have constant conversation when we are off. He knows when to just leave it alone. With reminders or certain things in the pictures, whatever it is he is very good. He is very efficient in our communication. There is not a lot of dialogue. It’s just what we need to get done. That transition has been smooth. You never know how that is going to go when you are with a guy for the first time. You have had a game day routine for nine seasons and then you never know how it is going to be. With both him and (Ken Whisenhunt), it has been smooth.”
What is your relationship with Charlie Whitehurst and how does that help you week in and week out?
PR: “For one, we speak the same language just from being from the South. We follow each other very easily. He has no problem speaking up if he sees something or thinks something is there, because he knows that I know it’s sincere that he is trying to help us win. He’s trying to help me in any way he can. He has always been great, whether it is me venting about something or ‘Don’t you think I could’ve done this?’ I went up to him last week and said ‘Do you think I had Ladarius (Green)?’ He said ‘I thought you had him.’ There is a great trust factor there. I appreciate that spot more than I did before I was in the NFL, after being in that role for two years as a rookie. Charlie is valuable to the team without playing a lot here for us. I know I appreciate it big time. The studying in the film room and at meetings, just having another guy that gets it and that is in your corner all the way. I really, really appreciate it.”
You guys were not able to finish drives last time you faced Cincinnati, how much of it was them and how much of it was you?
PR: “I want to be very respectful, because they had a lot to do with it. They caused the turnovers and they covered us. Some of it may not have been the best throws. They were certainly out there causing us to not get in the end zone and obviously our execution wasn’t great, so it was a little of both. We have to execute better and it’s tough when you are going up against a good defense. Like I said, Baltimore got down in there twice and only gets three. That could end up being the difference. You can’t force touchdowns and points are points in the postseason. I think of the Championship game in 2008, 2007 season. In New England we lose 21-12 we kicked four field goals. If we had a few touchdowns there, who knows. We know how valuable touchdowns are.”
Is it easier to come into games as the underdog?
PR: “I think the underdog and favorite talk is more for the outside. I know everyone in our locker room thinks we are going to win and I know everyone in their locker room thinks they are going to win. They beat us five weeks ago. We have seen in the postseason that anyone can win. Whoever can play the best for 60 minutes will advance.”
Does it help that you played these guys last month?
EW: “Yes. It’s always better when you have a familiar opponent and can see how players play, what we did wrong and what they did good. Obviously it’s going to be a tough challenge going into their place and trying to get a win, but we can’t be more ecstatic with this opportunity we have as a football team. We surely missed this chance over the last years. I know I have. We can’t wait to get on the road and go play a playoff game.”
What do you have to do to shorten things up against their running game?
EW: “Understand what they’re doing. Play physical. Play tough. Know what style of game it’s going to be, and tackle. We need to tackle better as a group. We’ll be ready for that. I’m not too worried that we won’t be able to stop the run. We should be able to get in there, battle and fight, and see what happens.”
What do you have to say to all the Chargers fans rallying out to root for you in Cincinnati?
EW: “Hopefully we have a bunch out there supporting us. I know it was a pretty amazing experience in that (Qualcomm) stadium last week knowing the feeling and the energy and the passion that we received throughout the game and at the end. It was extraordinary. So we want to feel that and hopefully have a chance in the fourth quarter this upcoming week to go try to get a win.”
What are you telling the young guys about what to expect?
EW: “There’s nothing like the playoffs. The atmosphere, the speed of the game, how intense (it is), how vital each play is, the possessions shrink down. You’re going good on good, so instead of 12 possessions a game, you’re looking at nine, eight, sometimes. Every play matters. It’s exciting. You live for it. Us as players, this is the chance that you work so hard for. You sacrifice so much to have a chance at the ultimate goal, which is the Super Bowl, so we have it and we’re going to make the most of it.”
What do you have to do to create some pressure on Andy Dalton?
EW: “Just be in position, honestly. Don’t look at this game, this situation, this opportunity for more than it is. You don’t want to over-psych yourself up or pressure yourself to try to make more plays than you’re already trying to do. Just stay within yourself. Stay within the defense. Do what your job entails and do it the best you can. The ball will find you if you’re consistently doing your job in-tune in the game and understanding what the opponent’s trying to do. Just don’t go out there and (be) all free-lance all of a sudden because we’re in the playoffs and everyone’s watching us now. Just stick to the game plan and if you’re in position, the ball will find you.”
On the Thomas Keiser situation:
EW: “That’s not pertaining to me. Thomas is our teammate, our family and we support him and until they figure all that out, we’re worried about the Bengals. I don’t really know what’s going on with all that. Coach (Mike) McCoy can answer all those questions if he feels he wants to.”
You must feel pretty comfortable going into the playoffs knowing that Philip Rivers is your quarterback:
EW: “Yes. Philip is playing outstanding. (He) has all season. We go as Philip goes. We, as role players and guys on this team, have to help him out and help the team out and understand as many chances that we get the ball back to him and the offense that good things will happen. So were exited. We just want to hurry up and get to Sunday.”
Anything different between Philip Rivers this season and past seasons?
EW: “No. He’s the same quarterback. Same guy. Same leader. One of the best.”