WR A.J. GREEN
“Very excited. Not just for us, but for some of the vets like Nate (Clements) and Crock (
There are some guys in this locker room with some playoff experience. Have you leaned on them at all, as far as what to expect in this Saturday?
“Definitely. I think you can lean on everybody. There are a lot of veteran guys you can lean on, like Nate and Crock. We just go out and take this game like any other game. Just go out there and play our game.”
This is only your rookie year, and you are already in the playoffs. Is it easy for you to take something like this for granted, considering some of the players on this team have gone a long time without any playoff berth?
“Oh yeah, definitely. Being my first year and being the first time in the playoffs, I haven’t experienced anything else. Just talking to a guy like Nate, he’s been in the league 11 years and this is his first time in the playoffs. That’s crazy. So that’s a good feeling.”
It’s been a while since this franchise has won a playoff game. Do you guys think about that?
“I don’t think about it. It’s my first year here. You can look back on history, but the only thing I can control is this year.”
Is there a revenge factor with playing the Texans again?
“Definitely. It’s in the back of our mind. We’re just going to go out there and play our game. If we stick to our gameplan, I think we have a great chance of winning the game.”
How do you think
“He’ll just prepare like it’s any other game. He’s a guy that doesn’t get rattled by anything. He’s going to go out there and play his game, and he’s not going to try and go out there and do anything that’s not going to be good.”
LB REY MAUALUGA
“I don’t know. I’ve never experienced such a thing. After walk-through, coach had everyone kneel down and asked everyone who’d ever experienced being in the playoffs to stand up, and I stayed kneeled down because I felt I wasn’t a part of it. It wasn’t me that went to the playoffs, it was the team. Now that I get a chance to experience that and take that bitter-sweetness out of my mouth that I’ve never been a part of it, it’s going to be good and I can’t wait. It’s for all the marbles.”
For you and the rest of the guys who were here in 2009, what can you take from that experience?
“That we can do anything that we set our minds to. I feel we have the right group of guys, the right coaches; everybody, that we can win games and have a successful season and make it to the playoffs year in and year out. We’ve proved it this year. We proved that no one gave us anything. We had a lot of doubters and just stuck with the group of guys that we had, and went with it. We won some games, we did some good things and we had some bad games and did some bad things, but it’s a new year. Everybody is zero-and-zero, and you’ve got a chance to write history. We’ve got a chance to win this and move on to the next game.”
The Houston backfield has had a lot of success this season. How do you try to contain them again?
“I think they’re going to watch the tapes and see the runs we gave up last week. I think we gave up something like 230-plus yards in the running game, so with the two backs they’ve got, great guys and great runners, they’re going to try to run the ball down our throats. Being in a hostile environment, what we’ve got to do is do our best to stop the run, get the crowd out of it, cause some turnovers and get in the backfield.”
In the first game, did you see them run the ball maybe not as much as you had expected? Were they trying to catch you off-guard?
“Everyone is going to take their chances to try to make a big play early on, try to get the rhythm flowing with them, but we see them trying to test the waters a little bit, coming out early and seeing what they can do against us.”
What did you learn about T.J. Yates that last game?
“Anything can happen. With the third-string quarterback, the way he played made him seem like he’s been playing for a long time. We’ve just got to go back to the film and study him. We cannot do enough studying. We have to make sure everyone is fundamentally sound in their gaps and their responsibilities. If there is nothing open, he will run the ball, so we’ve got to know that and get him down.”
You mentioned that Coach Lewis had the guys with playoff experience stand up. What did some of those guys who stood up say?
“It wasn’t really what people were saying, it was what coach was trying to emphasize that most of the guys that didn’t stand up have to make sure that they are on the right page as everyone else. The feel of playoff week, making sure that we can do this year in and year out if we want to. Everyone just has to be on the same page.”
T ANDREW WHITWORTH
“Like he has all year. Pressure isn’t really an issue for him. The greatest competitors are the ones that want to win. They want the heat. Pressure is a good thing. It only drives them to be better. I think Andy is one of those guys.”
How aware are your teammates in the locker room that the Bengals have not won a playoff game in more than 20 years?
“We don’t really think about it. We have some guys who were close to being born when that happened. We have some young guys on this team. I promise you some of them have no clue about that. We just focus on what we can do to do our best and win for our city and the Cincinnati Bengals.”
What did you personally take from the 2009 season and playoff experience?
“We learned a lot about ourselves, about being counted out and overcoming some things. We learned about overcoming adversity throughout the locker room, coaches, and everything. It was a tough year. Really, in the playoff game (against the N.Y. Jets), I thought we played really well, but we realized how crucial those one or two plays can become. I think the Jets had one or two critical plays that put us away and blew our opportunity. You realize in these games those one or two will get you.”
How important is it to come out with a strong start in a playoff game?
“It’s important to go out and execute. You don’t really know who’s going to score first or if you’re going to put together an entire drive and score. If you can execute early and really put the pressure on them that they have to come up with the plays, instead of you putting pressure on yourself, then you are eventually going to score and eventually play really well. That’s what we’ve got to be able to do. We’ve got to execute, so the defense feels the pressure to make a stop. That’s when you get people out of gaps. That’s when you get people going for interceptions and missing. That’s what we’ve got to be able to do.”
You’ve seen the stalwart defenses in the AFC North. Is Houston one of the top defenses in the NFL?
“This year, they’ve played extremely well. They’ve played extremely hard, that’s for sure. That’s impressive and you have to match that. We did a great job of matching it last time. We had some tough plays and tough breaks in the second half that allowed them to get in the game, and they made one heck of a final drive. That happens in football, too. Both teams make plays. One team ends up with the football last. This time, if we get up, we have to put them away.”
If defense wins championships, talk about the importance of running the football in the playoffs:
“Mainly, it’s efficiency. We don’t care if it’s the run or pass, but efficient plays. In the playoffs, if you make negative plays you are done. It comes down to each and every possession. When you get negative plays, you are going to be in a lot of trouble in the playoffs. You’re facing one of the top 12 teams in the league. Execution is at the utmost of importance. That’s what we have to focus on. How well can we execute. How well can we go out and play.”
What lessons were learned two years ago when you played the N.Y. Jets in the regular season finale and then in the Wild Card weekend of the playoffs?
“Mainly, how critical those plays are on each and every drive. I know we had some plays there offensively and defensively. They made some huge conversions that dictated the entire game. You realize in the playoffs that everyone is so good and that any little mistake is going to be magnified.”
Playing n the road in a loud, raucous stadium, are you hoping Bengals fans make the trip to Houston to support you?
“There will be about 40 of them that I know of, because I am getting their tickets. We hope there are some. We realize it’s going to be a loud place. We realize it’s going to be a challenge. We haven’t backed away from a challenge all year. We’re excited about that. We’ve got nothing to lose. We have an opportunity to go on the road as the youngest team in the AFC and win a playoff game.”
What’s the secret to your success on the road this season?
“It’s the attitude that we’re young. We have nothing to lose. We’re going on the road. We’re the little one that everyone has counted out. We’re coming out swinging. That mentality helps you on the road. You’re not intimidated. You’re there to win. What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
How happy are you for
“I’m ecstatic for him. He’s been a great guy. A great leader. The way he goes about his business is awesome. For Nate to finally make it to the playoffs, I made sure to call him out in front of the team after the game. I wanted everyone to congratulate him, to thank him for signing on to be here, and for being a part of it. He’s helped us get to where we are.”
RB CEDRIC BENSON
“You tend to see the teams that march through the playoffs do it behind a strong running game. Even Green Bay last year, they were a passing team, but when they made their march through the playoffs, they ran it quite a bit.”
In the first Houston game, you ran for 91 yards in the first half, then didn’t get going again in the second half. What did you see from the film? Did they make many halftime adjustments?
“They did halftime adjustments. But we only had so many tries in the second half. I don’t think we had as many attempts in the second half as we did in the first.”
After a slow first half last week against Baltimore, you guys got the running game warmed up in the second half. Was that a matter of adjustments?
“Not really. Our guys up front, the offensive line, came off the rock well on a couple of plays and we were able to make some positive yardage.”
Are you excited to be going back to your home state of Texas?
“Yeah. It’s always good to go back to Texas and get some warm weather and play on some grass. It’s always good to go home and play.”
You’ve only played in Houston once, right?
You had a pretty good playoff game the last time this team was in the playoffs (2009 vs. New York Jets; 21-for-169 rushing, with one TD):
“Yeah. Of course I’m planning on trying to repeat it. Any time I’m on the field, I’m always trying to put on a show and help the team win, put some points on the board, get some first downs so we can stay out there. So we definitely have to take care of business this week.”
Is there a revenge factor with this game? Do you feel like they got away with one the first time you faced them?
“I just feel like we didn’t finish, personally. Not so much that they got away with one, but we didn’t finish.”
Is there a different feel to these playoffs than in 2009?
“There’s new coaches, new scheme, new style. Everything is different. A lot things are different.”
Is the mindset different?
“The mindset is better. We’ve got guys that are a little bit hungrier, a little more eager to get some wins in the playoffs and get to the big show.”
The fact you’ve been there and didn’t get it, is that more of an incentive now?
“Absolutely. You never want to get to the big show and not win it. You put all that work in there. I’ve experienced what that’s like. I plan on, when I get there the next time, winning it for sure.”
Can you fall back on your Super Bowl experience (with Chicago) for weeks like this?
“I use my Super Bowl experience as a professional the entire season. Traveling through the playoffs and going to the Super Bowl really taught me to take it one game at a time. This time of the year it’s all that matters. Just one game. You win, you keep going. You lose, you go home. Each game, each week is the Super Bowl. You just have to approach every game like that.”
What kind of lessons did this team learn from the playoff game vs. the Jets?
“I like the word, ‘Finish.’ I like second half finishes. You get them on the ropes sooner, knock them out. I think that’s what it’s going to come down to. It’s going to come down to how we play in the second half. We played pretty good a couple of years back in the second half, but not enough to come out with a win. Last time we saw Houston, we didn’t play that well in the second half. A few times this year we haven’t played well in the second half. I think that’s going to be important.”
In that first game, what can you take from that first half and use in this one?
“We had some good plays on the ground in the run game. Had it moving. Of course, they’re going to have to make the adjustments. We just have get into the game and see how it goes. Read the plays out and make some strong runs. That’s kind of a coach’s question.”
In that game
“Yeah, that’s just part of the game. You don’t want to raise that as an excuse or anything like that. The next guy has to get in there and give it his all.”
What’s the difference for this team to get over the hump against a quality opponent?
“Second-half play. That’s what it‘s going to come down to. How we come out in the second half.”
You did that in the first half of the season:
“That’s a good thought to rely on. We’ve done it, we can do it, continue.”
How much does it matter that the spotlight is so bright in the playoffs and that guys have a made a lot of money for what they do in the playoffs?
“I’m sure there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that they want to put their best show on in the playoffs. Not only does it help them, but it can contribute to the ultimate goal, which is coming up with a win. I think if everybody approached the game like that, we’d go to the Super Bowl.”
Does the running game matter more in the postseason?
“Without a doubt. That’s where it maters the most. You want to wear teams down with the running game. Keep the defense off the field. Keep them fresh.
CB ADAM JONES
“Dre (Andre Johnson) is Dre. He’s a vertical guy, a very strong guy. He’s one of the best out there. We’ve got to make sure we contain and lock him down. If we stop the run, we can pretty much just force them in the pass. We have to play solid. But first thing is first: we’ve got to stop the run. If we just go out there and play with swag, I think everything else will take care of itself.”
How excited is this football team?
“Excited is not the word – we are really, really excited. We have a couple guys that have already been (to the playoffs). This is my second year (with the Bengals), and this is my first playoffs. I’m very excited. I know the guys in the back end (defensive secondary) are very excited, too. You know how they say that toward the end you sometimes get a little sluggish? It’s the opposite over here. Guys are happy, smiling, walking around and eager to learn more about the Houston offense. I think we’re pretty good. I can’t wait.”
What can you take from the last loss to Houston?
“We lost. We lost. Whatever we need to do to make sure we don’t have that same feeling that we had last time. Those guys put together a nice little one-minute drive. But we’ve just got to do the little things to make sure it doesn’t happen again – fall on the ball on the fumbles, play tighter in coverage and be really physical.”
It’s been a while since this franchise has won a playoff game. How aware are the players of that history?
“I don’t know about everybody else, but I wasn’t aware until I (saw) it on Twitter. The guys over here, we can’t worry about the past. We worry about the future. We’ve got a great, great, great outlook toward the future with the young guys around here. I think it’s just the role of something new around here. So don’t think that this year we’ll be in the playoffs and next year we’ll be 0-16. Marvin (Lewis) has done a great job of putting guys in places and bringing in talent. Mr. Brown (Bengals president Mike Brown) has done a great job bringing in talent. But everybody’s great, man. They’ve done a great job of putting the team together. We’re all getting along really good. The main thing is everybody’s on the same page.”
Is this team capable of doing some damage in the playoffs?
“Oh yeah. Of course we do. This is a tight group right here, man, starting with the rookie quarterback (Andy Dalton). It’s really tight. I think we have whatever it takes. We’ve just got to make sure we play every game like it’s our last, and go out there and compete.”
What do you think has been missing with this team since the first half of the year? You guys started off strong, but had more losses toward the end of the season:
“I don’t know. That’s a good question. I wasn’t here for the first half (was out for first six games due to a neck injury), so I wasn’t as focused as I am now because I couldn’t play. But tackling, I would say, is the main thing. We tackled really good the first six games. We didn’t allow too many deep balls, and we played together as a group also. On offense, we didn’t fumble the ball and there weren’t too many penalties. So that’s where we’ve got to get to.”
Have you ever played Andre Johnson?
“Yeah, I played Andre Johnson when I was in Tennessee. I played him twice a year. So, I’m familiar with Dre. He’s a great athlete. Like I said, he’s one of the best, so I’m eager for the challenge.”
Is he a little like
“No. To me, it’s two different styles. A.J. is a lot faster than Dre. Dre is a more physical, but fast receiver. I think A.J. goes up and gets the ball a whole lot better and some of the routes he runs are a little bit better. But Dre is still one of the top receivers.”
Andy Dalton is returning to his hometown this weekend for his first playoff game, and he is only a rookie. How do you think he will handle it?
“Oh, I have all the confidence in Andy. Andy is a real composed guy, he (doesn’t) get rattled by too much. He loves to win and he likes the pressure. So that’s a good thing. I think Andy will hold up real good.”
How can you tell?
“I’ve been playing with him for 17, 18 weeks, and I was here with him the whole summer. Just being around the guy. I talk to him, and the way he carries himself, he’s a winner. He’s not a flashy guy, but he loves to play football.”
T ANDRE SMITH
“It’s going to be a great experience. Fortunately I have a little experience playing in the playoffs from my rookie year. It’s going to be exciting.
Do you try to help out with all of the youth around here? There are a lot of guys here that have never experienced the playoffs:
“The main thing I say to these guys is, ‘Do what you do.’ Obviously we’ve done the things right, getting in the playoffs. We just have to execute even better. That’s what I’ve said.”
What do you think this team learned from the 2009 playoffs?
“Just playing your game, and not trying to play up to the team’s expectations (in the media). Just play the way you know how to play, and go out there and execute it.”
Does the playoff atmosphere feel any different from every other game?
“Of course it’s going to be different, as far as the atmosphere as a whole. There are the sellout crowds and it will be extremely loud. It’s going to be their franchise’s first playoff game, so it’s going to be exciting down there. It’s a great opportunity for our team to go out there and execute.”