Q: Three of your next four games are against divisional opponents, much like the stretch of three straight division games earlier in the year. How do you feel as you approach those games, and does this schedule stack up as one of the toughest you’ve experienced?
CP: “It’s definitely difficult. If our division wasn’t known as being the most physical division in the league, it probably wouldn’t be an issue. You just hope that you come out of these back-to-back three-game stretches with guys healthy as possible, because it is so physical. It is purely a run-based, hard-fought defensive battle, and you don’t want guys to be too banged up going into your out-of-division games. So it’s definitely going to be difficult. But at this point, at this time, on Wednesday, on Thursday, on Friday we’re only worried about the next one on the schedule, and that’s Baltimore.”
Q: You are 7-3 against the Ravens in your career. Are you aware of that stat? Why do you think you have had such success?
CP: “I actually wasn’t aware of that. We’ve always had good game plans against them. We’ve matched up pretty favorably against them. I think because Marvin was there and he won a Super Bowl, Baltimore week is always a real big deal. We have so much respect for them. We look at them as one of the best teams in the league and definitely one of the best defenses in the league. We know we have to be on our ‘A’ game. We know we’ve got to play great. We know one little mistake can lose a game in an instant, because they capitalize so well on mistakes. It’s probably those factors, but mainly the respect for the organization. It’s one of the best in all of sports, the way they draft and the way they take care of their players, and their coaching is always great. So you’ve got to play really well to beat these guys, and we’ve done a good job in seven of the 10 times stepping up to that challenge. We need to do it again, because this team is very capable of beating us if we don’t go out and play great.”
Q: Do you enjoy the competition of going against the Baltimore defense?
CP: “I do. I love the challenge. You know it’s a physical game. You know you’ve got to worry about Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, [Haloti] Ngata and Jarret Johnson. There’s so many good players on that defense. It’s a great challenge, but it’s also a big task. You’ve got to start approaching these guys Sunday night after the game, trying to figure out what they did last Sunday. Look at film Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and really dig into your own game plan to try and get yourself ready.”
Q: Baltimore’s defense looked very good against Denver. Did they do anything different than they usually do, coming out of their bye?
CP: “It was some of the same stuff. It was a couple new wrinkles, a couple things here and there. But why change what works, really? It’s a defense that’s been very good for years, and it’s a very good defense this year. So you don’t need to change a whole lot. They need to come out and play the way they play, and we need to match their intensity and match their physical play and execute at the end of the day.”
Q: How much of a part does emotion play in these division games?
CP: “I think emotion gets played in all these division games. There’s a little bit of a rivalry between each team. We know that they have to beat us. They’re in a must-win situation. But we feel we’re in a must-win situation, too. The way they lost the first game, the way they were talking about the penalties they had in the game, is definitely something that upsets you, and that you want revenge from. So we know they’re going to come in with that mindset. It’s not about their mindset. It’s not about what they do. It’s about what we do. It’s something we firmly believe around here.”
Q: You guys are three-point underdogs at home, this week. Are you surprised?
CP: “Yeah, I’m a little bit surprised. I didn’t know it, but I don’t really care either way.”
Q: That fits into Marvin Lewis’ saying that everyone is overlooking you guys, doesn’t it?
CP: “Yeah. We set ourselves up for that. When you win four games the year before, people don’t expect you to be on top of your division, and to beat a team that went to the AFC Championship game last year, back-to-back times. I’m sure that has something to do with it. But I could care less whether we’re over-looked or under-looked. At the end of the year, if you’re playing in the Super Bowl, people think you’re pretty good. And you are pretty good if you make it that far. That’s our goal.”
Q: You told Chad (Ochocinco) that he has been so politically correct, and even a little boring this year. Times have changed, haven’t they?
CP: “Yeah, he’s changed his approach to the media. He has his own news network now, which is a big deal. I’m sure you guys love that. But yeah, he’s very politically correct. It’s a nice change, but it’s also nice to hear the old Chad every once in a while, and I’m sure we’ll get to that point sometime this year.”
Q: During the three games before the bye week, is that the best you’ve seen Chad in the past couple seasons?
CP: “To be honest, I’m not sure. I know he has played very well all year. He’s done a good job in the blocking stuff that we ask him to do in the running game, and that’s something he’s really improved on. He’s gotten a lot better in his runs after the catch. He’s broken some tackles, made some moves and gotten up field. He’s playing as good as I’ve seen him. I’m not saying he’s playing better than he’s ever played, but he’s playing as good as I’ve ever seen him. The good thing is, we’re not even really halfway through the year. We still have a lot of games to play. He gets better as the season goes on, pretty consistently throughout his career. The better he gets, the better I get, the better we get as an offense and the better we get as a team. We just need to keep him focused and on the right path. He’s done a great job of doing that himself.”
Q: When the defense lays you out and Chad (Ochocinco) pops right back up again, like he did in the first game against Baltimore, can that send a message that ‘You can hit me hard and it doesn’t matter?’
CP: “Yeah, a little bit. Ray (Lewis) and those guys on their defense are veteran players. They’re out there playing. They’re not trying to do anything dirty. They’re not trying to send a message. They’re just trying to play good, sound football. I was glad Chad popped up like he did and played another play, because a lot of guys would take a couple plays off. But Chad is a tough guy and he doesn’t take plays off.”
Q: You’re using your feet more this year:
CP: “We’ve changed a number of things within the offense. There’s been more opportunities for that. I really haven’t changed anything myself. I focus on it a little bit and try to get out and run, as opposed to waiting for somebody to pop open at the last second. It’s benefitted us a little bit so far, and I’ll continue to try to do that. But I’m going to stay in the pocket as long as I can and wait for guys to get open because we have guys that can win, and we have offensive linemen who will block until the whistle blows. I feel confident standing in the pocket and waiting and taking hits.”
Q: Did you have any revelations during your bye-week self analysis? Did anything jump out at you?
CP: “Nothing jumped out at you. The offensive coaches pretty much spent the whole week trying to look at us and figure out what we did. They say we need to keep getting better at what we do. That’s what we’re going to continue to work on throughout the year. There’s a handful of schemes we really ride on and stay with, and we’ll continue to really sharpen those up, and get better at those in practice and work on them in games. Really, just clean up some of the little things -- the penalties we’ve had, some turnovers and missed blocks in different areas. For the most part, just work on us and really devote most of our work to us and not worry about what other people are doing.”
Q: After seven games, is this offense where you thought it should be?
CP: “No. I think we’re happy for the most part with where we are, but obviously we’d like to be 7-0, so in no way are we satisfied with what we’ve done. Like what I was saying about cleaning things up, we have a lot of work to do in a number of areas. We haven’t been as successful in third down as we need to be through four quarters of games. That’s something well have to continue to work on and get better at. If we want to make a run at the end of the year, we need to be playing four quarters of really good football, not a series here and three series off. We really need to clean that up.”
Q: How is
CP: “He’s had games where he’s caught a number of balls because the defense dictated that. He’s had games where he caught the game-winning touchdown but he didn’t catch many other balls. I wouldn’t say his play has dropped off at all. He continues to get better, and sometimes his number is called and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you’re expected to make a handful of plays in a game, and sometimes you’re expected to block. It depends on the game plan and the team we’re playing, and what we need to do.”
Q: How is his football IQ?
CP: “Very smart football player. Ahead of his years. He’s only been in the NFL for two years, but understands his role on the team, understands our scheme and what we’re doing offensively and understands what the defense is doing. (He is) like a 5, 6, 7-year vet guy.”
Q: He’s not a typical ‘diva’ receiver, is he?
CP: “I don’t think he’s a diva at all.”
Q: So he’s NOT the typical receiver?
CP: “He comes into work, he blocks, he does anything you ask him to do. He’ll run the football. He runs kickoffs back. He’s a football player.”
Q: What do you think about the job
CP: “He’s done a really good job. He had to come in and not know the offense, and try to figure things out in training camp. He brings an attitude. He’s a tough guy. He’s a physical guy. He’s picking guys up, and throwing guys around. He’s hitting guys as hard as he possibly can on every single play. And that’s what you love seeing out of a guy who plays tight end, fullback, slash-kind-of guy. He has done a really good job for us filling in.”
Q: How much of the tight end position does not involve catching the ball?
CP: “Within our offense, there aren’t a whole lot of balls dedicated to the tight ends. It’s tough to find the tight end position 50 balls per year, just because you’ve got Chad (Ochocinco) and Laveranues (Coles) and Chris (Henry), and we throw the ball to the halfbacks a lot. And Andre (Caldwell), of course. So it’s going to be tough for those guys to expect five, six seven or eight balls per game. When their numbers are called, they’ve done a good job making plays. For the most part, they’re heavily involved in the run game and some pass protection stuff.”
Q: Last time you faced Baltimore,
CP: “It’s nothing we figured out. I think it just came down to execution. We did a good job of opening holes for him and blocking out on the outside. And we let him do what he does, which is break arm tackles and run away from guys. There was no special formula. There was nothing we talked about that was going to be different than what we have done against them before, or what other teams had done against them before. It was just coming out and executing our run game footwork, and trying to get Cedric to the second level.”
Q: Is there an emphasis on getting Cedric Benson going early again this week?
CP: “There is every week. We have to run the ball. We want to be a running football team, and then throw the ball off of that. Week in and week out, we expect him to run hard and we expect the guys up front to block. We shoot for 120 yards in the ground game every week, and that’s our goal.”
Q: Looking at the film from Baltimore’s game last week vs. Denver, did they do anything different on defense considering they were coming off a bye-week, and they have the new defensive coordinator?
CP: “There wasn’t a whole lot of stuff. A couple of new things, and new wrinkles here and there. Like I said before, you don’t change what works, and their defense has worked for a long time. Whether it’s a different coordinator or not, they still have really good players and they are still playing pretty much within the same scheme they have in the past. Nothing was different. I think Denver just got into a tough place to play. That place is as hard of a place to play as any. Especially when you’re an undefeated team, and they’ve had a bye week to prepare and some time to rest and get guys healthy again. It was just a tough situation for Denver, and they got out-played and out-executed.
Q: There are still tickets that remain to be sold in order to sell out the Baltimore game. Can you stress the importance of playing in front of a packed stadium?
CP: “Tremendously important. I know what it’s like to go into a stadium that’s packed, and there isn’t an open seat, and there isn’t somebody in there that’s not yelling and screaming when you’re on offense. We need that. This isn’t an easy win. This isn’t something where we can just show up and play. This is a game where we need our fans as loud as they’ve ever been, and as involved as they’ve ever been, and we need to play as good of football as we can to hang on to where we are in this division.”