LB VONTAZE BURFICT
What challenges does San Diego present to the Bengals defense?
VB: “They’re a physical team. They have a great offensive line … I think (Bengals defensive coordinator Mike) Zimmer has a great understanding of what they’re trying to do; we just have to come out and execute.”
What did you learn about them in the previous meeting?
VB: “I learned a lot – they’ve got great athletes, a great running back (in Ryan Matthews). Philip Rivers is very good.”
The first time, Chargers running back Danny Woodhead was sort of your responsibility – are you going to be spying on him again?
VB: “We just focus on coverage. He’s not really my guy, but if he’s in my zone, then I have to cover him. I got some pretty good hits on him, and at the end of the game, he told me I was a great linebacker, so it should be just a good challenge between me and him again.”
G ANDREW WHITWORTH
How much does it mean to you to sell out this game?
AW: “We just want everyone’s that there to be excited to be there and be as loud as possible and create a great environment. As far as all the other stuff, we don’t really try to think about it. We just want everyone here that wants to be here and be as loud as possible.”
You play in a lot of different environments … is there an advantage to playing in cold weather against a team like San Diego that is accustomed to a warmer climate?
AW: “I think sometimes that gets a little overblown. It can have an effect, maybe, in games that don’t mean as much or if a team that doesn’t have a lot to play for. But when both teams are there with so much at stake, weather is not going to be the determining factor. It’s going to be the team that plays with the most will for 60 minutes, and they have as much opportunity to do that as we do.”
What gives you confidence the Bengals are going to win going into this game?
AW: “We feel like if we play our style of football and the way we played this year, we can beat anybody.”
DE CARLOS DUNLAP
What happens when you play a team twice a year that you normally would not? You do it when you play teams in your division, but when you see the Chargers a second time, what do you expect?
CD: “I feel like they’ll correct some of their mistakes, maybe have a better understanding of us. If we execute like we’re supposed to, though, it doesn’t matter.”
Do you like playing a team a second time in the same season?
CD: “I don’t feel like there’s really a big difference.”
Is there a big difference in playing cold weather like what’s expected Sunday?
CD: “It just depends on the players. Some players are still able to be effective, and they’re from warmer cities, so it basically just comes down to who executes the best in whatever condition it is.”
How do you feel personally about having to play in frigid conditions?
CD: “It doesn’t matter to me; we practice in it, so we’re pretty used to it by now. We know what to expect; we just have to go out there and play.”
NT DOMATA PEKO
What’s different about the team going into the playoffs this year vs. last year against Houston?
DP: “We’re playing as a unit; it’s a lot different than last year. The defense is a little bit better than last year; we finished out No. 3 overall, and we know what’s at stake. We’re tired of getting beat out of the playoffs, and we’ve been talking about that around here. We’re ready to get over that hump.”
What’s different about this Chargers team from when you played them in Week 13 during the regular season?
DP: “They’re playing a lot better, man. The run game is improved, the quarterback has been having a great season, and I think they’re playing with a lot more confidence. They’ve won four straight, so they’re on a hot streak right now. We know they’re going to bring their ‘A’ game, so we’ve got to make sure we’re on top of ours and execute our game plan and get after Philip Rivers. Stop the run and we should be fine.”
What makes you optimistic your team will win come Sunday?
DP: “Man, you go into any game, you’re trying to win, and right now, it’s win or go home, and we’re not ready to go home. No one has plans for the offseason yet. Everyone has their eyes on the prize, and that’s that Super Bowl ring, and it starts this Sunday.”
RB GIOVANI BERNARD
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since you were born – is that weird to you?
GB: “It is pretty funny. But hopefully we can get one this Sunday, in my first year in the NFL. That would be awesome, getting that first win. It would feel good.”
Have your teammates/coaches been talking to you about the speed of the playoffs?
GB: “I’m not worried about that. People talk about the speed of the NFL, but once you get used to it and get that first play under your belt, I feel like the situation takes care of itself. I think we know the players that we have on our team, so it shouldn’t affect us. I think we have a great bunch of guys here.”
Does this feel different than the regular season?
GB: “I wouldn’t say it feels different; everybody has the same mentality, and that’s to win. We’re not going to change our mentality for the playoffs. You lose during the regular season and you’re upset, and I’m sure if we lose now, we’re going to be upset. We’ve just got to take care of business and not worry about the outside stuff."
QB ANDY DALTON
How was practice today?
AD: “We had a good day. It’s good on Fridays to make sure you’re sharp in everything you’re doing. We went out, had a good day, got guys moving around … It was a good day for us.”
Do you think it will work to the Bengals advantage playing San Diego in these cold temperatures?
AD: “We’ve been practicing in it like we did yesterday, so it’s hard for them to simulate what the weather is going to be like; it’s easier for us. If it’s to our advantage, great, but they’ve played well when it’s been cold outside.”
How important to you is it as a player to have a sellout crowd here for this game?
AD: “Very important – you get that home field advantage. And that’s why we want all the fans to be involved; we want the city to be involved. It’s going to be big for us to have that advantage.”
What’s your reaction to Kroger buying a number of tickets and donating them to military veterans?
AD: “That’s big. It shows that people care in the community and shows that they are happy to support us and do it for a good cause for people that might not otherwise be able to come to the game. We really do appreciate everything that Kroger’s doing.”
Give us an assessment of San Diego over the last few games:
AD: “Since we played them, they’ve done a good job. They’re 4-0 (over the last four games), so we’ve got to be at our best. We know they’re going to be at their best. It’s going to be a good matchup, and we’re excited about what we’ve got going this weekend.”
What is different about the Chargers you played earlier this season and the team that has won their last four games in a row?
AD: “They got back a couple guys that were hurt, and they’ve been playing well. They needed to get some wins for them to make the playoffs, and they did that. We kind of know what to expect going into the game, and we’ll be ready to go.”
What is different about this Bengals team than the one that’s lost the last two consecutive years to the Houston Texans in the playoffs?
AD: “The experience of having those two games has really helped us. We’ve got a lot of guys back (from those teams) and we understand what it takes. We fell short the last couple years. We didn’t take advantage of some plays that could have helped us, so I think understanding and really having that experience is helping us.”
Did you go into this season thinking you were going to be perfect (8-0) at home?
AD: “It was a goal of ours, and we’ve got to continue that. We still have another home game, so we’ve got to keep trying to accomplish our goal.”
WR MARVIN JONES
How do you prepare to play in a game as cold as the one Sunday is expected to be?
MJ: “We’ve prepared by going out and practicing in it. We’ve been in it before, and we’ve played in the cold a lot this year, so we just have to prepare mentally and keep doing what we have been doing.”
Do you think it’s an advantage with the Bengals being in a cold state versus the Chargers being in a warmer one like California?
MJ: “It can be, possibly, but at the same time, they went into Denver, where it was 20-something, and won, and they went to Kansas City and won. So it really doesn’t matter. It’s all about our preparation and our controlling of our opportunities.”
C KYLE COOK
You’ve been in the playoffs – what is difference about this Bengals team this year as opposed to the others you’ve been on?
KC: “Obviously, as a whole with the group – offense, defense, special teams – we had a lot of expectations at the beginning of the year, and to tell you the truth, we kind of expected this. A lot of people have been asking what’s the difference this year versus prior years – it’s just that to us, this is just another week. This is Week 18, like I said, we fully expected this, and we’re just taking it a week as it comes.”
What are some of the things that can be learned from the recent playoff appearances that can help the Bengals win this Sunday?
KC: “The biggest thing, especially in the years past, we’ve kind of been a one-and-done team. It is what it is. It’s you win and you keep going, you lose and you go home. We’ve had that experience in the past where we fortunate enough to get in, but we lose the games and go home. It’s over with. As hard as this team has worked all off season during the season, we want to keep going at it. We want to go to that next level.”
You beat the Chargers in Week 13, and they have not lost since. What’s different about them now versus then?
KC: “It’s not so much different as much as it is everything we expected the first time. They’re a good team. They’re very good offensively. You look back at that game and people say as far as the offense. ‘Do you feel like you pushed them around?’ Yes and no – but the fact is that game was still 17-10. It wasn’t a big blowout game and still came down to the end. We had to have that final drive to win it, so you can’t look past this game. This is a very good team, especially with their offense. They get hot as the games go on.”
What makes you optimistic you guys are going to win Sunday?
KC: “It’s just the mindset of the whole team. Not just the way we’ve been playing at home, but just the way we’ve been playing together the second half of the season as far as offense, special teams and defense.”
WR A.J. GREEN
One of this keys to this game is getting you the ball, but not forcing it to you. How do you deal with wanting the ball?
AG: “That’s fine, man. I’ll do whatever it takes to win. Sometimes it happens like that. Sometimes they’re going to be doubling me a lot, so you’re just going to have to be patient.”
What did you learn about San Diego in your previous meeting this season?
AG: “They’re a great defense. They’ve got some new guys in there that are really playing well that came off of IR, so we’re just going to have to be sound.”
How’s your knee?
AG: “It’s fine.”
K MIKE NUGENT
It must be nice to get a few kicks in during practice since you really haven’t had to kick a lot of long field goals in recent weeks:
MN: “Yeah, exactly. It’s nice to get a few in, but if you don’t hit any for six games, you’re still getting it that week (in practice) and taking care of it there.”
Is it different for kickers in the playoffs because so much of kicking is a mental game, especially when you get into those critical fourth-quarter situations?
MN: “You know what? I’ve only really played in two Wild Card games and yeah, everything is heightened, but it’s no different than other games physically. Mentally, yeah, everything’s a little more hyped and a little more ‘You lose and you’re out’ type of thing, but you just keep going and just have to realize it’s the same game as last week or two weeks ago or Week 10.”
What’s the biggest key to keeping everything the same?
MN: “Every now and then, if you’re out there looking around and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a big deal’ and all that kind of stuff – it’s self talk almost – you just have to make yourself realize you’ve done it a million times and just go out and repeat it.”
You’ve got another new holder – is that something you just work out ahead of time so that both are you comfortable?
MN: “Yeah. The entire operation. We got a ton of time in this week. Zoltan (new P
CB DRE KIRKPATRICK
You’ve played on a big stage before, playing in the national championship during your time in Alabama – how does this compare to that experience?
DK: “You just have to be more focused this time of the year. You have to be more focused than ever. I know what it takes to win championships and the type of focus it takes. You know, I obviously won two national championships in college, so the intensity’s got to pick up. I’m not a leader at this level yet, but I have still have the mindset I’m a leader, so I just go out there and give it my all. I feel like you really can’t go bigger than the game I played in 2011. The Alabama/LSU game was so big, there was so much media there – I don’t look at it as different. But still, you win or you’re going home with an ‘L.’ You win, you’re holding the trophy, so that’s how I look at it. They’re both on the same platform to me.”
How have the other members of the secondary helped you this season?
DK: “A lot of guys get thrown in the fire, and I had the opportunity to watch these guys, and I learned a lot from these guys. They’re my mentors on the field. I listen to everything they say and try to apply it on the field the best way I can.”
Is there anything Terrence Newman has said in particular that’s stood out and/or helped you?
DK: “Just pretty much ‘Stay focused.’ Don’t get overexcited. Let the game come to you and play the game the way you’ve been playing.”
LB JAMES HARRISON
What is the key for the defense to play well on Sunday?
JH: “Our defense just needs to go out there and stop the run if they try to run the ball, and get good pressure on the quarterback for sacks – that’s the biggest thing.”
DE WALLACE GILBERRY
What do you think of the matchup your teammate
WG: “Exactly – when you get a guy like that, it’s going to come down to who wants it more, and I know Michael. I know King Dunlap (DE
If you’re trying to educate me as a fan, what else should I be watching from the Bengals defensively Sunday?
WG: “Our whole defensive line. We feel like we’ve come to the point where it’s do-or-die, and we’ve got guys in our meeting room that don’t want to go home right now, and are playing like they don’t want to go home.”
You guys lost perhaps the best three-technique tackle in the league in
WG: “We don’t really think about it, because next year we’ll get Geno back and we’ll be even better, you know? A lot of that goes into what Duke Tobin and his guys do in scouting. They find guys that you guys may not know much about, like myself. A lot of people don’t know
Was there tightness before the playoff game last year?
WG: “More so uncertainty; there were a lot of guys who had never been, so I think we’ve grown in that aspect. We know what to expect, we understand the way we have to approach the game. It’s just like coming from the college to the NFL: the speed is different. From the regular season to the playoffs, the speed is different because there’s a lot more on the line now.”