ML: “Looking at the review of the game this morning, early on, it was great to play as well as we did early in the game defensively versus the run. That was key. We saw the quarterback come off and keep the ball off the option play early on, and our guys made a big, strong tackle over there which was huge. We were able to stay ahead in the down and distance throughout the football game, so that was big and that was helpful throughout the day, which gave us an opportunity to get off the field.
“Offensively, the catch by Jermaine (Gresham) on the first third down, the location by Andy (Dalton); it was tight coverage. Jermaine makes a tight body catch and was able to drag his way for the first down to keep the drive alive, and we were eventually able to work the ball down the field and score that first possession. Our protection was good. It had to be. These guys that we just played are a very, very physical group that gets after guys up front.
“Special teams-wise, we continue to grow. We’ve got to keep coaching hard, and we will. We keep growing in our coverage units. We’ve got to keep it up. Mike (Nugent) and Kevin (Huber) are doing a great job with ball placement, and we’ve got to keep that up. We’ve got some young guys emerging and making some plays, and that’s big. We had the big return before half by (Brandon) Tate, which sets up and gets us another score before halftime. We played a good football game in three phases. We’ve still got a lot of correction to make, a lot of work to do, and a short week to get it done. I’m excited about this football game.”
What are the biggest challenges for a short week like this?
ML: “We’ve got to be the best team Thursday night, plain and simple. It’s us and the Dolphins and, we’ve got to be the best team. There’s no other challenge. We knew the schedule. That’s the way it is. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. You come, be ready to go. We’ve got to get to work, be the best teachers, be the best executors, and best installers. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a big football game for us.”
How tough is it for you guys as a coaching staff to try and shove all of that into a small period of time?
ML: “You’re not shoving, you’ve got to build upon what you do, and how you do it, and we have to do a great job of the installation of what we do and applying it to this opponent and being sound in what we’re doing.”
Is it more of an advantage getting the Thursday night game now, or like last year when you got it at the tail end?
ML: “I don’t know. I can’t rate those things. I’m not smart enough to probably think about it, or there’s just not enough time to worry about it. They are when they are. I know this is a big game for us, and then we can take a little sigh like that for a bit, and then refocus for the next seven after that. This is a big football game for us.”
With this five game stretch and four of them on the road, the Jets game was kind of a hump game, a home game in the middle of the five. Now you’ve won the first three. With the short week you, almost get a mini bye week. Does this one take on any added significance?
ML: “It takes on a significance that it’s an AFC game, it’s on the road and we want to make sure we keep doing the things we’re doing correctly. There’s a lot of football left to be played. A lot of the opponents that we’ve already played have to play each other still. We have to understand that. We just have to put our head down and keep doing what we do and roll our sleeves up and go to work.”
Can you talk about
ML: “He just keeps playing, and being Andy, and that’s what he’s got to keep doing. He’s got to allow the plays to develop. We’ve got to do a great job of protecting him. We’ve got to get to the right spots for him and let him allow the football to work into what we perceive to be the weakness of the defense.
“He’s doing a great job in working through his progressions. He’s doing a great job of getting in and out of the correct plays in the run game, and getting us in passes, getting us in runs. That’s what you have to do. That’s what your responsibilities are. He’s doing it the same, the other guys are getting to the right spots.”
The offensive and defensive lines were the strength of both teams. I thought your offensive and defensive line really won the battle big time:
ML: “The linemen have done a fine job, and it’s going to be big again this week. We’re playing another very, very good, well put-together group, and they can get after it. They’re athletic, they’re explosive, and we’ve got to get our pads down, and it’s another game we’ve got to win up front on both sides.”
How much has their offense changed now that Mike Wallace is there?
ML: “They have a legitimate guy that can obviously go, and go fast. Mike Wallace is an excellent receiver, and they’ve got to try and work him the ball. Something they’re doing differently than last year is that the receivers really aren’t going to the huddle, they’re just kind of standing on the sides, left and right. That’s one change you may notice from a year ago. They’ve got a legitimate guy that maybe they didn’t have last year. (Mike) Hartline is an excellent player. He does what he does very, very well. Now they’ve got a guy opposite him.”
They’ve added a lot of different players, but guys you’re used to: Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe on defense:
ML: “Yeah, he’s a linebacker. When it’s that phase of the offense, we’ve just got to get pads on pads.”
Jay Gruden talked about how important
ML: “Everybody’s just got to do things the right way and see through the eyes of things. That’s important. All the line has to see it, and the quarterback, the backs and the tight ends, they all have to see it through the same eyes all the time. They do a good job of recognition. That’s an important part of offensive football. It’s no different than it’s ever been or ever will be. That’s part of the responsibilities of the guys up front, and they do a good job of it. We’re fortunate to have some very smart players up front in Andre (Smith) and (Andrew) Whitworth, and our two guards Clint (Boling) and Zeit (
Do Cook’s eyes have to be the first set of eyes?
ML: “They all have to work together.”
Do you have an update on
ML: “No. We don’t talk about injuries.”
ML: “Right now everybody looks like they’ll have a chance to be available. We’ll see later.”
Your sack differential is plus-six, and theirs is minus-12, one of the worst in the league. Is it going to come down to what happens up front again?
ML: “We’re going to have to do a great job of protecting our quarterback. I know that’s important. They may have given up some more sacks, although I don’t know if you can necessarily blame the offensive line group. Sacks are given up in a lot of different ways. The most important thing for us is that we have to do a great job in protecting our quarterback, and defensively when we get an opportunity, applying pressure. It’s probably true every time we go out there and play.”
How do you think
ML: “I thought he contributed well. He’s a little sore today. That’s part of your first real, real action on defense. I thought he came in and did well in the second half of the game when he played.”
You have so many young playmakers. As a head coach, do you have to worry about keeping them all happy?
ML: “We don’t have to keep anyone happy. The number one thing is to win. We have to win. You better be in the right spots and help us win when you get to the right spots.”
Are you concerned about the team maybe being too confident after a big win, and going against a team that’s lost four in a row?
Have you and the team learned something about how valuable every game is?
ML: “I think our team understands how valuable each and every game and opportunity is. If you don’t take advantage of it, you don’t get it back. These games all mean a great deal for us. This is an important game for us, so we have to have a great three days of preparation prior to going out there Thursday night. It’s important. It’s exciting for them. It ought to be. We get to go take the show on the road again. It’s fun. We’ve had a great crowd and great noise here at Paul Brown Stadium, and the thing is to take advantage of this game on the road, and then the tide turns at the end of the year where we get to play some more games at home. That’s to our advantage to take advantage of everything right now and go win football games on the road .We know it’s going to be difficult and tough, and we’re going to play a football team that’s lost a lot of close football games, so we’ve got to play great football.”
Is (Dolphins defensive coordinator) Kevin Coyle’s scheme similar to yours, Mike Zimmer’s, Dick LeBeau’s? How would you equate it?
ML: “I don’t know. It’s the Miami Dolphin defense.”
The Bengals are 13-3 over the last 16 games:
ML: “I think what our team understands is that in order to have an opportunity to do those things, you’ve got to be physically and mentally tough. You’ve got to execute, you’ve got to be disciplined and sound in your assignments, you’ve got to take care of the ball and you’ve got to be able to take the football away. We’ve got to work hard at taking the ball away. Those are key elements in being successful. We understand that. We can’t dance around that. We can’t drop the football and have opportunity to drop off our hands, whether it be offense, defense or special teams. We’ve got to maintain the football. We’ve got to catch it, out-block them, out-run them, out-catch them and out-tackle them.”
It seemed like the 2009 and ’11 teams kind of hit a wall at this point, and the team last year got their legs about them. Do you think the guys from ’09 and ’11 learned something from that stretch?
ML: “There are not many guys here that were here in ’09.”
Enough important ones:
ML: “There’s about six guys, maybe.”
There’s a few more than that, I think:
ML: “I don’t think those guys remember back what happened in ’09, or ’10, ’11, or frankly maybe not last year unless you remind them of it. You’re giving them too much credit. We just have to keep pushing, and keep our foot right back there and keep working.”
How do you know when you’re over the hump?
ML: “When you hold the trophy up at the end of the year, then you’re over the hump. Until then, it doesn’t really matter.”
AD: “They're playing really well. That's been big for us and big for me. They've given me plenty of time back there to do everything that I've been able to do. They've been playing really well. We've had some good challenges the last couple weeks, some really good fronts, and we've got another good front this week. So they've accepted everything, came out and played physical, played tough. They've been playing some great football.”
The only sack you took was because you ran out of bounds. Can you explain whether you've gotten any heat over that?
AD: “I haven't gotten the heat. I knew as soon as I stepped out of bounds, I was like, ‘Well, that was dumb.’ I'm sure I'm going to hear about it. But that was definitely my fault.”
You talk about communication on the line. Is that everybody seeing the same thing, from the wideouts to you and Kyle Cook?
AD: “You've got to communicate to everybody. Kyle's done a really good job with that. Kyle's a really smart player. And he gets all the guys, directs everybody to what we're doing. That's been big for us.”
Do you think
AD: “Yeah, that's been big. We've got different guys making plays at all times. So if you are going to take away A.J., we've got other guys that can make plays as well. So it could make some defenses and some teams not try to double A.J. It just kind of depends on the team and what they're wanting to do.”
You had many pieces in the offense starting the season. Have they started fitting together in the last three games?
AD: “We've done some really good things. We've really spread the ball around to a bunch of different guys, and guys are making plays. We knew what kind of talent we had. The last couple of weeks, we've really put it all together and made plays at big times in games.”
Is there any disadvantage to facing a coordinator like Kevin Coyle, who knows this team so well?
AD: “I don't think it's a disadvantage. He's a guy that understands a little bit about what we're doing. I feel like we've got a chance to see the similarities between what they're doing and what our defense does. We can relate to some of the stuff just because we've gone against our defense so much. I wouldn't say it was a disadvantage at all.”
How exciting is it for the team and the city to be on this winning streak?
AD: “It's been big. It's been big for a lot of people. It's a lot of fun to come out and play the way we've been doing and, get these wins in these games. It's been a lot of fun for the fans and everybody that's in Cincinnati that is rooting for us. There's a lot of pride about our team, and there's a lot of pride in this city. If we can keep delivering and we can keep playing like we have been, I think there will be a lot of happy people.”
Is your last three games the best stretch of your career?
AD: “It's tough to say. I've been on some really good teams. I feel like I'm playing pretty well right now, and I just have to keep it going. I've got to keep putting this team and this offense in a good position to win games. If I can do that, I think we'll have a good chance to win a lot of them.”
With so many playmakers, how do you decide who gets the ball and how do you keep everybody happy?
AD: “I think they know it all depends on the looks we're getting. We don't have too many selfish guys --we don't have selfish guys at all. That's why this offense has been able to do what it has, because we've got guys whose sole goal is to win the game. It's big, and I think everybody was really happy. I don't think anybody was jealous about what Marvin did yesterday. Everybody was just happy for him. That's what's so special about this team: We've got guys rooting for everybody and want everybody to be successful.”
How do you prepare with the short week?
AD: “You've got to prepare quickly. That's the biggest thing. You've got to have the mindset that it is a short week, and you've got to do whatever you can to get the same amount of preparation in a short amount of time. You've just got to be sharp on everything you're doing.”
What do you do specifically? Do you work more hours?
AD: “I guess you can say it's working more in a couple days rather than spreading it out in the normal week's time. You've got to make sure you get everything in in a short amount of time.”
In last few weeks, has it been the receivers doing better as opposed to changes in you?
AD: “I don't think there's really anything that's changed in me. I feel like I'm playing with a lot of confidence, and our guys are doing the same thing. That's been big for us. We know what we're doing out there, and they're in the right spots, and they're making plays. That's kind of what it comes down to.”
What about your protection?
AD: “I don't think the protection is much different, either. They've done a good job this whole year. Everything is just kind of clicking right now, and everybody's on the same page, and we're doing some really good things.”
Regarding those long passes, you worked on long throws in offseason. Was it especially gratifying to make them yesterday?
AD: “Yeah, that was big. It's something that's been conscious, that I've worked on. To hit those was definitely gratifying, to know that we've done it in practice, and now it's time to do it in some of these games. We hit some big ones yesterday.”
Coach Gruden said you could have thrown shorter on each one of those plays but took the deep option. Were you trying to prove that you could throw deep?
AD: “Well, when we had the looks and the chance to hit the big plays, I think it just comes down to hitting them. Not everything is going to be deep. You're going to have some outlets and things like that. But when we got those looks and we got some chances, we were wanting to hit them.”