AUGUST 25, 2011
“I think overall with the game tonight, the big thing was continuing to make sure we’re able to run the football. But the thing we’ve got to get cleaned up is the fumbles. We had the bad fumble on the exchange and the fumble later on with Brian (Leonard). When we screwed up the handoff on the second one, we just got hit as we were handing it off. It kind of spoiled things offensively, as overall we had a pretty good night overall. We just have to keep honing and working on things, and we’ve got a good long week now to go back and work on some of the things we need to do better as we get ready for our season. We only really had one day this week, to do any of that so that will really make a big difference.
“I think defensively, obviously, the glowing improvement we need is making sure when we play against a mobile quarterback that we get our edges buttoned up, because we allowed him to run for some first downs, and that will hurt you when you start playing real football. On special teams, a lot of good things are happening, a lot of good effort and so forth, but the one thing I want to see get cleaned up are the penalties. There was a lot of good effort coming back in a short week like this. I thought we responded well and we took care of a lot of things right away and kind of kept them on their heels a little bit.”
General thoughts on how Andy (Dalton) played tonight?
“I think, much like he finished the last game, he played pretty well. On tape, we’re not evaluating every play right now like we’ll do tomorrow, but from the sideline, I thought he did things well. He really just settled down and played at ease. On the drive before halftime before the field goal, I thought was excellent. He handled that situation very, very well and put us in position to get the field goal. That was a great job.”
It was a resilient job by your guys after Carolina recovered the fumble and scored. You came back and scored with the running game:
“We had a good first drive until the fumble, and we’ve got to improve at that. You can’t turn the ball over, first of all because that kills us and now we can’t score, but secondly we put the defense in a bad situation.”
It looked like the offensive line blocked really well, but you also got (good blocking) out of (Jerome) Simpson and (Chris) Pressley downfield:
“I think guys understand that it takes 11 guys in order to win. I know it takes 11 on defense and really does take 11 on offense to be good and efficient. I think our receiving group has done a great job of blocking downfield, and it’s shown up in every game thus far, and I think we’ll continue to get better and better at it. If I point out one thing on video every day, it’s that. It’s the effort downfield and guys staying going downfield in front of people.”
Did you plan to play Andy just the first half, or were you going to go into the third quarter?
“We were going to go a (certain) number of plays. That’s what I judged it on. That group had 45 plays in the first half, plus the plays they had last (week) on Sunday night. I think Andy could play all night, but the guys that are surrounding him, we can’t wear them out.”
“Bernard’s been touched up a little bit, so it was good to get him out there and get him going, and he was excited about it. He’s one of those guys who wants more, so that’s a good thing.”
Just like the last couple of weeks, the offense turned the ball over on the opening drive, but the team was able to rebound tonight:
“We were moving the ball well, but there was a miscommunication, and a lot of that was my fault. We were able to bounce right back and put it together. We knew that we just had to come out and do our thing and play our game, (and if we did that), we knew things would be in our favor. We did a great job. The offensive line did an outstanding job tonight — the way we ran the ball in the first half. The way we were able to move the ball up and down the field in the first half was great. It shows what this offense is capable of.”
Did you see the secondary open up once you started running the ball effectively?
“It definitely did. When you run the ball, they are going to try to get more guys in the box to try and stop it. We had chances one-on-one and I think we took advantage of it tonight.”
It seems like it’s been getting progressively better each week. Does if feel like you took a big step forward tonight?
“For sure. We needed this for our confidence. We always knew what we were capable of. It’s great to go out and perform well. So, hopefully we can just keep getting better and better.”
Talk about the play where you threw the ball to
“We knew we had one-on-one coverage and we took a shot. I probably threw the ball a little bit too wide. But when we had that shot again, we completed it.”
What does that do for the confidence for both you and Green?
“It’s definitely nice to get the first one over with. It shows that we just have to go out and play well. I think we both didn’t play as well as we wanted to (last week), so I think this is a big bounce-back week for the both of us.”
How big was it to be able to get a score at the end of the first half when you had to run the two-minute offense?
“It was big for me and it was big for this offense to get it into a two-minute situation where we have to be throwing the ball on every play. We just had to make sure everyone was on the same page, and we felt like we did a good job of that. We put the ball in a position to kick the field goal.”
“We came out with an attitude tonight. It was the same guys that have lined up the last two weeks but we came out with the right attitude and mindset tonight. That really falls upon some of the leaders that have been there. We have talked a lot about that, and we have to continue to come out and lead these young guys. We have also talked to the young guys about that attitude and they came out and showed it today. I’m very proud of them.”
Watching the offensive line get off the line was very impressive:
“This is what we have been working on this whole time, and it is what we have seen in practice at times. Tonight we finally came out with the attitude and the mindset that we needed to. This is something that we have to bottle up and remember. We have to do it week in and week out.”
The wide receivers on the edge blocked great tonight. What can you say about that?
“We have young guys out there fighting their butts off out on the edge. They are doing everything they can, and that is something that we have is new and different. There is leadership in this locker room, and there are good football players here. All we need to do is be all-in together and worry about who is here.”
What did you think of tonight?
“It felt good out there. It was nice being out with a new team, and it was a good night.”
You are an intelligent football player, so what do you think of the schemes and the philosophy of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer?
“I think it is good. Everybody buys into it here and believes in it. That makes for a good chemistry between coaches and players. It gives the potential for a lot of success. I’m just happy to be here.”
Were you at all concerned after the first two weeks that this offense was capable of putting up the numbers that you did tonight?
“It never concerned me. This is a whole new offense with a rookie quarterback and a couple young guys on the outside. Just coming in and practicing every day, I knew we had a chance to be great. I’ve said since day one the sky is the limit for us with this offense.”
This was your first experience running out in the Jungle here at Paul Brown Stadium. Describe that:
“Man, it was great. We have some great fans. It reminded me of my Georgia fans back home. We have some great fans out there supporting us. You can feel the energy once everything starts rolling.”
Did you get the ball after your touchdown catch?
“No, I didn’t get the ball, but I will after my first regular season touchdown.”
You’ve had a bit of the injury bug this preseason. How did it feel out there tonight? You looked really sharp:
“I felt good out there. I had a couple weeks of rehab to get my hamstring back together. The whole line did a great job up front. I was just running and reacting. I give all the credit to the offensive line.”
No hesitation because of the injury?
“No. I’ve been practicing. I just wasn’t ready the last two weeks for a game. I was adapting to the speed of the game.”
Talk about the offensive line opening holes for you guys. Anything in particular really work well for you guys?
“They were just blocking their butt off on every play tonight. It all started up front with those guys. When they give us the lanes, the ‘backs are going to do what they’re supposed to do.”
So, does this one feel a little better than the first two (preseason games)?
“Collectively we came out and executed the game plan well. There were times during the game where Cam (Newton) ran out of the pocket, and I take full blame for that, for not making the right call. On the second one, he got a first down because I didn’t contain him very well. I still have a lot to fix. It was such a short week, but we played well. Walking off the field with a ‘W’ always feels good.”
Certainly there was a better push at the line of attack all night:
“We played well. Everyone was fired up and coming off a short week, like I said.”
Was there any sense of panic after what you saw the first two games?
“No. We knew it was fixable. We knew if we just came to practice and worked on it, that this group could be special. Everyone doubts what we can do. Only we can control what we do, and that’s how hard we can play and how hard we can run to the ball. We showed that tonight. It will only get better from here.”
Everything seemed to work really well in the first half, especially the running game:
“It was kind of a mindset where we just knew what we wanted to do. At the end of the day it’s getting your pads low and doing what you need to do and getting the offensive coordinator to keep calling the plays. You start to get a feel for it and start to work well together like we have in the past, and things start to open up.”
Both Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott had real nice games tonight. What kind of difference is there between the two of them?
“They both run the ball extremely hard — that’s what I love about them. A lot of times you really don’t realize who is in there. Obviously, Ced’s more of a downhill runner. He’s a little bigger guy. They both run the ball so hard. They get those extra two of three yards at the end of a run, which is huge for us.”
What did you say to the team in the locker room following the game?
“I basically told them that what happened in the first half wasn’t good enough. What happened in the second half is the way we need to start football games. That’s the bottom line.
“We did some things very well in the first quarter and then took a hiatus. That was disappointing ...
“All of a sudden, we gave ourselves a chance. We had a takeaway, scored a touchdown to take a lead. Then, we missed on two third-down situations. You can’t accept that. That was not acceptable. I told them from that point (until halftime) was not good football. I thought what we did in the second half was better.
“I thought there were some good individual efforts. Obviously, there are a lot of individuals who need to look at themselves and figure it out.”
Defensively, how concerned are you about your team’s performance?
“Very concerned. We are playing some young guys that are going to have to get some experience very quickly. Our two starting tackles this week were both rookies. At times they played like rookies, and at other times they played like seasoned veterans. They are a little bit of a ways away, but we are going to live and die with this situation. These guys are going to grow. As I told the guys, we are the little brothers getting punched in the head. Pretty soon, we’re going to learn to punch back.”
What did you think of Cam Newton’s performance tonight?
“I thought he had his moments. He was a little erratic at times. He felt the pressure at times. I think that got to him a bit. At times, we didn’t help him. There were a couple of silly penalties that happen when things aren’t going well. You just compound it. We need to clean up our route running. If we get into position like we are supposed to and make the breaks that we should, we present better targets for the guy. He needs to make better reads at times. It goes back to we as a group. We as a team need to go back, practice, and get better.”
What did you think of Newton’s decisions with his feet to run the football?
“I thought he made some very good decisions to run the ball. What you would like to see, especially following the (26-yard) run in the second quarter is for him to gather himself and maintain his composure. I’m sure he was a little gassed right there, but you would like to see him come back and make another play. We missed an opportunity there to down and score.”
What is the status of Chris Gamble?
“He dislocated a thumb. They just put it back in and he should be fine.”
Are you ready to make a final decision on your starting quarterback for the season opener?
“We will take a look at the film and get a feel for (the game). It was nice to see (Cam) in an extended role. You learn that he has some moxie, but he has a long way to go. Just like we do as a football team. We have a long way to go.”
Would you say you are learning toward starting Cam Newton?
“The biggest thing we lost sight of is that this is a new offense. It’s not just about Cam being ready to play. It’s about the other 10 guys, too. I meant it when I said we’ve got to protect him better. We’ve got to run the routes better. We’ve got to run the ball better. We’ve got to block better when it comes to running. We’ve got to make better decisions at quarterback. The big thing that we can not lose focus of is that it’s not just about the one guy. We didn’t draft him to be the savior. We drafted him to lead this team. Right now, we’re in the throes of everyone is learning. We’ve got a ways to go.”
Another disappointing outing from the offense. What do you have to do to make it better?
“You have to keep producing — both as a whole on offense, and as individuals, starting with me. I have to keep coming out and learn from my mistakes.”
What is the biggest thing you need to learn to do to get better?
“Learn to stay on schedule. For example, on third-and-eight, do you play into the defenses’ hands? Third-and-four’s and third-and-two’s are better situations.”
You had the chance to get out of the pocket and run a little. Talk about your touchdown run:
“That’s what the defense gave me. It was man-to-man and the defenders had their backs to me.”
How did it feel to get into the end zone?
“Any time you get into the end zone, it’s a relief. We need more of those (trips to the end zone). Three-and-outs, putting our defense in bad situations — that’s unacceptable. We know we have to keep progressing and keep climbing that mountain.”
Coach Rivera says you need to learn how to slide:
“I need to learn how to do a lot of things.”
You threw the ball to Steve Smith often, but with limited success. Talk about the connection between you two:
“Steve is a big part of this offense. Not just him, but all the other receivers (also). We have a lot of playmakers. It starts with me — being the distributor — getting those guys the ball.”
The story with Jerry Richardson and the tattoos seems to have taken on a life of its own recently:
“That’s something that is blown way out of proportion. I haven’t heard anything from Mr. Richardson. Our relationship is A-1. He didn’t say anything.”
He didn’t say anything regarding tattoos?
“No. One thing I’m not going to do is dwell on that. It’s irrelevant right now. I’m going to continuously try to become a better player. That’s an irrelevant off-the-field issue.”
You completed just six of 19 attempts. What do you attribute that to?
“It’s unacceptable. That’s an embarrassing stat. I need to make the proper reads. I need to get into my comfort zone. Third-and-long is not a situation we want to be in. A check-down is not a bad thing in all instances. Tonight, I made a check-down to DeAngelo (Williams) and we got some yardage.”
It takes many quarterbacks years to become comfortable in a new system. How do you do it in six weeks?
“I don’t feel like I’ve been here six weeks. I’ll be doggone if it takes me years. The whole learning process has been sped up. It’s not fun losing. We had the same amount of time to prepare as they did.”
Was it a struggle at the line of scrimmage tonight?
“Yeah. We have to protect Cam (Newton). It’s tough being a rookie quarterback and only having three weeks under your belt on offense. We have to protect him and make it easier on him. We have to run the ball better to take the load off of him. That’s what we want our offense to be anyway. We’ll have to watch the tape, but we definitely have to get better.”
What do you guys have to do to become more consistent on offense?
“I don’t think it showed as much, but I think our offense took huge steps from last game to this game. The little things, like demeanor in the huddle, getting to the line of scrimmage with enough time to make our calls and audibles, and Cam making some good decisions with the ball. We progressed as an offense. We scored on our first possession and had some field goals where we had some good field position in the second half, but we didn’t do a whole lot in between. We need to at least change field position if we’re not going to score.”
Is that just a maturation process?
“That’s where we’re at. We have a new offense with a lot of new faces and a rookie quarterback in the huddle. There are steps that need to be taken. You’d love to come out and score 50 points in the first three weeks of the preseason, but that’s not going to happen. This was our last dress rehearsal and it wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be. We’ll get a little playing time against the Steelers next week to brush up. We all have our sites on a trip to Arizona, and that’s where we really want be looking to.”
Did you know you would be switching from right tackle to left tackle?
“Yeah. Coach had already told me he would be evaluating me so I would be playing both sides. So I was already prepared.”
Is it difficult playing three quarters on one side and then switching for one quarter?
“No. It’s a change in mindset and stance, but I’ve played both sides, so it’s a bit natural for me. I just tried to not miss a block.”
You had a pretty good night tonight:
“I’m just trying to stay focused and help this team out. I want to be part of this championship team that coach is trying to build. We have great leaders on this team who are helping us young guys get better.”
What happened on the TD run from Cam Newton?
“It was a passing play and he couldn’t find anyone open so he took off running.”
How do you block for a guy like Cam Newton?
“You do have to have a feel for him — when he’s going to move. You’re really thinking about blocking your own man. You’re thinking about not giving up that sack.”
How has he progressed in the huddle?
“He’s progressed a lot. He’s taking care of the ball and not making careless mistakes. If he does something wrong, he makes sure he corrects it. He’s doing a great job.”
With a couple of Super Bowl players on this team, does this team have what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl?
“It’ll take some time this year. Coach has been harping on us to get better and that’s what we’re doing. Nothing less than a championship though.”