DECEMBER 29, 2013
“That was a great win today against a team that had everything to play for, and I am very proud of our team. We overcame the turnovers early and did a great job in the red-zone on defense to hold them to field goals. We got the ball back and went to work on offense. The biggest disappointment was the turnovers on offense. Other than that we really played well on offense and defense. We had the one poor punt, but other than that we punted the ball well. I thought we covered kicks well and I am just proud of how we played. We had a great week of preparation and this group is excited. We keep playing and overcoming ourselves, and you have to be proud of that.”
You were up 10 in the fourth quarter with first-and-goal at the one: why throw the ball there?
“The quarterback has things that they do based on looks, so he makes the determination at the line of scrimmage.”
So he checked down on that one?
“We make the decisions we make and we live with them. Last week we scored touchdowns on those plays and they were great plays weren’t they? Again, last week we converted those.”
It looks like
“Throughout the last part of the season we have been going with whoever was in there. It has been a little bit of both him and BenJarvus (Green-Ellis).”
A lot of people seem to be questioning the play calling of Jay Gruden:
“Well, we won the football game and that is what matters. We’re going to move forward from there.”
The offensive line had a lot of shuffling guys in and out there today:
“I think we got a little banged up during the game. Kyle (Cook) hurt his foot, but the x-rays were negative. We will just have to wait and see where we are when tomorrow comes.”
This is the first time that you have been undefeated at home, so congratulations are in order:
“Thank you. It won’t mean anything next week though. It is very short lived. That is a great accomplishment for us. I thought the crowd and the fans were outstanding today. That was huge for us today. Even with the defense having to go on the field early, the crowd was huge.”
Despite two interceptions early,
“He just keeps being Andy. He just keeps playing. We will make the corrections we need to make with everyone and move forward.”
It seems like Mike Zimmer continues to be Mike Zimmer and the defense continues to be the defense:
“A lot of guys are continuing to do their thing on the field. We just have to keep playing within the scheme of things, eliminate breakdowns, and continue to tackle well. That was big for us today. We stopped the run early on defense and made it a one-dimensional football game.”
“We’ll see. He probably should have knocked down the fourth-down play, but those are some things that you learn with maturity. He made a nice interception that made it all even, though.”
Which type of game is better to go into the playoffs on: a blowout or games like this where you can still stress plenty of corrections and things like that?
“I don’t know. We were going to keep coaching regardless of what the score was. We just have to keep coaching. We have guys who accept the coaching and continue to move forward and get better.”
Now that you are in the playoffs, is there a feeling of excitement or a feeling of “OK, we are back here again”?
“We have unfinished business. What we have done thus far is good. We have accomplished two of the goals.”
Are you going to watch New England?
“I don’t know. I have nothing I can control there. I had a hard enough time yesterday with my University of Cincinnati Bearcats. We can’t do anything until we figure out what happens today.”
Is there a matchup that you would prefer?
“No. I think we are excited to play. I don’t even know what the scenarios are now. I don’t think we will know much until later this evening.”
Would you better prefer a Saturday or Sunday game?
“I would prefer Sunday, as you can imagine.”
How did the team come out of this game health-wise?
“We got some guys banged up today. I think Alex (Smith) had a wrist dislocation, which was probably the major injury. Other than that everyone else was available to come back in. The offensive line did an outstanding job today. Trevor (Robinson) stepped in at center and played most of the game. Andrew (Whitworth) played tackle and guard in the same game. We used everybody today.”
What did you think about the receiving tandem of
“I think Marvin has had a fine season, as have all of our receivers. Jay showed an interview last night with Dean Pees from Baltimore talking about our offensive guys. Not just the ability of AJ, but all of our guys, from the top to the bottom, have the ability to make big plays. Andrew (Hawkins) had a great game today. They just keep making plays and that is what we have to have.”
“We had some different looks. Your runs are different with tight ends in there so we just had some different looks today.”
Without putting too much focus on this game, overall how do you feel about where Andy Dalton is right now?
“I feel great about where Andy is right now. He just keeps playing and is really unflappable. He is in a good spot as we move forward. We just have to coach better and play better as we move forward.”
Is he better equipped to handle a performance like today going into the postseason than he was a year or two ago?
“I don’t know. You are evaluating a performance and we won the football game by three scores and I feel good about that.”
Personally, what do you take away from a game where you had four interceptions?
“It’s some frustration there, but we did some good things today. I took some chances with the ball I probably shouldn’t have, but we were able to overcome them at the end of the day. It was a big win for us today, and it feels good to go undefeated at home and be where we are. We’ll see what happens later on tonight.”
Are you likely to be more conservative or less likely to take those chances in the playoff game?
“You’ve got to know when you can take those chances. I’ll watch the film, but I’m happy where we are and what we’ve done here.”
Did the rain have any affect at all?
“It didn’t have any affect at all. A couple things happened, and it didn’t fall our way. Again, it was a big win today. We’re 11-5, and in a really good spot.”
That first-and-goal call at the one-yard line, can you walk us through that?
“Yeah, I got a little greedy, and tried to take a shot. I didn’t throw it how I wanted to, and should have ran it in or handed it off.”
After three seasons, how difficult is it for you to get past a game where you throw four interceptions?
“All I can do is learn from this. The interceptions hurt us, but our defense did a good job of holding them (the Ravens) to field goals off of them. We were able to make some great plays today and it goes to show what we are capable of.”
Can you tell us what you were hoping to accomplish with the go-ahead drive?
“It’s a matter of flipping the momentum at that point. It was a big drive that shifted things in the game for us.”
Giovani Bernard’s screen was big:
“He did a good job. Gio and space is big. It was a great call and great execution.”
Going 8-0 at home, knowing you’re going to have at least one home game ... what does that do for the team’s confidence?
“It’s big. We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now. The last couple years we’ve played on the road, so it will be a great environment having the fans getting into it. We’re prepared for the playoffs to happen.”
How is this team different from previous years?
“It’s a lot of the same guys, but more experienced, and we understand what is at stake. We’re more prepared going into it this year.”
Do you think you have more to prove due to previous playoff performances?
“I think so. Offensively, I don’t think we’ve done very well, but we run a pretty complete game together. This is the time. What you’ve done in the regular season doesn’t matter anymore; it’s all about what you’re doing now. It’s the team that gets hot that ends up winning it all. We’ve got to play to our potential and good things are going to happen for us.”
You’ve set a couple franchise records in this stadium. What does it mean to you personally?
“It’s an honor to be able to accomplish those things. There have been some really good quarterbacks who have played here, so it’s going to be cool to look back on all these things.”
As a young quarterback, you know it’s possible you will be going head-to-head with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and maybe Philip Rivers in that conference. Is there any part of you that’s given some thought to this being your chance to step forward?
“I think it’s something we’ve already done so far, and come out successful against some of these guys. We’ve got to keep playing like we’ve been playing and let the rest take care of itself.”
The 12-play, 90-yard drive after Baltimore tied the game at 17-17, is that as good a drive as you guys have had all year?
“Yes. This is a game that we needed. That was a drive that turned the whole game around.”
You guys have talked a lot a lot all year on the defensive side about next man up. Today, the tight ends were next man up down to yourself. That had to be a positive, to be able to go in and get the job done:
“Hats off to the offensive coordinator for allowing me to go in there and trusting me that I knew my stuff, but I go in there every day and prepare for this position. I just thank God for the opportunity given to me. I’m going to see Alex (Smith) and check up on him to make sure he’s okay. I’m just thankful.”
There was a lot made during training camp of your position battle, and you probably didn’t play as much as you’d like to throughout the season, but to be able to do that now in this game, did that mean a lot to you?
“Yeah, it means a lot. It means a lot to show the coaches that I am capable of playing football and playing tight end, and if anyone goes down or gets hurt, they can put me in. Now, I have to keep on capitalizing and correct the little mistakes I had to today and move forward. It’s playoff time. I’ve got to get another notch up.”
What went wrong on offense today?
“It happens. We won the game and that’s all that matters.”
You won despite four turnovers. What does that say?
“Defense played well. I don’t know. I can’t explain it. It was a miracle at home, I guess.”
How much did it matter to go undefeated at home?
“It was important. I don’t know what it is about playing here in front of our fans, but we’ve played unbelievable here.”
You’ve met two of your three goals. Does it matter to achieve goal three?
“Nothing matters unless you get to goal three. That’s winning a Super Bowl. Then, we can look back and reflect on all of the great things we did this season. Until then, we need to keep our head down and keep winning.”
You’re still looking for your first playoff win. What makes this team different?
“We continue to fight for each other. This is the closest team we’ve had since I’ve been here. We’re all like brothers around here. It’s always ‘next man up.’ ”
Is it fair to say this team hasn’t made it until they win a playoff game?
“We know we have to win the next game, and I think we can.”
Did losing your third tight end hurt the offense?
“Like I said, it’s ‘next man up.’ We had to do what we had to do. Orson (Charles) played great today.”
You knocked Baltimore out of the Super Bowl tournament and won the division by three games. Is it a new day in the AFC North Division?
“Not at all. Basically there’s nothing new. We’ve got to go into the playoffs with our head on straight and level and be ready to play.”
How do you like the way this team is playing at this stage?
“We’re playing very focused. Everybody’s communicating, everybody’s doing their part and we’re determined. If we mess up, that person makes up for it on the next play.”
Andy Dalton set records for most touchdown passes and passing yards in a single season. You guys (Gruden and Andy Dalton) have grown together, and you’ve developed this guy. How much of a sense of accomplishment towards what this kid has done?
“A lot. We’ve seen him progress through thick and thin. (Quarterbacks coach) Ken Zampese has done a great job with him also, so I can’t take full credit — that’s for sure. He’s a great kid; he wants to be great. He works hard, brushes off the criticism, and just comes to play every day and comes to work. It’s a great tribute to him.”
In regard to the turnovers, in talking with Andy Dalton he wishes he had a few things back and made some different decisions, but overall, how well do you feel he played today?
“It was a roller coaster today, man. He was either really, really good — as good as anybody, or he made a couple of really poor decisions. We eliminate those. It cost us a couple games earlier in the year against Miami and against Baltimore, so sometimes when he gets into a rhythm he gets too comfortable and gets a little greedy, so to speak, but overall he made some great protection adjustments, moved in the pocket well and led us to another victory, his 11th. I think that’s 30 now in three years, which is pretty good.”
Every year getting more wins with nine, 10 and now 11. Five more years together and you’ll be able to run the table with 16 in a row:
“That would be great. We’re going good. We’ve got a good young team. Everybody comes into work every day. Our offensive line did an outstanding job. They’re so banged up; we didn’t have a tackle after A.C. was hurt, Whit was hurt and then Cook hurt his foot, Andre was hurt. It was a grind out there today. We had no tight ends and it was a tough day but everybody battled through it, and it was an impressive win for those guys.”
It looks like the biggest injury is
“We’ll see. We have a tough group and they’re resilient. They play hard and they play through pain.”
How big was it when you didn’t have two tight ends and then you lose the third?
“It was tough. It was a tough day. It was a scramble job on that sideline today but I think our guys fought through it and the coaches did a good job of getting other guys ready to play.
The depth in your offensive line showed today with a lot of guys playing multiple positions:
“Obviously, we had some guys get banged up. I went down and Trevor (Robinson) was able to come in, and we were fortunate last year that he was able to play a lot of football. The more banged up you get, the more experienced guys that you have, the better.
How big are you rooting for the Buffalo Bills to beat the New England Patriots so you can get a week off with a bye in the first round?
“That would be real nice to let guys heal up, and then get back to work.”
The depth showed up again in the offensive line. Do you think everybody’s going to be able to make the dance when the playoffs begin?
“We’re going to find that out as we go. With me and Pollak rotating today, and Trevor getting in and a lot of people getting reps, we all know how to communicate, so no matter how our line ends up being, we’ll have a good chance to put out a solid line.”
How big was it today to beat the Baltimore Ravens and knock the defending Super Bowl champions out of the playoffs?
“It was pretty big. Before the game, Whit said ‘We already won and are already are the AFC champions of the North, but the Ravens don’t respect us.’ We went there, we laid an egg and they beat the crap out of us, honestly. They don’t respect us. We wanted to come out and make sure we were firing on all cylinders.”
You had a 10-point lead and let it get away. Then you had to take control:
“That’s how it goes sometimes. When the offense isn’t playing well, the defense has to come through. Today, we did a great job playing as a unit.”
How does it feel to finish off the regular season with two interceptions and a touchdown?
“It feels good. We have Terence (Newman) coming back — I’m just playing my role. I’m not in it for a starting position. If he comes back and he’s healthy and they feel that he would do a better job, that’s OK. I just want to win a championship. That’s all it’s about.”
What did you see on the interception return for a touchdown?
“When I saw the ball, I just had to catch it and hold on for life.”
Did you think about possibly dropping the other interception deep in your own territory?
“No. I didn’t want to take any chances of fumbling or anything like that. I just wanted to play the game smart.”
You’ve been here a long time. What’s different about this team?
“This team never gives up. We have a special team here. I’ve felt it from Day 1. We have a lot of guys here who are hungry and want to win. That’s the difference from some of the past teams. We had a lot of ‘me’ guys or ‘I’ guys in the past. It’s all about ‘we’ now. If you have a group of guys with the same goal and their eyes on the prize, you can go a long way.”
Are you going to watch the Patriots game now?
“Go Buffalo. Let’s go baby.”
A lot of excitement here today:
“It’s so exciting in here. Finishing undefeated at home was one goal, winning the division was another goal, and the next goal is to get that trophy.”
Even though the offense turned the ball over a lot, you held them to field goals:
“Whenever the defense takes the field, we take it like we own it. We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. That’s what we do on defense. We like to stop people.”
What was the talk after the offense turned the ball over on the first play of the game?
“Do our job. Our job is to stop them whenever they have the football. I feel like we did a pretty good job of that, except for the one touchdown, which I think was a fluke. We rise to the occasion. Everyone around here expects us to do that, and we believe we can do that. Everyone has a role on this team, and we all go out there and do our job as best we can.”
Did you sense some frustration from Joe Flacco?
“I don’t know. We were just trying to get to get to him. We wanted to stop the run and put them in situations where they had to throw. It was a lot of fun out there today. I love playing with these guys.”
Eleven wins, an AFC North Championship and three straight years in the playoffs ... is any of that significant for you?
“Honestly, and I mean this — for me, it was expected. I know what we have in this locker room. Everyone is just starting to see it a little bit now. We still have so much more in us and so much further to go. Just hold your horses — we have something. We’re coming.”
Is there anyone specific you’d like to play?
“I don’t care. Anyone can get it.”
Is it always more important to win games this time of year?
“It is. It’s win or go home. We don’t care how we win. It doesn’t have to be pretty. We just need to win. We want to go to New York.”
Are you confident in this team going into the playoffs?
“I feel better about this team than I ever have. When we show up, we’re hard to beat. Last year we squeaked in, but not this year. You don’t get to 11 wins by being lucky.”
How important is it to get a playoff win to gain the national respect?
“That’s the goal. We got knocked out the last few times. We can’t just show up. I feel good going into the playoffs this time. We’re coming in with momentum. Plus we’re playing at home. We haven’t had a home game since 2009. That’s going to be tough for whoever we play.”
Do you care who you play next?
“Not at all. It’s just another football game for us. It’s still going to be another work week. Everyone just has to find a way to get better than they were the week before.”
It seems like most guys feel better equipped for the playoffs this year than you have in the past:
“I think it all began in OTAs. We didn’t finish the way we wanted to last year. Everyone was left with sour tastes in their mouths. We came to camp and set the same goals, but I think we have a more established group. We’re hungry.”
How important was it to limit the damage off of the turnovers early in the game?
“We can’t turn the ball over. At the same time, we have to do our job by going out there and stopping them.”
You guys shut them out 17-0 in the fourth quarter:
“We just had to keep doing our job. Dre’s (Kirkpatrick) had an interception return for a touchdown — that was big for momentum. We just kept going. Our offense did what they had to do, and we controlled what we did.”
Division wins are always earned:
“It’s always difficult and we have to give them respect as reigning Super Bowl champs. At the same time, we have to let them know that this is our time. We’re the AFC North Champs, and we’re here to make sure they don’t make their way into the playoffs.”
What’s the value of being undefeated at home?
“If you look at the perennial playoff teams, their home records are always strong. When you can count home games as wins, you don’t have to be that good on the road. We realize that the home games mean something if we want to be a perennially great football team.”
Is it safe to say that this team feels different to you than previous teams?
“Yes. It’s a step better. The last two years, I’ve said this team is better every time we step on the field. Today we finally cleared the hurdle of starting bad on offense and coming back and running away with a game. Not only starting bad, but coming back and playing really well. That was a hurdle we had to clear. We’ve gone 9-7, then 10-6 and now 11-5. Like I said, every time we’ve hit the field, we’ve gotten better.”
“Good seeing everybody. It was obviously a very difficult, disappointing loss. That’s it; that ends it. That stings. Credit to the Bengals, AFC North champs. Obviously, they were 8-0 at home, which is a great accomplishment. I think they were able to do some of the things in this game that they’ve done in the past to win those games at home — especially the defensive turnovers, which they did in the second half to put the game away when it got close again. We didn’t do the things we needed to do in this game to win the game in the end and weren’t able to pull it out.”
How big was it to only convert the two first-quarter interceptions into field goals instead of touchdowns?
“Well, that’s probably the biggest thing. If we could have gotten 14 or even 10 there, it would have made a big difference. I thought we had a chance on that third-down throw to Dennis (Pitta) ... But that was probably the key. When you have some momentum and you have a chance to get out in front of them like that the way we did and getting turnovers the way we did, and (then) not converting those into touchdowns ... I thought that was the issue the week before too, and the week before that. That’s been an issue down the stretch for us — scoring touchdowns in the red zone — and it got us again in this game.”
Did anyone let you know the Miami Dolphins’ score during the game? With their loss to the Jets, if you could have pulled out the win today, you could have gone to the playoffs:
“Well, I mean I see the scoreboard right there. I’m not sure what difference it would have made. In the end, the fact of the matter is, if we didn’t win the game, it doesn’t matter. So we had all of our attention on trying to win this game. A win doesn’t motivate you any more to see the scoreboard. You’ve got to execute. You’ve got to make the plays you need to make to win the game. You really don’t have time to give that any thought at all. There’s too much going on right there.”
The defense couldn’t get off the field in that long Bengals touchdown drive early in fourth quarter:
“Well, that was a key drive. That turned it for them. That was a statement drive for them I thought, in the sense that they were able to take it down the field and score a touchdown. That was probably the difference in the second half. After that, there were some other plays that put it away for them. But right there, that was critical.”
Ray Rice played sparingly in the first half. Was that injury related, or a coaching decision?
“That was a decision with really the offensive coaches. When we were backed up, we didn’t want to put him in those backed-up situations. We didn’t feel the need to do that.”
Does this season’s ending make you appreciate last year’s success?
“I’m not really thinking about that. Does it make you guys appreciate what we’ve done? It’s a tough league. The question is, ‘Do you appreciate it?’ (joking) We’re not ever going to be content with not making the playoffs. That’s just not something that’s going to be OK, with me personally, or any of us — Ozzie (Newsome), or any of us, or any player here. That’s what makes it tough and disappointing. We expect to do that. We will fight like crazy to do that every single year. But I’ll say this about our guys — coaches, players, anybody — our guys will compete. Our guys will fight — our coaches and our players. That’s our personality of our football team. If we’re not good enough, we’re not good enough. And that fact that we weren’t good enough this year to get that done, that’s something we’ve got to address, and it starts with me. I’m responsible for how good the team is. I’ll take responsibility for it 100 percent. No player needs to take responsibility for that — nobody else. So that’s what we’ll have to go to work on now going forward to get back to where we need to be.”
The Bengals did a good job of protecting QB Andy Dalton without allowing a sack or quarterback hit. How big was that for their offense?
“I thought that was very big for them and their offense to protect the quarterback.”
Early on, you had a couple of opportunities for touchdowns and had to settle for field goals — how big was that in regards to the momentum of the game early?
“It was big; it’s been kind of the story of our season, getting the ball in the position to score and not quite being able to do it.”
What are the problems that you see down there in the red zone, not just with execution — did Cincinnati present something on defense you hadn’t seen before?
“They’re a good defense. I mean, there’s no doubt about that. We tried to pop some runs in there and it looked like we had some room, but we weren’t hitting for touchdowns and then we were just putting ourselves in third down situations and we’re not scoring on them. I’d have to go back and look at the film to remember exactly what happened, but basically, we’re just not getting enough yards on first and second down and not scoring touchdowns on first and second down, either. We’re playing the game and putting ourselves in third down situations where we have to score touchdowns and we haven’t been able to do it.”
In your first five years, you’ve gone deep into the playoffs — how difficult is it to have a season end like this for the first time?
“It’s tough. It’s disappointing. But we’re an 8-8 football team — we don’t deserve to be there. It just is what it is. Everybody in that locker room is used to winning and getting in the playoffs and giving ourselves a shot to win it all. It’s disappointing not to have done that for ourselves, but we didn’t play well and at 8-8, we don’t deserve to be in there.”
Did you aggravate your knee again on the hit you took at the back of the end zone?
“Yeah. It just doesn’t bend that well, and when the guy landed on me, he just bent it all up into the top of my chest. It didn’t do any more (damage) to my knee; it just hurt for a while — that’s all. It actually probably loosened it up for a couple series after that once it kind of settled down for a bit, but he basically just bent it up when he was on top of me and kept going?
It also looked like you hurt your elbow:
“Ah, I got landed on by one or two of their guys and you know, I wasn’t able to get flat. I just landed straight on my arm and my shoulder and neck got all bent up, so it was more of my shoulder. My elbow felt fine. It was just my shoulder and not being able to get flat (on impact).”
It seemed like you were under constant pressure:
“Yeah, well we just gave those guys constant opportunities to put pressure on us. We threw hot a handful of times, but then at the end of the game, we had the fourth down and I threw the interception. I could have thrown hot there, but at that point in the game, I wanted to give us a shot to get it without having to get tackled before the sticks or something like that. But we let them put pressure on us and we hit a couple of quick-in things a couple times and they got us a couple times. I think a lot of pressure in the first half didn’t come from their blitz looks ... It came from those guys twisting their ends around up the middle and getting us a little bit with that stuff.”
You mentioned the red zone offense has been an issue all year. Does it feel like today’s game had the issues that have plagued you all year crept up again?
“That’s usually the case when you’re not sharp enough. Usually, the same problems keep presenting themselves, even at the end of the game. They gave us an easy touchdown there and we can’t get it. It just you’re that much off and when you’re that much off throughout the course of the game over the course of 16 games, you’re not going to be special enough to win football games. That’s just kind of where we are.”
Did they do anything special to limit you down the field in the passing game? I think Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones only had a few catches combined:
“They didn’t do anything special that they normally wouldn’t do. It’s just one of those games where we had some guys inside, had some quick game going, and they were playing more (or less) the matchups. For Torrey and Jacoby, if they have seven or eight catches, a lot of them end up being — not too, too much — but you can get them for a big play and we just couldn’t get any big plays today. I think if we hit that first ball that I threw that got picked (off), if that ball gets through there, Torrey might split it. That’s the disappointing thing: We had a guy open there and the guy made a play. He got his hand up, batted the ball down and did a great job of getting his eyes on the ball and making a pick.”
Are you going to have to get a procedure on your knee in the offseason?
“No, I’m not going to have to get anything done. It was just my MCL and it will heal on its own.”
You finish with an 8-8 season. Do you feel the inconsistencies and ebb and flow of the season?
“There are always going to be ups and downs in every season. That’s expected. It’s about how you handle those ups and downs. When you get opportunities, you have to seize them. Chris Canty said this week, ‘Opportunities are never lost. They are taken by someone else.’ That’s truly what happened today.”
Do you feel that describes the situation when Cincinnati drives for a touchdown with the score tied, at 17 all?
“They stay with their game plan. They were going to attack no matter what situation they were in. I’m proud of how we played. We got our hands on some balls and caused some turnovers. We knew they were going to fight and not lay down the game for us. We hoped to come out on top in a got to have it situation, but we didn’t.”
Talk about the offseason and what lies ahead for the Ravens:
“With a new team, we didn’t capitalize on the opportunity that we had. I have said it before, you learn more in failure than you ever will in success. This is a crappy feeling. We’re going to learn tremendously from it and we have to live with it for the whole offseason. You had better believe that we’re going to come in to next season with a sense of urgency.”
This is your first time not going to the playoffs in your career. What’s your reaction?
“It’s tough. I knew we were going to get everybody’s best shot this year. We certainly did. I’m proud of the way our guys battled. We certainly will bounce back from this. I’m not used to early offseason. I’m looking forward to getting healthy and taking care of my body. I battled through some things this year. I had to learn some things myself this year. I had to learn to fight through some things. It will be different this time — taking care of the body — getting back to some things I’m used to doing.”
You didn’t play much in the first half. How frustrating was that to you?
“I was ready to go. There was a lot of situational football. We were backed up and we had to put the guys in that gave us a chance to get out. I was fully ready to go. I had the legs warmed up. I was like a little jitterbug. I could get up and go. When you have muscular deals, you can’t crank it up right away. We thought both Bernards (Pierce and Scott) gave us a shot to get out of situational football. I think they did a good job. In the second half needless to say, I went out there. I was ready. I felt good on the two-point conversion.”
Can you put your finger on why this offense hasn’t been able to get things going this season?
“No. At the end of the day, the one thing I can say that we can all do better is that we could have executed. That takes play calling out of it. Sometimes it’s about who wants it more. All of the guys fought. This offseason all of the coaches will say that when we get in to the red zone, we have to score points. When you get a good team like the Bengals — a good team that earns the crown — they’ve been building this team for years. They were a battling group. It was quite impressive to see them come out and play the last game of the season the way they did.”
Knowing that the Dolphins lost today, does that make the end of the season sting any worse?
“Any loss hurts. Not going to the playoffs hurts. Any loss that you go through hurts. I’m not used to having this kind of time on my hands. But, I will take this time to regroup and take care of this muscular thing.”
It seems a lot of times this year that the defense would play well for three quarters and then the other team is able to march down the field. Is there anything that happened today that allowed them to go 90 yards after it seemed like you guys had gotten things under control?
“Are you talking about screen play to (No.) 25? (Bengals running back Giovani Bernard)? I take credit for that whole drive because I missed a tackle on 25, and he went on down the line for like 50 yards. Then we switch sides, and I got a holding penalty in the end zone, so that whole 7 points, I kind of put on my shoulders. That’s my fault for that one.”
Do you think this defense, which has potential, needs to go up another level to be able to finish games better?
“Absolutely — that’s the goal, to finish the game. We knew we were going to be in a dogfight. We didn’t think it would come down to (the fourth quarter) the way it did, but we knew we were going to be on the field and have to make some plays and unfortunately, we just came up short.”
You’ve been here a few years and always been in the playoffs before winning the Super Bowl last year — how stunning is this season’s end result for you compared to what you’re used to?
“I mean, it’s very disappointing. Like you said, the first two years (of my career), we were in the AFC Championship (Game) and it’s kind of simple how we did it. Me, just coming into the league and watching how the Ravens played, it was kind of a cakewalk how they got in there. So to have a year like this (with) a lot of ups and downs, it shows a lot about our team. I’m proud of our guys, but this just wasn’t our year.”
How good were you guys feeling after running back Ray Rice made the 2-point conversion to tie the game in the third quarter? Miami was losing, and it seemed like everything in that moment was looking up for you:
“Yeah, that’s God right there — we could see up and see the Miami score to the game, so we knew we had an opportunity, and then I think at the time (I saw it) it was 27-17 (Cincinnati) and we just let them get that big drive and they scored. It took the momentum away.”
How critical is it that the Ravens have been scoring field goals instead of touchdowns in recent weeks?
“That’s why we’re at this point. Our defense had four turnovers. If you can’t score with four turnovers, then you’re in trouble. Field goals aren’t going to get it done, especially when you’re playing against a (Bengals) offense like that. That’s been our Achilles heel for a while this season — field goals instead of touchdowns. It’s only a matter of time before that comes back to bite you in the NFL. You’ve got to be able to score touchdowns to win games.”
People are going to pick on Joe Flacco’s interception totals for the season. How do you defend him?
“You have to watch the games. You can’t just look at the numbers and say, ‘That’s the problem.’ If you’re not watching the game, you’re not judging anyone fairly. That’s fantasy football, looking at the stats. You’ve got to watch it. Joe’s a warrior for us. He’s going to take a lot of heat. He fought through so many things this year. He battled. He didn’t quit. He didn’t point the finger at anyone. He shouldn’t have been in this position heading in to the offseason.”
What’s the key to defending so many screen passes?
“We need to have all 11 men running to the ball. Everybody’s got to be doing his job. If someone is not doing his job, screens go against us. We’ve got to have a Ravens mentality defense. Everybody’s got to be running to the ball. We like to blitz and bring pressure. Screens work against that.”
Talk about your interception:
“I made a good play. Our backs were against the wall. We had to get the ball back for our offense. All of the DBs did a great job, especially Jimmy Smith with the one in the end zone. That was the biggest one of the day. It kept the season alive.”
Talk about the disappointment of missing the playoffs:
“Personally, this is my first year not making the playoffs. Now, I know how it feels. It hurts. We have to come back next year and know we don’t want to be in this predicament.
Why do you feel the season snowballed against the Ravens?
“We’re the champions. The targets were on our backs. Everybody was coming to knock down the world champions. We didn’t make the plays we needed to during the season.”
Talk about the touchdown drive after the Ravens tied the score at 17-17:
“It was huge for them. They are in the NFL. They make plays, too. They put a good drive together.”
Walk us through your touchdown catch:
“It was a Cover 2 look by the defense. I gave an outside release and it was a great ball by Joe (Flacco).”
Did the season meet your individual goals?
“I wanted to play hard every game. My goals were to make the team, play hard and help the team win. I feel I accomplished that.”