DECEMBER 30, 2012
“I’m glad that’s over. That’s a difficult situation to be in. I thought our guys handled it about as well as you could handle it. It’s a tough situation when you’re playing, and you’re playing a team that’s got something to play for, and you don’t necessarily do, and everybody’s looking around and seeing who’s playing and who’s doing what. But, again, I thought we handled it about as well as we could handle it. We had some issues when we started taking some guys out and got some things fouled up a little bit on special teams. Other than that, again, I’m pleased with the outcome. We wanted to win and we were able to do that. It’s 0-0 now and that’s the most important issue going forward.”
Talk about your defense and the way it has played in the second half of the season:
“We’ve done a good job. We had some quarterback runs today that weren’t pleasing, but it’s a different situation when (Tyrod Taylor) is going to run it and not throw. We didn’t necessarily plan for those things, but it is what it is. But they’ve done a nice job of really understanding the situation, the explosive plays and the things that were a little bit of our Achilles heal early on, we’ve been able to remedy those. As we go forward now into the playoffs and through the playoffs, that’s going to be really important that we continue to understand that and get in great position and not have those explosive plays against us. We keep doing a better job at tackling. When we get opportunities for takeaways, we’ve got to keep doing that as we go forward on defense.”
What is the severity of RB BenJarvus Green Ellis’s injury?
“I don’t know how severe he is. He just didn’t feel right in warmups today, so we held him out. He didn’t feel right, he was a little tight, and so we held him out of things.”
What do you feel like you got accomplished today on offense?
“I think it was great for
Has the bar been raised higher than simply making the postseason in this organization?
“No doubt; I think our guys realize that just being in the playoffs is not what we’re here for. We want to go win the championship. And that’s what it’s all about. We’re starting over and we realize how critical that is, and the sense of urgency we’ve got to have, and the preparation in the things we need to have going forward.”
How important was it to enter the postseason with a win?
“That’s hard. I guess us and Atlanta were the two teams that had not much to improve upon today. I talked to (Falcons head coach Mike Smith) yesterday. It’s a difficult situation. He and I both recognize and have been in this situation before, and neither one of us liked the outcome. So we thought we’d just try to do it a little differently, and that’s what I did. I had made the choice that we were going to start taking our guys out as we got into them in the third quarter. You don’t have enough players and it’s hard, with 46 guys, to play offense, defense and special teams for 30 minutes against guys. What they did was they had some guys injured, so they brought some other guys in today. But I had to put guys down that were healthy and that was hard to do.”
How much does momentum play a factor heading in the playoffs?
“Momentum would be over now. We’re starting over. It doesn’t matter. It starts from scratch and it starts with preparation. We have no idea where we’re going, who we’re going to play. Maybe some of the scenarios have been eliminated, I don’t know that.”
What are your thoughts on possibly playing a rematch against Houston?
“It’d be great. We’re going to be great. Wherever we go, we’ve got to go play great. That’s going to be important. We know what to expect.”
You didn’t get bored today?
“No. We weren’t sure how it was all going to play out and how long everybody was going to play, but the biggest thing was, regardless of who was in, we wanted to get the win. We wanted to get that done. We’re 10-6, but all of that doesn’t matter anymore. Now it’s playoff time. Records don’t matter.”
What is it like to be on the sidelines watching the defense play as well as they do?
“They’ve done a great job. It’s definitely good to have them playing well when they’re on your side. It is fun to watch sitting on the sideline and see them make plays and things like that. We’ve got to carry this going into the playoffs, and we’ve got to be able to play well on both sides of the ball.”
Do you feel any different about this team this time around going into the playoffs as opposed to your rookie season?
“It’s a little bit (of a) different situation, because last year, we had to have a lot of other things happen for us to get to the playoffs. This year, we controlled our own destiny and were able to get in on our own. I think that’s a big difference in this team, and I think the experience of last year is going to help us (this time around).”
What did you want to achieve on offense and do you feel you got that done today?
“Most importantly, we wanted to get the win. Early on, we got stalled on a couple (of) things, but we were able to put a good two-minute drive together at the end (of the first half), score some points and get the touchdown. We did that, and (when backup quarterback Bruce) Gradowski came in the game, you want to move the ball to get the win and do things that were good. And we did enough of that today.”
Looks like you guys might get Houston again in the playoffs this year. Any thoughts on that?
“Yeah, I think it will be good (since) we played there last year and know the atmosphere and what it’s going to be like. We still have to wait and see what ends up happening, but like I said, the experience of last year will definitely help us.”
Do you feel like you’re getting the respect around the league you guys deserve nationally? Does it put a chip on your shoulder?
“We don’t worry about all that stuff. We just have to take care of our business. If we do that, all of that stuff will take care of itself. We’ve done some good things. We went 10-6 this year and had a good year. We made the playoffs again. That was our goal going into it, and now our goal is to make a run at it (the Super Bowl).”
Did this feel like a glorified preseason game to you?
“We weren’t sure how the playing time and all that stuff was. Obviously, their guys got out a little bit quicker than ours. I wouldn’t say it’s a preseason game or anything like that. We still came out, and we got a win when it counted. We’re 10-6 now, and that’s what we wanted to get done.”
Your first interception goes for six:
“I just wanted to score. A defensive lineman’s dream is getting the ball in their hands. It doesn’t happen often, so anytime you get it, you want to think touchdown. You don’t want to get tackled.”
You also had a quarterback sack, a total of four for the team today and a total of 51 on the season. How about that — breaking the half-century mark?
“Hopefully we’re leading everybody. It doesn’t matter, though. We won today. Right now, we’re going to focus and sit back and see who we’re going to play on Saturday or Sunday in the playoffs.”
How tough was Ravens quarterback Tyrod Taylor? He’s got some quick feet:
“After playing him and RG III, I have a lot more respect for them. With them being speed guys, you can talk about them being soft, but all the hits we took on RG III and for him to get up, we respect him. Taylor is a heck of an athlete as well.”
How about a 10-win season? Marvin Lewis is the only Bengals coach to have three 10-win seasons:
“That’s for great for him, but we want to get him that big game — the ring — and bring it home for the city of Cincinnati. We want it as (much) as anybody.”
You’re a really good road team, and you’re on the road in the playoffs. Do you feel good about it?
“Yeah, it’s the youth movement. We have a lot of young core guys that are the heart of our team right now. We’re going to feed off them and let them carry us to the playoffs. We’re going to keep feeding our young guys and playing together as a whole unit. It’s going to take all of us — not just one side of the ball.”
You established a new team record for sacks with 51. The defensive line was responsible for 42. That’s a terrific year:
“I’m just glad to be a part of that, man. It’s a lot of hard work and chemistry between us.”
Did you game plan for Ravens quarterback Tyron Taylor? There wasn’t much game tape to go by. You played against him in college and know what he’s like, but how do you game plan for a guy like that?
“I knew he was elusive — we all did. He beat us my senior year in college doing the same stuff he did out there today. A guy like that, you don’t want to assume he’s going out of bounds or going to the ground. He’s not your regular quarterback. He’s got that extra dizzle-dazzle.”
“Yeah, it was good by each of us. We rushed the quarterback together, and that’s what it takes. It’s not just one guy. It’s a group effort. It’s a collective effort of us being in our pass rush lanes and being in the right place, and it just comes to you like that, and it comes in bunches. Let’s see if we can set some sort of playoff record for sacks. (We’ll) work on that next.”
You finished the season 7-1 in your last eight games. What a way to go into the playoffs with nice momentum. You were 6-2 on the road this year, and 11-5 the past two years. You guys travel well:
“We play pretty good on the road. Wherever we go next week, we’re going to be confident going in. We’re going to be in our white road jerseys. We’ve got a lot of wins in them this year, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
You’re playing quarterback and you’re brother Gino Gradkowski is on the other side playing center, how cool is that?
“It’s just a true blessing, it really is. During the national anthem, I get to look over and see my brother on the other sideline ... we’re very blessed. God is great. We have a lot to be thankful for. I was proud of him. He got to play a lot today, especially against our horses up front — our defensive line. I told him to just keeping working, and he was doing a great job. I was proud of him, but the older guy had to get the win today.”
You’ve been around this league for a while. How good can this football team be?
“The sky is the limit. Right now, going into the playoffs, all you want to do is get in. That’s how I’ve always felt — just get into the playoffs, and it’s any team’s ball game. The way our defense is playing, the way they’re playing up front, it’s exciting. It gets us as an offense going. And those huge turnovers ... We’ve just have to keep working. I was excited to get out there and get some reps today. It has been a while, but it makes me excited for the week of practice — knowing what you have to work on and get better at. Now, we get to go into the playoffs and face a great football team wherever we go. But we’re a great football team in this locker room as well.”
You’re 7-1 going into the playoffs in your last eight games, 6-2 on the road this year on the road and 11-5 away from home dating back to last year. Do you feel pretty good about that?
“I feel real good. We’re unphasable right now. Andy does a great job handling adversity. There is a lot of ups and downs in football games. You have to understand that, and play through those times, and that’s what we did as a football team — not just today, but through the course of the season. It’s awesome to see that. We just have to take that into the playoffs. I’m so proud of this locker room. Like I said, the sky’s the limit.”
How does this win change your mentality going into next weekend?
“It doesn’t change much. We know what we have to do. This is basically the beginning of a new season — 0-0. We have to start fresh again. We have to continue doing what we have been doing — working hard, studying our opponents, and executing.”
If things play out like most think, your opponent next week is the Texans. What is your thought on that?
“Well, they got us last year. I consider that a good thing, though. We don’t want that to happen again, and we want a little redemption. However, no matter who we play, we are going to study our tails off and get after it.”
You guys got 10 wins this year. There were certainly times it didn’t look like that was going to happen:
“Exactly. It was a great achievement for this team this year. We dug ourselves a hole early in the season, but we stuck it out and made the best of it down the stretch.”
You guys finally got something going late in the second quarter. You really did what you had to do at that point, right?
“We really did. We didn’t want to risk any injuries today, so we were a bit limited. We had to have some of the younger guys step up, and they did, and they made some big plays.”
What do you do now?
“Go home and see what happens. We’re going to watch the Dallas game and see what happens in New England. It doesn’t matter who we play; we are going to be ready to go.”
Do you feel, regardless of who you are playing, like you all can compete with anyone?
“I definitely do. This team can compete with anyone in this league at this point. That is the mindset that we are going to have throughout the playoffs.”
Do you feel like you’re in a really good rhythm?
“I feel good. I think (it’s a result of ) being here (in Cincinnati), the practicing I did (before I got here), the consistency that I have built (since I arrived), the opportunities that I have received, and the coaching. (Special teams coach) Darrin (Simmons) has been really beneficial for me. I wouldn’t give a lot of special teams coaches that credit, quite honestly. It’s been good. I have a great holder, a great snapper, and the guys are really putting a lot of faith in me. It’s really been good to be a part of this team.”
You have something like 11 playoff games under your belt. Is there anything you would say to the guys?
“It just depends on what they’re asking about. At this (point), it’s about staying healthy and playing good all the time, and finding ways to win. A lot of these guys are dinged up and banged up. It isn’t about coming in and standing. It’s about sitting and being ready — get your body ready to go. Once sixth gear kicks in, you better be ready because it’s a battle. It’s one-and-done. You’ve got to win four in a row to make it to victory lane. That’s the goal. However you have to do that, whether it’s staying in here longer and staying in the tubs, or going home and kicking the kids out of the house so you can get some sleep. It’s very important that guys are rested and ready to go on game days.”
You’ve been on a lot of teams including one that went to the Super Bowl. How is this team set up?
“Good, overall. We’ve got a lot of healthy people, and they’re young. We’ve got a lot of young muscles in here, and they’re finding ways to get it done. And the defense is just absolutely out-of-their-minds good. They’re really playing good ball, and they came up big for us tonight with the interception. We didn’t have Andy (Dalton) in there. You could tell we were playing some other people and pulling back on some other guys, but you’ve got to play well no matter who is in there. You want to continue playing well into this and never take a day off. You can’t take days off in the playoffs. The moment you do and get behind somebody, you’re done.”
That was a great way to finish the season wasn’t it?
“Yeah, we feel pretty good. We were able to finish 10-6, but all of that is behind us now as we head to the playoffs. We have to take it one day at a time and one game at a time now.”
Tell me about that long pass that you caught:
“We were out there just trying to make plays today. Everyone was just trying to do their part. We needed a play at that time, and I got the opportunity to do so.”
I know you guys probably just wanted to get it over with today, but you were able to come out with a win:
“Yeah, we wanted to win this game so we could have some momentum heading into the playoffs. The regular season is now over though, and we have to take it one day at a time.”
Do you guys just go home now and watch what happens?
“Yeah, that’s all we can do at this point.”
What does this win mean for you guys?
“It means a lot to us. It’s a nice way to end the season and a good way to head into the postseason. In the end, it doesn’t mean much though, because now we have to start over heading into the playoffs.”
You guys have won seven out of eight games now. How does that help you heading into the postseason?
“It gives us a lot of confidence that we can win games. It gets us going in on a big hot streak, that’s for sure.”
How different is this from last year?
“We are more mature this year. It’s also not our first trip, so we can learn from our mistakes from last time as well. It’s going to be a good game, no matter who we play.”
Ten wins this year. It looked bleak at one point, didn’t it?
“Definitely. We started out 3-5, and we had all signed up for a 10-win season. We had to get a little momentum going, but we were able to get it done by winning seven of eight.”
When you caught the touchdown, it almost looked like you felt where the defender was:
“Yeah, I saw that from my peripheral vision, and I knew the play design that he was there. I was able to use that and turn right away from it.”
Guess you just go home and wait now?
“Yeah, that’s pretty much it. We will know tonight, but this win gives us some momentum heading into the playoffs.”
Is it tough to start over after a 17-week grind?
“A little bit, yeah. But coach told us were now 0-0 heading into the playoffs. We have to forget what has happened over the past 16 weeks and get ready for next week.”
Is this offense where it needs to be going into such an important time in the season?
“We just have to continue firing on all cylinders. We have to come back, debrief, and forget the 16-game grind. We have to pinpoint what we need to do better and get back at it.”
How does this year compare to last year?
“We are probably playing better this year than we have been in the past heading into the playoffs. This defense is salty right now. We can play the run well, choke up on some receivers, and rush the passer. We have been doing well on third downs lately as well too. When you can do those four things successfully, you have a good chance to win.”
Looks like you might be getting a rematch with Houston next:
“That game seems like years and years ago. We are just happy to still be playing. There are a lot of teams sitting at home during this time, so we’re pleased so far. I would take my guys against anybody.”
“He told me he was good to go. I told him he needs to get a little tougher.”
How proud are you of this defense?
“I like the way they prepare, I like the way they respond, and I love the way they compete. We do a lot of good things, and they hate to make mistakes. They thrive in the tough situations and they love it.”
“It was hard fought, and I loved the way our guys competed. Field position was a real sticky point that hurt us in the second and third quarter. The ball was bouncing all over the place and it hurt us a little on offense as well. Our young guys executed very well and on defense we played well also. The goal today was two-fold. First, put ourselves in the best position possible going forward in playoffs, and to win the game. We obviously did not win the game and we are disappointed with that, but we feel like we are in the best position going forward into the playoffs, and that is all that matters. Injury-wise, there is nothing to speak of. The guys that came out Vonta (Leach) and Kelechi (Osemele) should be fine for next week.”
With Vonta was it just an aggravation of the pre-existing injury?
“I don’t have the diagnosis on it, I just know he’s going to be OK.”
Is it difficult to have a game like this one in Week 17?
“All in all I think we played well. There were some disappointing things in there that we could have done better. It’s an accomplishment to be in a position where you can afford to (rest veterans). If we would have been playing for more, like an opportunity to move up dramatically in the seeding, then we would have played them more. We got some young guys experience, so there are always positives to be found in that.”
Can you talk about what you seen from Jimmy Smith? It looked like he was moving around better than he has been the last couple of weeks:
“Yeah, Jimmy looks like he’s getting better. He’s played his best game obviously since he’s been hurt. That will be a big bonus for us if we can be 100 percent.”
What did you see overall from Tyrod Taylor?
“He did a great job as far as working the offense his way. Applying all his talents and abilities, I feel bad that he was backed up so much. When he had some breathing space he done a tremendous job and made plays for us.”
Although this game didn’t really mean a whole lot, does the fact it makes four losses in the last five games affect you at all?
“I don’t like that, but they’re on the record.”
What is one thing you can take away from this with guys like Gino Gradkowski and Anthony Allen getting some real game experience?
“That’s a big thing. The fact that we got to play those guys, anything can happen going forward. I’m looking forward to seeing how some of those guys played once we look at the tape. They’ll have a chance to grow from this, and they’ll be one game ahead of where they would’ve been if they have to play.”
What do you think about going against Chuck Pagano and the Colts?
“We’re looking forward to playing them. They are obviously a very good team and have a great, young quarterback. They won today so you can tell what they’re all about. “
What do you think about Chuck’s return today?
“He’s a great friend, and I have tremendous respect for him personally. I love his family, and he’s one of my closest personal friends in coaching. What he’s been through is phenomenal, but we’re all competitors, so that gets set aside. They’re going to come in here with every intention of winning the football game, so we’re going to have to play our best football in order to beat them.”
This is the first time this year you have received extended playing time. How do you think it went?
“I think it went well. I think there are some things that I can work on, but I also did some things well.”
How difficult is it to not press when you know you’re going to receive extended playing time?
“You have to go out and be relaxed. I’m fortunate to go against a great defense every day in practice. That helps me get ready for the game. I was excited to get to play today. And when the time comes, you don’t look back and you keep trying to get better. That’s what I tried to do today.”
Did you know you would play this much?
“I knew when I was going to play — but I didn’t know when Joe (Flacco) was going to come out until right before the game. Going into the week, though, I definitely knew I would play.”
How ready do you think this team is for the playoffs?
“I think we’re very ready. We’re getting some guys back healthy, and everyone is looking forward to the challenge. We have a lot of great talent and youth, and the veterans always come to play.”
Did you have to knock off a little rust since it has been so long sense you’ve played this much?
“A little bit. It was fun to get hit a couple of times. It’s been a while since I’ve been hit, so it felt good to get real game experience.”
Did the Bengals adjust their defense after you came in?
“They tweaked it a little bit. I couldn’t really open up like I wanted to. We were backed up a few times too. We couldn’t open up like we really wanted to. So, yes, they did do a few things with regard to their defense.”
Were you expecting to play today?
“I was prepared to play all week, so when I got the call that I was going to be down, then up, I was prepared for war. I went out there and gave it all I got for the amount of snaps I had. I’m never focused on the playoffs. You do want to focus on it, but the task was today. You take a loss, but you have to build off that.”
You ended the season with four losses in five games. Is that worrisome?
“AFC North Champions. I’ll just say that. We battled adversity, we battled injury and we battled everything else you can imagine for a football team. We are a battle-tested football team. I’m not really concerned about the four losses. I’m more concerned about this team getting healthy. We are going to hit our stride going into the playoffs. Our record is 0-0, if you think about it. You can talk about the regular season. Guys are already voted to the Pro Bowl. The only thing that isn’t out there is the league MVP. I guess that’s the last one, plus the Super Bowl.”
How did you know that you were going to be back in the game?
“It was a coaching decision. I had nothing to do with that. It was Coach Harbaugh’s decision. If I was up, I was up. If I was down, I was down. If I was up, I was going to give it 150%, and that’s what I did.”
You led the team in sacks. Do you feel the personal growth?
“Yes. I’m excited for the future. I’ve really developed here a lot. I really appreciate the teammates and coaches that have pushed me to get better. So, I’m really excited.”
You are now the young veteran. How do you help the new guys out?
“You just have to be there for them. Lead by example, No. 1. And No. 2, you have to be there. Adrian (Hamilton) is going to be one hell of a player some day. I’m excited to see what he develops in to.”
Do you have some juice left in the tank for us?
“Oh man. I’ve got all sorts of stuff going on. Everybody has to show up these next couple of weeks. It’s a big time. We are going to be doing everything we can to get ready.”
As a friend to Chuck Pagano, how much are you looking forward to seeing him before the game?
“Just seeing him on the JumboTron, seeing his interview when he came back, texting him on Christmas Day ... he’s like a dad to me. That’s family, which is first before football.”
Is it worrisome going into the playoffs, having lost four of the last five games?
“The game always means something. It doesn’t worry us because this is the playoffs and it’s different. The playoffs are different than the regular season.”
Can you talk about how you helped out the young guys on the sideline today?
“When you are on the sideline, you aren’t technically out. You are always trying to help those guys stay in the game. It gives you a different perspective on the sideline when you are hearing the calls before they go out. Being able to communicate with those guys and seeing the formations from the sideline can kind of help you, just to see things differently.”
On the touchdown pass that the defense gave up, were there things that you could communicate to the guys that they could have done differently?
“It helps you give points to the guys that are out. Talk to Cary (Williams), talk to the corners, talk to Bernard (Pollard) ... just about communication and the stuff that went wrong. It’s no different than the stuff that we did before. It just helps you to better yourself.”
Was it difficult to move into the fullback position today after Vonta Leach went down?
“Well, we knew that I would be playing some fullback today with how the game was going, so fortunately it was a game where I was prepared through practice. I definitely didn’t expect him to go out so early, and hopefully we get him back quickly.”
With a guy like Tyrod Taylor back there, when he starts scrambling, what do your instincts tell you to do?
“You just kind of hit anything that moves. Just block for him. If he is scrambling behind the line of scrimmage, then try to get open. It’s pretty fun playing with a guy like Tyrod, because you never know what he’s going to do. When he gets scrambling, he can turn anything into a big play.”