Posted: 3:30 a.m.
Hours before Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley uttered the words that the Bengals and Patriots would "lay down" Sunday so Pittsburgh wouldn't make the playoffs, members of the Cincinnati defense used the same words and said that won't happen.
"You think we're going to show up and just lay down? No," said tackle Tank Johnson before practice Wednesday. "We're going out there with every intent to win the football game. It's not even a situation where there is an option. When we line up to represent this Bengals organization we're lining up to win. We're not lining up to do anything but."
Tackle Domata Peko hasn't played in four weeks with his injured knee, but he's back practicing this week and he's hoping to get the call because of the matchup between the Jets No. 1 in-the-league running game and the Bengals No. 2 rush defense.
"I'm excited to be able to go against a Pro Bowl center and Pro Bowl guard," Peko said. "I can't wait to go out there with those guys. Our defense is playing really well. Hopefully I can go out there and give us a little boost, fly around and make some plays. I missed being out there with my guys.
"Every game you go into you try and win. Nobody is trying to lay down for anybody. This is the type of team that likes running the ball. I like teams that do that. That's one of my favorite things to do is to play against the run. We're excited. If they want us to play the half, if they want us to play the whole game, it doesn't matter. As long as we're on the field we're going to try and play to win."
The question isn't if the Bengals will play hard when they're on the field. The question is if the starters will be on the field and if banged-up guys like Peko and safety Chris Crocker (ankle) will get rested. Crocker didn't practice Wednesday for the seventh straight day, but even if Peko is back, would head coach Marvin Lewis rest him?
Lewis told his team last week that "I've got your back," meaning he would do whatever it took to get them ready for last Sunday's game against the Chiefs. On Wednesday, Peko said the players have Lewis' back.
"Whatever they want us to do," Peko said. "We've got Marvin's back. If he wants us to play (in) the game, we'll play. If not, OK, whatever he wants us to do. We've got our coaches back on that."
It sounds like Lewis is going to go after that third seed if the Patriots lose Sunday. The Bengals and Jets play the last game of the year and Lewis will have all the info he needs to know if the third seed is plausible.
"If there's an opportunity it would be important," said Lewis at his Wednesday news conference, knowing the only chance for No. 3 is if the Patriots lose in Houston. "Why would you want to be fourth if you had the opportunity to be third?"
Told that the Bengals would probably have to play the top-seeded Colts on the road, anyway, Lewis fired back, "You're saying Indy has won the game, you know what I'm saying? You're not guaranteed who wins these games. I would imagine you would want to be as high a seed as you can get at any point."
And he made it sound like that even if the Patriots win and the Bengals can't improve their No. 4 seed that he would still play his guys at least some. Lewis says he's never seen any team in his 18 seasons of NFL coaching be able to turn it off and then turn it back on. And he knows this team can't.
"This team can't turn it on and off. It's not old enough, it's not mature enough," Lewis said. "We started the season as the second youngest team in the NFL. I don't think we've gotten older over the season. Some of our older players are no longer playing. That's the great part of this team: Its newness. Its freshness. Its ability to handle the task at hand and that's the challenge all the time. They're able to focus on the target, the task, and go to work."
The offense has the same sentiment as the defense and has been listening to Lewis' seed talk.
"The whole team wants to win. The coaches all want to win. We want the best seed we can have going into the playoffs," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "I'm not sure of all the scenarios and all the what-ifs, but we're a team that wants to play to get better every week, that wants to play to win because we are competitors. It's a fun game to be in. We have a chance to knock somebody out. We've been in that position a number of times before. We've played teams that had a chance to knock us out. So that's part of the fun of playing this game; you have a chance to knock somebody out.
"Playing against the best defense in the league and going out and being successful gets you rolling for that next week in the Wild Card game. We want to play because we like to win, we like to compete, but also because this is as good as the competition gets on offense. They're great on defense across the board."
Running back Cedric Benson realizes the offense isn't exactly purring and that it needs to be on the field and "tighten some things down."
"If we get an opportunity to build some momentum, I think that would be a great thing," Benson said. Asked if they should go all out, he said, "Sure, why not? Hopefully we get a big lead and get some relief that way."
Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco says he's been calling Lewis and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski as late as 4 and 5 in the morning this week to keep reminding them that he wants to play. He says Bratkowski has yet to pick up "because he knows what I want," and he says Lewis has picked up three out of about 15 calls.
"He's saying, 'We're playing to win,' " Ochocinco said, but he said he's not so sure because he's also hearing Lewis' infamous chuckle and when he hears that "then something's not right."
"I just told him I will force us to use all three timeouts; I'm not coming out of the game," The Ocho said.
And now he really wants to play because the media informed him the game has been flexed to 8:30 p.m. on NBC Sunday night.
"Really?" he asked. "Now I'm not really coming out of the game. I'm on prime time. I like the camera. When I have the camera on me I like to show off.
"This is more of a dress rehearsal for me. "I'm not worried about the Jets whether they win or lose or don't make it. I'm focused on us and the things we need to get ready for that first playoff game."