Q: How is the Chicago defense without Brian Urlacher? CP: "Very good defense. They've had some injuries, especially at that position, at the linebacker spot. But the guys they've drafted and brought in as free agents, and brought in to fill in for replacements, have really come in and played very, very well. They really understand their scheme. They understand where exactly they're supposed to be in play actions, in the run game, in drop-back passes. They're a really good, hard-playing group."
Q: You guys have gone through some long stretches in the middle of games having trouble getting first downs, but seem to not have any trouble with it at the beginning and end of each game. Is that just the natural flow of things, or is there a reason you can put your finger on?CP: "There is no magic or one specific thing that it is. It's been a number of different issues. It's not the natural flow of things. We expect and want to score every time we get on the field. It hasn't worked out that way, and that's why we come in on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays and work, to clean up on those little things and iron those things out and get ourselves prepared and try to put ourselves during the week in the best situation, give us the best chance to win on Sundays."
Q: You guys have scored 51 points in the last two minutes of halves. Why is that? CP: "I'm not sure exactly what it is. We're really good at it. We've got guys that, when it's time, are flawless. We've been flawless in those situations when your back's against the wall and you have to score, or when time is running down at the end of the half and you need to score to give yourself some momentum to come out at halftime with a lead like we did last week. There are always areas to improve on, but that's probably been the best part of our game offensively."
Q: Is it the no-huddle offense? The hurry-up? The two-minute drill? What makes you guys do so well in the last few minutes of halves?CP: "I think we've been really good at the end of games because you have to score to win, and we really want to win, simply put. At the end of the first half, when you haven't had a whole lot of momentum in the first half and we score right away, and then get the ball with the turnover and have a chance to get another three points out of it. When we've felt we needed that momentum, we need to make something happen. Similar situation, you know what you've got to do, you really need those extra three points, and we've been good at that."
Q: You guys went to the no-huddle offense in the third quarter, but couldn't get anything going:CP: "Actually, we were pretty successful as far as moving the ball both drives (in the third quarter). One drive we went, I think, five plays and got 40 yards out of it, or 30 yards out of it, but penalties really hurt us. We ran a screen on one drive and lost six yards, which is hard to do. It rarely, rarely happens. So we've put ourselves in holes by mental mistakes, by physical mistakes, whatever it may be, and really made it difficult on ourselves. But the no-huddle is an asset of ours, and we've just got to continue to work on it because we've been successful in those type of situations. We've got guys that have worked a lot on it and spent a lot of the offseason on it and spent a lot of training camp and now the season. We can't let one bad outing affect it and affect our mindset on it. We can be successful in it, we've just got to be better mentally and better physically with our hands. When we have a chance to hold somebody, we let them go. When we step in the wrong direction or the ball's not put in the right place, whatever the situation is, we just need to be better in those little things."
Q: Has Cedric Benson had as much of an impact on this team as you thought he would when you entered this season?CP: "I think so. With the exception of last week, you talk about running the ball for 100-plus yards against a team like Baltimore ... it's tough to do. (Against) a team like Pittsburgh, it's tough to do. He's had a lot of success in a number of areas, and we just need to keep getting him the ball and keep blocking for him, because when you get him the ball, good things happen."
Q: How important is it to get a win this week going into the bye?CP: "It's huge. It's another must-win situation. We've got to get a win this week. We have a week off, and then we have a couple more division games, and some big games coming up. But to go into the bye at 5-2 and be in the position we could be if we get a win out of this game, is huge for us. And we've got no other mindset than that. We're not worried about bye week, we're not worried about who we play after the bye week. We're worried about this game. We've got to win this game."
Q: Andre Smith is back on the practice field this week. Have guys tried to reach out to him while he's been rehabbing to make him feel like he's part of the team? CP: "He's been out at practice every day, and he's been doing a lot of rehab to get himself right. He's a part of this team. Every guy in that locker room is. I don't think guys treat him differently than they'd treat me, Cedric or anybody else at any other position. He's been trying to learn as much as he can as quick as possible and get as healthy as possible, as quick as possible, and has done a good job."
Q: When Cedric Benson came here, before you met him, what was your perception of him?CP: "I had a negative perception of him. I let the media affect the way I felt about him. I read stories and kind of followed through internet sites, through newspaper write-ups from before he got here, and had heard a lot of bad things, because that's what a lot of people had written about him – bad things. Then I met him, and I still wasn't sure because he didn't seem like a bad guy. And now I've been around him for two years and he comes over to my house for dinner, and we hang out, and I'm around him a lot at the facility. We work out together.
"None of the stuff I read was true. I don't know exactly what happened, I don't care what happened, since he's been here he's wanted to win as bad as anyone in the locker room, if not more. He's worked to be successful, he's worked to learn the playbook, he's does all the little extra things you ask of a guy. More importantly, he's been a leader. He's got Bernard Scott underneath him, a young guy like that, he's taken him under his wing and really tried to help him along, along with Brian Leonard and the fullbacks. He's been a model teammate since he's been here."
Q: Is he quiet?CP: "I don't think so. I don't think he's quiet at all. He enjoys being around his teammates, he plays basketball in the gym, he's talking trash and talking about how good at shooting he is, and he goes out there and portrays that he's not good at shooting (laughs). He's a likeable guy, but I wouldn't classify him as quiet at all."
Q: Does it say something about Benson's work ethic when, during the first day of training camp, he was already running all-out on every play and got into a tussle with a teammate?CP: "Those happen every day. You're talking about from the HBO deal?"
Q: The first day of training camp, he went full speed and got into a little tussle with Dhani Jones: CP: "That's the way Ced prepares and works. He doesn't know walk-through speed or half-speed. He goes full-speed, and if you don't like it, get out of his way. That's the way he needs to prepare himself to play, and that's fine. You do what you have to do as a team. If there are guys on defense that have to go a certain speed to prepare to play, you have to adjust to it. You need to do it, and that's what being a team is about.
"If that's what it takes for Ced to get his mind prepared to see holes and cutbacks ... if he needs to go full-speed, let him go full-speed. When we put pads on and we butt up and hit, that's the way he's been since he's been here. It hasn't been an issue. There's scuffs and arguments and guys pushing each other, and every once in a while a fist gets thrown. It happens very rarely, but that's a part of football."
Q: Just to be clear, you're a better basketball player than Cedric?CP: "Absolutely. You can write that."
Q: Is it a lot more difficult to deal with first-and-long after penalties on first down?CP: "Tremendously. It really puts a lot of pressure on you to be successful on first down, and then you get to second-down and you need a big chunk of it to avoid third-and-long. There's no other way to say it than its bad. When you put yourself in first-and-20, not only do you have the pressure to be successful on second down, you have to eye a third-and-long. And in our division, when you get into third-and-long with Pittsburgh and Baltimore, you're at a disadvantage from the get-go. That's something we definitely have to clean up and work on. It hasn't happened yet, but I have all the confidence in our guys that the more we work, the better we get, and the less we'll be in those situations."