Q: You guys were one of the best teams in the league in red-zone TD percentage up until a few weeks ago, but you have struggled of late in that area ... CP: "I don't think anything has changed. I just think, once you get down there, it's so important that you execute, every single guy across the line. There were a couple plays where they called the perfect defense, and even a play where they screwed up on defense but they screwed themselves up to be in the perfect spot for a certain play. So it really just comes down to execution. Of course, we always shoot for perfection in executing, especially when you get down there in those critical areas. And when you don't -- when 10 guys execute and one guy doesn't, or eight guys execute and three guys don't -- then that's when you end up getting field goals instead of touchdowns."
Q: You can go 6-0 in the division with a win this week, something no Bengals team has ever done. How difficult is that to do?CP: "I still feel like our division is the best in the game. A lot can be said about the NFC East and probably the AFC East, too. But to me, being an offensive player, being a quarterback, playing against Pittsburgh twice and playing against Baltimore's defense twice, and then a Coach Mangini defense and his schemes and the things he's able to do, it doesn't get much more difficult than that. It's something that we talk about all year long -- in the off-season, training camp and during the season, about winning our division and dominating our division. We have a chance to do that, and it means a lot to everyone in our locker room. It's not going to be easy. This is a team that plays well against us. They play up for us, because it is a division rivalry. But it's a game we've been ready to play since we barely beat them last time. That was a frustrating game, and a game where you get in the locker room and it's good to win, but you're just frustrated because you didn't play really well. We didn't play very well in any side of the ball in that game. We're excited about this opportunity to play against them again."
Q: Even if you go 6-0 in the division, you still aren't guaranteed to win the division:CP: "Yeah. We're going to take it one game at a time. We're not going to worry about anything that comes a few weeks from now. We're going to worry about the Cleveland Browns, and if we don't, we'll get beat. They're very capable of beating us. If anything showed us that, it's last week going into Oakland and a team that's 2-7. So we've got to play our best football to beat these guys, and we know that."
Q: They have knocked you out of the playoffs before, and you've knocked them out, as well:CP: "Yeah. It's a division game, it's a home game, it's a rivalry game, it's a chance to go 6-0 in the division. There's a lot riding on this game. It's a must-win for us."
Q: When a team loads up to stop the run the way the Raiders did, how important is it to be able to take more chances throwing the ball down the field? CP: "We took three shots downfield and had a big one on third down to Chad (Ochocinco), a big one to Laveranues (Coles), and another one we took a shot at a deep ball and got a pass-interference call. So we hit three good ones. Of course, you'd like to hit 15 good ones, but that's not realistic, and that's not what we're trying to do. We're not trying to throw the ball over people's heads 15 times a game. Because chances are, if you're lucky, you get half of them, and that's getting lucky. There's not many teams that go seven-for-14 on shots downfield. And of those times you missed, now you're in second-and-10 and possibly a third-and-long situation.
"The way we're built as a team is not to go out and wing the ball all over the place. We know that we want to keep our defense fresh, because when we keep our defense fresh and we can sustain some drives -- go like we did early in the game, some 80-yard drives in 10, 11 plays that take a lot of time off the clock. That's when our defense is at their best. We need to help them out as much as possible, because when they're rested, they play as good as anybody does in this league. Of course, being a quarterback, I'd love to throw the ball 50 times a game, but that's not what makes us best. That's not what got us to 7-3 and 5-0 in our division. What got us to controlling our division is playing good defense, running the ball effectively and trying to be good on third down and in the red zone. Unfortunately last week, we weren't good on third down or in the red zone, and it cost us the game."
Q: Are teams playing you differently on defense now than earlier in the year because your running game has been so successful?CP: "Not necessarily. I just think they loaded the box against us because we ran the ball for 170 yards, and it's a team we play only every three or four years. Not many teams play us man-to-man all game. Even for Oakland, they played a little more two-shell than they typically do, than they like to do. But Cleveland does a lot of things, they change some things up against us. They really roll to Chad a lot and try to limit his touches of the ball. But it goes back to the first thing we talk about all the time: We've got to run the ball. We've got to find ways to take care of Shaun Rogers, some of their big guys up front, and hit some creases and hit some seams and control the line of scrimmage and really change field positions on them, and we should be able to win."
Q: After what happened at Oakland and the way they crowded the box to stop the run, do you think that's going to alter what you guys do offensively? CP: "No. I mean, we're not going to freak out. We lost a game. We're not going to change what we do. We're not going to go back to the drawing boards. We're not going to look at what we did and think that we have to do a whole bunch of different things. The whole point is that we didn't come out and play good enough football to win. We'll lose to anybody if we play that way. That's not going to happen again. This team hasn't been this frustrated and this mad since I've been here, after what happened last week. We have a lot of energy right now. We're excited about a chance to play. And nothing gets that nasty feeling out of the pit of your stomach like getting a chance to play at home against a division team, and going 6-0 in the division, and all these things are added onto this game. Nothing gets rid of that nasty feeling that we have other than a win."
Q: How angry are you guys after the loss at Oakland?CP: "Just frustrated. We knew we had a chance to be in a different position than we're in right now. We knew right after the game that we didn't play well enough. It wasn't about the play calls. It wasn't about anything other than execution, holding onto the football and stopping them when we had to. We'll be ready to play this week. We have this feeling in our stomachs and we're excited about getting rid of it, and having an opportunity to get rid of it."
Q: How confident are you guys that you're going to keep running it, have success and eventually wear them down?CP: "Just faith in each other, confidence in each other. You're going to get 'got' a couple of times. The defense is going to have the right call, somebody's going to split a double-team, something's going to happen. You're not going to get four yards per rush every single time. Even on a play where they've got a perfect play call with a corner coming off the edge and we miss the corner, Bernard (Scott) makes him miss and goes, I think, 70-something yards (61 yards).
"We're a very confident group up front, we're confident in our running backs whoever it is, whether it's Cedric (Benson) or Larry (Johnson) or Brian (Leonard) or Bernard (Scott). All of those guys can make plays and make people miss. And those four guys have a lot of confidence in the guys up front that they're going to get guys moved, they're going to move double teams, they're going to get to the second level and they're going to get put in one-on-one in situations with safeties. All you can ask for as a tailback is having a nice hole and having a safety have to make the play."
Q: Are you confident running it, even if you don't have success right away?CP: "That's what the running game is, it's a grind. Not every play is going to be perfect, not every play is blocked the way it's drawn up. You're going to have to break an arm tackle, you're going to have to make somebody miss. Sometimes there's going to be a wide-open, gaping hole and you're going to slash up in there for eight or nine yards. It's a grind. It's not perfect every time, and we know that. And having faith between the running backs and linemen, we'll just keep grinding, keep trying to move people and keep trying to be the physical team we are up front."
Q: This is the time of season when the injury reports start filling up, yet some people are talking about extending to an 18-game regular season. Could players handle that, physically?CP: "I think we could handle it. I just think it changes the dynamics of a season. Sixteen games is a long year, especially if you have a Week 3, Week 4, Week 5 bye week. I'm not sure if they would go to two bye weeks, but that would definitely help. But it's a long, physical season and there wouldn't be as many guys playing consecutive games as there are these days. But I don't know any players that are in favor of it. It only seems like the owners are in favor of that."