Marvin Lewis News Conference Comments on this Sunday's Annual Food Drive:
"This Sunday, the Bengals and the Freestore Foodbank are teaming up again for the Annual Food Drive. This is the 30th year that the Bengals and the Freestore Foodbank have teamed up in this effort. We're asking the fans as they come out to Paul Brown Stadium this Sunday to generously offer canned goods or cash contributions. Last year, we raised more than 7,215 pounds of food, and more than $21,600 in cash donations. So we're challenging everybody to break that record this year. We encourage the fans to come out and support this effort. It supports the Freestore Foodbank and Tri-State families. Volunteers will be in the U-Haul U-Box containers outside the stadium this Sunday."
Opening comments ...
"A summation of Monday night:
"No. 1, it's my responsibility that we make critical plays in critical moments. That's the biggest thing. The elimination of a penalty, or anything that sets us back in those moments. Third down. An opportunity for a fourth-down stop. All those things that occur in the football game. Our margin for error right now is not very big, so all those things play a part. We left points out there again this last week. We give up a fourth-down touchdown. Those things play a big part. We weren't good enough on third down on the other side of the football, and ultimately you lose football games when those things occur. So we've got to continue to get better and pull it out of the players. Get them in the right spots and pull it out of them. Going back and looking at the game, there were a lot of positives and a lot of improvement in areas that we felt were important, but not enough long enough.
"It doesn't get much easier getting ready for the Bills this week. They are a football team that started out and lost two, then they got on a roll, and then they've lost the last three. They're coming off the bye week. They're running the football very effectively. They do a good job with their scheme. Their quarterback is playing very efficiently and is doing a great job running their offense. It's impressive to watch what they're doing.
"And then on defense, they're doing what they like to do, and that's apply pressure on the football. They've created fumbles, they've created some sack opportunities. So we've got to do a great job of our football and our attack, and doing things our things up front right. They've been impressive to look at."
One positive has to be that this is the first true home game in what seems like forever ...
"It does seem like it. It's great to have the opportunity to be at home. We have to take advantage of this. It seems like we've not had many of them, and it's been a while since the last one here. But we'll be ready to go. Obviously Monday night is an emotional thing, so we've got to build back up physically, mentally and emotionally to get ready for Sunday."
Some of the assistants have said that practice has gone very well during the week, but for whatever reason it's not translating to the game. How do you get it to translate to the game for a player?
"They've just got to relax and do it. But that's our job to get it done."
So you say you take responsibility?
"That's rather than blaming the players. That's what coaches do (laughs). Players win and coaches lose. It doesn't get any different, man (laughs)."
Do you change things"
"We adjusted stuff a week ago. I thought the things that we adjusted worked well. We felt good about it. I think the players took notice of that, and they know that's the way it's got to be. We've got to correct what's wrong and continue to enhance what's correct, and keep moving forward."
It's been so close for you guys this year ...
"Every game is close. I came in here last year and we were winning games, and there were things that we weren't happy with. That's part of what sitting in this chair does."
You're essentially one point away from being 5-4. By comparison, the Texans at 6-3 and have been outscored by 27. How much of what's happening this year is just how the NFL works and the margin for error, and how much of it is on your team?
"It's on our team, but that is part of how the NFL works. It's on our team because — I've said it from the onset when we got started last spring — you don't get anything for last season. You've got to come and earn every opportunity, every day, each and every guy.
"Sometimes, people think they were more part of success than they were, and they've got to hold up their end of the bargain each and every opportunity they get. That's part of what our job is as coaches, to keep forcing it and block out all the other outside noise that tells you that you're so great. No, you're not great. You did OK last year, and now it's this year. What are we going to do this year? That's what counts.
"Everybody has to live up to it, all across the board. That's the responsibility to get it done. And when you have opportunities, let's make the play, make the opportunity and move on to the next one and feel good about it. If we don't make the play, make the correction and move on to the next one. And we've done that. But ultimately, we've got to win the fourth quarter in these football games as well, and we haven't done that. That matters."
Do you get the sense that some of the players are taking playoffs for granted?
"I can't say it's some players. But we'll keep turning over every rock we can to be successful. We'll keep turning over the rocks, no matter the outcome. We'll keep turning over the rocks. You just won't notice the rocks as much then.
"There are a lot of different pieces. That's always part of the maturation a football team has to go through. There are differences. You don't get qualifiers for that, though. You don't get to play from the green tees because of the past. We have to play back from the championship tees and move forward."
Is there some psychology for those that don't know what it's like to have a losing year?
"I had that group stand up today; the guys that were here in 2009, '10, and '11. Then there's the rest of the room. It's significant. They understand that. That group of leadership guys have to keep spurring guys on and pulling them forward, and then themselves hold up their end of the bargain."
Was that done to show others?
"I wanted to show that we've been in these situations before, and you have to pull out of it. The only way to pull out of it is to put your head down and go to work. There's no other way, no magic words that make touchdowns appear or disappear. If I did, I'd find them."
What goes into decision making for a fourth-and-inches situation?
"The number one thing is your opportunity to make the fourth down. It's the consequences if you don't make it, where the field position is, the situation in the game, and the time on the clock. They're all important. The strength of the kicker on both sides matter as well. Field situations and wind are also things you have to take into consideration."
In that situation, is there a ever conversation between you and (Paul) Guenther about how the defense is playing?
"I can judge how the defense is playing. The only conversation I'll have in the situation is on second downs. I'll tell Ken (Zampese), 'You have four downs here.' At that point we have already talked about it during the week, so if I think we're going to go four here, I'll let him know. The job on defense is to get the ball back for the offense, sit on the bench, and drink Gatorade. As quickly as possible, regardless of the situation. They don't have to worry about that. The conversations are not really with the defense, but more with the offense."
Coach McAdoo did the same thing when the Giants went for it on fourth-and-three. So do you tell your quarterback not to force anything on third down because of that?
"With that situation in the game, they had an opportunity, if they didn't make it, to hold us there and make us punt the football back. We did that a couple weeks ago. That's what you're looking for. That's what I try to tell Andy. I say, 'You're in four down territory, get a chunk.' Even if it's third-and-15 from midfield, get a chunk. Give me a decision. Make a positive play and give me a decision on fourth down. Take care of the ball and give me a decision.
"Andy realizes that. We've been blessed, with both Carson (Palmer) and Andy, for them to continue to make positive plays. They don't just force the football for the sake of throwing the ball. Make a positive play and maybe we get a catch-and-run and we end up fourth-and-one with an opportunity to go for it. That's when I'll say to Ken (Zampese), 'I'm thinking three or less, or whatever it may be.' Darrin (Simmons) is letting me know if I'm good or not good (for a field goal attempt). I've already got my yard line anyway in my mind. Darrin will put his input to me, and then we go."
So did you have conversations between you Ken and Andy at the end of the first half?
"They had three timeouts left, so we had to get the clock going. And then go from there."
In a positive moment looking ahead, you have lots of division games left ...
"We do. That's important. We have to take advantage of where we are, understand it, and have great preparation this week. It's a very important football game for us. It's a home game, and we have to go pin our ears back."
Regarding the offense at the end of the first half against the Giants, did you do it by feel?
"We were getting the ball at the beginning of the third quarter. That's the other thing. I told Andy that and told him to take care of the ball. He's done a great job for us, and I'm blessed with that. He understands the situation. You want to get the clock rolling and make them make a decision. They had three timeouts and we had one. He did a good job giving us an opportunity. He didn't feel like he could wait, so he dumped it down to Tyler (Eifert). Tyler didn't quite get out of bounds, so I had to use the timeout. Now we had a Hail Mary situation, which has worked once in our favor already this year."
Andy Dalton News Conference
Is it nice to get home and play in Paul Brown Stadium again?
"Yeah, it feels like it's been a while. It will be nice to be back home and in front of a home crowd."
Have you lobbied to be more aggressive on fourth downs?
"There's times when you can go back and second-guess it. I feel like since I've been here, we have been pretty aggressive on fourth downs and gone for certain things. That's Marvin's decision and when he feels like we need to go for it and when not to. We have to be prepared for it because I feel like we have been pretty aggressive on those."
Is it disappointing to come off the field to punt and be so close?
"It's hard to say. It depends on field position and where we are in the game. You have to understand the situation within the game."
What are your thoughts on why the team hasn't been able to win the close games?
"We haven't made the plays when we need to. That's what it comes down to. You have to be at your best in the fourth quarter. We haven't put it all together, but we've been close. If you catch the ball in the end zone, it changes the game. If we convert a couple more third downs, it changes the game. It's a game of inches. At the end of the day we haven't made enough plays to allow us to win."
Does it get harder mentally as the season goes on and it continues to happen?
"You can't worry about what has gone on in the past. You have to worry about what you can control. For us, we understand that it hasn't gotten done. We have to find a way to change that."
Walk us through the thought process with the final drive of the first half ...
"We had the run, then we threw a couple of passes. We only had one timeout at that point. It ended up where we still had a chance with the Hail Mary in the end. We still had a chance."
Was there confusion on what to do? Was there a certain plan?
"I thought we were going for it the whole time. The clock just ran down a little more than we'd like to."
Did a few more breaks go your way last year?
"We started 8-0. We still have a lot of confidence in this team, and there's still so much to be determined in these last seven games. We haven't lost confidence in ourselves because we've been close in these games. The two last games were decided by one point. We have to go out and get it done, and find a way to change it where we win by one point."
Do you buy the concept that "it's the NFL"?
"It's hard to say what the big difference is for this team. The core is together. It's a new year, there are some different pieces. Regardless of where we're at right now, we still have a chance. It's not like we're completely out of it. There's still a lot to be determined by these last seven games."
What is the biggest issue you see in the sack totals from last year to this year?
"We've talked about it and tried to figure it out. At the end of the day we have to be stout in protection, I have to get the ball out of my hands quicker, and receivers have to get open on time. It's hard to point at one thing as the biggest difference for us, because different things have happened."
Are you still getting your timing down with your receivers?
"I feel like I've got my timing down. We've been going through this for a while now. I'm confident in our guys. We just have to get out there and put it on tape."
Is it difficult to not rush when you're under pressure?
"As a quarterback, every play is a new play. You can't worry about what happened on a previous play. If you get sacked on one play, you have to expect a clean pocket on the next one. That has to be your expectation to be able to play at a high level."
Is Buffalo your biggest test thus far this season with pass protection?
"They're good up front. They give you a lot of different things. We have to prepare for all of it. We'll be ready. We're going to prepare to beat the Bills."
They lead the league in sacks. Is it a straight-up rush, or is it typical Rex with a lot of things mixed in?
"They do it all. He's known for having a bunch of different blitz packages and different things he can throw at you. They have talented guys over there too. Some go straight up, and others, because of the blitz scheme, are getting to the quarterback."
That gives you a chance to get some home run plays in like last year ...
"That's one thing with blitzing; you feel like you're getting guys in different spots. You make one-on-ones, and if you make them miss, you can have big plays. That's the whole part of an offense; being able to beat a defense and get it to your guys so they can make plays with it."
What does a win do to turn around confidence in the locker room?
"It starts with one win. For us, you can't worry about anything else but this week. That's what I said in our meeting, 'Lets get to 1-0.' Then we'll worry about the next one. We have to keep pushing for that."