Marvin Lewis News Conference
Opening comments ...
"In our preparation for the Eagles this week, we've really got to have a great focus on detail. Offensively, they're playing with the young quarterback, who's done a good job this year, particularly early in the season, with protecting the football. He got off to a really good start, as their season started off 3-0. But he's done a nice job. He's got great presence in the pocket. He's made some plays, particularly the last two games, moving in the pocket.
"Their runner, Ryan Matthews — I don't know whether they'll have him or not — is always a strong, downhill player. They've got a couple of young guys — (Wendell) Smallwood and (Kenjon) Barner — who come in and give them some lift. And we know Darren Sproles, with all of his great ability as a runner, and with open-field running, draws, screens and those kinds of things. He's always a very, very difficult matchup. Obviously, any time he can get the ball in the return game, he does a very good job as well. So that's really key offensively.
"Their center, who's a UC (University of Cincinnati) kid, (Jason) Kelce, is one of the better players in the league, in my opinion. He's really athletic and does a great job on all levels of blocking — at the line of scrimmage and anything downfield. He plays hard and is an impressive guy to watch on tape.
"Defensively, the front group is Fletcher Cox, Connor Barwin — he still plays very, very physical and with great energy — and (Brandon) Graham. And (Jordan) Hicks, who's a local kid as well, is a good player in there at middle linebacker. He's a good, athletic guy. A young player and really fun to watch in there.
"And they're doing very well in every special teams category, as we know. So all three phases, we've got to play great football — better than we've been doing — in order to win."
When Connor Barwin was coming out of UC, do you remember watching him and wondering what he was going to turn into in the league and where he was going to fit?
"We thought he would be a good outside rusher. I thought he could be a linebacker. He played linebacker, defensive end, and tight end at UC. He did it all. I think we worked him out at both spots when he came out. We really thought he would be a good player."
What's impressed you most about his development, not just in Philadelphia but all the way back to when he was in Houston?
"Right from the start in Houston, he made an immediate impact, which is what you expected. He's had a great motor and plays physical. Those are the things that he demonstrated at UC and did as soon as he got to the NFL."
Since the bye week, Vontaze Burfict seems to have reached another level with his play. After being out the first few games, do you see him hitting his stride now?
* *"I think there's been a lot of positive plays, before the bye even.
He seemed to take offense to that, that he has been playing better than he was...
"I'm sure he would. It wouldn't be Vontaze if he didn't take offense to something. (Laughs.)"
But the last three weeks, has he stepped it up a notch more?
"He's done a nice job. He's playing with great energy. He's been very very productive."
Is that his MO? He produces?
"He does. He is going to fight and scratch all the time. It's what he does. You just have to keep him pointed in the right direction and make sure he's taking care of the details and little things of his work. Everybody feeds off him."
What was your assessment of his "flop" in the Baltimore game?
* "*I'm not going to comment on that. He got pushed, didn't he? "
On the defense giving up the TDs on the opponents' first drives, he commented on how you have to 'hop in the water' right away ...
"That's not my term, but you have to focus in right away, and I know we've had some things that haven't been on the same page mentally with the group, for different reasons. We have to do a better job at that."
Do you think those first drives set a tone?
"You don't want them to score the first touchdown. That's important. A lot of times we are deferring that kick to earn field position and have the only opportunity to have two back-to-back possessions in the game."
Hue Jackson has talked about the tough times the Browns are having. Does Hue lean on you at all during this tough stretch for him?
* *"I've encouraged him. I reached out and encouraged him. I know they have a week off this week, so we'll get a ball of knives next week. (Laughs.) Lucky us. That's the way it goes."
Is that a typical relationship between former colleagues around the league when you're in-season?
"I think it is. I'm close with him, Dirk, (Koetter) Mike, (Zimmer) Andy (Reid), Mike (McCarthy) and Jay (Gruden). I've had that sort of back-and-forth with Jay and Zim a little bit. I know my first year, I got a call at one point from Marty(Schottenheimer), Dick (Vermeil) and Bill (Parcells). It's people that maybe you've come across in your past, reaching out to encourage you. I was facing Bill Cowher and Brian Billick those seasons, who I worked for. You're part of them and an extension of them, and they're an extension of you, so everybody is wishing the best."
Is that kind of support more appreciated when you're a rookie coach?
"I think it is. Some days you question whether you'll get to the next day, because things seem to pile up on you. When people ask about what to expect, they should expect that the next day should be a little better. That's all I can tell them. The same goes for the year after that, and so on. Some of those things that seem so insurmountable that first season, you realize you're going to get through and things will work out. You're going to find a way and it will level out for you. That's important in any tough season."
Is that your message right now?
"I think coaches work harder, turn over more stones, become better coaches and people when things are a touch off. When you're winning, you are doing the same thing, you're just not questioned by the masses about it. It doesn't change your outlook on things. I think the players have a hard time wondering why you're climbing up their butt when they're winning. Now they don't have to question that right now. (Laughs.) That's part of it. That's where we are in professional sports."
What's it like to prepare for a team coached by someone you faced when he was a player (Eagles coach Doug Pederson)?
"It means I'm getting old. (Laughs.) I've been very impressed by him. I was around him when he got into coaching, and I know how highly Andy Reid thought of Doug (Pederson). It hasn't surprised me that he's done so well and is a good fit. On defense with him he has Jim Schwartz, who I think the world of as a coach. I was fortunate enough to coach with him. Doug has a really good football staff and they're doing a great job. That's coaching."
Coach Pederson went against the 2000 Ravens, was Jim Schwartz there then?
"No. Jimmy was in Tennessee in 2000. Jimmy worked with me as a defensive assistant. I knew he was going to be an outstanding coach from '96-'98, when I worked with Jimmy. Jimmy got on there with the Titans and Jeff (Fisher). Jimmy is an incredibly smart guy and has done a great job with the defense, and did well as the head coach there with the Lions, until things went south. I respect the job he does day in and day out. He gets the guys to play hard and sound. They do things that fit together well and make sense. You watch the tape and know what they're doing. They're doing a great job."
How much of this team's no-quit mentality comes from the top?
"It's a struggling time. That's what is is. You have to fight your way out of it. We can's go any farther than this week against the Eagles. We have to do what we can do, and not worry about anything or anybody beyond that."
* *Also as we wrap this up, I want to note that the Bengals and the U.S. Marine Corps are teaming up for the annual Toys for Tots Collection, which will take place this Sunday, prior to the game.
U.S. Marine Corps volunteers will be at all entrances to Paul Brown Stadium with PODS to collect new, unwrapped toys and cash donations. Gates open at 11:30 a.m.
The Bengals have hosted this event for over 25 years. More than 54,000 children in the eight county Tri-State area will benefit from the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots collection this year.
Andy Dalton News Conference
Have you had a chance to watch Carson Wentz at all?
"I've watched him some. There's been a little bit of carry-over, so I've been able to see some of him. He's done a great job. He made some exciting plays, and he's a big athletic guy that can do a lot. He's done a good job for them."
Does he remind you of how you approached things as a rookie quarterback?
"I haven't watched him that much to see everything that has been going on. I know that he's giving them a chance to win games."
What stands out about the Eagles defense?
"They're really good up front. That's what stands out. They run to the ball and have high motors. We have to be ready for that. It's a big part of what their defense is and the way they play."
What makes Connor Barwin so tough?
"He's a big guy with long arms. He can run and there's no quit in him. The play is never over for him; he's going hard all the time. We have to be ready for that."
Fletcher Cox is a disruptive pass rusher, a lot like Geno Atkins ...
"Yes, he's really talented. A really good player. He can be disruptive at times. Our guys have to be prepared for him. He's big, physical, quick. He can do it all."
Coach Schwartz (Eagles defensive coordinator) is not much of a blitzer ...
"Yeah. That's more their style. The nature of their defense is not as much blitzing and more trusting the guys up front to get to the quarterback."
What do you need to do to avoid the blocked passes at the line?
"We have to do whatever we can to get their hands down. As much as I can, find windows to throw the ball."
Is that as frustrating as it gets for a quarterback?
"Yeah, I don't think any quarterback is going to say getting the ball batted isn't frustrating. I've never seen it happen four times on a drive."
Were you in disbelief a bit as it kept happening?
"At the end of the day, I was glad they didn't go in a different direction where it could have been worse. We have to do whatever we can do not let that happen."
You even gave a pump fake on the last one ...
"I pumped on one. It wasn't the same thing every time. It just happened that way."
Were you trying to draw a foul? It looked like a basketball play ...
"Yeah. (Laughs.) No I wasn't."
Is there anything you can point to as to why your numbers have been down lately?
"For us, everybody has to be on the same page. We have to get our timing down. We have to make more plays."
Does it have anything to do with shoulder soreness?
"No. I feel good."
Is it tough not having A.J. Green out there, and then to get on the same page with receivers you're not as familiar with?
"I think it's tough for our offense when you lose a guy like A.J., a guy I obviously have a really good connection with. For us, the next guys have to step up, and we have to make sure we have that timing down with them, because those are the guys that are in there playing now."
What has the last month of losing been like, since you've never really experienced this?
"It's different. I've never really been in this situation in my life or with any sport that I've ever played. I've been just trying to figure out how to change it."
"It starts with one win. Hopefully we'll get that this week."
Is it frustrating to keep trying just to get one win?
"Yeah. At the end of the day, we have to make our own breaks. When the opportunities are there, we have to make the plays that we need to. That's what has hurt us. We've been close in these games, but just haven't been able to get it done."
Is it tougher to get the timing down with two positions on your offensive line in rotation?
"No. You can't worry about that. You have to trust that your guys are going to execute everything that you're doing. They're thinking the same thing for me."
Was it a point to get Jeremy Hill involved in the passing game?
"It's something that they were giving us. They did a good job of covering guys down the field, and it allowed for Jeremy to catch some balls. He made a really good play on one of those scramble plays to get open."
It seemed Rex Burkhead took great pride to be just as good as Gio (Bernard) at blitz pickups ...
"Rex is a great player. He puts the time in. That's what we expect from him, and that's what he expects from himself."