The Detroit Lions have a guy in their defensive backfield, CB Darius Slay, who has seven INTs this season. What do you see out of him?
"He's in the right place at the right time. He's just making plays on the ball. Last week, there was an overthrow and he was right there, ready for it. He plays hard, he's a smart player and he just makes plays on the ball."
With how things have gone the last couple of weeks, is it getting a little harder to prepare for the next game?
"Complacency can set in, but that's what you have to fight at this point. We still have two games left, there's still competition out there and you want to win every time you're out there. For us, that's our mindset, and that's got to be our goal. We still have to compete, we want to put good stuff on tape, and we want to play like we know we can."
There have been seven points scored from this starting offensive group since that Pittsburgh game. It seems like there has been a lack of confidence. How do you get that back?
"You've got make the play. That's what it comes down to — some kind of spark that will get us going. We have the right guys, we've just got to go make it happen."
In that game against Minnesota, did their defense do some things differently than you were expecting, or was it a lack of execution?
"Just a lack of execution. We just didn't get it done. We weren't able to get first downs. I don't know how many drives were three-and-outs, but I think we were one-of-13 on third downs. It's hard to win when you're not very good on third down."
In the time you have been here, is this the lowest point of your career?
"This is obviously hard. I've won at every level I've been at. To be where we are is not what we expected. This year has not been the year that we wanted, the year we expected to have. We've just got to finish strong."
On offense, what are the keys that can help fix it?
"We have to be better on third down. That's what it comes down to: keeping drives alive. However we can do that, that's what we need to do to fix it."
Is it a protection issue? A player-availability issue?
"That's what the offseason is for. I'm sure everyone will try to look at it and see what we can do better."
If someone told you before the season started that you would be under 33 percent at converting third downs, would you have been shocked?
"I would've never expected those kinds of results. We had a lot higher expectations of where we'd be at. We know what we can do, we've just got to go do it. We've got two games to finish this off the right way."
I know you don't pay much attention to stats, but to see that you are 32nd on offense, does that give you a chip on your shoulder?
"You don't want to be last at anything. We've got to get better."
The offensive line is dealing with some injuries, and it's expected that there will be some subsequent changes to that position group later today. Will that change anything you do on offense?
"We're going to run our offense and do things the way we've done them. It doesn't matter who is out there, everybody is expected to get their job done."
Give the team's record at this point, there's been speculation about letting AJ McCarron play the last two weeks and having you sit to avoid any possible injury. How would you feel about that?
"I want to be out there every snap that I can. I don't expect it to be any different than the way every other game has gone."
Initial comments ...
"Looking at the Lions football team .... Obviously, when you think about the Detroit Lions, you think about (QB) Matthew Stafford and his ability to throw the football. They do a lot of the line of scrimmage and basically play a no-huddle style of offense, for the most part. They've done a nice job with their skill position guys. (WR) Marvin Jones is having a fine season and is making a lot of big time contested catches. (WR) Golden Tate is leading their team in receptions, and Ebron (TE Eric Ebron), their young tight end, is also an impressive guy. Both of their backs (RB Ameer Abdullah and RB Theo Riddick) are great receivers out of the backfield. Their skill positions are very well put together. We are going to have to be very assignment-sound as we go into this football game."
Andy Dalton said that complacency is something we are going to have to fight these last two weeks. Is that part of the challenge here?
"I've never thought about 'complacency' being an issue that way. There's nothing to be complacent (about). Complacency usually comes from having success and thinking things are just going to move along. We have to buckle down and play better."
Can anyone get complacent when they think they have nothing to play for but pride?
"(The players) have something to play for each week. It's their job. That's why they do this. Their next week is not promised — or next season. You keep asking the same question and the answer is always going to be the same. What they put on tape is their resume."
Do you have to look at injuries the same way? If playoffs were on the line, a guy could possibly play. Do you gauge injuries differently with nothing on the line?
"I'm not quite following that one."
Is it a black-or-white thing whether a guy could play or not?
"The doctor determines that, and then (it's) their ability to go out and practice and show me if they can play. That is what determines if a guy can play or not. I have to make the best determination I can."
If there is a guy that is able to play, but maybe you don't want to risk further injury ...
"(The player) is never going to get a chance to play if they are going to further injure themselves. That doesn't ever come into (consideration). We don't change the standard that way. That's not fair to the guys beside you."
How about Geno Atkins and A.J. Green making the Pro Bowl?
"I congratulated both Geno and A.J. yesterday for them being selected once again. Obviously, A.J. (has been selected) every year since he's been in the league and Geno (has been selected) every year since he became a starter, other than the year he got injured. When they are out on the field, they are recognized for their play, and that's great."
Are you surprised that Clayton Fejedelem was named as a second alternate on special teams? I mean, it's probably not surprising to you since you've seen him play, but to get that recognition ...
"I think he's done a good job, and it goes to show that, from the standpoint of the players and coaches, they are taking notice of what he's been doing."
You once said you tend to dwell on the losses more than the wins. Do you ever think of how things could have been different if you had gotten one player, or, say, Marvin Jones had chosen to stay in Cincinnati two years ago?
"We would be a little different offensively if Marvin was still here with us. But he's not, so let it go (laughs)."
Well, you're human. I was just wondering if you ever think about those things ...
"(The Bengals) have populated the league. It's part of the NFL, you know what I mean? Sometimes a guy wants to go have an opportunity to be the lead dog, and that's what Marvin chose."
Do you feel more pride when you see a guy like Marvin Jones or Atlanta Falcons WR Mohamed Sanu leave and find success? Or is it more of wishing he was still here?
"As we said when (those players) have moved on, it provides an opportunity for the other guys to step up, and hopefully they learn from that. So, for the people inside the walls of this building, it's our job to get the other guys up and fill the slots with the right guys so they can achieve and have an opportunity (to do well). Sometimes, maybe, that hasn't been reflected as well because other things play an effect on it, but that's the challenge."
Do you feel like, since Jones and Sanu left Cincinnati, you've struggled to find that kind of dynamic playmaker at that position?
"Last year, with production, we were beyond where we had been in some ways from when (Jones and Sanu) started out. With what Tyler (Bengals WR Tyler Boyd) did last year, or what Brandon (Bengals WR Brandon LaFell) did, when those guys were first in the unit ... but, there's also the other changes that happened around then. Some of the other faces have changed as well."
In terms of special teams, you're getting a lot of productivity out of different position groups. Does that speak to the productivity of the people that would be willing to play in that area?
"It's part of it right from the start — you have to be (willing to play special teams) to make the 46-man (roster). That's important, as we know, because we do (need) productive guys for those 18-24 snaps each week that have to be filled with a core group of guys. We have to be spot-on, as far as responsibilities and getting the execution done on special teams. Because we've had injuries, we have to keep churning a little bit, and these young guys have had to play a lot more. We've had some penalties on special teams, which we aren't so used to, because those guys are trying to do things. We just have to do it right. We didn't have one (a penalty) last week, but the two penalties the week before against the (Chicago) Bears, they hurt us. Those were two huge plays."
Is special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons doing as good a job as he ever has, considering the circumstances?
"Darrin has done a fine job because of the scrambling (we do) every Monday night and Tuesday, envisioning who we have in those spots."
You had found some continuity on the offensive line across the second half of the season. Is there any concern on losing that rhythm if some key guys can't play? You have Christian Westerman, who hasn't played, and Alex Redmond, who has played a few snaps. You may have to move guards to tackles. Is there any concern having any sort of offensive rhythm?
"We just have to do it. It's what you do."
Does that make developing QB confidence more difficult? Seven points in the last two weeks, and that's with all of your offensive line. Now, there might be some lineup changes ...
"We have to find a way to be better with it."
Is anyone taking the next step with concussion protocol? I know Joe Mixon got to practice on Friday ...
"They are under concussion protocol. That's all I'm allowed to say. It's easy. They've made it very easy (laughs). They'll be cleared when you see them go out there on Sundays."
Do you look back on this year with any regrets?
"I regret that we haven't won enough football games. That's it. I haven't gotten us in good enough positions to win games, and that's my responsibility."
When you have a losing season, how long does it usually take for you to get over that? Some of the players said it can take months ...
"They'd be lying to you (laughs). They're (over it) in 24 hours (laughs)."
You don't think it bothers any of the players throughout the offseason?
"I would hope it bothers them, but I think it's a good answer they gave you. I appreciate that."
I just mean that players over the years have said that ...
"That's good, it ought to (bother them). Unfortunately, we have to wait too long to change that and right that ship. (If) you lose a game, you get to come back the next Sunday. But when your season overall isn't what you expected or wanted, you have to wait and go through all the steps and processes along the way (in the offseason). There's a lot of energy, time, and effort invested before you can begin to reap the reward and (right) the ship."
A.J. and Andy Dalton seem to have been a tick off lately. I can't remember the last time they had two games in a row like that. Do you expect a big bounce back?
"Well, we have to. As I keep saying, we've got to put ourselves in positions to make plays and move the football productively on offense. That has to be our goal. As you said, those are our great players. We have to rely on them and give them opportunities, then we have to make the plays."