BENGALS LOCKER ROOM QUOTES – WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2014
What have you learned about the competiveness of Andrew Luck and the Colts offense from your previous meetings?
"You have to play him for all four quarters. Last year, he was down and almost brought his team back – that's kind of what he's known for: Being a comeback quarterback. He can obviously sling it around, so our job as a secondary is obviously, you don't want (the receivers) getting open. You want the defensive line getting sacks."
The Colts are a different team now; Ahmad Bradshaw is back after missing time with some injuries. Do you see them maybe not being as explosive on offense?
"(Bradshaw) caught a lot of passes for a running back as far as touchdowns. I don't know if they haven't been targeting the running backs out the backfield as much – that's what's changed. But it's still the same receivers, it's the offense … We want to try to stop the run first. Last time, they rushed for over 100 yards."
How much is this team looking forward to this moment, given the playoff losses the last three years?
"We're real excited. After the loss last year, we wanted to right that wrong. The thing about it, making the playoffs, it's not that easy. You can't take it for granted, so this is our fourth year – my third year – making it, but it's hard every time. You never get that chance to right your wrongs. It's not guaranteed, so to say, so the fact that we're back, a lot of guys are hungry. We just want to win our first playoff game in a while."
Does it bother you to hear about and be asked why this team hasn't been able to get over the playoff hump?
"No, because like I said, that wouldn't be fair to the rookies, as they haven't been fair to the playoffs. This is my second playoff game, and it's a new team. It's a new year, it's a new team, (so) it doesn't really bother me. Maybe the fans, it bothers them because they're the same fans, you know? They've been with the Bengals for generations and decades and (in some cases even just a few) years, so it's frustrating for them. But this is a new team, it's a new year and it's a new game on its own. We're just looking to go 1-0 in the first round of the playoffs."
This team has been to the playoffs the last few seasons but has not been able to come away with a win. What would it mean to you as a late season addition to help accomplish that?
"Sure, that's why you play all these games, that's why you lift all the weights: To get a chance to play in the playoffs and to make a run. That's the focus for everybody here. It's always been the focus – finding a way to go win a game and especially a playoff game. That's what it's all about."
As someone who was on the outside looking in at the Bengals before joining the team this December, making the playoffs three and now four years in a row is still an impressive run, right?
"Without a doubt. Obviously, New England takes the cake for impressive runs in the playoffs, but Cincinnati's very impressive. Four straight years I think it is now, that doesn't happen by accident. You've got to have a lot of good players, a lot of good coaching and obviously, they've done that. They've put it all together and like you said, it's time now to go get some wins."
You weren't here for the first matchup against Indianapolis this season, but is there anything the guys on the offensive line can take away from that game that may be helpful come this Sunday? This is a very different team now.
"Yeah, I think that's the case. When you look at it and when you look at old game film from earlier in the year, you hope to say 'Wow, we're a lot better than that.' I think that's a good thing because if you're not, that means you've stayed the same. You haven't been practicing, you haven't been getting any better.
"When I've looked at tape of the first game, I don't see the same team. I think we're a much more physical team now, and that's the way we've got to go play. We'll see what happens. They're going to bring it. It's playoff football and it's going to be a little faster, a little tougher, a little grittier, and that's the way it should be."
You guys are running the ball a lot differently, and better than 10 weeks ago …
" Yeah, obviously – Jeremy Hill emerged as a tough runner, and he and Giovani (Bernard) are such good complementary backs, so like you said, it will be a different game. I don't know how it's going to go, but it'll be a different game. I think different things will happen; they'll try to make different adjustments, we'll try to make different adjustments."
In 2011, you were part of a Houston Texans team trying to win its first playoff game in franchise history … Do you feel any similar vibe in trying to get that playoff monkey off of the Bengals' back?
"I don't know. Me not being here, it's probably been a little different, but these teams are so different from year to year. Even if you feel like you have a lot of the same players, at the end of the day, you're never made up quite the same way and each player has a little bit of a different role.
I think this year's team is different from last year's, even from the outsider's standpoint. This team's a lot different. The offense is different, I think the mindset is different, so I think we have to take that and just go in and execute. That's the biggest thing; it's not necessarily about getting monkeys off our backs or trying to turn around history. It's about going in there and not turning the ball over and running the ball effectively. I think if we do that, we'll be all right."
Do you think a playoff win this year after the previous three consecutive losses is very important to deliver to Bengals fans this Sunday?
"Yes, I do, but more important to the guys in this locker room who have been working 365 days, working hard to get it together, to do something special. I understand how important it is to the city, but it's more important to the guys in the locker room."
You've been here a few years now … How does this playoff week feel compare to playoff weeks in years past?
"I think we are even keel, but everybody knows the importance of the game and the way we played when we went over there last time. We were down a couple of guys, but we really didn't play well defensively or offensively, so I think guys are in here eager for the challenge, to give them our best shot."
The Colts are a different team now, but is there anything you can take away from that first game that will helpful to you as a team this time around?
"Oh yeah, we'll pick a lot of good things up. They're more into three-wide (receiver sets) now, they're throwing the ball a lot more. I think that plays in our favor with the defensive backs we have."
Do you guys ever get tired of answering questions about the playoff woes?
"I wouldn't say tired. It's a pleasure to go to the playoffs four years in a row … We cherish the moment, enjoy the moment, but I think at this stage, for the guys that have been in the locker room through hell and high water, we just need to win the game."
How long have you guys been looking forward to getting back to this moment?
"Since last year. Since we lost last year."
How much of a motivating factor has that been for this team?
"The loss of last year was motivation, but you know, it's a whole new team. (Bengals Head) Coach (Marvin) Lewis does a good job of letting the past be the past and working on the future."
Everyone knows this team has had some playoff failures in recent years. What's the approach this week knowing that?
"We're a totally new team. We have new players and we have a new mindset. Our approach this week is the approach we've been having all the season; it's just a heightened sense of awareness. It's you win or you go (home), so we're going to do anything to win the game. It starts today in practice."
You've been here a couple years – in the past, were there mistakes made in guys trying to do too much in the playoffs?
"What I've learned is – today I just listened to Coach Lewis -- this is totally a new year. Don't think about the past years. And he's actually correct. I believe it. He's my coach, he's my boss and I'm going to listen to what he says and do what he says."
What did you guys learn about Andrew Luck back in October?
"We learned that they were effective running the ball, as a way to keep us off balance. But another thing we know is, we have some guys playing who weren't playing in that (first) game, some big-time players. We've got Rey (Maualuga) on defense and we've been playing a lot better defensively, we believe. We're excited for this game."
Where has the improvement come from most for the defense?
"We've got some guys back. With Rey coming back, just giving us an additional toughness. He plays very physical, and we love having him out there and getting teams into third-and-long, and that's what we have to do this Sunday."
The Colts are different now as an offense with the return of Ahmad Bradshaw – is there anything you can learn from watching the film from October's game?
"They still want to try to run the ball. If the guys up front are doing their job, we can stop the run. But they're still going to try to pound the ball, no matter what."
Indianapolis has a prolific passing game. What have you identified from the first game that will help the defense produce a different result this Sunday?
"First off, we have to tackle better. We have to eliminate all the mental errors. Like I said, last time we played them, it was all about the mental errors and mistakes that we made and created. We've got to tighten up on all those things, and if we do, we'll be all right.
"This is the playoffs. Our intensity needs to be raised. We need to go out there faster, stronger and cause turnovers."
Why did Andrew Luck give the defense so many problems in the first meeting this past October?
"It's nothing that they did; it's all about the mistakes we made and mental errors. As long as we tighten up, we shouldn't be beat."
This is your third year on the team and third consecutive playoff year … What have you learned that will help you come Sunday
"Everything has to rise. This is do or die now. This is when the real season starts now. You lose or go home, and that's one place we don't want to be. We've just got to come out focused and hit them in the mouth early."
How do you guys not think about the previous playoff losses and what didn't go right as you prepare for Sunday?
"As a new team this year, we're always excited to get back to the playoffs. We'd really like to eliminate that stigma this year that we can't win a playoff game. It's been three years (in a row without one), so it's about time."
Most athletes try to avoid hearing or seeing stuff about stigmas when they haven't been successful in the postseason … ?
"I'd say it's almost impossible not to hear it – it gets brought up by almost everyone. But as a team, we're focused on the theme that the past doesn't matter. This is this year, this is this team. We've got to focus on the Colts and get the job done."
Why do you think this might be the team to go out this year and get that playoff win?
"It just a completely new team (with) new guys, new focus … Just the way we've played down the stretch, I think we've played well and hopefully that carries over.
What would it mean to the guys in this locker room to be the group that gets a playoff win?
"It would be great to get the stigma off our back, finally get a little more respect from other teams and other people. It would just feel fantastic."
How do you feel the team is different than when you first played the Colts this season in October?
"That first time was rough. They got us good; there's no other way around it. They're a talented team, and I'm expecting more of the same. They have tough, competitive players … We've improved as the season has gone on, and you know, we're going to give them our best shot."
Do you feel the team has a different identity on offense now than it did at the start of the season?
"I think some things have gone our way as far as the running game. We've definitely taken that to our advantage, and hopefully we can continue that."
Do you feel the Colts are a different team now than when you played them in October?
"I think they're very similar. They still play hard, they're still very good and I still think it's going to be a heck of a challenge for us. But I think we're more prepared and we have a better mentality of who we are and the type of football team we want to be this time around."
There is no psychological advantage for them having the shutout win earlier this year, is there?
"Yeah. I don't see where we'd be giving any advantages with however many points or many yards (we did or didn't have). Right now, it doesn't matter who's the number one seed or the number six seed or any of that. It doesn't matter how many times you've scored or how many points you've given up. At the end of the day, the team that has the best defense in the playoffs and the best offense and best special teams will move on. That's all that matters."
The 15-play drive you guys had against Pittsburgh for a touchdown that got you back in the game would be something that, if you could, would be the blueprint for how you guys would want to work as an offense, right?
"Yeah, a mixture of it. But also I really feel like we played well the whole game – you just can't turn the ball over. That's just the bottom line. It doesn't tell the whole story winning and losing. We didn't lack for opportunities to win the game and be up a couple of scores. You can't turn the ball over. You can't put your defense in a situation where they get easy points. You can't continue to be driving and have an opportunity to score yourself and then give them the football. It just can't happen. You can't expect to win if you do that. Honestly, you're just wasting your time."
There's a window in the NFL for success which does not stay open long … You're probably at the point now where you guys have to seize it, right?
"Yeah, that's the biggest thing: What you learn when you're in the playoffs every year is that it's a small window. It's an exact window. It's going to take more than just playing hard; you're going to have play great. You're going to have to execute everything you want to do. You're going to have play well in every situation and handle all the different game situations well because that's what playoff football is. It's about rising to the occasion and handling each moment."