Marvin Lewis News Conference
Paul Brown Stadium
September 15, 2014
"After going through the tape, I think special teams-wise, we had the one penalty where we let the one edge get away from us on the kickoff return. We've just got to keep working hard at that. There are things in the kicking game that we need to continue to clean up. There's a lot of good effort and a lot of great energy, but there's some small things technique-wise, just understanding and reading returns. We can keep getting better at that.
"Offensively, we want to continue to work hard at our tempo of what we're doing, and continue to push that, and be better at that, and rely on that. We were able to get to the fourth quarter and slow it down a little bit, but earlier in the game particularly, we want to keep being better with it.
"Defensively, the big thing is just not to allow penalties on third down to allow the opponent to convert. We did a good job yesterday on third down. We tackled well for the most part. We've got to keep it up. We need to do a good job of keeping the quarterback contained, and limiting the runs in the running game. There's a lot of positives to build upon, but a lot of things to keep working hard at to do better. We've got to go hard at it this week."
When the injuries happened yesterday, guys stepped up pretty well for you, didn't they?
"Yeah, our guys who came in and played more snaps than they originally thought they would and did a good job. It was a good adjustment by the coaches, but those guys came in and played."
The defense has played well through the first two games. Yesterday, Paul Guenther played against his first great offense. Is it important for a coach to get that first "stamp" type of victory?
"I think every time, you go out there you play against a great offense, so we don't really get fooled. Each and every week we go out there we've got to do a great job, and players have got to execute, and be in the right spots, and make plays when they're in the spots."
Have you been impressed with how smooth the transition has been for him?
"I've been pretty consistent with what I've said from the time we hired Paul, and all the way through this summer, and every time that question has been posed to me, this is what we expected."
There's nobody who has observed the success he's had with this defense over the last few years than you. Obviously, you had a lot of confidence in him...
"We're doing a good job. We've got to keep doing a good job. As you guys said, we've had two games. We've got a lot of football left to play. We've got to keep building upon what we're doing, and keep doing a good job of it. Most importantly, they have to understand the opponent and apply things to the opponent. That's the key."
Guenther has a remarkable track record on third down...
"We've played two games. Nobody has any kind of track record yet."
What do you need to do to be a good third down play caller?
"We weren't very good the first week on third downs, but we were a little better this week. That's what we're building upon. That's a key element to the game, is getting off the field on third down, and the guys applying what we do to what the opponent. We know each and every week they're going to have a plan for us, things that they think we like to do on third down, and how we like to defend the opponent, and then we've got to be able to adjust and understand their plan each week, and let's be good at it, based on the down, the distance, the situation."
Back-to-back weeks, Vontaze Burfict had the concussion and the stinger yesterday. Is that something that concerns you with two weeks of stuff in that area?
"I can't be concerned. We have to play with what we've got. Vontaze will have to overcome whatever he has, and we'll keep moving on. It's football."
A lot of times there's talk about how people have to protect players from themselves because they want to play. Is that something that you guys worry about?
"The doctors take care of making sure that guys are ready to do what they need to do. That's all we can do."
George Iloka played kind of one handed last year (cast on one hand). How much more of a playmaker can he be now that he has two good hands?
"George is better twofold: not having the cast on the hand he played with throughout the season last season, and secondly, the experience of being in his second season (starting) now. He's been in the right spots. He was a year ago, but he didn't come down with those plays. The fact that he's in the right spots now, and he has the ability to be the big man the he is -- both in tackling and making plays on the ball -- are important. We need him to continue like that. That's important for us."
Reggie Nelson seems to be playing at a very high level as well …
"He's doing a really good job. Guys are doing things they're really comfortable doing. They've been doing it for a while. They adjust well to formations. With Reggie's physical tools and abilities, he can do a lot of things. He's doing a great job of applying them to the opponent."
Terence Newman turned 36 years old at the beginning of the season. Have you ever had a player at that age that has performed at that high of a level?
"I'm not quite sure how old Rod Woodson was, but I know in 2002, I think he was the AFC Defensive Player of the Year. I'm not quite sure where he was in age, but guys that are great players continue to do things the right way all the time. They're smart guys, they understand how to take care of their body physically, how to train during the offseason and how to go out and work during the season. Obviously, Terence is a physically gifted athlete as well."
A lot of guys at the tail end of things go outside to inside, but he's still out there on that island. That's pretty impressive, isn't it?
"He's covering big, fast guys and little, fast guys. It is impressive, and he played a fine football game yesterday."
You've had some drives get inside the 35 yard line and kind of sputter out. What have been the key elements to that?
"The first thing I said in Baltimore after the game was that we were a tick off. That made a big difference. The same thing happened yesterday. We overthrew a ball by inches a couple times. We got bumped off a route that we'll likely come back and say 'Yeah, that probably should have been a foul.' We've just got to keep working at it and do it. We'll keep doing it, and we'll make things happen, and we'll be all right.
"We drove the ball well yesterday, and we've just got to keep getting it down there, and execute a little better at times. We're a bit off. We can't worry about who's not out there. Those don't matter. They weren't there to begin with. It's the guys that are out there who matter. This is the National Football League, and that's the way it works. We don't get anything from anybody who's not out there."
You kind of alluded to it yesterday, but Jermaine Gresham played a heck of a game. Can you talk about how he did after Alex Smith went down?
"Jermaine continues to do a great job. He had receiving yards, he had protection plays, he had his generally very good blocking in the running game. He just played a real consistent game yesterday. He's had two good weeks for us and has to keep coming."
How can the kind of games that Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill had yesterday springboard them for the rest of the season, with how they feed off each other?
"Having Jeremy enables us to have a little bit of a change of pace. We've got some offensive sets where they can both be on the field. They're both great receivers. They both continue to do a good job in protection. To me, it allows Jeremy Hill to grow. He got to play a little bit more yesterday. I think he doubled his snaps from the first week, so that was good."
In today's NFL, quarterbacks have to be Peyton Manning-esque at the line of scrimmage, and do a lot at the line of scrimmage. Andy Dalton at the line of scrimmage is doing about as well as anybody in the league right now, isn't he?
"Andy's done that since he was a rookie here, so that hasn't changed. He continues to do that. He's done that. We've put a lot on his shoulders since he's been a rookie and continues to do it well. It just gets highlighted when big plays come."
You've preached starting fast and getting off to a 2-0 start. How pleased are you with where the team is after two weeks?
"I'm pleased. We're as good as we can be, but again we can't take a step back. We can't take a breath or relax. We've got to have a great week of preparation this week. This week is really important. You want to win every time, and we know the formula for it, and we have to keep it up. The Tennessee team is very, very talented."
Kevin Huber did a good yesterday of directional punting away from Devin Hester, at least pinning him to a sideline. He is plus-five inside the 20 to touchbacks. Is he doing exactly what you want to have done in terms of dictating field position like that?
"We don't want Kevin to get much work, and he had two plus-50 punts yesterday, which are huge to have. He had a good day yesterday. Each and every time he's called upon, he has to be ready. With the returners we face week in and week out in the NFL, you know we want to make sure we limit their opportunities by ball placement throughout."
How big was it to get those last two punts stopped, where they were stopped at the one and the four?
"Those were big. Obviously, they've got to score touchdowns in order to get back into the football game, and to make them have to go 90-plus yards, you can't write a better script than that, other than not giving them the ball. For Dre Kirkpatrick to go down and down those balls like he did, and the one to reach out and dive, and knock it back was important. Those are big hits by Kevin (punter Kevin Huber) to get it up there where we have a chance to make a play on it like that. You hate when you're on the other end of that, and unfortunately, I've been there too."
In regards to A.J. Green, is this foot or toe injury something you anticipate won't linger too much?
"You use that word concern, and I never agree to that, so he'll be out there when he's out there, but I don't think it's anything long term."
You talk about tough it is to go on a long field, but you went 91 yards yesterday to score. Last year, you went 12 times to go 81-plus to score to lead the league. How deflating is that to a defense when an offense takes it the distance like that?
"It takes a little bit out of you. I would say conversely, if you're coaching a defense, that's the way you want it to happen, because you hope at some point you can make a play to get it stopped. We were able to grind the ball yesterday pretty well, and most of it in running. I think we converted one pass on third down, and other than that, it was basically running the football, so that was a big drive for us."
It got a little chippy at the end of the game, and it seemed like your guys held their composure pretty well. Were you pleased with that?
"We've got work to do. We had some guys do things that we don't want to have happen. This is the NFL. This is not WWE. Let's get it right. It was brought to their attention. We don't want to be that way, and we wouldn't anybody to put us in that position, so let's not get involved in it at all. It's not what we should be standing for in the NFL. This is a football game, and let's understand that. We have work to do in that area."
The Falcons took issue with the way Carlos Dunlap fell into Ryan's legs on the play that caused a lot of that...
"He dove out to tackle the quarterback. The quarterback is on the move, and he dove out to tackle the quarterback. I don't know what else you can do. There's only certain places, and the quarterback's running, as Matt Ryan did three times yesterday. Unfortunately, when a quarterback moves, we've got to tackle the quarterback. We can't grab him and throw him to the ground. He's got to nestle him down to the ground. In this case he just leaps out to try to get him on the ground, and dives out. I didn't think there was really anything to it. I don't think any of their guys that went over there to push him afterwards even saw what happened. They just saw the quarterback get hit. They didn't know what happened. That shouldn't be the way the game finishes."