Opening Comments …
" Good morning. First of all, we were pleased with AJ McCarron's play yesterday. I thought he did a good job of managing the offense and getting us in the right looks. He did a good job of throwing the football when he had opportunity, and when he didn't, not having a negative play. He was able to get out of the pocket and run, get down and protect the football, which was one of the main emphases going into this game for him. It was his first time out there full time, and he was excited, but I thought he played composed and we were pleased with that."
Will McCarron start against Denver?
More opening comments …
"Offensively, we didn't create much space in the running game. We did some, but brought ourselves back with penalties. We have to correct that with our hands. I thought McCarron was able to dig us out of a hole with some throws, which was big.
"Defensively, we played a fairly good ball game throughout. There were a couple of plays we need to fix; we missed one tackle on the perimeter, and didn't get outside when we needed to be once. I thought it was a consistent game with good effort. I thought guys got to the right spots.
"In the kicking game, we were pretty sound; did a good job of coverage throughout the day. We still haven't created as much space in the punt return game as we'd like to, and we were just a tick away on the two kickoff return opportunities. Obviously the onside kick, we have to do a better job of fielding the football. Guys did a good job of execution in front of Mo (Mohamed Sanu), and he just has to make the catch. We could have relieved a lot of angst we had at the end of the game with that."
How important is it having Andy Dalton around to help AJ and the offense?
"I'm sure it was an added bonus for AJ. I cant quantify how much, but I'm sure having Andy's perception was good."
What can you say about the growth of Tyler Kroft this season?
"I think he's really fit what we expected. I had expectations of him, how he's grown and continued to develop and have things not get too big for him. That's what we saw from him during his time at Rutgers. That Rutgers 2014 schedule was against some very good teams and very good players, and he did a great job against all those guys, a lot who were taken early in the draft or have started at DE for teams. It was impressive. He had a handful yesterday with those (San Francisco) guys. Those four edge guys do good job; they're here, then not here, they jump around, jump under. They're not conventional in what they do, so its a good experience for him."
What was with the different and unconventional looks their run defense gave?
"They did some things a little differently, but we had guys break down across the board. Sometimes you zig and zag and you hit some runs up in there, which we did, then we jump around and get a holding call and it's called back. Those are the things you have to do in the run game if you're playing a group that is doing things differently. Everyone has to see it through the same eyes, get on it, and roll it out of there."
Is there a common denominator for the road success you've been having?
"Its all coaching (laughs). I think you try to maintain the same thing. Right from the start of the week or virtually the end of the game, you want to get a focus of what's going on the next week. We want to get our guys' minds in tune when we have to travel. Whether it be Sunday after a game, to Monday Wednesday and Friday, we always have a couple of nuggets of things that are important to get done. We have to accomplish these things to be successful.
"We'll try to continue to lay that imprint and blueprint on them all the time. How they play and how they approach is helpful. Its everything and obviously the players. That's probably the most important part, that you have a good football team that expects to win when you go on the road. They expect to win all the time. They're able to block out the noise, whatever it is, and focus on the task at hand play-to-play."
Is it also the adage about the importance of defense and special teams?
"If you don't give up explosive negative plays in those areas and manage the game and field position, you have a good opportunity most of the time. Yesterday we left things hanging around for a little bit, but we were able to right it with turnovers created by the defense, and the offense taking advantage of it; scoring and scoring and scoring again.
"Then if you come out the second half and move the ball down there in the third quarter, it's a different game. They're forced to do different things. Then we're not going to be throwing it around a lot. That creates a difference in the run game."
How important this game, with the possibility of a playoff bye?
"For us it would be good, because we have some guys who have gritted it out, that are playing with some injuries; some bumps and bruises. They're gritting it out, still in there playing. We're trying to spell them as much as we can in practice and getting as much of the mental stuff as we can to allow for their injuries to heal and feel as good as they can on Sunday.
"We still have work to do and obviously an opportunity to clinch the division race and earn a week off, so it's big. And we're playing against another very good football team, that's a key element. If you want to be the best in the NFL, you have to beat the best. We're playing another team that is excellent."
Do you think AJ (McCarron) will improve over the coming weeks?
"I think he's going to become more comfortable in everything, and I think we'll become more comfortable with him."