Initial comments …
"As I summed it up yesterday, we were fortunate to win the football game. We had people who did some good things, but we didn't play well enough around the board, particularly on defense. The opportunity for us to evaluate comes at a good time, and to have the guys understand their responsibilities. (The bye week) will be a good time for that."
You mentioned their responsibilities. Do you think guys understand why they're supposed to do what they're supposed to do defensively?
"Yeah, but they have to do it during the heat of the battle all of the time."
What is it about the defense right now that makes you think things will get better? What do you hang your hat on?
"The players are good enough to make corrections and move forward."
Do you have to change anything structurally or simplify anything?
"It's not the complexity that's causing issues — that would be an excuse. This is the NFL. There are things that will change, and you have to apply them to the opponent all of the time. You have to also understand fundamentals and what your responsibilities are. Then you need to be smart enough to apply it to the opponent you're playing."
There's only so much you can do during the bye week …
"We have a chance to get better, and that's what we're going to do."
Some of your guys on defense haven't had these problems in the past, but they seem to be having them now …
"I don't know who those guys are that you're taking about (laughs)."
There are some guys who have been playing defense more than this year on this team, and they're struggling in ways they haven't in the past …
"Maybe some of those guys aren't the ones we're having issues with."
The bye is always a good week to get healthy. It sounds from your perspective like the bye week is also a good time to make adjustments …
"It's mental health too (laughs). There needs to be some mental health here too."
Do you feel like consecutive games like this can wear on the team mentally?
"They wear me out (laughs). Players' ability to recall (doesn't go back very far)."
You sounded almost disappointed yesterday even though you won. I know you aren't …
"I'm very disappointed in the way we've played the past two weeks."
Knowing you, you hate 60- and 70-yard touchdown passes over your head. Was that part of the disappointment yesterday?
"When you strike up the band like that, it's hard. That's supposed to be us ringing the gong, not the other team (laughs)."
Is that miscommunication on those big plays?
"Again, we gave up big plays. We're not going to discuss it and we're not going to divulge it. Mum will be the word around here tomorrow (when the players are back). I'm not going to have someone explaining it."
We spent so much of the offseason talking about the need to make changes on the offensive line. After the first half of the season, is that something you would take away as a positive or something you're happy about?
"They keep getting better, and that's the important thing. They continue to keep getting better as they play together. We still have some occasional miscommunications or bad plays, but I think as a group they're collectively getting it, they're understanding it, and they're coming up with some personality. We're going to need it. So yeah, from that standpoint, it's something just like everything else in this building that we have to continue to build upon."
What's their personality like?
"They're a group of guys that will fight until the end. They've played the majority of the snaps, they don't come out of the game, they practice and play hurt, and they figure out ways to get it done, which is good."
Do you think G Clint Boling will be good to go after the bye week, or was his back injury yesterday serious?
"He will be fine. We have a long time for me to 'We'll see,' so that's a big 'We'll see'. He'll be fine. He had back spasms."
In years past, your teams have gotten stronger and have improved in the second half of the season…
"Where we are is where we are now. Going forward, we aren't guaranteed anything. We have to go prepare better, play better and win football games."
Do you expect to have a couple guys back from injury after the bye week?
What have you thought of Trey Hopkins' performance at center in the absence of Billy Price?
"He's grown a lot in his first exposure to playing center in significant games. He's really done a nice job from the communication part of handling his own job, getting on the right person and being able to execute and block his guy. We have all been pleased with Trey. He was somewhat of an unknown (at center) when he played in the preseason there, but he has upheld his end of the bargain."
Has center proven to be a better positional fit for him?
"You would have me evaluating my players publicly (laughs)."
Have you been pleased with the players' preparation leading up to games?
"Yeah. Every day you have to get better. You have to make it better every day."
Will Billy Price take over at center when he's healthy?
Why did you go with rookie HB Mark Walton over Joe Mixon on the last drive that set up the game-winning field goal?
"Mark's taken the (under) one-minute (situational) snaps in practice and throughout the season. Since Week 1, Joe has taken some, but without Gio (Bernard), Mark has taken a majority of those snaps. The offensive coaches feel really confident in him, so that's good."
Is Walton getting more confident every week?
"I think he finally had a positive run (laughs). Poor kid. You can't carry it and block them. Unfortunately, he's been at other end of some miscues. His yards-per-carry average probably got back to even (laughs)."
WR Tyler Boyd continues to impress each week. He continues to build blocks in the team's foundation, doesn't he?
"Tyler had another really impressive day. Coverage tilted one way, and Tyler came up big on the other side. Alex (Erickson) had a big conversion as well. Those are good things. We just have to keep going. A.J. had the big catches down the stretch."
All of the injuries this team has had have impacted special teams groups. However, it seems like special teams has found a good rhythm the last few weeks …
"We were fortunate to kick it out of the back of the end zone and get touchbacks (on kickoffs), which was good. We have to settle in to some new people that are getting opportunity with guys banged up. We're down two linebackers, so that makes a difference, and two tight ends. The positions that are the workhorses of the core of that unit, we've been without them. We've had some different guys step up in there."
Have you spoken to Hue Jackson today since his departure in Cleveland?
"I have not."
What is your reaction to that move?
"I'm not going to make a headline."
Would you be open to Hue coming back on the Bengals' coaching staff?
"I'm not going to make a headline. Emily (Bengals director of communications Emily Parker) wins (laughs)."
It speaks to the nature of the business, right?