Opening comments: ML:
On the injury front, two guys that didn't work fully today were Chris Henry with an ankle injury, and Rudi Johnson with a tight hamstring. Otherwise, everybody else participated.
In looking at the Browns, they've continued to do a nice job of making plays. That's reflected by their guys that were elected to go to the Pro Bowl, with Braylon Edwards and Josh Cribbs, and you can't forget what Jamal (Lewis) is doing, and the job by their quarterback (Derek Anderson). Defensively, they got off to a little bit of a slow start. But they're playing good defense. They don't give up a lot of big plays. You've got to earn everything you get from them. They play very physical. As of late, they've been putting a lot of pressure to the quarterback and having some success that way, moving and spinning guys around a little bit. And then special teams, obviously, with Cribbs being very consistent all season. He's a fine returner and somebody that you've got to be conscious of at all times.
Q: The Browns rank 32nd in yards allowed, but are 9-5. Is that particular stat overrated?ML:
Sometimes when you're ahead, you can give up some yards. They don't cause you to lose. Obviously, they've overcome them. Again, it can be deceiving at times.
Q: Are there parts of Shaun Smith that you miss?ML:
Shaun's been doing a good job for them. He's getting to play a lot and he's doing a nice job.
Q: How do you handle a guy like Josh Cribbs? Do you kick away from him?ML:
Unless you want to kick it out of bounds, you can't kick away from him. You don't want to kick those kickoffs out of bounds. He is a good player. You've got to do a great job of leverage and placement of the football where you want it, and be good on hang time and all those things that come into play when you're dealing with a good returner. And this season, we've had an opportunity to play against the very, very best, it seems, week in and week out. Here's another guy in there who's probably the best in the league other than maybe (Devin) Hester. He's done a nice job.
Q: Is it a motivator to not let the Browns clinch a playoff berth on your turf?ML:
Well, it's our last home game. Our fans have been great all year. This is a big game. It gives us an opportunity to finish at .500 in the division. We've won a lot of division games over the last five years. This is one we want to get. It's an important game for us that way. It's a good opportunity to finish the season—which has been a little disappointing—on a higher note and continue to win these last two football games.
Q: How does giving up points before the half affect the momentum of the team?ML:
Obviously, it can be game-changing at some points. It's always good to score before halftime, which for a couple years we were very good at. We're not as good at that right now. You're right, we've given up far too many points going into the final drive before halftime. They've started with two minutes to go. They've started with three minutes to go. They've started with four minutes to go, and they've been all varying lengths and ways. That's got to be something that we look at during the offseason and figure out why. I don't think guys are relaxing, but maybe they're pressing, and just why are the plays occurring. Why are third downs being converted instead of stopped?. Many of them have happened on third down, with conversions and scores, and that's big as well.
Q: How have the young corners progressed?ML:
Again, I don't want to go backwards, but they need to play consistent. Johnathan (Joseph), Leon (Hall), Deltha (O'Neal), whoever's in there, we need to play consistent. They (Browns) have some big guys at receiver and do a good job of catching the football. They run a lot of double routes, vertical weaves, stutters, and things like that. We have to do a good job of playing top-down and playing smart and understanding the coverage, where your responsibility is, and where the help will come from. We have to do a better job at execution. We dropped some coverage in the first game, and they had a lot of explosive plays, both in the passing and running games. It's difficult to overcome those plays when you don't make them earn it.
Q: Their offensive line has held up pretty well:ML:
Yeah, they've done a good job. (Ryan) Tucker, and other guys are playing well. As the season has gone on, they've been able to play together and stay healthy, and that makes a big difference.
Q: What does it mean to the organization and yourself to have T.J. Houshmandzadeh make his first Pro Bowl?ML:
T.J. has worked extremely hard for that honor, so I'm glad for him. He's been able to keep himself consistently on the field this year, compared to the past few years, and maybe that kept him from getting to this point before. He's done well and works hard, day-in and day-out. He's had to work through some bumps and bruises, so he's very deserving.
Q: You've been talking to the University of Cincinnati about using their indoor facility (not yet built). Are you optimistic about getting something done on that front?ML:
That's not my thing. I'm not worried about it.
Q: What do you think about the year Chinedum (Ndukwe) has had, and what is his ceiling? ML:
Well, I hope he doesn't have a ceiling. Chinedum has done very well for us. We've been impressed with him since our post-draft rookie camp. Until you see him out there, there's some things that you are a little unsure of, and he's exceeded all of our expectations as a rookie. He has a bright future.
Q: What has surprised you the most regarding Chinedum?ML:
You just don't know how a guy adjusts and reacts until you have him playing real football. You saw games, such as the Air Force game, where he made twenty- something tackles. His range, we didn't have a chance to see that very well because he played sky safety. He's been physical, and we've been able to play him at the line of scrimmage as a dime linebacker, and he's been a good blitzer for us. The biggest adjustment he's had to make has been the importance of special teams and how each and every snap has value.
Q: Aside from the first Cleveland game, your running game has been down. What are your thoughts on it now?ML:
It hasn't been consistent, or good enough this season, and we're not satisfied with it.