Opening Comments:ML:"We're looking forward to heading up to the Ravens. In the games that we have gone up there, the team that takes care of the football best usually has come out on top. I think if we're able to gain some takeaways and turnovers defensively, play good on third down, and do the same on the other side, we can succeed. As the history has been, at least over the last six years, that's how the games unfolded."
Q: Is the Baltimore defense any different with a new coordinator?ML:"They're a little different. But I think some of the things we'll see will probably end up being true to how they played us in past games. They're doing some things a little bit more fundamentally. They're going to match personnel and those things, and we'll see how it goes on Sunday."
Q: Do you see this as an opportunity to show the world how far you've come as a team? A lot of people seem to be questioning how good you really are:ML: "I think you get questioned every week. Every team gets questioned."
Q: Carson (Palmer) admitted today that he looks at the schedule, and at what's coming up. Do you ever allow yourself to look at a stretch like you have coming up -- two against Baltimore, at Pittsburgh and home against Houston and Chicago -- and think it could be a defining stretch?ML: "Well, I don't look at them in that fashion, because they've got to play us, in my terms, every week. I look at them differently. We're finishing up a two-week stretch on the road, and then we have four weeks basically at home (three home games and a bye). That's how I plan. That's how I plan the practices, and the way our meetings and lifting and all those things are structured, are based on the availability of the players and the wear and tear on their bodies and the time commitment that it takes. I look at it more that way. So this game, to me, is the second part, basically, of a 10-day, or 13-day stretch."
Q: So not as some defining stretch:ML: "The difference is, we look at all the teams the same. Every time you walk out there, you can get your head kicked in. That's the way it goes."
Q: What do you think about Baltimore's offense?ML: "They're doing a good job. Derrick Mason, I think, is one of the best wide receivers in the league for a long time, and now he's getting the recognition. He was kind of overshadowed for a while. Mark Clayton does a nice job. They've done a nice job. With Joe Flacco, they've done different things with the ball. They're throwing the ball more, as we saw at the end of last season. They went through the preseason that way, and the first football games kind of kept him going that way. A lot of deep routes and things like that. We've got to do a good job of leverage and getting pressure. And then they're still going to run the football effectively. They've got backs who can make you miss, so we've got to do a great job of tackling."
Q: Some of your players are talking about a different attitude. Do you sense that, and do you think it stems from the way you finished last year?ML: "I think our players are mature enough to understand what's at stake, and I think they're realizing, week after week and game after game, that you go onto the next week. The one that's over now is over. It's gone, and we've got to go onto the next week. We can't sit and beat our chest about anything. We just keep playing. So I think more that way. That's grit, that's what they have, to not look anything beyond what's up next, and I think that's a good thing."
Q: Do you think your team has gained confidence from the late-game wins this year?ML: "I think our team is always pretty confident. NFL players by nature are confident. Confidence is being prepared, and going and playing fast because you know what to do. That makes you confident."
Q: You threw the ball downfield more in Cleveland than you had previously. Is it ever worth forcing it to get those big plays you've talked about wanting?ML:"You don't ever want to force the ball down the field. We want to try to make sure our quarterback does what he's coached to do, and we'll go from there. But no, you're not going to force the ball. We actually forced the ball last week, and you don't want to do that."
Q: Can you assess Carson's play to this point, and specifically his play against Cleveland?ML: "I think that was Carson's best football game to date, this year. My memory doesn't go much longer than that. I think he's playing better and better each week. His decision-making was as good as it's been this year. There were a couple he'd like back, but that's always going to be the case. I think he's very confident. He's getting back into playing. He had two, or two and a half weeks, where he didn't practice because of the ankle. It's hard to get back into the game. You can't simulate the game-like situations in practice. So missing those two preseason games like he did, it put him back a little bit."
Q: Why is Baltimore so tough to run against?ML: "Sound fundamentals. Eleven guys play together, sound fundamentally -- that's how you play defense. Put the black shirts inside the white shirts, take 'em all the way down, and you're going to be pretty good."
Q: Are they a little more open offensively than what you've seen in the past?ML: "I think it's the same offense we faced last year. I don't think it's that 'open.' I don't quite understand that term. I think they're doing things they're confident they can do. They threw the ball very well in the playoffs last year, if you remember those games when they beat Tennessee and so forth. They beat them with the ball down the field, and they've continued with that. They've got a guy who can stretch it down the field, and they're going to use those abilities."
Q: Any added importance because you can go 3-0 in the division?ML: "It's a division game, right? You said it right there. At the end of the year, it's still the same game. But it is a division game, so that makes it a big game. We have an opportunity to gain an advantage on them."
Q: Is there more pride going into this game because you have a chance to be in first place?ML: "(Laughs) That would be fleeting. If we were playing a five-game schedule, I'd feel good about that. You probably don't even want me to answer that one, do you?"
Q: Well, Chris Crocker said it would mean a lot: ML:"Our goals are a little further than the (first) five games of the season. I'll let Chris answer it, then. You can take Chris's answer."
Q: Is there a reason why more teams are going for it on fourth down this year?ML: "I think it depends on the situation in the game. Two of ours have been in the kicking game, and it's just a matter of things we're doing and so forth. It's hard to pinpoint. It's early. I'm sure at the end of the year, there will be about the same number of fourth-down attempts and conversions as there has been in past years. Usually all those things seem to even out as the season goes on."
Q: Does the fact you have a pretty good defense and punter factor into those decisions?ML: "Well, it does to my thinking, no doubt about it. I'm confident in our defensive guys in holding the field position, and I'm confident that our punter at times can get us out of a jam. So that's been a change in my thinking, no doubt."
Q: How did your performance in the second half of last year carry into this year?ML: "Well, I think we established some things after our bye week. We looked at what we were doing and how we were doing it. I thought we did a better job of focusing on getting guys in position to help us win, and I think we gained some players here last year that have really helped us. They helped us through last year. We sifted through enough of the rubble and we found some nuggets, and they've been strong leaders for us, and that's been good. And we've had our younger players continue to develop into the leaders they are."
Q: With your struggles on offense, how much has it been from having poor field position? Has that limited what you can do?ML:"Well, I think the first two chances we had with the ball the other day, we did fine with it. We just have to find a way to make more first downs. If you don't convert third downs, you're drives are not going to go. So we have to do a good job of converting third downs. We have to be efficient. We can't have a penalty that sets us back. I think offensively, sure, if you can play at the 50-yard line, you have more things there. But a stalled third down at the 50-yard line is just that."
Q: Do you sense that winning close games has had a difference in your players' confidence?ML: "Well, as I think I said earlier, NFL players by nature are very confident. I think you become confident by knowing what you're doing."