ML: "After watching the tape, you've got to feel good about the production on offense, but we really need to improve and be more consistent in our running game. We were kind of having one player off-kilter – one-player error – that's leading to us not having consistency in the running game. We're having some seven-, eight-, 10-yard gains, or five-yard gains, but then we have a two-yard gain, or no gain. We just have to be a little more consistent with that across the board. Third down offensively yesterday was not our best effort. It needs to be better for sure. Really, for the season, we're not doing as well on third down as we need to be doing. We have to continue with the details of those things. And obviously if we can put ourselves in the shorter situations, it'll be a lot more to our advantage.
"Special teams-wise, we have to continue and be really consistent in coverage. We're doing a lot of real positive things. We've put the ball down inside the 10-yard line a bunch of times this year. We've got to keep being as consistent in coverage. We had a penalty yesterday that wasn't really even a penalty because our guy wasn't even blocking him, but their guy stumbled and we looked like we pushed him from behind. But I want to continue to minimize those things. It's a good thing thus far that we're doing through four games – we're being minimal in fouls. That's what you want to have. You want to be able to hold the field position that we're creating. Brandon (Tate) did a good job yesterday in the punt returns, and we didn't get any opportunities yesterday in kickoff returns.
"On the other side, defensively, we made steps in the right direction. We still need to be more consistent with 11 guys playing together, particularly in the running game. We did a nice job yesterday in pass lanes underneath, which is what we need to have. We made him hold the football, then we were able to get to him with the rush. But we have to continue to keep him in (the pocket), because we had a couple of times where the quarterback got out on us yesterday. That's got to continue to get better. Everybody has to understand the rush that's going on, if we have a rush going on that's opposite of you. Or internally to know what's happening if we have something going on – something like a stunt – so that we can continue to play together, all 11 guys.
"So it's an exciting week for us. It should be a great game for our fans coming up with the Dolphins. Hopefully we'll get everybody out here and fill the house again. It's against a Miami team that's got a great offensive line, talented skill guys, with Reggie Bush. They have a young quarterback that's doing a good job for them, and they have a very, very stout defense. So it'll be a tough football game on Sunday, here against the Dolphins."
It was pretty humid yesterday in Jacksonville. How much of an advantage was it to be able to use an eight-player rotation on the defensive line with those conditions?
ML: "That's a luxury. I don't know that we'll take advantage of that too often, but yesterday we could. It worked fine. We're still getting good play from the two young guys – Brandon Thompson and Devon Still. They're getting valuable snaps, and hopefully those snaps will get more and more positive. But it's a good opportunity for them as young players to get an opportunity to play. A lot of times you don't get an opportunity to do that, particularly as defensive linemen."
You've attempted fakes in the kicking game each of the last two weeks. Were those because of certain looks that you saw out there, or were they more predetermined?
ML: "We've not done anything different in 10 seasons now. We've done the consistent thing all that time."
They were up 7-3 at the time of the fake. Was that an effort to generate some momentum?
How good did the film look as far as bottling up Maurice Jones-Drew? That's no easy task:
ML: "There were a few runs that they gained six, seven, eight yards on. We've got to do a better job of it. We got out of our gaps. We just have to play lower. It was probably the first time in a couple weeks that we had what Mike (defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer) would determine as some hardball runs – downhill running plays – against us. We haven't had a lot of that this season thus far. You have to make sure you can make that change over in your own mind, because they created angles and things from different formations and different looks than maybe what we had practiced against. We had practiced other things against some other looks.
"So it's making the adjustments on the sideline and understanding that it's not going to be what we felt like it was going to be, it's going to be this particular run today. Then guys settle down and get right in their spots and hit it downhill. So as they're running it downhill, we have to make sure we're hitting it downhill with the up-front guys, the linebackers and whatever the support guys are."
They ran their bread and butter a few times – power runs – and you guys stayed tough throughout the whole game:
ML: "We did OK. They had one up there for six yards. You've got to minimize those gains."
With the injuries in the secondary, how does Chris Crocker fit into that area? Do you view him as another body that you can rotate in and out of the game?
ML: "His play helped us yesterday. It'll be something going forward that I'll have to figure out week to week, with how we'll line up and stack up, based on the health of the rest of our guys as they continue on the mend."
How have Adam Jones and Terence Newman done the last two weeks?
ML: "They're getting opportunities to do good things. It's a good, consistent an effort by both players. Terence has begun to relax a little bit more and just play, and that's been good thing. And then Adam, it's the most football I think he's probably played in I don't know how long. I know it's a long time. Each and every time out there, he's consciously trying to do everything the way we're asking him to do it, and it's paying off for him. So both guys did a good job yesterday. They had good football games."
Coming into the regular season, the middle of the offensive line was a major question mark, but it has done well. They seem to be jelling:
ML: "Clint (Boling) began last year as our starting guard and nothing's changed. We hoped to have a competition there, but the competition didn't last very long – only about two and a half weeks. So he moves over, we installed Kevin (Zeitler) right away at the other one, then Jeff (Faine) comes in and, really over four weeks now, has gotten better each and every week, more comfortable. He went out there yesterday and played hurt a little bit and showed his toughness and grit, and what kind of guy he is. So it was an impressive day, and those guys are doing a good job. Clint is playing as well as anybody on the offensive front. We keep being consistent on the outside with our two offensive tackles. We just have to keep moving forward, getting better each and every week. We've got another formidable challenge coming in here this week, we know that."
You mentioned yesterday about the youth that was on the field for you guys. Was that probably the youngest 45-player active roster that you've had on a game day?
ML: "It has to be. I had too much time on my hands Sunday morning (laughs). But it is incredibly young if you look at it. Even just looking at the experience here in Cincinnati, it is even less: two rookie receivers (Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones) and a second-year receiver (A.J. Green) and a second-year receiver (Andrew Hawkins) and a fourth-year receiver in Tate. So that's your maturity level at wide receiver. The guys that are playing the snaps – you take (Bruce) Gradkowski out of the mix, he didn't get a chance to play – it's pretty young. At tight end, you've got a three-year guy (Jermaine Gresham) and a first-year guy (Orson Charles). Your guard is a second-year player (Clint Boling) and your other guard is a rookie (Kevin Zeitler) and you've got Jeff (Faine) in the middle and your two tackles (Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith) have some experience – Andre's in his fourth year. So it's a pretty young group.
"And you go to the other side, you've got a rookie linebacker (Vontaze Burfict), got rookie tackles playing (Devon Still and Brandon Thompson),and a third-year end (Carlos Dunlap) and fourth-year end (Michael Johnson). You've got Robert Geathers and Domata (Peko) that have experience, but we're pretty young throughout the board, and in the back end obviously. But I think with that, we gain.
"The other side of it is our effort and energy throughout special teams, because those guys are going in and competing their tails off and that continues to be a plus for us. And the fact that you know they've been the group – that special teams core group has been together for a little bit. A lot of them are going into their third years doing that. So the continuity allows for the ability to do special teams all the time and instantaneous almost, and that's a good thing.
"So yeah, it's young, but you provide for more opportunity for everyone because they see what's out there and if you just do it the right way, you've got an opportunity to get out there and play."
You seemed to get good play out of the rookies on special teams, Marvin Jones, George Iloka, Mohamed Sanu and Chris Lewis-Harris:
ML: "Chris did a great job going in there. It didn't get too big for him. He did get great blocks and did a nice job out there. He was on the kickoff team. So it was a good day all around for those guys – Sanu and Marvin Jones, as you mentioned. That's taking snaps away from Andrew Hawkins, which is a good thing. Then you have that core group of guys – (Dan) Skuta, (Jeromy) Miles, (Cedric) Peerman, Vinny Rey – who continue to just play their tails off. Those core guys have been with us for now for three years and they just play their tails off and they're able to get the other guys going, which is great.
Jermaine Gresham didn't have big numbers, but you mentioned yesterday that his contributions were significant:
ML: "They were. Drawing the interference call when he keeps hustling after that football and stays on the route, which gives Andy (Dalton) a chance to get him the football. Unfortunately, we have seen guys quit running in those situations. But Jermaine knows he can go in there and post up anybody and go up and get that football. The guy was grabbing his left arm, so he almost caught it with his right hand because he couldn't get his left arm up because the guy was pulling it down.
"On the screen play, he makes a nice run for the first down. It's man coverage. The guy has him so he just runs right over him until he gets the first down. So things like that, and the other catches and runs he had during the game are very good. And he was good in protection."
Some people have said that the offense isn't just out there, trying not to cost you the game. The offense now can win you a game:
ML: "A year ago, everything was new for everyone, basically from the first of August. So (this year) you had the entire offseason, you've had all the time in OTAs, training camp and so forth for us to refine things we're doing and to keep pushing the concepts forward. So you see new things and new concepts that we have worked on throughout training camp, that we have brought out week to week to week, and you're able to let those things unfold a little bit further beyond where we were. The quarterback does a great job handling every situation. So you have one or two guys – OK, 'This is this now, this is a little different for me, and this is what I do on that.' That's the big difference. But the rest of the guys are doing what they're normally doing."