On Annual Meijer Canned Food Drive:
ML: "This Sunday at the game, the Bengals and the Freestore Foodbank will once again team up for the Annual Meijer Canned Food Drive. Canned food and monetary donations will be collected at the stadium at each gate. We're asking our fans to contribute to that. The gates will open at 11:30. Non-perishable food items and cash donations will be accepted. Again, a reminder that every little bit helps. So that's from the Freestore Foodbank and here at the Bengals. Last year, we were able to provide meals and food for over 23,000 families – that's a great day. Again, that's this Sunday versus the Raiders."
So you guys have the Raiders this week:
ML: "Well, the last one's over. Got to move forward. No reason to look behind you."
How have the guys responded to the "24-hour rule," where you can enjoy a win for 24 hours before you move on to the next opponent?
ML: "It's over. Move forward."
They seemed to respond pretty well to that rule after the game last week against the Giants, considering their handling of the Chiefs:
ML: "It's a time of year where everything is done quicker and more efficiently. That's where you want to be. It plays well with the situation we're in, and where we are each and every game, with the importance each one of these games has to us for the outcome of our season. So I think they play well together."
With the importance of each game, is each week now more like a mini-season?
ML: "We've said this since the bye week that it would need to be treated that way."
You talked yesterday about worrying only about yourselves and only what you guys can do. When does it become time to start paying attention to what the teams around you are doing, so you know where you stand?
ML: "I can't control the other teams, so it doesn't ever."
It doesn't interest you at all?
ML: "Not really. There's not anything I can really do about it, so I'd be wasting my efforts. We get to control what we can control, and we get to play teams in our division. That's all we can ask for."
You guys set the bar pretty high with your level of play against the Giants. Do you feel like you may have approached or surpassed that level against the Chiefs?
ML: "Each game is an individual game. The guys played well in a lot of areas and did a lot of good things yesterday. We won that football game, and that's what counts. Now we have to gear back up and prepare again, to beat the Raiders this week."
You said last week that Kyle Cook was on a good path in his rehab and starting to work out again. When you start to consider bringing him back to the active roster, is it more of an issue of finding the right way/time to fit him on the roster, or is it strictly a matter of his health?
ML: "Strictly based on the doctors and their time frame for Kyle – what's best for him and his long-term health."
What does that window look like?
ML: "Whatever the doctors say is good for Kyle and his long-term health. Then he will be returning to practice, then we'll go from there."
Andrew Hawkins got hurt in practice on Friday. Is that a serious situation, or is it more of a week-to-week situation?
ML: "Probably a day-to-day thing."
The Chiefs played cover-two coverage for an extended period of the game, and you guys really gashed them in the run game as a result. Is that encouraging?
ML: "I'm not going to comment on what other people do. We won the football game yesterday, and that's good. We'll move forward. I'm not going to analyze or break down what they did against us, one way or another. I don't know where we (the media) gather our information, because on the tape that I watch, I didn't see as much of what you're speaking of. But we did some good things yesterday; we have to keep doing them. That's the good part. We got off to a good start, and we have to continue with it. We have to not have negative plays. We did a good job possessing the ball – we went through the game without a turnover, and that's important. You keep doing those same things over and over again."
On a couple of those special teams plays where Kansas City was penalized, did Dre Kirkpatrick force their gunner out of bounds?
ML: "No. If Dre was touching him, then it wouldn't be a foul."
But even if Dre wasn't touching him and the guy tried to run out of bounds:
ML: "If he runs out of bounds without being touched, it's a foul."
That situation has happened multiple times in the last few weeks. Your guys seem to be doing a good job on the opposition's gunners:
ML: "Those are big plays. We had three big plays that way yesterday. The error is on their part, and it's one we always correct our guys on, if we ever see it. You can't do that – you work to stay in the field of play as much as you can. If you get forced out and knocked out, you get knocked out, but you have to get back in clearly. It's clearly just part of the rules."
Do you feel that for what's now two weeks in a row your offensive and defensive lines have responded?
ML: "I would say that yesterday we played well on the offensive front. Defensively, we played well up front again, and we have to keep grinding at it. Both sides were productive. The defensive line did a nice job staying on their feet and maintaining gap integrity for the most part. We had some runs we got corrected early on and went from there. That's going to be important this week."
What are your thoughts on Carson Palmer's return to Cincinnati this weekend? What have you said to the players?
ML: "There's no reason for them to answer questions. About 30 of them (current Bengals players) were never here with Carson – 30 of 53. That tells you how quickly things change in the NFL."
But obviously he did have a significant role here:
ML: "Just like any other player who was here. Now he's not here, so our job is to beat the Oakland Raiders and Carson Palmer come Sunday. That's part of what we're here for."
Your offense has had a lot of success in red zone over the last couple weeks. Is that a matter of execution, or is there more that goes into it?
ML: "It's execution, no question. It's the fact you have so many new guys doing things. For each opponent, you're facing different coverages. Great execution by the quarterback, and we have to keep building on things week after week."
The two fake punts this season – one at Jacksonville and the other yesterday at Kansas City – have been turning points in their respective games:
ML: "The plays in both games were factors. No question."
Do you still have any kind of relationship with Carson Palmer, have you guys spoken?
ML: "We've spoken by text since he's left, but it's not really proper in the NFL to be carrying on (conversations) with people on other people's teams – it's frowned upon in what we do. Carson had a good career here. His family is great – wife, kids – but he no longer plays here. I don't think we need to spend any more time talking about it. It's no different from any other player that played here and comes back. It's part of the NFL and professional sports."
Are you hopeful of getting Terence Newman back to practice this week?
What about Nate Clements? Is he OK?
Andy Dalton seems to be playing at a high level over these last two games. In those two games, he's passed for six TDs and zero INTs, with a passer rating of well over 100:
ML: "Other than getting hit on the throw against Denver (resulting in an INT), he's really had three straight games where he's played pretty well. He's managing the game pretty good, and we have to continue to do that. Taking care of the ball is paramount. Andy's play this year is way above where it was a year ago, and that's what you want from your players. He continues to do things that way and A.J. (Green) continues to do things that way. We're more disciplined and sounder in the running game. Jermaine (Gresham) is playing better than he did a year ago. Those guys on offense are doing a lot of good things. (Mohamed) Sanu is coming in and contributing. We've had (Brandon) Tate come in and contribute. (Armon) Binns, and Marvin Jones when he was up and playing. (Andrew) Hawkins, when he wasn't injured. We've got guys shining through and other guys stepping up."
In what way is Dalton better?
ML: "His efficiency with the football is way better. Last year, I think he threw for 20 touchdowns, and we are above that (Dalton currently stands at 20). We're finishing drives in the red zone. Those are key."
You've talked about how you told your Pro Bowl players (A.J Green, Andy Dalton, Jermaine Gresham, Geno Atkins) last year not to waste their time there and to learn from the other great players around them. Those same players have been the leaders of this surge you've had over the last couple of weeks:
ML: "They have. They've been part of where we are. There is still more to give. Geno played a fine football game, obviously, Jermaine had huge plays in the game yesterday and continues to play better and better. He had a huge game both receiving and blocking. Andy played well. Obviously A.J. impacts the game every time he sets foot out there. We just have to keep going, and have other guys keep rising up and getting to that level. That's what the football team is – your good players have to play good for you to win games. They have to keep playing well."
Now that you've probably had time to see a replay of it, where does A.J. Green's one-handed TD catch from yesterday rank among his most impressive catches?
ML: "I can't even see the ball or anything (on coaches' film), so I don't know. I didn't spend any time going back and forth looking at it. That's a touchdown. They said it was a touchdown, I believe it was a touchdown (laughs). It was good. Kind of Houdini-ish."
It was a one-handed, left-handed catch, where he was covered by two defenders, and he managed to get both feet in bounds:
ML: "Well, the guy was running over there, he was by himself. The guy is going to run to him all the time. He does a lot of amazing things, but to get his feet down like that was incredible."
Along with that catch by Green, Mohamed Sanu also had a one-handed catch yesterday. Andrew Hawkins had a one-hander for a touchdown the previous week against the Giants. Your receivers have a pretty been pretty good at that lately:
ML: "We made some good physical plays. It's much easier with two (hands), so we'll continue to work on it and strive to get two on it as much as possible."
Dre Kirkpatrick yesterday had his most extensive action of the season on defense. How did he do?
ML: "What is this, his third preseason game now? He got to extend his windpipes a little bit, and that was good for him. He made big plays on special teams again, and he's doing a great deal. He's involved in downing the ball, he goes down and smothers the ball inside the five, he made plays physically on defense.
"It's really been just two (games on defense). It would have been hard for me to script anything better than what he's had the chance to do the last couple weeks. When you don't get to play the preseason or the first six weeks of the regular season, this playing for him has come at a great time. He's playing in a game when it counts, and he's doing a good job.
"The thing that you see is it's not too big for him. He's going to compete and fight his butt off out there. He is doing it on special teams. He is seeing what NFL football is all about, as a secondary player, like (Vontaze) Burfict is at linebacker. When you are a defensive player in the National Football League, you are involved in a couple special teams plays, you are involved on defense, and you have to be able to answer the bell. He's doing that."
With his height and length, he looks like a praying mantis out there:
ML: "That was the thing that was so attractive about him: he's so long. The way he's running, how smooth he is right now in playing. He's continuing to learn to make that conversion to play that football in the air, so now he stays on top of that fourth-down play so now maybe he has a chance to intercept it. Now, hopefully we bat it down in that situation, but that's the thing he keeps getting better and better and better. He's playing physical, he's making tackles. That's what you want to have him do."
His height almost forces the opposing QB to use back-shoulder throws, because it's too difficult to get passes over him:
ML: "I'm not getting too technical with him. He's got a long ways to go. He's getting a lot of good practice snaps. You can't ask for better mentors than he's got, because the guys that are playing in front of him are rooting for him. They spent more time asking me when Dre is going to play. I said, 'Well, as soon as you're ready to sit down' (laughs). Terence (Newman) and Leon (Hall) have been great for him, and Adam (Jones) and Jason Allen are constantly in his ear. Those veteran players at the corner spot are great role models, great mentors for him. They're really giving him a lot of feedback and critiquing him all the time. That's helpful to him."