Initial comments:** ML: "After a game as we played yesterday, and after looking at the tape, I'm glad I was reserved in most of my comments until today. As I said yesterday, we have a lot of correction to make. We didn't play well enough to win. We had some very good plays, but we had some critical plays that we didn't get done. We spread that over both offense and defense yesterday.
"When you don't score a touchdown in a game in the NFL, it's going to be hard to win. Third down was our own demise--we didn't convert enough third down, and conversely on defense, when you allow a team to convert 50 percent of the third downs, it's going to probably be a long day. In those two areas, we'll need to do a better job. There's a lot of question about how Andy (Dalton) did. As is the case with most of our players, Andy can play better. I thought he made a lot of good throws. He did a lot of good things. He stayed composed throughout the game. There are some things that he knows he can do better and that he will do better. We also have to help him out and make sure we're in the right spots all the time for him, so it doesn't all fall on his shoulders--as goes the quarterbacks' job in the NFL.
"We obviously have to be more effective running the football still, continue to commit to running the football, and stay with it, and make positive plays in the running game, and not get spooked away from it too often."
You guys ran the ball well on first down early. Is that what you're talking about in staying with it?
ML: "We want to be mixed, and you don't want to give a tendency of what you do. Other than the first play of the game, we had some very effective runs, and we've got to stay on course that way, and continue to mix it that way. Running helps us to be able to create space and lanes in the passing game."
Do the mental errors yesterday concern you more than the physical?
ML: "We had not necessarily mental errors, but just guys not being on the same page together with things. I wouldn't say it was a mental error where a guy didn't necessarily do his assignment, but let's not try to do too much, and let's just do what the look calls for, and everybody be on the same page with the look."
So was it a communication issue?
ML: "It's a little bit of both; a bit of everything."
After four games, where do you feel like this offense stands?
ML: "I think after four games, there have been times we've played brilliantly, and then we've hurt ourselves. We have to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds that we get. Whether it be a free guy in a protection, which causes a turnover again, or a tipped ball that causes an interception, or a missed assignment which keeps us from converting a third down. All of those things being said, if we can eliminate our errors and continue to win one-on-ones as we do most of the time, we'll be in good shape. It's almost as though after four games we could go in and do a pretty thorough self-scout of things--what we've got to correct, and what we've got to get going and do better."
Does that surprise you?
ML: "It doesn't surprise me one bit at all. It's just where I think you're going to be. What surprises me that we're not as good in the record where we are, but it doesn't surprise me where you are. That's where you are early in the season all the time."
Everyone's back on offense:
ML: "Every time you go out there every week, it's a new set of circumstances. There's new looks that are presented, there's new things that occur. Everyone back and basically a couple years of working together, whatever amount of games that is, we didn't have a lot of our guys throughout the preseason. We were missing some of our players. You get everybody back and working, with Andrew (Whitworth) back now, it's a little difference. Now we've got to move forward and do it right."
In a game like that, a low-scoring physical football game, the little things become something big:
ML: "We had some of those Ripley's believe-it-or-nots. We get a ball tipped when we've got a guy running wide open, we let a free guy go, we got a guy running clean down the middle. We've got some things like that. We just have to, again, stress recognition of the looks and make sure we're getting enough of the right looks all the time in our preparation during the week. So that when it unfolds on Sunday, we feel confident and good about it."
On the play from the Cleveland seven where you were stopped on fourth-and-one, was it another case of a free guy coming loose?
ML: "The fourth down play was a case of we didn't do what we were supposed to do all the time in every way. We've got to do things differently."
How do you feel Brandon Ghee played yesterday?
ML: "Brandon got beat at the point of attack once when they got the ball inside the one-yard line on another critical third down, third and long. Those are the things defensively that were big points in the game yesterday. Some of them we came back and overcame, but we allowed too many third down conversions."
The third down conversions, plus they had two 90-yard touchdown drives:
ML: "They had two 90-yard touchdown drives, and an eight-play drive and a 10-play drive if I'm not mistaken. That's a lot of opportunity to make a play to stop the drive. That's why you want to make a team drive the field. We had a lot of opportunity to stop drives, and we have to get it done. We had an opportunity to probably intercept three footballs that we didn't get intercepted. Those things matter."
Was there a common theme yesterday in the third-down failures?
ML: "No there wasn't. It was a little bit of everything. Not necessarily a good play by us and sometimes misfortune, but we've got to convert."
With the running game, is it not staying committed to it, or is it just one or two bad plays that get you off track?
ML: "In the second half, we get a bad play, and then we get the fumble. We get the unfortunate hold when we pick up the blitzer, and the guy spins out, the quarterback moves and there's not much else you can do. We've got to make sure we're working all the time. We had the other hold in the running game. We only had three penalties yesterday, so those kind of things get you off track and put you back where you're first-and-25 or first-and-20, and you're now in the situation where you're probably going to have to throw the football in order to make up that yardage, or at least get half of that back where you're in a second and manageable situation which would hopefully allow you to convert the third down. We were in one of those, for whatever reason, trends yesterday."
How do you assess special teams play overall yesterday?
ML: "I think we hustled and did a good job. Our kickoff coverage was a little less than we like. We didn't want them to get it out to the 20-something yard line when they're catching it eight or nine yards deep. We have to do a little better job of that. We have to be consistent. You look out there and there's seven or eight new faces that weren't on this football team a year ago that are taking the majority of those snaps. We're coaching double time to keep having guys mature quickly in those responsibilities."
Is it a trickle down effect with the injuries in the secondary? There were three new guys one kickoff coverage in the last week:
ML: "I'm not sure of the exact number."
Andy on the intermediate to long passes, the completion percentage isn't that good. Is it just a combination of everything?
ML: "Yeah it is. It's a combination of getting it to the right spots, to make sure that we're getting away, and our release is correct and we're at the proper angles, and so forth. We've just got to keep staying after it. Sometimes the look changes and the receiver and he have to be on the same page of what the look presents. We've just got to stay after it."
A.J. Green looked to be the most frustrated that he's been in his three years here:
ML: "I think we were all a little frustrated yesterday when we don't win. It's a product of not winning."