Updated: 8:30 p.m.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer came off the practice field Wednesday knowing the media waited.
"Who wants to talk to me? Let's go. Let's do it quick," said Zimmer, who then proceeded to hold court for seven and a half minutes about Monday night's 44-13 loss in Baltimore.
As they say in the parlance, a stand-up guy. The 44 points were the second most allowed in Zimmer's five seasons with the Bengals and the 430 yards the sixth most. But Zimmer told his team to remember two years ago, when they gave up 428 yards in a 38-24 loss in New England Opening Day and came back the next week to hold the Ravens to 253 yards and 10 points in a 15-10 win in the 2010 home opener.
"He brought those two games into perspective with last week's game and this coming game. It went along with his speech about his faith in our defense," said cornerback Leon Hall.
And Zimmer does have faith. And he's keeping it.
"Hey, I have faith, which is belief without proof, in these players. I watch them every single day in practice," Zimmer said. "I am watching what they do. I believe. It hasn't wavered, we haven't proved it yet, so we have to go out and prove it. That is part of the game. You are going to get your nose rubbed in a little bit. Now we have to see what we have made out of us. We are going to see if we are going to fight or if we are going to lay down."
If Zimmer remembers the 2010 opener, Hall remembers the 2009 opener at PBS. It was Hall who infamously tipped Denver's desperation heave for an 87-yard TD pass with 11 seconds left in a 12-7 stunner, and the Bengals rebounded to win the division.
"It's the truth. Just because you lose by one point or 50 points in Week 1, it doesn't make or break your season," said Hall, who had a breakout year in '09 after the Opening Day misfortune. "The opening losses are definitely hard to deal with because you think about it from the time the schedule comes out. But at the end of the day, it's the NFL and you've got a game the next week. You've only got a day to think about it and get over it."
The Bengals won the next week both seasons with the '09 team winning in Green Bay, one of the biggest wins in head coach Marvin Lewis's 10 seasons.
"That was pretty big. We played well enough to win that game and get some momentum going into that year," Hall said. "That definitely was big. Hopefully we'll bring that here on Sunday. We play well enough to our potential, I think we'll be coming out of that game a lot happier than we did this past week."
It sounds like Zimmer had a tougher time dealing with the Broncos loss rather than those to the Patriots and Ravens. And he's not envious of a Cleveland team that lost, 17-16, to the Eagles in last Sunday's opener.
"Quite honestly, I'd rather get blown out like that then (lose) 17-16 (on) the last play of the game. I don't want to get ever blown out but you can forget about it a lot quicker," Zimmer said. "You can get on to the next thing a lot faster. This isn't the first time I've had my rear end kicked and probably won't be the last. Comes with the territory."
Hall didn't have the best of days but like Zimmer said, no one on defense did. Hall said it was more mistakes in technique rather than assignments. But Hall is grateful that the one positive that came out of Monday is that his rebuilt Achilles stayed strong all the way.
"Going through training camp if we had a practice where we were making a lot of busts and things weren't smooth, he would cut down the install for the next day or even take it out entirely and postpone it for later," Hall said. "He's been pretty good about that, so going into this game and preseason games for that matter guys pretty much knew the playbook, knew what they were supposed to do."
Hall did have a pass interference call against him that no one seemed to think the replacement officials got right, but all he would say is it must have been if they called it.
"The defense (has to be more cautious)," Hall said of the new officials. "Especially if you know they're going to call more PIs. You just have to adjust."
Zimmer thought his guys were "rattled" on the first two series. "Uncomposed" is what he called it.
Example of technique? When Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco found 6-4 tight end Dennis Pitta working against the 5-11 Hall in the end zone from 10 yards out.
"Looking back at it, I thought I put myself in bad position from the beginning, just as far as my alignment," Hall said. "I was in good position, but I feel like—I keep saying it—at the end of the day he caught it and I didn't get the ball off him and that's what it comes down to: Execution.
"The way he threw the ball up, it's kind of one of those deals he just saw the height mismatch and threw it up there."
Lack of technique also seemed to be in play when Ravens running back Ray Rice scored the first touchdown of the game untouched from the seven-yard-line when he cut behind middle linebacker Rey Maualuga taking on Pro Bowl right guard Marshall Yanda, and Maualuga ended up on the turf.
"It was man coverage. Thomas (WILL Backer Howard) had the fullback. I had the running back. I had to cross face to tackle," Maualuga said. "He cut back in and I tried to fall back inside and I just tripped. Obviously they are going to say where I got overpowered or blown up by a blocker. Watch the film. You can see it. Only I know what really happened.
"When they say I got blown up ... if I stayed on my feet, who knows if I would have been able to make the play?" he asked. "But, hey, if I was put in that same position again I would. If I have to get better and work on things."
Maualuga said he was ready to play and handle what the coaches wanted even though he was playing his first game in a month after spraining his knee in the preseason opener. He's got some advice on how to play the Browns this week.
"We can't have that in the back of our heads, that we're playing in a backyard game," Maualuga said. "We have to learn from it and play the kind football we're capable of."
Maualuga talked about how it was a game of inches. Two plays before the Rice score and the Ravens leading, 3-0, Howard had a chance to pick off a ball headed to Pitta. But Maualuga was running to the ball himself and knocked it out of his hands.
"That would have silenced the crowd a little bit," he said.
Maualuga is going to tee it up with Cleveland's first-round pick, Alabama running back Trent Richardson. After Richardson had just 39 yards on 19 carries, Maualuga figures he's coming into PBS on a mission.
"He just didn't do anything spectacular from what I've seen. I'm pretty sure wants to get after it when they play against us," Maualuga said.
Maualuga says the defense just has to ignore the verbal barrage. He hears whispers. This defense is old?
"We can't listen to all of the things off the field," he said. "'Oh, we gave up 44 points. We're old. We're this, we're that.' We just have to block all that nonsense out."
Zimmer has some issues to straighten out, but he won't say if Jeromy Miles is going to get more snaps than Taylor Mays at safety after Mays gave up a touchdown pass and committed a blatant personal foul. But he did say, "We can't keep getting personal foul penalties every ballgame, though. That's the way life is."
The Ravens threw a different offensive line at the Bengals with changes at left guard and right tackle and Zimmer thought that may have been a factor.
"We sacked the guy three times, we hit him several occasions. There were times we didn't get any pass rush but they did a good job, they mixed up the offensive line lineup on us a little bit," Zimmer said. "That changed some a little bit. Guys are expecting, guys are preparing for certain guys, now you've got a new guy you are playing against and you don't know him as well. You know, they really hadn't shown that lineup much, but, hey, we had so many holes in the dike we didn't have enough fingers the other night. We are going to bring a few more fingers with us this week I hope."
And Zimmer wasn't fingering anybody.
"I don't want to read the headlines, 'Zimmer says Maualuga's average,' because everybody was average," Zimmer said. "You can write that. You can say Zimmer was below average and say, I don't care, you can put it on my shoulders. I don't care. You can say I'm the worst coach in the NFL, I don't care."
But they will care, so it sounds like Zimmer is going to have them ready.
LEWIS SALUTES SELLOUT: Head coach Marvin Lewis has presided over the longest home sellout streak in Bengals history that covered the parts of eight seasons from 2003-2010 and he's hoping to ignite another long one now that Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium opener against the Browns (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) is sold out.
The Bengals sold out last season's finale before heading to the Wild Card Game in Houston and opening in Baltimore on Monday night in two of the more rabid venues in the NFL.
Lewis says it is "my job" to keep it going.
"The last two places we played on the road we know how effective crowds are. Our stadium should be just the same and that's why we've got to get going and get that tradition back and keep it this time," Lewis said. "Don't let it filter away. That's my job.
"To begin the season at home with a soldout game is big. It's a great reaction from our fans."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: One of the big plays on Monday night came with the Bengals trailing, 10-0, and A.J. Green making what looked to be a very clean catch for a 22-yard gain to put the ball on the Ravens 15. But Lewis, a member of the NFL Competition Committee, chose not to challenge even though consensus is it would have won because it was clearly a catch.
But Lewis disagreed. The key is that when Green let go of the ball as he hit the ground after having it for a few seconds, having control is negated.
"The letter of the rule is that if you go to the ground, you must possess the football. He never completed a football act," Lewis said. "If you don't complete a football act as a receiver and you are knocked to the ground, then you have to possess the football.
"The ball clearly came out when (Green) went to the ground. He never took a step with it as a receiver where he could put it away. It was an immediate play, boom. Very similar to the interference call on Leon (Hall). It was a bang-bang play, and the ball is on the ground. That's the letter of the rule."
Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin caught a 34-yard TD, the one he ran by Mays, and he appeared to juggle it as he hit the end zone.
"It's similar to what happened on their touchdown. Same thing, in my opinion, but it doesn't matter," Lewis said.
Green learned a lesson. When the play is over, wait to give the ball to the official, or wait for him to call it a catch, instead of leaving it on the ground.
"When I went to the ground, I just let it go. I had it and when I went to the ground I let it go after like two seconds and he said it was incomplete," Green said. "So just hold onto the ball the whole time."
How big a play?
The Bengals ended up kicking a field goal.
NO UNKNOWN: Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins never signed with the Cleveland Browns, but he certainly won't have a chip on his shoulder Sunday.
"The Browns helped me by giving me a shot," Hawkins said before Wednesday's practice. "It almost happened a couple of times."
Hawkins, coming in off his breakout game with a career-high 86 yards on eight catches Monday night, was invited to the Browns rookie minicamp when he went undrafted out of Toledo in 2008.
He didn't stick but the Browns sent him tapes of the camp and he was able to use them as he tried to get another job. The footage helped Hawkins land on a reality TV show that nearly won him a spot on the Cowboys, and that led to a deal in Canada with Montreal.
When Hawkins's brother, former Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins, retired from the Jets in 2008 he told then-head coach Eric Mangini that there were plenty of guys out there that should have NFL jobs, including his brother.
Mangini surfaced as the Browns coach the next season and wanted to sigh Andrew, but Hawkins already had his deal in Montreal and the club wouldn't let him out of it.
"I wasn't too excited about that," Hawkins said. "But then I started thinking that it was nice to be wanted."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Running back Bernard Scott (hand) and left end Carlos Dunlap (knee) returned to practice Wednesday after long layoffs and were limited. Scott hasn't worked full go since the first week of August and Dunlap has been out since the Aug. 10 preseason opener. Also limited were cornerback Jason Allen (quad), who also missed Monday's game, and rookie safety George Iloka after he injured his ankle Monday. Tight end Donald Lee (thigh), a surprise scratch Monday, was out Wednesday, as was cornerback Adam Jones (illness). Rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) has been ruled out for the second straight game.
» Lewis indicated the starting safety spot opposite Reggie Nelson is still in flux. Jeromy Miles ended up playing quite a bit as Taylor Mays got run by for one touchdown, plus was called for a personal foul on a blatant head shot even though the pass was clearly incomplete. According to profootballfocus.com, Mays played 33 snaps and Miles 22.
"The more they play, the better they'll get," Lewis said. "They're physical guys that make plays, but we have to clean up things and make sure we're exact."
» Former guard Dave Lapham, the Bengals radio analyst, had high praise for the work of center Jeff Faine, left guard Clint Boling and rookie right guard Kevin Zeitler against the Ravens. He was still raving about Boling on Wednesday and said "I think (left tackle Andrew Whitworth) has a good solid partner there for the next few years."
Lapham was particularly impressed with how Boling handled one stunt against 330-pound Pro Bowl nose tackle Haloti Ngata.
"He sunk his hips, got his base and blocked him one-on-one," Lapham said.