BENGALS POSTGAME QUOTES
DEC. 16, 2018
OAKLAND AT CINCINNATI
Initial Comments ...
"I think the guys deserved today. They kept digging a little deeper, finding a way, and they did today what maybe we didn't do the last few weeks: Make some critical plays at some critical moments, which proved to be the difference in the game. I've got to give those guys credit for the plays, and how they just keep grinding, keep playing and keep working at it. The game had some positives. They continued to make critical plays down the stretch which were important."
When Alex Erickson made his big kickoff return, were you looking to see if there might have been a flag, since that's been the case so many times this season?
"I wasn't, actually, because that one was pretty straightforward. You could see it set up, and the guys did a nice job at the point of attack. It's just a matter of keeping our hands in the right place. We had one foul on the one return today, and another one on a gunner. But we've just got to keep going. With special teams plays, there's so much open field that things happen. We've just got to keep doing it the right way."
It seems like Alex has done that several times this year ...
"He's been consistent with it, and he's just got to keep it up. We had the one (punt return) where they end up touching the ball, and we've got to stay out of Alex's way so he's got a chance to catch that ball. But we got a break there, where their guy touched it first and we got the ball down there."
Do you have any update on Tyler Boyd's knee injury?
"I do not."
Is this what you always envisioned for Joe Mixon — a guy who can carry a team on his back in a tough game?
"Yeah. We said two or three weeks ago, 'We've got to continue riding on Joe's shoulders.' Joe, Gio (HB Giovani Bernard) and Tyler (WR Tyler Boyd) — those guys are making plays for us, and we've got to keep riding on their shoulders. Cody (WR Cody Core) had a big catch and run today. C.J. (TE C.J. Uzomah had another big run (after the catch) down the middle of the field.
"We've got to protect Jeff (QB Jeff Driskel). He had the one interception, and we've got to protect him on that as best we can. He let the ball go and John (WR John Ross) didn't quite locate it, and they made the play. But we're taking a shot. We've got to keep taking shots down the field to get people up off us."
It looked like Mixon was playing with some pain today. Were you concerned at all he might not be able to keep going?
"I didn't see anything (out of the ordinary), other than just what you go through in a (typical) game."
The same thing seemed to happen with William Jackson, who came back in pretty quickly after his injury ...
"He just got the air knocked out of him there."
Was this win personally satisfying for you, given that it was likely the best defensive performance so far this year?
"Our football team just needed to win. Our fans needed a win. So it was a good job. The defensive guys did a nice job today. They handled the plan. We gave up the two plays that set up two field goals and the touchdown, so we've got to do better on those, but overall I felt we did a good job most of the day. We've just got to correct the errors we had today, but I thought the guys up front did a nice job today of keeping the quarterback in (the pocket) and squeezing the pocket on him."
What do you think when you see the stands so empty?
"I have no control over that."
You attempted a pass to Sam Hubbard today, and you've kind of worked on that for a while but hadn't actually done it in a game ...
"We score the first time (we do that) most times. If Sam gets an opportunity, he'll catch it for sure."
There's not too many defensive ends that play offense, so why Hubbard? What did you see in him that made you want to try it?
"I just thought that with his athleticism, he gave us something. He's another big guy that can run. He's a big athlete, he can run, he's smart enough to handle the insertion of the offense they give him each week, and he embraces it. He's done a great job of it. When we go to 46 (active) guys on Sunday, we need some able-bodied guys who can do a couple different things. Westerman (G Christian Westerman) has played on our goal line defense, so you've just got to take what you have on Sunday and do the best you can."
It doesn't hurt that you can use him as a fullback and free up a roster spot either, right?
"No. He's done a great job of it. He had a big block in Carson (City, Calif.) last week against (L.A. Chargers DE Joey) Bosa. he does a nice job."
It's your first win as an NFL starting quarterback. How does it sound? And how does it feel?
"It sounds great. Feels better. It was awesome to get a win with those guys out there. It's been a while since we had one, and it's just a testament to everyone in this building — from coaches, players, strength staff, guys in the training room. It's a testament to our character, after we've had a tough run, to be able to regroup each and every week and come out and find a way to get a win. That was huge."
What was it like to chant "Who Dey" for the first time in a long time?
"It was awesome. The locker room after a win is something you can't replicate. It was awesome. It really was a full, team win. It was great."
Tyler Boyd hit the 1000-yard receiving yard mark this season. What was it like to see a guy like him put in so much work and get that accomplishment?
"It's huge. Coming in (today), he only needed a few. Whenever he got there, I went up and congratulated him between plays. But that's something that he's not worried about. That's just the type of guy he is — individual accolades and individual stats don't mean much, but it was a huge feat and a huge accomplishment. It's something he's been working at for a long time. He really has had a great year and has been so reliable for us."
What about the mental strength that's required from everybody in here having lost game after game and still having to come in all week and put in the work and put in the time?
"It's hard. The NFL season is such a long deal — we started so long ago this year — especially when you're on a losing streak. It's based off the character in the locker room. If you don't have the right guys, guys might put in the towel. Some teams might say, 'We're out of this,' but not that group in there. It's just such a great group with great leadership. It's been fun to battle with those guys and finally come out with a win. We're really excited about today, and hopefully it's some momentum moving forward."
What was the emotion in the room after ending a five-game losing streak?
"It's a lot better. Guys know we have a shot and hopefully teams lose that we need to lose. We have to continue to work hard and continue to out-execute guys."
You didn't play the second half, what can you tell us about the injury?
"Nothing too serious. Nothing to worry about. I will be ready to go for sure."
Jeff Driskel made enough plays to lead you to victory ...
"Definitely. Jeff is a great player. We should have won games before this game with him. I trust him, all the guys trust him. He is a legit player in this league. He proves every day that he deserves this opportunity and we will continue to have his back."
Is it meaningful to win the home finale?
"Definitely. There is no better feeling. You can't go out like that. You have to secure your home field. You can't end the season losing your last home game. It's great that we are starting to win again. Hopefully we finish out strong and make the postseason."
How meaningful is it to reach 1,000 yards receiving this season?
"Obviously it's a huge milestone, a goal I've wanted to accomplish coming into the league. Now that I have done it, I am on to the next goal. I am going to let it marinate, but it's time to reset my goals. It was a great day for me."
How nice was it to do the "Who Dey" chant after a game?
"It felt great. It's been a long time. I am very blessed to be in this situation to come out here and come out with a win. It was big. We fought for four quarters and made it happen."
What injury were you fighting over the course of the game?
"What happened was, I had a guy in the middle, it was just me and him, and he made a heck of a tackle. I thought I should have taken it for about 70 (yards) and I was just frustrated that I didn't make him miss."
How much was it a sigh of relief for the team to come out and get a win?
"It's a great feeling, of course. Like I said, it's been a while since we have been able to win here. It feels great. I am happy for the coaches, and happy for the fans."
How much do you enjoy being a spark for this team?
"I enjoy it a lot because everyone looks to me, whether it's a verbal meeting or going out there and playing. It's one thing to talk about it, but at the same time, you have to go out there and do it. I was happy we came out here and fought hard for all four quarters."
How different is it for you when the team is ahead?
"At the end of day, depending on the situation, I know there is going to be a time when I have to put the team on my back. We are going to dial up the run, and it's up to me and the linemen to execute. When we get in a situation like this I have to do whatever I can; know the situation, the down and distance, get the first downs and protect the football at all costs."
On the win ...
"We kind of faltered in the third quarter and didn't come out for the second half the way we wanted to, but we kept battling. Our defense played a heck of a game, kudos to them. AE (Alex Erickson), out there being the GOAT. This is fun. Last week I said we needed to have more fun and not be so uptight, and today kind of showed that."
It seems like it was a breath of fresh air, the winning feeling?
"That is what is expected. We started the season knowing we had the pieces to be able to do this. Even Jeff (Driskel) in the huddle said 'we have playmakers, we shouldn't be stopped on any down.' It was fun. I had fun out there today."
Did you recover the fumble on Sam Hubbard's strip sack?
"Yeah. That was a crazy play. I was there pressing the pocket, and next thing you know, it was like a scary movie with Sam coming around the corner and boom. I saw the ball down, and tried to tear off my guy and get to it. You know how it is on the bottom of the pile."
Sam Hubbard is having a heck of a year ...
"Absolutely. He is after that rookie (sack) record."
What does he do well?
"He comes to work every day with a smile on his face. He works hard, no matter what work load they put on him, he works hard, gives all of his effort, and today, he got rewarded for it. It was great to see that from him."
Do you want to see Sam Hubbard get the rookie record?
"It would be a bittersweet thing, but at the end of the day, it will help me too. They will have to pay more attention to him, so that is one less series, one less snap that might be going his way instead of mine, and I like my chances in that situation. That would be great for him, I would be happy for him, and I couldn't think of a more deserving guy."
Can you talk about playing defensive tackle, defensive end, fullback and special teams in the same game? Whatever they ask you to do, you do it with great execution ...
"It's what I try and hang my hat on. Anything they ask me to do, I want to do it to the best of my ability. Obviously it can help win games. That big play Alex (Erickson), had we were working on it all week. We had a great game plan, so credit to our coaches, and everyone went out there and executed. The defense played great, but I really wish I had that touchdown on offense."
The defense held the Raiders to only 16 points, and to three-of-14 on third down conversions. What was the difference to give them so many problems on third down?
"I don't think we were doing anything different. We have been working so hard throughout the season by covering them on the back end and trying to get to the passer as the rushers. Today, we played a complete game by covering them in the back end, which allowed us to get home (to the quarterback) by working our pass rush game. We stuck to the game plan, and everyone had faith and stayed together throughout."
You were able to put the game away today after your long kickoff return, and then Joe Mixon capped it off with a touchdown. Take us through that 77-yard kickoff return ...
"Plays like that are what football teams do — they find ways to finish when they have good field position. We knew we were going to get opportunities with this kicker (Raiders Kicker Daniel Carlson) — he doesn't drive the ball down the field or kick it out of the back of the end zone every time. We knew we were going to get opportunities. They were squeezing hard (in their coverage), and they got us on the last couple (returns) because they were squeezing hard. We knew we had to bounce it back, and we were able to make a big play and essentially ice the game after that."
You caught a couple bubble screens that went for good yardage, but there were flags on the plays. How relieved were you when you saw no flags on your big kick return?
"I was just celebrating and praying there were no flags. I didn't know if there was or wasn't (a flag). I know how hard these guys are working to give me space, so we have to live with a few of the flags because I know they are working their butts off to give me opportunities to get big returns. I appreciate all their effort."
It looked like Sam Hubbard had a nice block on your return ...
"Yeah. Last year, we kind of struggled on kickoff return, and this year we've had success. A lot of it has to do with Sam (Hubbard), Brandon (Wilson) and those guys in front of me. Those are tough blocks (they make). You have to be a good athlete to make those blocks, and Sam (Hubbard) has done a great job for us."
Images from week 15 at Paul Brown Stadium as the Bengals host the Oakland Raiders.
What was working for the defense today?
"With the run game, I really credit our corners — 22 (William Jackson), 27 (Dre Kirkpatrick) and 21 (Darqueze Dennard). These guys were coming down and setting the edge and doing a great job for us."
The defensive line had five sacks. Can you talk about the play up front?
"Those guys were getting after it. They did a good job getting to the quarterback, Sam (Hubbard) with the turnover and Darqueze (Dennard) and Hardy (Nickerson) forcing a fumble. We were out there just playing really well. We wanted to play really well at home because we haven't been as we used to. I'm glad we did."
Do you ever think, 'Why hasn't the defense played this well all year long?'
"A part of me thought that. When I came in here (to the locker room), I was like, 'Man, I wish we finished off some more games.' I was thinking after the bye, like Baltimore and games like that. But hey, we are where we are right now, and the best thing we can do right now is get better as a team."
What is the mindset of the team going forward now at this point?
"Continue to take every opportunity, every Sunday, and try to win. This is what we do it for, and we'll let the chips fall where they fall. As crazy as it sounds, we can still make it in (to the playoffs). We just have to continue to take advantage of those opportunities on Sunday."
What was going right for you guys defensively today?
"The biggest part was Sam Hubbard, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Once they got the quarterback (scrambling) like that, it's always a good thing for us. The DBs didn't get that much action, because our defensive ends were getting to the quarterback. That's always good, and it showed up a lot today."
When you were on the sideline watching the offense, what did you think of Joe Mixon's performance?
"Joe is Joe. I don't expect anything else from him. He brings a lot of energy to this team. When we see Joe running the ball like that, I'm sure it makes everyone else play hard. Not even just Joe, but the offensive line — they fed off that, and so do the receivers. It was a good team win for us."
Was this victory a breath of fresh air for you, after five straight losses?
"Yeah. You come in the locker room and we say the "Who Dey" chant. It's funny, because I honestly almost forgot about it because it's been so long (since the last win). Any win is a great win for us."
A lot of times, when a corner leads the team in tackles like you did today, it isn't a good sign. But all the corners did a good job of coming down and crashing. It was a big part of stopping the run ...
"That's what they made us do. They used tight cluster (formations) and made us tackle. That was their plan, and we just did what we were supposed to do."
Did you feel this defensive performance coming? It was the best of the year ...
"Definitely. Week in and week out, we grind and try to get better. Everybody in here does, coaches included. People see the end product, but we have been building to this moment. It just feels good to come out on the other end."
Does the team hear any of the noise about fans not attending games? Do you look up into the stands and wonder where everyone is?
"We just have to control what we can control. Everybody in here believes in each other to come out on Sundays and play for one another, and letting the chips fall where they may. We have been putting these games in, and this time we came out with a win."