Does the success of the run game in the second half against Buffalo give you more confidence to call more running plays in the first halves of games?
"The hard thing in the first half was we had 14 plays before the two-minute drill. With a couple of those being third downs, you're probably looking at 10 plays because we didn't get any first downs. The runs we called were efficient, and we were in good shape. We had some good runs going forward, and we just didn't get (in) place. ... We just have to get a first down. That's really what hurt us in the first half. In the second half, we were able to call (the game) the way we wanted to. It was only a 14-point game, and we felt like we were right there on the verge of scoring, so we were able to do that stuff. We were getting good, efficient runs out of it. There were things to be pleased about in the run game, and we finally got a chance to put it out there. We know we can be successful in that area going forward."
Does the success of the run game help the passing attack and play-action?
"It does. We saw those linebackers coming downhill in the second half, so we knew we could call some play-action and some naked (bootleg) plays to take advantage of that and counter that. That was a really good front seven we faced, and when they come downhill, it makes it really hard on the run game. You have to be one step ahead and call some of those play-actions and naked (bootlegs) to take the pressure off the linemen in the run game. You're right in that, once you start to get a rhythm in the run game and they start keying into it and saying, 'We've got to stop the run, we've got to stop the run,' you get the balance of the complimentary stuff that plays off of it."
What was the difference in finding an offensive rhythm in the second half versus the first half?
"(The difference) was getting the first, first down of the drive. It's really as simple as that. Now we have some momentum, and now we can be in attack mode. You're never really in attack mode when you jog off the sideline, call the first play and it's not as efficient as you'd like it to be. Now it's second down, you're a little behind, they're still attacking you, and you're off the field on third down. That's the way it played out in the first two quarters. We couldn't get into attack mode. All it takes is converting that first, first down, and now we're rolling. We couldn't get that in the first half, and it starts with me. We have to make sure we are calling better plays to put us in position to where we can get into that mode, and the players can feel that rhythm and really get going."
Did the officials tell you why they nullified Darius Phillips' first quarter, kickoff touchdown?
"They told us that (WR Auden Tate) was grabbing jersey. That was the call that was on the field, and we stress to our guys — who are on the perimeter, working on the edges out in space and guarding guys one-on-one — those are the things they're looking for. Whether you agree with it or not, that's just the way it is, and you have to be careful. That was a good spark we were looking for. I think it was after their touchdown and two-point conversion, and that would've provided a good spark for us. We're counting on DP and all the guys on the kickoff return team to go get us another one. They got that one, so we'll come back and try to get it another week."
What have you seen from WR Auden Tate that allowed you start him against Buffalo?
"Auden had a really good training camp, and then he got hurt. He missed — I can't remember now — a preseason game at the very end, and he missed the first regular-season game. He didn't get the chance to get out there and get the reps to prepare for those games. Where Auden has been consistent is he's got aggressive hands and he's tough. Those are two traits that you love and can find a role for. He's physical in the run game. He looks like a tight end playing receiver, and he's a guy there's a role for in this offense. When his number has been called, he's produced for us. He has a great catch radius, and he catches the ones you throw to him. I felt like he deserved an opportunity, and we moved John (WR John Ross) over to the other side and thrust him into the role."
Is there a reason you moved WR John Ross to the opposite side?
"I think it was the best position to put those guys in, so that was a good change of pace for us."
Has Auden Tate's ability to run after the catch impressed you?
"Everything about Auden has been impressive thus far, and everything we've asked him to do, he's been able to do. He's hard to take down, and he's good. He had some really good shallow (routes) that he caught, and he had some tight turns but was able to get upfield, and he got us the maximum yardage we were going to get on some of those. That was really good to see. We tried to put him in that position last week with the on-on-one (play) on the perimeter. The whole thought process was get him one-on-one with the cornerback. They rallied and made a good play, but he got six yards. Those are just some of the things he brings to the table."
What was the reason for DE Carl Lawson not playing despite being active?
"It wasn't in his best interest to put him out there. We worked him out before the game, and he just wasn't quite ready to go. We do think — as far as injuries go — we will see a positive direction. We've got eight days, and there were no injuries of consequence that happened in the game (yesterday). Guys fought hard, and now we'll get some guys back who sat out of the game. Some of them are day-to-day right now, but I feel like the eight-day window will get us a lot of depth back."
When is it time to panic given the 0-3 start?
"Winning is a lot more fun, there's no question about that. You lose a road game like that and you sit on the bus for an hour going to the airport. Then you're on the plane for an hour, and then you're back on a bus. You have a lot of time to sit there and think. There are moments where you want to think, 'Why aren't we getting it done in all areas,' and then you wake up in the morning and you're excited again. There's no increased sense of urgency — I wouldn't say that. There's so much urgency in this building and so much excitement amongst the players and coaching staff. I came into work fired up. We're playing Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football, and we have a chance to get this thing headed in the right direction. We're 0-3, and it's not the way we wanted to start, but we do see positive things happening that we can continue to build on, and we can't make some of the same mistakes that we've made and expect to win. We can say every game that there was a play that should have went our way one way or another, but every team in the league can say that on a given Sunday. Those aren't excuses we can make. We've just got to be the guys that go make the play and make the decision to get it done and get a win. We know that we're headed in the right direction, and pretty soon it's going to start to turn for us. We know good things are headed our way if we continue with this approach and guys stay bought in and positive."
Would you rather have close outcomes like Weeks 1 and 3 where you're one play away, as opposed to Week 2?
"I wouldn't disagree with that. We have to get it done, and there is no way around it. We have to get it done. There are some positive vibes still flowing through this facility this morning, and guys are excited to get back on track. Like we said, there's no better way to get back on track than to go out there and have a great performance this week."
Was it frustrating to have the 12-men-on-the-field penalty in the first quarter after the Buffalo touchdown?
"It was. We have to have better communication to solve that problem. That's what it comes down to. In those moments, you're debating using a timeout. You're thinking, 'OK, if they decide to go for it, we're going to get a stop here, and that's going to hurt them.' That's the balance there. Is this the moment we want to use a timeout, and we chose not to use it right there."
Does a team with new players and coaches have to learn how to win?
"I wouldn't say you're off on that. Sometimes it takes one. It just takes that first one to get it rolling. We're hungry for that one and we desperately want it right now. The important thing is we don't deviate, and we stay the course, and we know where we're headed. We're excited to get that first win and let it snowball from there, because we get the sense that's what could be coming."
How important is it for you to remain positive? Does the team need to hear that positivity?
"The reason for the positivity is we truly have an unwavering belief that we are doing things the right way and that it's coming. It's not that we are convincing ourselves that we need to be positive. It's true, it's real. I feel it, everybody feels it, and we feed off of each other. I'm around the players and I feel it from them. I'm around the coaches and I feel it from them. I hope they feel it from me, because, truly, we have that belief. It's probably hard, when a team is 0-3, to hear people sit up here and say that, but it's the truth. I'm excited for this week, as I was for Week 1 at Seattle. I feel the same way about this football team."
Is this a must-win game for you?
"No, I wouldn't use that. I think every week our objective is to win a game, and that's all there is to it."
Do you expect WR A.J. Green to practice this week?
"No, I don't expect him to practice this week. I guess that would be the update. He's still making good progress over there when I'm watching him on the rehab field. I'd really hate to make predictions on what his timeline is, because he is making the progress that we expect him to make. He's certainly trending in the right direction. I don't want to give any time table on next week, the week after, or the week after that – I don't want to do any of that stuff. It'll be exciting when we do get him back."
You stated that Green will not practice this week. Does that mean he will not play against Pittsburgh on Monday night?
"He will not play this week."
The defense was on the field a lot against Buffalo. How do you adjust for that in the following week?
"That's what's hard, especially playing a quarterback (Buffalo QB Josh Allen) of that nature, where he extended a lot of plays. When you have three defensive linemen that are inactive and that depth is gone, and (Allen) is running around extending plays like that, I thought that the effort was tremendous from all of those guys. They never stopped. It does get difficult. You do get tired out there for that many plays. Especially for the amount of time they were out there in the first half on the field, because we couldn't give them a break. I was impressed by the effort. I was really proud of the way those guys kept competing. (The defense) limited them all the way until the end of the fourth quarter and didn't allow a lot of points."
How did Billy Price play at LG?
"Billy was solid at left guard. He did a nice job stepping in for his first real playing time of the year, outside of those 13 plays from the week before. Our offensive line as a whole, I really liked the way that they competed. They did a nice job in the run game giving us opportunities. And in protection, to go on the road against that (pass-rushing unit) that all had around one sack (entering the game), they really fought and competed."
Will G Michael Jordan return to his starting LG role on Monday night against Pittsburgh?
"We'll see. I don't want to make any predictions on if he's able to come back yet. Those are good issues to have in the O-line room, when you have a guy like Billy that comes in and plays well. It's only a good thing, so we'll continue to talk through that this week."
How much do you know about the rivalry between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh?
"This has been, from afar, one of the premiere divisions to watch football. You always know it's going to be a slugfest, a dogfight, or whatever you want to call it. Obviously there's a history here between these two teams. It's fun to watch. That's what makes this league so much fun, and being here (in Cincinnati) so much fun – that you get to play in games like this. I haven't really had the chance to talk about it too much with the team. We've only been around for a couple hours today. I certainly know that there's history here. It's going to be a fun one on Monday night."
Are there any Bengals vs. Steelers games that stick in your mind?
"Are there any games that stick in your mind (laughs)? You try to educate yourself on the history of the Bengals against divisional opponents. I certainly watched my fair share of games this offseason, trying to prepare myself for what's in store in this division. You get a pretty good sense of the feelings here. People aren't shy when you're out in the community in the offseason letting you know their thoughts on the Steelers. I know we have that working for us."
What is your analysis of Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph?
"Good football player. We'll watch his tape to see the way he's playing this year — we haven't gotten the chance to do that yet. But I did think that, coming out of Oklahoma State, he was one of the better (quarterbacks) in that class. It wouldn't have surprised me if someone would've taken him in the first round. I do remember that. He was a really solid, consistent, accurate passer. I don't have any observations from how he's played so far this year, but I just know that on his college tape he was a really good football player."
How did QB Andy Dalton play against Buffalo?
"Ultimately, on the last drive, he put us in a position to be in a good spot. He drove us down the field in a really tough environment. Communication was not easy, to say the least. He could barely hear anything I was saying. He was piecing things together and getting everyone lined up correctly, and doing a good job getting the ball out of his hands and moving us down there. There's obviously plays he would like to have back, as the whole unit would. There are several play calls I want back. I didn't put us in a good position. He, like all of us, is accountable for the mistakes that we made and the good things that we did. He put us in contention to win the game at the end. It was a throw that he would like to have back at the end (on the fourth-quarter interception by Buffalo CB Tre'Davious White). It's just a tough way to lose the game. I feel bad for him, I feel bad for everybody, I feel bad for all of us. We were down there and we had a shot. There's a lot of things that lead up to that though. We could have had better calls that would have put us in a better position earlier in the game, and we would have, hopefully, had the lead or maybe it would have been a tie game and we were just kicking a field goal to win it. I know that I can do a better job of putting us in a good position at an earlier point in the game."
Did it look like the passing lane was open on the play ending in White's interception?
"It was a decent look for us to get in there. It was a decent look."
What kind of boost would a win against Pittsburgh offer?
"Any time you win a divisional game, it's a huge boost. When you win on the road, it's a huge boost. Again, we just want to get on that side of the tracks here and get a win. There's a lot of positive things that come from this game. We need to have a good week of preparation, because I know they're saying the same things in their locker room and their press conference. They want to get back on track too. Which team is going to be more focused and detailed and make the plays that are critical? These games come down to guys really being on top of their stuff. We'll be prepared and ready to roll."
What's the best comment you've heard from a fan about the rivalry with Pittsburgh?
"Just that, 'You better beat the Steelers.' They're pretty frank about it. That's exciting. You want passionate fans. You want people that are invested in it. You want to make them happy. You want to give them something to cheer for."
Has it been hard to maintain your positive vision for the team?
"It hasn't been hard. It's probably easier than people realize, because there's that unwavering belief in what we're doing and the approach the players are taking. It will pay off. We know that. You can't see it in the win-loss column yet, but we're confident that it's coming. It's not hard to keep the positivity, because we're excited to be here today. I'm excited to get to work on the next opponent. We don't feel sorry for ourselves, because nobody else does. Nobody should. We need to go out there and take what's ours. We need to earn it. I know that the guys are excited to prove that we can get it done."
What lessons have you learned by getting beat by explosive plays, like the 49-yard pass to Bills TE Dawson Knox in the fourth quarter yesterday?
"That's the play that everyone remembers. You could be detailed and on top of your stuff the entire game, and the one play that everyone remembers is the one that got away. Unfortunately, that's the way it went on defense. It's no different for quarterbacks – guys play terrible all game, and then they make one big throw in the fourth quarter to win it and they get the game MVP. People just remember that final play. Unfortunately for us, it went the wrong way, and that's what people remember. Again, our defense put us in position to win that game."