MARVIN LEWIS (with Cincinnati media)
On 2012 Toys for Tots Holiday Collection:
ML: "This weekend before the Cowboys game will be the annual Toys for Tots drive. The Cincinnati Bengals and U.S. Marine Corps Reserves are teaming up again for this collection. There will be bins outside Paul Brown Stadium, and we asking you to bring unwrapped toys and donations. In the past, it's benefited over 50,000 children, this one drive. So we appreciate the fans coming with their support of that this weekend."
On the Dallas Cowboys:
ML: "The Cowboys have won three of their last four ballgames. They've hit their stride offensively; they're doing a good job. They got their (running)back back last week – DeMarco Murray. He and Felix Jones have been playing. Murray had been out for a few weeks, so he played in the last game, on Sunday against the Eagles. Jason Witten is one of the best tight ends in the NFL and leads them in receptions. He does a great job of working against leverage and finding open spots. He's just been a fine player. And the quarterback, Tony Romo, is as good as there is right now – he's playing well. Outside, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are two bigger receivers. Dez with just tremendous athletic ability, and Miles Austin with speed and quickness does a good job of getting himself open. So it's a well-put-together football team offensively.
"Defensively, DeMarcus Ware is one of the best rushers in the NFL. He's got 10 sacks thus far this year. Anthony Spencer on the other side is a really good rusher. They've got some big guys in the middle, with (Marcus) Spears and the guys that play inside him. In the secondary, they went out last year and acquired (Brandon) Carr in free agency, and then drafted (Morris) Claiborne. So they've got two fine corners outside. It's going to be a great test for us. They're probably one of the most talented teams we've played this season, on paper."
Is Dallas's receiving tandem of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin the best you've faced this year?
ML: "It's very good. I don't want to every judge anybody else's people, but it's good."
What makes them so difficult to defend?
ML: "They're two guys that have big stature, that are fast and have good catching radius. And both are good run-after-catch players."
Yards-after-catch is something that, during this stretch, you've been very good at defending during this winning streak:
ML: "With three-yard passes, you might run some after the catch (laughs)."
But that hasn't happened, for the most part, during this stretch:
ML: "We haven't done anything different. We played just as well as we played against Denver the last couple of weeks. But the offenses are constructed differently – Denver throws the ball underneath, and you tackle the catch. If you tackle the catch, which we did most of the day, then you're in pretty good shape.
You've talked this season about wanting your team to make more 'unscripted' plays. Is there any QB in the league better than making 'unscripted' plays than Tony Romo?
ML: "(Ben) Roethlisberger, too (laughs). They're similar, and yet a little different. Tony Romo does a great job outside the pocket. He has a great feel, and feels that free rusher coming, and he avoids him and spins out of plays and gets out and gets his shoulders pointed and his vision down the field and looks for plays down the field. These guys (Dallas' offense) do a good job of reacting to him when he does scramble and move."
You play Dallas on Sunday, then turn around and play at Philadelphia right away on Thursday night. Do you do anything different or adjust anything, knowing that you have to play another game four days after the one this Sunday?
ML: "No. Thursday doesn't matter if we don't take care of business this week."
How different is their offense with DeMarco Murray out there, as opposed to having only Felix Jones? Is there much difference?
ML: "No, not really. They have two good players, and you've got to be conscious of both. He (Murray) came off a foot injury, and I don't know if it's 100 percent yet, but it is what it is."
As you look at them on film, how does their offensive line look?
ML: "They feel good about their guys – that's why they're out there playing. We have to do a good job. It's going to be, again, a case of our guys up-front on both sides of the football having to play very well for us to have an opportunity and to win the football game. We have to play well up front."
What does Terence Newman bring to this team, both tangibly and intangibly?
ML: "He's done a good job all year, once he kind of relaxed and got back to being himself. He's got really good skills. He's a guy who has great length. He's got speed. Obviously through his experience, he really understands the route concepts and formations. Sometimes with a younger player, they're doing everything to keep themselves in the right position and they don't really quite have the ability to do that and quite understand the offense and how it unfolds, with personnel and formations and so forth. Through Terence's experience, he understands all of that. He sees the big picture. So that's an added bonus you get with an experienced player."
Did defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer help make the case to you that Terence had good football left in him, or had you already seen and realized that for yourself through watching film?
ML: "I spent the most time, really, with Terence. I think Zim happened actually be out traveling at that point, and I just asked him to call him up. But I had looked at him, and I felt good about him. In fact, I think I was even in Boise the day I talked to him on the phone. I felt like I'd been down that road before with a guy like Rod Woodson. The first thing you look at: 'OK, can he still run?' OK, check, yeah he can do that. 'Do his hips still open and close?' Yes. 'Are his feet still good?' Yes. 'Does he want to play?' Yes. Those are the things you're looking for. With Terence coming back here and coming to play for Mike, he already knew the situation. He knew how he was going to be coached, he knew how he was going to be critiqued. I think that's important for a veteran player, to come into a situation where he's going to feel comfortable with the positive coaching and positive critiquing and correction. I haven't found many great pros who don't want to be coached each and every day to get better."
Terence Newman said he felt 26-and-a-half years old when he got here. He turned 34 in September, but he seems to still be playing well:
ML: "He's a no-nonsense guy who takes care of himself. He doesn't come with any trail of baggage or anything like that. He is what he is. He plays football and likes to golf and hang with his friends. That's what he does, and that's what he's done the whole time since he's been here. There's a positive that way to a guy like that. He takes care of himself religiously, and it's all good that way."
Even though they haven't won a Super Bowl all that recently, is it still a big deal to play Dallas, "America's Team"? Players used to really get up to play them:
ML: "There was a little bit of Super Bowl history there that went along with that through the 70s, which made a big difference, and then again in the 90s. But they're a good football team trying to get done the same thing we are. It will be a great football game on Sunday."
Adam Jones seems to be playing with a lot of confidence now. Is this the best he's played since he's been here?
ML: "(Laughs) Some of those questions you'd better not ask, or I'm better off not answering with my luck lately."
Knock on wood, how much is Jones playing with confidence now? He's had a good run here lately:
ML: "He has benefited from the same things that we talked about with Terence Newman. He's is under foot daily, in both defense and special teams, and that's helpful. Anybody who is worth his salt and wants to be a great player in the NFL needs to be coached and wants to be coached. I think that is the step that he has really warmed to over his time here with us. Last week, on Wednesday after practice, he said 'Don't even call me tonight. I've got it, I'll fix it." I think that's a step forward that you want. These guys know that when they walk in this building they're going to get coached, from the time they hit it here and maybe through the evening. That's important that we come in and get it corrected and start fresh. We reinforce the positives, and we get the things we need to get out of their game out of their game so that we have an opportunity to be successful and win. Adam has benefitted a great deal from that, but he was longing for that, he needed that. That's a good thing. We're really getting into the inner guy that's got so much ability and talent."
You had a lot of running backs come for tryouts on Tuesday, but chose to sign Daniel Herron from the practice squad. What have you seen out of him that warranted bringing him up?
ML: "He's been with us, he's worked extremely hard on the practice field. It's an opportunity to bring another young player. He's jumped through the same hoops the rest of the draft class has, so you look forward to maybe the possibility he gets an opportunity to play. I hope he measures up like the rest of the class has, because we've been excited about the rest of them. I hope he has an opportunity to fit that same model. He's bright-eyed. I've taken him with us on the road, because I wanted him to understand what it's like to be on an NFL sideline at a real NFL game and what it's like. He's played on a big stage at Ohio State. I hope, again, that he gets the opportunity and flourishes like the rest of the class has."
Kevin Huber has had a Pro Bowl-caliber season dictating field position for you. How do you see that special teams/field position matchup on Sunday?
ML: "Again, it's going to be important. These guys (Dallas), they have great specialists. They have good returners, and they're a well-coached group. It's going to be a battle and a challenge. They do some unorthodox things on their punt – they've got some different formations and some things like that, so we need to stay alert to that at all times. Because all we do is keep putting all of our eggs in one basket, so we've got to put them all together and be as alert as we can in all three phases this week. Put it all together to win the football game."
Do you have any idea of how long Cedric Peerman might be out?
ML: "I don't."
Is it safe to say that he won't be available this Sunday?
ML: "We'll talk about it Friday, maybe."
Dre Kirkpatrick left Sunday's game with a head injury. How is he doing?
ML: "He won't practice today. We'll see how he is tomorrow, but he won't practice today."
How is Kyle Cook progressing?
ML: "Kyle has done well with the return to practice."
What does it mean to see a guy like Carlos Dunlap get Player of the Week?
ML: "Let's go back to like the Adam Jones question (laughs), we'll just go back like this (leaning back in seat, crossing arms over face to hide). Just hide.
Just continue to be the new Carlos, and don't go back to the old Carlos."
You've said before that, for motivation, you ask him every Wednesday if he's ready to be a starter on this team. Did you ask him again this week?
ML: "The team asked him. The team put it to him, so I didn't have to."
Players were talking about how BenJarvus Green-Ellis was animated and pumping players up on the sideline in San Diego. How much confidence does he have right now?
ML: "That was good, because that was during that lull there that we had. When we came off the field after not making the third-and-one, I was able to explain it to Benny (Green-Ellis) to get it together, and he did a good job. We just have to reconstitute every once in awhile – take a step back, take a deep breath, reconstitute what we're doing and get them all to look at each other in the eye and re-commit to each other that 'I'm not going to let my guy touch the football.' Whether it be offense, defense or special teams – 'I'm going to win my one-on-one battles.' It's important that the team can pull itself up and do that together by themselves. They're the ones out there on the field."
ANDY DALTON (with Cincinnati media)
Did you follow the Cowboys while growing up in Houston?
AD: "I followed them. Growing up I didn't really have a team that was my team. I definitely followed them some. Just being from Texas, they're obviously one of the big teams in Texas. And for a while, they were the only team in Texas when I was growing up."
Will you have a lot of family and friends coming up for this game?
AD: "There will definitely be some people here for it. I guess being from Texas, everybody's excited about this one."
You live in Texas during the offseason. Do you get inundated by talk about the Cowboys when you're down there?
AD: "Everybody in the Dallas area is a Cowboys fan. They definitely talk about them all the time. We've got a lot of friends that live there that are Cowboys fans."
Rob Ryan's defense is aggressive. Do they do a lot of the stuff that Baltimore and Pittsburgh do?
AD: "They definitely have some stuff that they do, with different blitzes and stuff like that. They're really strong up front, with their front four rushing the passer and things like that. They rely on those guys to really come out and rush the passer and maybe not always have to do all the blitzes, because they are pretty strong up front."
Did you have Cowboys pictures on your walls when you were growing up?
AD: "No, I didn't."
So the Texans were more your team?
AD: "I followed the Texans a little bit more, just being in Houston. But like I said, I didn't have one team that I was always rooting for."
Did you follow Troy Aikman when you were growing up?
AD: "I've definitely followed Aikman. But like I said, it really wasn't like (a fan of one team). Growing up, for a while there wasn't a team in Houston, and I was big into college football at the time."
You've been known as a big play offense, but did you prove against San Diego that you could grind out drives if need be?
AD: "I think so. We have been able to hit some big plays and big scoring plays, but some teams see that and they might not let you hit those. You've got to be able to do it different ways. Like you said, we had long drives. That's good to see. What helps is being balanced offensively."
You had a 14-play drive for the go-ahead TD, but that drive had no big plays. Was it just a matter of pounding it?
AD: "That's what it came down to. We had a long drive when we needed it in the fourth quarter. It's just chipping away, getting down there. And once we got down there, we scored the touchdown. You've got to have drives like that."
What kind of competitor is BenJarvus Green-Ellis?
AD: "He's a really competitive guy. You could see that when we got here. During OTAs and minicamp, we had the one day we went and played volleyball. He was out there competing, trying to encourage guys, making sure we didn't lose. It's fun to see, because he's really turned it on these last couple weeks. It doesn't seem like anything's stopping him."
He looked like he was encouraging guys on the sideline in San Diego:
AD: "Yeah. You see him on the sideline saying 'Hey, somebody's got to make a big play,' then you see him hit the big one. It's definitely good. For him getting the carries he's been getting, it's great to see him bust some of these runs he's been able to get."
He came from a winning culture in New England. How does that show?
AD: "He's definitely vocal. He's a leader on this team. You've got to have teammates like that. He's definitely a great pickup for us."
The AFC Wild Card race is particularly intriguing this season. Indianapolis is playing inspired, due to head coach Chuck Pagano's health situation. Pittsburgh is winning without Ben Roethlisberger. The Bengals bounced back from a four-game skid earlier this season. Can you talk about being in the thick of all of that?
AD: "Our goal is to make it to the playoffs. The good thing is we're in control of our own destiny. We've got four games left, and we've got to come out and bring it these last four, and from there, let everything else fall into place."
With you guys playing this Sunday and again right away on Thursday night, do you have to handle anything differently or scale back a bit?
AD: "I don't know. That's obviously Marvin's (head coach Marvin Lewis) decision. As far as I know, the week's going to be normal as usual."
Then you have kind of a mini-bye week after the Thursday game in Philadelphia. Does that break come at a good time, considering how late in the season it will be?
AD: "Yeah, I think it could be to our advantage, having that extra little time of rest and not playing. So we'll see. Obviously we'd love to come out of these next two with wins and feel good going into that nice little break. Hopefully that will be an advantage for us."
When trying to have a winning team, how important is having a guy like Brian Leonard?
AD: "It's key to have guys like that, who may not be in the starting role but come in and always do the right thing. Always in the right spot, always knows how to pick up protection, always makes a big play on third down to put us in field goal position or pick up a first down, things like that. He's a big part of this offense. Maybe his numbers aren't flashy, but the things that he does really help us. You've got to have players like that on your team."
How is Daniel Herron coming along?
AD: "He has been coming along. Obviously he's been doing a lot of stuff on scout team. So we'll see this week if he's getting in there a little bit more, taking some offensive reps."
Green-Ellis is doing well now, whereas earlier this season he was struggling a bit. Is his mentality the same now as it was during the bye week, when he wasn't doing as well?
AD: "I think so. I don't know if there's a huge difference with him, or the reason why he's had these big games recently. I feel like he's been the same guy he's been the whole time."
Are guys staying on an even keel after winning four straight?
AD: "Nothing's guaranteed for us right now. So we know we have to come out and we have to play our best and we have to win these games and get to where we want to go. Yeah, we have won four in a row – that's because we had to win four in a row to be where we are now. Hopefully we can keep the same attitude throughout, and I think we will."
People have been talking about this team's pursuit of the AFC Wild Card. Do you think there's still a chance to win the division?
AD: "We've got to take care of our business and let everything else fall into place. But I think there's a chance. Baltimore's in control of their destiny, too. We'll see."
What did you say to Marvin Jones after his dropped pass that led to the interception?
AD: "He catches that ball nine out of 10 times. I told him not to worry about it, not to let it affect him, and that there's a lot of game left to be played."
Have you met Tony Romo?
AD: "I met him coming out (of college) and I've talked to him several times. It will be fun to get to go against him."
What are your thoughts on Romo?
AD: "He's a really good player. He does a lot of making guys miss in the pocket, moving around. He's one of the best at that – improvising when things don't work exactly how you want them to. He's a really good player."
How much does having Terence Newman as a resource help you prepare for Dallas?
AD: "I'll definitely talk to him about different things they do. So it definitely could help."
Has he helped you prepare for other NFC East teams?
AD: "Not really. I haven't really talked to him too much. Just watched the film like everybody else does."
Can Newman help you with individual players' tendencies on defense? Is it sort of a personal scouting report?
AD: "We can get his opinion on different guys and things like that. Not necessarily what they're doing scheme-wise because, we should know that by watching the tape. Just opinions, kind of like a scouting report of the guys."
COWBOYS CB MORRIS CLAIBORNE (with Cincinnati media)
How's the rookie year going?
MC: "So far so good. I really can't complain. I've been blessed enough to be here. It's going good so far."
How much of a lift did it give you to return that fumble for a TD last Sunday?
MC: "It felt good. Just to be my first touchdown in the NFL, and it came at a big moment in the game. It felt good."
Why do you think you guys have been so much of a second-half team this year?
MC: "I really don't know. We always work on starting fast. Certain things happen during the game, but you just have to adjust to it. You can't stop fighting, no matter how you start off. It's about how you finish."
Have you ever gone up against A.J. Green before?
MC: "No sir."
Do you have any memories of him from when you were both in college?
MC: "He's a good receiver. He's good at getting off the line, he's good at stretching the field and he's good at going up and getting the ball."
What do you think of the rest of the Bengals receivers?
MC: "They've got a good corps. From what I've seen today on film, they've got a pretty good corps. You can't look over anyone in the NFL; everyone in the NFL is good. We just have to keep preparing the rest of this week, go in with a good game play – which I know we will – and go try and dominate."
What have you seen out of Andy Dalton? He does have four pick-sixes on the season:
MC: "He's one of those guys that always keeps his eyes down the field. He takes what the defense gives him. He's been doing a good job for that ball club."
Overall, how do you think your rookie season has gone thus far?
MC: "I feel like it's gone well. I can't complain. I've had a couple of moments – I just call them growing pains – with things that happened. You just learn from them; it's a learning experience. You just try and take everything in this year, go out and just continue to work hard."
What's the biggest thing you've had to work on?
MC: "On the college level, you pretty much can touch a receiver all down the field. On this level, after five yards you have to let them go. That's been the biggest adjustment for me – trying to keep my hands off them downfield, and rely on my technique and ability."
What's it like having Rob Ryan as your defensive coordinator. He seems like a pretty fiery guy:
MC: "It's awesome. Like you said, he's always fired up. He's always getting everybody involved in the defense. He's just a fun coach to play for. He always comes out and keeps his players loose. He's not one of those uptight coaches – he's always loose."
Do you feel right now like you guys are in playoff mode, where you can't afford a loss?
MC: "Yes sir. We feel like our back is against the wall. We're just going to go out swinging. We're going to take these next four games one at a time and prepare each and every week just for that one game, not looking forward at all. We're just going to go out and prepare, and try and win these last four games."
Do you feel like the race for a playoff spot is coming back to you a little, considering the Giants struggles of late?
MC: "We haven't been looking at any of that. We really just focus on us right now. Coach Garrett says it all the time. Worry about what you have to do as a team and as a unit. That's what we're doing."
How much does it help you during games that during the week in practice, you go up against guys like Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Tony Romo?
MC: "It helps a lot. Those are some of the best receivers and tight ends in the game right now. There are not too many guys out there doing what those guys are doing. To go up against those guys to get ready for the week is great. You can't ask for anything better than those guys."
What makes Dez Bryant so good?
MC: "Just his strength and his ability to go up and get the ball no matter where it's at. You always have to play him honest and straight up. He's just one of those big, tough, physical receivers."
The Bengals running game has done well over the last couple of weeks. What else have you seen from the Bengals offense?
MC: "They do a lot in their running game, running the ball right downhill. They run the ball so well that it opens up their passing game. We just have to go in and play to our strengths, go in and play physical and fast."