What is the message to your team after a loss like that, given the nature of losing a game in the fourth quarter for the fifth time this season?
"Stick together. You could tell it was an emotional locker room afterward for the right reasons. It's guys, that moment after in the locker room — it's tough to find those words (to say to them), because you totally felt like you were going to win and you (didn't). That has happened to us a couple times. This is a team that believes it can put together a winning streak — one game, two games, three games, four games, five games — we believe in it. We just we just haven't done it. We haven't proven it to the outside world, but we're going to stick together. I can promise you that. It's a group of men I'm proud to coach. We're going to get through this, we're going to stick together, (and) there's much better days ahead."
How much of Cleveland's last offensive drive was a matter of Baker Mayfield being as hot as he was passing vs. the Bengals having coverage issues?
"(We had) a sack; if we could just finish on ... the first or second play (of that drive). They've got the clock running. They're in disarray. He (Mayfield) pulls out of it and finds a completion. Then he gets some one-on-one situations ...
"Last week, it was a bunch of zone coverage and they had some good success, so we put a bit of man coverage, (and) they won some one-on-one opportunities. That's just the way it goes, and it's unfortunate it went down that way."
How would describe Joe Burrow's performance today?
Why was he so effective throughout the day and why was he so resilient in the fourth quarter?
"He's always that way, though. You look at (the) last game — there aren't many bad decisions I'm putting on his plate (that I would say he was responsible for). The first interception, he's got to throw a better ball there, and there was a sack or two there (where) he's got to get rid of the ball. Those were all in the first half. Those were all in the first two drives, maybe. From there, you can call any play and trust it's going to be executed. You're going to find explosives on non-explosive calls. He's going to extend plays. He's good with his feet. He makes everybody around him better."
Can you take us through the call to go for the touchdown on the fourth-and-one play? What made that play work?
"Gio (Bernard). Gio made it work. Gio did a heck of the job with the motion. At first, he's motioning across and the safety didn't run with him. I was concerned there for a moment — we've got other options — but he sold it, he lost his man, and then was free in the flat. So it was really good execution by all those guys, but I'd give most of the credit to Gio there."
You had been really successful with quarterback sneaks all day. Did you think about running one there?
"Sneaks aren't great against every front, though. You have to actually see what they're in before you just put the football in the referee's hands, you know? That was not an option right there. You can call a sneak and hope that the ref is on your side for that one play, but we felt good about the play call there."
What was the reason Baker Mayfield completed 20 consecutive passes?
"He was hot. He was hot, you know? You've got to give credit to him, but there were a bunch of snaps in man coverage there where they made the plays, and we did not."
Your starting left tackle, right tackle and center all went down with injuries. Have you ever been in a game where you've had that happen before?
"I haven't, but this is a resilient group as you've ever been around. No one can see it because no one comes in the locker room, and no one's going to say it because we can't win, but it's as resilient a group as I've ever been around, and they just have faith in the next man up. The next man ... come in and make a play, we're counting on you to do your job.
"I'm just really impressed with the backups that came in the game on limited reps (in practice), even Mason Schreck. Cethan (Carter) woke up this morning and couldn't go. Mason Schreck had no idea that was coming his way, and he stepped up and was our second tight end. We had a big tight end with Fred (Johnson), and then he (Fred) had to move to left tackle and then to right tackle, so we lost that. But the guys just kept their heads up and kept chugging along. I think we had only two turnovers — I don't think we ever punted, if I remember correctly. They just kept getting the job done."
Why were the offensive screens working so well today?
"They (the Browns) were doing a nice job stopping the run. Sometimes, on the stat sheet, it's going to say you had a bunch of passes when you really didn't — you're just supplementing the run game with the screens, some of those 'specials' and some of those quick gains. They're just long handoffs — that's all that is. I thought that we did a good job in executing that today."
How confident are you right now, not only as a play caller, but also in your offense as a whole?
"(I) couldn't (have) more confidence. Those guys believe those plays are going to work. They make every play work, and it doesn't (even) have to be the best play call. They just get it done. There's belief right now in that room that they can score on every play, and they're trying to do that. Now you're starting to see guys run after the catch, and that's been something that's been missing for a while. I thought today guys did a good job in that area stepping up."
How concerning is it for you that Baker Mayfield didn't have an incompletion — save for a spike — past the first quarter?
"That's not what you want to see. We've got to do a better job getting to the quarterback with our rushes and our pressures, and then holding it down on the back end."
Despite losing Austin Hooper, Cleveland's tight ends had three touchdowns today. What was the problem in stopping them?
"Two of them stand out. They ran a quick out (pattern) and they beat us early in the game. And then he threw a great ball strike out, or some five-step slant or something, where I thought Vonn (Bell) was in really good position, (but Mayfield) put it in about the only (spot) you could put it. I'm not sure who made the catch, but they did a really great job. I can't think of the third one, but they did a really good job, and we've got to be the ones tightening down the coverage and making the plays."
Carlos Dunlap looked to be yelling on the sidelines at either coaches or players. He posted the defensive depth chart earlier this weekend on Instagram, calling you out. How frustrating is that situation right now? Is it a distraction to your team?
"We just handle that internally. We (have) a group of guys in the locker room who want so badly to do things the right way and get this to where we want to be. That's who we put our focus on."
Dunlap is one of the designated "pass rushers," and the defense has had zero sacks in the last two games. How frustrating is that?
"We've got to do a better job up front (with) just everybody getting (more) pressure on the passer."
How challenging is it trying to match someone was as hot as Baker Mayfield was today?
"He played unbelievable. That last drive was impressive. I thought we had him, and he was able to get the ball off and not get sacked. Hats off to him, he played great."
What else can you do to help your team win?
"I had two turnovers. I have to stop doing that. I've had a turnover in three straight games. I can't do that."
You lost three starting offensive linemen today, but the reserves seemed to step in and play well ...
"They really did. Bill (C/G Billy Price), Fred (G/OT Fred Johnson), and Hakeem (G Hakeem Adeniji) came in there and battled. I was proud of those guys for coming and playing the way they did. They played their tails off for us and stepped up when their number was called."
Your two biggest passing games this year have come against the Browns. What have you been doing to be so successful against them?
"It doesn't matter to me. Football is about letters, not numbers — W and L. We took an L today."
On the fourth and one at the end of the game, can you walk us through that TD pass to Giovani Bernard?
"We had two plays called. It was either a sneak or that one. They didn't give us a look we wanted with the sneak — (they were) packing it in there. Gio did a great job with his motion getting himself open."
Did the Browns defense do anything differently this second time around?
"They blitzed a little more than they did at the beginning of the game. We were kind of gashing them with the check downs, so they got away from that toward the end of the game."
How hard is it to stick together during this 1-5-1 start?
"We have a bunch of great guys in the locker room. And a great coaching staff. Zac (Bengals head coach Zac Taylor) is going to get us to where we want to go. I know everyone is down in the dumps right now. The fan base is frustrated, just as we are. We're 1-5-1, but we have a great guy at the helm in Zac, who called a great game today. He's going to keep us together. He's the leader of the team, the leader of the organization."
It seemed like you were having a lot of success on screens today ...
"Yes. That's what was gashing them when they were blitzing. We called screens, and got them in blitzes a lot, so that got them away from the blitzing. That was a good part of the game plan today."
On the incomplete pass to A.J. Green in the end zone, it looked like you weren't even looking. You dropped the snap and then got the pass off quickly. It looked like you knew right where you were going ...
"I was going to A.J. the whole time. I have to catch that snap — that's unfortunate. Denzel (Browns CB Denzel Ward) made an unbelievable play there. A.J. had it in his hands and was shielding him with his back. Denzel reached over his back and punched it out. That's a big-time play."
What do you need to be doing to in the fourth quarter in order to convert these games into wins?
"We kicked some field goals down there (in the red zone), that ended up being the difference in the game. And we turned the ball over. I think we ended up scoring on every drive in the second half, but we just have to score touchdowns every time instead of field goals."
Can you describe the feeling of leading that last TD drive to take the lead late?
"It's what I expect of myself. It's exciting, but I expect myself to do that every week. I want the ball in my hand at the end of the game. I'm comfortable, and I'm confident I'm going to down and make a play to win. Unfortunately Baker was playing out of his mind and led that two-minute drive after it."