Initial comments ...
"When you turn the ball over five times against a great football team, that's exactly what's going to happen. And despite the fact that we're going to watch the tape and (see) a lot of guys had some winning performances, I felt like our defense did what we intended to when we came into the game. We came out and established the run the way we wanted to. It all started downhill at the end of the half. We had the fumble on the punt. We came out (in the second half), and our first two drives had picks, and we finished the game with five turnovers overall. I've played against that team a lot, and that's kind of the way it goes with them. They take advantage of the miscues, and they capitalize on them. And, that's why they've won as many Super Bowls as they've won. This is a loss that our team is going to remember. A lot of our guys feel like they had a winning performance — 'I did enough to go win.' But it's not about that. It's about everybody doing their job on every play. And, that's what you've got to do if you're going to beat teams that have the success that they've had. They got us today. It's unfortunate, because our guys prepared the right way, started out the right way, did the things we said we needed to do to win it, and we let it get away. All of the sudden, it's a 21-point game in the fourth quarter, and that's unacceptable. That's a tough way to go out."
Andy Dalton had four interceptions. What did you make of his play today?
"Yeah, Andy had four picks. Three of them were against man-to-man coverage, one-on-ones. We got bullied... we did. Guys could go compete, knock the ball down, go get a one-on-one. I think Gilmore (Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore) had what, two of them? Ok. So their guys went and competed. They have a tough secondary. They play man-on-man coverage, and Gilmore's one of the best in the league. We saw what that looks like today. The quarterback's going take all of the blame for it, when in reality he taking some one-on-one opportunities that we had to take to be in that game, and go make some plays. You're counting on some guys to get some separation and go compete, and they got the better of us on a lot of those."
Gilmore seemed to get the better of the coverage on several of those plays in the second half ...
"He was in 'cover zero,' where he jumped in and made a great play. Not every corner is going to have the confidence to go do that. He did. He had the one at the beginning of the half. And then they had the two (interceptions) late in the game, where I just felt like they went and competed. We can go up there and try to break those balls up, give ourselves a chance and get an incompletion, worst case. Andy needed to be aggressive in those situations, and it's what we were asking him to do. So, I don't dispute him going to any of those areas with any of those balls."
The first interception, Gilmore took the ball right out of his hands. What was your thought on that?
"I saw the end of it. We'll have to see the tape on that. Again, it was a one-on-one. Gilmore made the play."
Is it a concern for you that, 14 weeks into the season, some of the receivers are having trouble getting separation and making plays?
"The group that's in there, they're trying to be detailed, and they're trying to do the best that they can. They love football; they enjoy it. Obviously, it's frustrating today when you have some one-on-one opportunities and you have turnovers. It's a group that this is important to them, and they're trying to do everything we're asking them to do and go make plays for us. Today was just a tough day in that area."
Today was the seventh straight game without a second half touchdown. What's killing the momentum in the second halves?
"Turnovers. Turnovers. Right of the gate, the get-go. The first two drives, we had turnovers. Then, the game's not out of hand and it's a two-score game. So then, we didn't get to play the way we wanted to play it. That's part of what happens when you play those guys. They take advantage, and they take that lead, and they put you in that position that we've seen with teams all year, with having to start throw the ball more than you want to. That's exactly what happened to us. That's why they've won 11 games."
Were they trying to take Tyler Boyd out of the equation? Is that why Joe Mixon had such success?
"Our guys up front, we need to challenge them and get them going. It's something we've really hung our hats on these past couple of weeks. I think the guys responded well to the challenge. They really did. New England did a nice job of adjusting there in the third and fourth quarter to the run game. And we felt like we had a good plan in place as well. We knew it was going to be dirty, and it was going to be bloody. They're a physical unit. I thought our backs ran really well, and I thought the line did a really good job. We had to make adjustments as we did. I thought we handled that well. It put us in position in that area, it was just the turnovers in the pass game that really got us."
With all of the controversy from this week, with the alleged recording by the Patriots at your game in Cleveland last week, are you glad this week is over?
"Our focus is on the things that are important to us. That's preparing for a tough opponent. I thought our guys handled it well."
Was there any apology from the Pats about the incident?
"I don't have any comment on any of that stuff."
The Patriots suspended the videographer. Do you think that's appropriate punishment?
"I don't have any comment on anything regarding that situation."
In the first half, you guys had a fourth-and-short where you lined up in the shotgun and ran Mixon. There have been a few instances this season of you guys lining up in that formation in similar circumstances. You mentioned that you're leaning on the offensive line a lot, so why line up in the shotgun in situations like that?
"It's served us well for our backs to have great vision coming downhill. We just lost a one-on-one up front. That was one of our keys to victory — we've got to win those one-on-ones up front, and that's what it looked like happened on that fourth-and-one."
Was there any thought to give it to Andy under center to push up in there?
"Quarterback sneak it? Yeah, we always have that opportunity."
You mentioned the turnovers, but the fourth downs seemed tough to convert ...
"You mean in the second quarter? You'll have to refresh me on that.
Yes, in the second quarter ...
"Yes, our turnover-on-downs situations were killer there. It's an area we take a lot of pride in. We felt like we had a good plan in place. They stepped up and made the plays when we didn't."
Do you worry about Andy losing confidence in light of fans with Joe Burrow signs?
"No, I don't. Andy goes out there and does his job. He's a pro. He understands that this is a tough profession. If things aren't going well, then you have to deal with criticism. That's why we all love being in this. It's the thrill. It's one of the few things you get to do where people are passionate about what you're doing, and how you're doing it. We wouldn't have it any other way. A guy like Andy knows how to deal with the criticism and the praise when it comes to your way. He focuses on the things that are important, and the things that he can control. He knows what happened on those plays. I don't care if people boo, right? We know what we've practiced, we know what happened. He's just got to re-focus and have a great week, because this week we go play Miami."
Does the team gain anything from looking at Trayveon Williams at the end of games?
"He's a young player that we're high on. The two guys that get (carries) for us are two really good backs. We're trying to win football games. I want them to get as many touches as we can get them. They've served us well, particularly this last stretch of the season. Again, every week we try to figure out who's getting the balls, and so far it's been those two guys."
Talk about Joe Mixon's effort, particularly over the last two weeks ...
"I've been proud of Joe the entire season. I think he and the line are very much in tune with each other right now. (Offensive line coach) Jim Turner has done a great job with (running backs coach) Jemal Singleton in putting together a great plan. Our guys believe in it, and they know how to execute it. Unfortunately, we just haven't been able to do all of things on offense that would lead us to winning more football games. That's certainly an area where those guys have done what we asked them to do this last half of the season."
On Alex Erickson's fumble, it looked like there could have been kick/catch interference. What did the officials say to you about that? Did they extensively review it?
"I mean they review it, extended or not. I know they review all of that stuff. They said he was pushed into Alex. Our argument was that he got contacted before, but they said he got pushed into it."
What did you see on the four interceptions?
"I felt like, for me, I was trying to give my guys a chance, and their guys ended up making the plays. They were great plays by them, so that's what it came down to."
Seven straight games without a second-half touchdown, can you pinpoint what may be happening?
"We have to get down to the red zone. We got to 'plus' territory a couple of times in the second half and just weren't able to do anything with it. I think (we) have to make plays. That is what is comes down to."
It seems like the game plan was to focus on running Joe Mixon?
"We were going to focus on the run in this one, and we were really productive with it."
Are you getting different looks in the second half, or is it execution?
"It comes down to execution."
How much are you aware of where Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore is?
"You know where he is at. Obviously, he is a great player. He showed what he was able to do today. He plays the ball really well. He understands route combinations. He understands routes. He is a very good player."
On the first interception, was it Gilmore just reading the route?
"It's a timing route. He made a good play."
On the second interception, it looks like Gilmore read the play?
"Yeah, he made a really good play."
How do you not let frustration and the outside noise creep in for you personally?
"You have faith in God, and know he has a plan for me. I understand what it can look like on the outside, and what is actually is. I have to be honest with myself, and make sure I am doing things the right way. For me, I understand this game. Like you said, I have had a lot of success. I have some things that haven't gone my way too, but you just have to stay the course."
Did you use all of the outside noise surrounding the Patriots as fuel early in the game?
"Whenever we play a game, we are going to do our best to win — to do whatever we can to put ourselves in the best position for that. I don't think any of that factored into the way we started this game."
From your vantage point, what is the advantage of being in shotgun on third-and-short or fourth-and-short?
"You can run it and throw it from shotgun, so they are not going to know what you are going to do."
Does this 1-13 season feel like a nightmare in your mind?
"This season's definitely frustrating. It' not how we envisioned this thing happening. Obviously, I have been a part of anything like this. But, like I said earlier, you just have to stay the course. We have to find a way to dig ourselves out the hole we are in. We got two games left. We have to make the most of these two games. Do everything we can to win these two games, and go from there."
Joe Mixon averaged 5.4 yards per carry. You guys seemed like you were knocking them around up front ...
"We knew it was going to be a big challenge this week, and it was. We prepared that way and had some positive results. We got Joe out in space, and when you get No. 28 out in space, there's not a lot of people that can stop him. It was good in that aspect."
The protection was good, and you guys didn't give up a sack today. But when you get the running game going like you did, pass protection becomes a different dynamic, right? They just can't just tee off on people ...
"Yeah, that's a lineman's dream, especially in that first half. I don't know how many just straight drop backs we had. We were able to move the ball so efficiently first and second down with the runs we didn't have, and got into a situation where we were just emptying the backfield and letting (their pass rushers) pin their ears back. It's a lineman's dream, and it helped us a lot. That all comes from just establishing the run early. It gave us a big advantage from that aspect."
When you go minus-five with the turnovers against a team like the Patriots, that's tough sledding ...
"Yeah. You go minus-five against any team, you're not going to win that game. We knew coming — the turnover battle is huge."
When you're having a season like you're having, you're looking for something to hang your hat on. How big of a deal is it looking at next week against the Miami Dolphins to get Joe Mixon 1000 yards rushing on the season?
"When you're going through a season like we've had, you really grab on to anything positive you can. Our run game really struggled the first part of the season and has picked up in the second half. Finishing it out, we want to continue to let Joe have good games like that. And it also helps the passing game."
Check out gameday photos of Week 15 as the Bengals host the New England Patriots from Paul Brown Stadium.
You held Tom Brady today to 15 completions on 29 attempts, and just 128 passing yards. He did have two touchdown passes, but you guys pressured him. You and Carlos Dunlap both had sacks, and he got hit seven or eight times. You guys were making your presence known around Tom Brady ...
"We did a good job, but we've got to make more turnovers — that's what it comes down to. Defensively, we've got get the ball out. We held them to less yards, but they forced four turnovers on our offense, and we forced zero. That's what killed us."
When you're minus-five in turnovers, coming away with a win is like trying to climb Mt. Everest, isn't it?
"I think the stats say that even if you're minus-two, you're going to lose 70 or 80 percent of the games. That really is what it came down to."
When a guy like Joe Mixon is running the football so well, does the defense feed off of that on the sideline?
"Yeah. Defensively, you're not out there the whole game and you're controlling time of possession. They really did a great job with the offensive line, and Joe was running that thing really hard. That definitely gives us energy."
You're not used to losing like this. It is one of the biggest mental challenges that you've had in your sports career?
"Yeah, it's definitely a challenge. We've got guys all around this locker room giving it everything they've got, playing hard every play. We've just got to continue to do that and not let losing and bad habits creep in. Stick to our routine that got us here, and just continue to keep building."
At this time of the year, guys are playing dinged up and it doesn't seem like there's anybody cashing in their chips ...
"Everyone's got something. With the injury rates, nobody's 100 percent, especially on defense. We've played a lot of snaps this year, and a lot physical football. We've got a lot of tough guys around us, and we feed off each other."
Your first career catch was a touchdown. How did that make you feel?
"It was awesome. Andy (Bengals QB Andy Dalton) gave me an opportunity, and I just had to make the most of it."
When did you know that you might be the guy that gets that football on that play?
"I just looked at single coverage and saw that the cornerback was off a little bit. I knew I had the opportunity to get the ball, and ran my route, looked up and the ball was there. I just gave them a little move and was in there (end zone)."
Obviously turnovers were the big storyline in this game. When you go minus-five, it's tough to win football games, particularly against a team like the Patriots, who don't make many mistakes and capitalizes on others' mistakes...
"We've to eliminate them and keep playing, and we've got to force them on defense."
You and the other tight ends today were blocking your tails off and setting the edge for Joe Mixon. He bounced quite a few runs outside off you guys. Was that a big part of your running game?
"It's attitude and effort with our blocks. We just got on them and stayed on them. We were very physical with them, and that was it."
With a running back like Joe Mixon, you're always looking for an opportunity to get him in space ...
"He makes things very easy. Joe, he makes things a lot easy."
The team is now 1-13. How hard is it for you to swallow how things have gone for the team this season?
"It's hard, man. You know, you come to work and you go through the week and have all the preparation leading up to Sunday to put your team in the best position (to win), and unfortunately, we've been coming up short (in) a lot of situations. You know, we've got to be better. And it sucks, man — being 1-13 ... It sucks, but (there) are better days ahead."
You guys have been using a shotgun formation a lot on fourth down. What advantages do you as a running back see using that formation?
"Coach (Zac Taylor) calls the play and we have to execute, and you know they get paid on the other side (of the ball), too. They made a play, and we just have to fire off on the ball at the (offensive) line. For me, I have to go get that first down and I ain't doing it. I put that up on me, but we've got to be better. I put that upon myself to put my team in the best position to win, and I have to make either a harder cut or get up in the hole a little faster, or have more patience and wait it out. Like I said, I put that up on me. (The) next situation we have like that, I'm going to prevail in it and I usually do. We just have to be better."
I know you're not one for individual award recognition, but you had 136 yards rushing today. Does that mean something to you?
"Yeah, it (does). I tip my hats off to the offensive line. They played their asses off, and those boys were getting down and dirty. I salute the offensive line coach (Jim Turner) — that's what he wanted all week (long) for them to do. We've got to impose our will. For me, I wanted to set the tone, and I feel like that's what I did today, even though we came up short. It's (an) 11-man ball (game), but like I said man — the o-line, they did their thing. The tight ends were blocking hard. The receivers were blocking on the perimeter — I was just making a play, so I tip my hats off to all of them. They did a great job."
Do you feel like the game turned on that fourth-and-1 that you didn't covert in the second half?
"Nah. It was a good play that they made, but at the end of the day, ... we still had the game in our hands. But like I said, we've got to play better, and we will play better. There's a lot of unfortunate situations (today), but that game came down to taking care of the football, and they did a better job of getting turnovers and taking care of the ball. But like I said, we've got to execute, and we didn't do it today. We've just got to get better."
Have you noticed a lot of talk about Joe Burrow as the no. 1 pick going to the Bengals?
"I see some of it. You know, the whole Heisman (Trophy) thing, I saw that he won this morning, actually. I thought Jalen Hurts (should have won) because of his stats — stats I thought played a part in it — but he did good, and the same with Joe Burrow. I think he did a good job with the season they all had. They all had great seasons, but like I said, I'm not really focused on college players. I'm focused on what we have going on in the building (here). We've got to keep building and keep getting better with who we've got, and show up to work ready to work."
The game could not have started much better with a touchdown on your first drive and a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Then things started to spiral in the wrong direction ...
"Yeah. Mistakes, critical errors ... And that's when they take advantage. That's their modus operandi, and they did that today."
It looked like you were interfered with and then recovered the punt the officials said you fumbled into New England's possession ...
"Yeah. Obviously, you've just got to be smarter and fair catch it probably. Yeah, it was a bang-bang play. My hands were on it at the bottom of the pile but they just kept saying, ' Patriots' ball,' but I just kept holding onto it. Then I just came out of the stack with it but I don't know what the ruling is on all that. They gave the ball to the Patriots."
Did the officials say anything to you after the fact to explain their ruling on the contact?
"I think they just said he didn't interfere with me and then I don't know what they said about me coming up with the ball. I think they determined that he recovered it somehow. Obviously, playing a game, you can't make that mistake."
It looked like Patriots CB Stephen Gilmore jumped the route on the second interception he made covering you ...
"Yeah, he (had) outside leverage. He had perfect leverage on an out-route. We were running an out-route to the field with man coverage — (having) outside leverage, think it's going to be a pick?"
You guys haven't had a touchdown in the second half since the Jacksonville game. Do you see something happening in the games that is causing this?
"All year we've been bad in the red zone. I don't have the answers."
You just can't have five turnovers against New England and expect to win, can you?
"Yeah. That's dead because they weren't doing anything good on offense, really. We were just beating ourselves on offense."
It seemed like the game was there for the taking ...
"Yeah. We (should have) had the game. We just didn't do well (in the) passing (game)."
That's been a season long trend, hasn't it?
"I do what I can. Some games the passing game goes (well), some games the running game goes (well). But the passing game had to be a lot better today. That was unacceptable."
Did they try to take you out of the offense today by placing Gilmore on you?
"Nah, it was just one-on-one. I won the majority of the matchups ... But the two plays he made were great plays. He sat on the curl (route) and played great leverage and the out-route. He was already in perfect leverage. We should have (called) a slant."
The crowd there at the end of the game seemed like they were chanting for Tom Brady ...
"He's the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time). He's that dude (laughs)!"
Looked like you guys had them beat today though ...
"Yeah. Like I said, we should have won. We just didn't do well in the passing game."
Assess the defense's performance today ...
"We played good defense in spurts. It's not going to be perfect, but you give up five plays you don't play right, and its 35 points (to the other team). The key thing was takeaways. They took the ball away. We didn't."
Did the situation with the videotape issue add anything to this week's game?
"Nah. We didn't worry about any of that. That's something out of our control. You let the people that can make those decisions and handle that, handle that."
Some Patriots staffers were suspended today as a result of the situation. Is that something you guys as players like to see happen in those instances?
"It had no effect on the game. I would like to see us win the football game. That doesn't have anything to do with us. It had no effect on the game, so that's it on that. I can't comment on something I don't know (about)."
How debilitating is it for your defense, when there's five turnovers in a game?
"I like playing football, so when that happens, it's just, 'I'm back out (on the field); we have another opportunity to go out and play defense.' And that's what we did. We came up short, and that was it. They won the turnover battle, and when you win that — 70 percent of the time — you win the game. And the rate that they did it, it's 100 percent. When you can have five turnovers — five takeaways — you should not lose the game. It should not be close."
Everyone says you can't beat yourself against New England ...
"You can't beat yourself, exactly. They just play football, and they get into the fourth quarter and they make you beat yourself."
You've played Brady when he's been sharp. He wasn't today. How much was that a result of what you guys did on defense?
"He's smart. He knows he doesn't have to force anything. With a defense playing the way that they're playing, they can just run the ball, and pick and choose when they take their shots, and that's what they did. They relied on the running backs. Their three backs did (well) today, enough to get them a win. That's all that matters. It doesn't matter how pretty or how ugly it is. As long as you get the win, that's all that people remember, and that's all that matters."