Initial comments ...
"Along the lines of some things we talked about last night, I still feel the same way. The defense had an encouraging performance from where we were the week before. They did some good things that were good enough for us to win the game. Particularly late in the game, the goal-line stand when it was first and goal on the one yard-line, they had the false start and we got three stops there and held them to a field goal. They gave the offense the opportunity to get us back in the game. That was where the frustration was – on offense. There were a lot of mental errors. There were a lot more than normal this week. We're challenging our guys today to look really hard at themselves. Everybody left a play on the field that was pretty routine — if each guy would have made that play, I think the outcome could have potentially been different. That's the challenge. We need to regroup from that, own it, and then come back. We have a tough test this week in a divisional game at home against Pittsburgh, which we're excited about. Those guys got us good last time. It was not a great performance from us. We're excited to get another crack at them."
Was there a specific issue with QB Ryan Finley that led to the third-down inefficiency?
"The whole unit was responsible for the (lack of third-down conversions). He had some plays he certainly would like to do over, but I think everybody felt that way about themselves. You're right. It did come down to those third downs for us, on both sides of the ball. They converted some that put us in a bad spot, and we didn't convert when we were across midfield. That's ultimately what got us. You could really point to a number of things: protection, drops, missed throws. They all factored into it. It wasn't just one main issue. They all were part of it."
How much of Finley's inconsistency is due to adjusting his timing?
"For any young quarterback, you hit the nail on the head. Now you're working with receivers that you haven't worked that much with — just a couple months. And now you're facing a starting defense, so the timing has to speed up a little bit. There are certainly a lot of encouraging things I see from Ryan in that regard, and there are some areas where experience is going to be the best help. We understand that. That's not unexpected from some things we saw. Let's not make the same mistakes twice with him. With all of our rookie players, we need to learn from the mistakes that we've made."
Is Finley's low completion percentage through two games surprising to you?
"Some of those incompletions are missed throws. Some of them – we had three drops, two competitive drops, so that's five right there. We had a couple throw-always. There are some things that factor into (his low completion percentage). I don't always look at whatever the completion percentage was and say, 'He was only accurate this percentage of the time.' That's not the way we look at it, and sometimes that's misleading. Over the last two games, that is a little misleading. He just needs to get better with every game he has."
You wanted to look at the tape to evaluate Finley's accuracy, right? What did you end up seeing?
"Right. I couldn't name all of the incompletions from last night, so now you get the chance to see. It's everybody. Every skill player could have been better: quarterback, running backs, tight ends, receivers. Everybody really played a part in it."
WR Tyler Boyd was targeted on just three passes yesterday. Would you like to see him receive more targets?
"He's certainly one of our best players, so we need to get him more involved. As you walk away from that game, you'd like to get Tyler more involved."
Boyd said he wished he would have been targeted more. Is that dissatisfaction warranted?
"Yeah. We want our best players to be consistent for us. We need to rely on them to help us win these games. I would understand that frustration. Tyler and I talk the next day about all of that stuff. We're all on the same page. We're all in a good place. We're all understanding that we're trying to win. We're going to do whatever it takes to get that done."
Do you talk with Finley about getting the football to the playmakers on your team?
"There's an extent of that. I wouldn't say that covers the whole passing game. There are some times you want to think 'players, not plays,' late in the game. That's just part of experience. That's a part of getting a feel for everything. I expect Ryan to have a great career ahead of himself, and he's going to learn a lot of those things. Unfortunately, sometimes there are some growing pains in that as well."
How long does it take for a QB to build rapport with a receiver?
"You need to get as many reps as you can. We have a game in six days. We just have to make sure that with the plays we have in the plan, we rep them enough so that everyone feels comfortable and knows where the ball should go. At the same time, (Oakland) played with pretty good leverage on (Boyd) sometimes and had another guy attributed to him. You can't always force balls to guys. We just need to do better managing the plan overall as a coaching staff and executing it as players, particularly on third down. That's where it really hurt us."
Do you have an update on WR Auden Tate's injury?
"Auden is in concussion protocol. He has a cervical strain as well. He was on the plane last night. I was able to talk to him, and he can do all that stuff. He'll be in the concussion protocol."
If the passing game continues to struggle, would you consider going back to Andy Dalton as the starting quarterback?
"Ryan is our starter this week against Pittsburgh, and I have a hard time looking beyond that. He's going to give us an opportunity to win this week."
Do you feel like you have to insert more passing plays into the game plan in order to fully evaluate Finley?
"We just want a win. We were in position to give ourselves an opportunity to win that game because we were running the ball so well. There were some big plays we left on the field – big plays that were killer. If we just made a couple of those, it would have potentially been a different outcome. But we didn't. We're trending in the right direction. The run game is going to give us a chance to win some games down the stretch. Our guys have a really good rhythm up front. Joe (HB Joe Mixon) and Gio (HB Giovani Bernard) have pretty good rhythm when they're getting those touches. That's something we need to continue to build off of."
Is Finley playing because you think he gives the team the best chance to win?
"We wouldn't play Ryan if we didn't feel like he didn't give us a chance to win the game. He wouldn't be on the field. I see enough really encouraging things from him, whether it's his preparation over the course of the week, how he's practicing, the difference between week two to week one, in a lot of those areas. You can see his confidence starting to grow. Now he's playing difference styles of defenses each week. Each one gives you certain things, and other things that would frustrate you and you need to learn from. I'm encouraged by what his approach has been the last few weeks and the steps he's taking. It's not always going to show up in every rep in every single game. I feel comfortable with where we're at with him."
When looking at the tape against the Raiders, do you wish you would have run the ball more often?
"We had an unbelievable amount of errors on our (naked bootlegs) last night. It was very frustrating. There were some that we thought we had pretty good opportunities on that we made some errors on. The hard part is, there were some times in the fourth quarter where we were thinking, 'All right, we just need to run the ball.' We're running the ball well, and then we get a minus-two, we got in some tough spots there. We need to find the balance of running the ball and staying one step ahead. We can't just let them tee off on us in the run game. (We needed to) call a play-action or something to get some rhythm. There's that balance, like there is in any game. We had our opportunities. We drove the ball down to the 20-something yard-line with however-many minutes left to play, so we were doing the things that would have put ourselves in position to win. We just ultimately didn't get it done, and that was very frustrating."
What does a quarterback need to be able to do to be successful in your system?
"Not just in this offense, but in any offense in this league, first of all, they need to be smart enough to understand both sides of the football — what we're trying to get accomplished with your teammates, and what the defense is trying to present to you. (Then,) do you elevate the players around you? Do you give them that sense that, 'Hey, there are always plays on the table here with this guy in charge — he's going to make me a better football player'? And then, accuracy and anticipation. Those are things that go hand-in-hand. If you're going to play in this league, you need to be accurate and you need to throw with anticipation. Those are the challenges, the anticipation portion of things, for young quarterbacks. There are good defensive backs (in the NFL), and sometimes the coverage is really tight and it's a small window. You just need to trust your feet, understand what the timing looks like. Sometimes it doesn't always look great. You just need to throw it out there and let your guy go make a play. Those are the challenges. The big thing you're looking for from your guy is toughness. Can he take a hit and respond? What's his pop-up game like? When gets hit and gets off the ground, how quick does he pop up? The guys feed off of that. Those are all traits that Ryan has (and) Andy has. That's why those guys are in this building and play quarterback for us."
Is there something you can do within your scheme to create more separation for receivers?
"That's what we're trying to do every week — to give our guys as much separation to give our guys the best chance we can. We need to keep working toward it."
Is it possible to vertically threaten a defense without having a specific deep threat at receiver?
"You need to utilize your play-actions and double-moves when you can. Give them a technique advantage when you can, as well. Those are the things we go through every single week and try to find the best ways get the ball down the field. It's hard. You see the long drives that we've put together over the last few weeks. The three-and-outs have been minimal, if you look at the rest of the league. That's not something we're really struggling with. It's the big plays that need to come for us. We'll just keep being creative with our approach there."
Offensively, what went wrong on third-down plays against Oakland?
"Like I said, I think it was a little bit of everything. Sometimes it was the protections, sometimes it was (not) catching a ball that was catchable, and sometimes it was the read. Everything played a part in all of our lack of conversions on that side of the ball."
What went wrong on third downs defensively against Oakland?
"On defense, you need to play with the right technique. When we're double-teaming guys, you need to help inside sometimes. It was poor technique. You saw them beat us on a lot of crossers that shouldn't have been completions. We should have been in position to make those plays. They made some great throws and catches, too. You need to give your hats-off to Carr (Oakland QB Derek Carr) and some of those receivers. They made some really good plays. It wasn't good enough on either side of the ball on third down."
Does the thought of an 0-16 season worry you?
"No. I don't even have time to think about that. We don't want to be 0-11. We want to go get this win. We got on that airplane thinking we were going to go to Oakland and win that game. In the fourth quarter, we thought we were going to win the game. It's extremely frustrating when you don't. You put in all that work and feel like, 'All right, we're going to go out and get this finally,' and then you don't. You need to regroup. You have no choice. You need to keep your head up. We need to get after these guys this week. It's a tough opponent for us. Our guys are looking to rebound, but we can't think that far down the road. We just need to focus on this Sunday."