One way to get Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer even saltier is to mention the NFL defensive ratings so early in the season. Asked after Wednesday's practice to discuss his third-ranked Bengals, Zimmer sounded like his team was rated 33rd.
"Who was No. 1 in the league last week?' he asked. "Look it up. See where he is now."
That would be Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, ranked first after the second week and now 14th after Saints quarterback Drew Brees lit up Houston for 370 yards.
"Way early," he said. "We have to get better in a lot of areas. We're giving up too many big plays. We mis-fit some runs."
The most egregious big play in Sunday's 13-8 loss came in the lone 49ers touchdown drive, a wide-open 20-yard pass to tight end Vernon Davis off quarterback Alex Smith's rollout right throwback left. But Zimmer called himself out.
"Trying to make a play," he said. "The worst defense that could have been at that time. A zone blitz coming off the other side. The guy that had to cover him, we could do it 100 times and he probably wouldn't see it. That was my fault. It wasn't anybody else's fault."
Zimmer also thinks the Bengals defensive line rotation has been a bit overplayed.
"Whoever's in the game has to play," Zimmer said. "I mean, it's not like these guys are in bad shape. I don't get it about the rotation. Talk to those guys. The DBs play every play. There's no rotation. They play."
MAUALUGA STILL WAITING: Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, flagged for an unnecessary roughness hit Sunday when the refs said he piled on after a Nate Clements tackle, says he's been waiting for a fine letter. As of Wednesday he didn't have one. He feels like he didn't deserve it because he says he was simply playing to the whistle and that he couldn't stop.
Zimmer didn't seem that worried about it. He said he was more upset about Maualuga being offside on a play the Bengals got a sack. But he did say that his first-year middle backer played better against the Niners after struggling the week before in Denver.
NEW YEAR: It was just nine games ago Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick singed the Bengals with 35 second-half points, but he'll line up this Sunday with different players in six spots on that Cincinnati defense.
"This team is so different I don't even think this team thinks about last year's game," said left tackle Andrew Whitworth. "The biggest chip (on the shoulder) is the last two weeks we've played two teams that without a doubt we feel we should have won the game and we didn't do it."
On Tuesday, Fitzpatrick compared the Bengals 4-3-1 finish that he quarterbacked in 2008 to the 4-4 finish he led the Bills to in 2010. Both came on the heels of 0-8 starts and it set up a 4-1 start for the Bengals in '09 and the Bills' 3-0 start this year. On Wednesday Whitworth said even though Fitzpatrick wasn't here in '09, he had a hand in winning the AFC North.
"I remember him scrambling and getting hit and getting right back up," said Whitworth, who missed the last six games that year with an ankle injury. "He'd be mad he didn't run it better or do something else. He was fired up. He played that way and I think that kind of transpired into our next season."