Opening statement: "I had a chance to look at the tape, obviously. We played well all in all. There are plenty of things to work on and improve on. Our guys were in today. We had a good meeting. We had a chance to get with the guys. Most of them got a good lift in. So, we have actually begun the preparation for Cincinnati. They'll be away. Christmas actually falls on the off day for the players, so that works out really well for the guys. As coaches, we'll be celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, and then we'll be back in working on the Bengals after that. So, that's where we're at."
You had said you have to get healthier and you have to get better. That seems to be encapsulated in the tight ends, because now Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are on the field, and they have been productive the last few weeks, and that might have been a big key yesterday. (Joe Platania) "It definitely was a big key yesterday. They both played really well. Obviously, the whole group is productive. You have to throw Billy [Bajema] in there, too. He played really well, too. So, we had all three tight ends up for the first time all season, and that's a good point."
John, you talked yesterday that it was important to win the game, but what is the incentive to win at Cincinnati? Is it all about momentum? What is your incentive to win Sunday? (Dave Ginsburg) "It probably goes to what Joe [Platania] was just talking about. That's how you improve, that's how you get better. Momentum, sure it's a good word, [but] what does that mean exactly? It means that we're improving. We always say that you either get better or you get worse. Sometimes, you are getting better and it doesn't show up in the results all the time, but I think we see it. We're recognizing when we see it, so the idea is that there are plenty of things to work on. We have to continue to improve to be at our best that we can in the playoffs. This week is an opportunity to do that."
Is getting the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs important to you? It is conceivable that you could move into the third seed, in which case you might face Cincinnati again. (Dave Ginsburg) "It's hard to predict all that. There is just no way to be sure. Certainly, there are percentages. We've looked at all that. We understand what has to happen all across the board, as far as the way that could shake out on Sunday, but there is no way to say for sure what's going to happen, so we'll just have to see how it plays out."
Players are always talking about being coached up. Can you talk a little bit about your staff and how you were preparing after the Denver game? (Stan Charles) "Our staff does a great job. Thanks for asking that. We have a great staff. I believe – maybe I am a little biased – we have the best staff in football. Top to bottom and all the way around, we have great coaches. They do a great job with our players. It's not just after one game. Our guys did a great job after last week's game throughout the course of the week game--planning and coaching our guys. But, it's more of a process from the beginning of the offseason program and developing players all the way through. Every player benefits from working with his coach, whether he is a first-ballot Hall of Fame-shoe-in-type player, like we have, or whether he is a first-time rookie draft pick or free agent. Our coaches do a great job of working with every single guy on our roster so that when the time comes, he'll be best prepared to play his best. And, that showed up. That showed up over the course of this season probably more than any season since we've been here, the number of guys that have played for us and played well."
With the balancing act that you have this week of getting ready and trying to keep your momentum going, if the outcome of the game is in hand one way or another, how much would you want to rest a guy if he has an injury or if he is a key player during the course of the game? (Aaron Wilson) "It's definitely a consideration. The biggest thing is that you can't play this game half-speed. You have to play this game full-speed. Our guys are going to play the game full-speed to win the game. How that type of thing would shake out is definitely a consideration, but I would expect it to be a tight game all the way through. These are two evenly-matched teams, and it's going to be a highly-competitive game. So, I haven't really thought along those lines right now."
You said yesterday that you guys emerged relatively unscathed as far as injuries. Is Anquan Boldin doing OK today? (Aaron Wilson) "Anquan has a shoulder bruise, so we'll see how that develops during the course of the week. All of the other stuff that we had were basically things that will be day-to-day-type things. There were no major injuries, so we are very fortunate there. We continue to get a little bit healthier, and some of the guys who have been working through some injuries should get a little bit better throughout the course of the week."
I know you credited the offensive line yesterday. What did you see from them once you actually went back and watched the tape? How did they actually play? (Matt Zenitz) "It's always never as good as you think and never as bad as you think. The first thing that I saw were things that could have been better. There were a number of combination blocks – two-man combinations and three-man combinations – versus movement that we didn't block all that well. Our backs made some good plays. By the same token, there were lots of really good blocks. Anytime you pass protect the way that we did against a team that can rush the passer like the New York Giants, that's a big plus. I thought Joe [Flacco] did a good job of getting the ball out, too, to help that. He also scrambled and made some plays, which was really positive. The run blocking was good. We rushed for a lot of yards, and it's because those guys were very physical upfront. The offensive line continues to improve. As you know, it's a young group, so that's something that we really expect to have happen."
And with that, I know K.O. [Kelechi Osemele] said after the game that it really helped to get Marshal [Yanda] back. Same thing from your perspective? (Matt Zenitz) "Marshal [Yanda] is a premier player. The guys that have gone in for the guys that have been nicked up have done a really good job. We probably have more depth in the offensive line than we have had in quite a while. We have some veterans that can step in and play. Bobbie [Williams] has done a real nice job when he's been in there. And of course, Bryant McKinnie hasn't had a chance, because the tackles have been so healthy, but Bryant's a guy that is going to be very valuable for us here down the stretch if something happens. That's definitely a blessing for us. We are happy to have those guys."
John, how much did [Dannell] Ellerbe provide a boost for you guys? He seemed to get his burst back, especially on the blitz even though it didn't count – the sack. (Aaron Wilson) "Yes, he was in there. He timed that up really well. I thought the whole defense timed that up really well. (laughter) [Dannell] Ellerbe played well. Dannell has played well all year when he's played, and getting him healthy is a big plus for our defense."
On watching the film today, how did Chykie Brown play? (Stan Charles) "Chykie [Brown] played really well. Chykie continues to get better every single week. He's really starting to gain some confidence. There were things that – him and I kind of met in the weight room there – and there were a couple things that didn't look right on tape that we talked about. But, he's getting to the point now on as a player where he can explain or articulate why he's doing things, what he saw, or what he thought the defense called for, and they make sense. You can understand what he's saying. It may not be right, but he's starting to really think the game out there. That's good to see in a young corner."
What did you see from the Ed Reed penalty? It looked like he tried to throw his shoulder in there and the other guy was kind of crouched. It made a little bit of contact with the head. (Aaron Wilson) "That's exactly what I saw. It's tough – full speed – this whole thing. I hope that the league really takes a look at this in the offseason and figures out a way to help the players out a little bit, because it's been a real challenge so far this year. Ed [Reed] was trying to do everything he could. I would say the same thing about the one on Torrey [Smith] on the block-back was chest high. Our guys are really trying to do the right thing. It's difficult, [at] full speed, to do that."
Have you heard from the NFL yet, or do you expect more later in the week thing? (Aaron Wilson) "It's usually later in the week."
Coach, after struggling a little over the past three weeks, it seemed like things kind of came together yesterday for you guys. Was it better preparation in practice? Communication? It just seemed like it all came together on both sides of the ball yesterday. (Bill West) "It's kind of a running process. We've been practicing really well throughout the course of the last four weeks, and as a coach, at some point in time, it's going to show itself on the field on game day. And it probably just did. It was our best overall performance, I think. It was the best we've done at putting all three phases together and playing well. We blocked, we tackled, and our playmakers made plays. We didn't turn the ball over. We didn't do things that cost us and hurt us like we did in the other three games. So, that's probably the difference."
Bernard Pierce led the team in rushing, Chykie Brown led the team in pass breakups, Omar Brown had the [sack]. What does it mean to have some of these younger players develop and contribute to the defense yesterday? (Ed Lee) "It's big. It's big. That's something that's hard to predict, but we feel like the program is built that way right from the beginning, in terms of evaluating. Our scouting department and our coaches working together, and then developing these guys as we just talked about [is important]. And then you kind of keep your fingers crossed when they get their opportunity, and then when you see them do well, it's rewarding for all of us. So, that's really the life-blood of an NFL football program. You have to keep infusing it with young talent, and our young talent looks like it's going to be pretty darn good."
Is there a little concern about the number of penalties you guys have had? (Ed Lee) "I never want to be highly-penalized. That's something that's not good, but you've got to look at each of those penalties again, individually. Some of them were good calls that we can do something about, and some of them weren't, that we really can't do anything about. But when they add up, that's something that we just have to keep working on, and it's a goal of ours to be a low-penalized team."
Did you get an explanation for what the officials saw to nullify the Jacoby Jones touchdown? (Aaron Wilson) "I can't even begin to explain that. I'm going to have to let them speak on that, because it didn't make much sense to me, in all honesty. So, I couldn't make heads or tails of that one. I think we understand that rule pretty well."
Quarterbacks take the blame and they take the glory. Joe [Flacco] said yesterday that he believes in himself, and he looked like a quarterback that believes in himself with the way he performed … (Jim Forner) "Joe is confident, and I hope our whole team is confident; you hope all your players are confident. That's something that you want to see out of your guys. He performed at a real high level, in a critical situation, in an important game, against a very good defense that was very determined. So, that was big for us."
Would it help to win a game on the road this weekend? It hasn't been really a problem this year, but still nice to win one away from home? (Dave Ginsburg) "It'd be a big plus for us. An opportunity to go play on the road like this, in a real tough environment … It's a rivalry game, because it's in the division. These two teams go at it pretty good every single time, so yeah, that's something that will help us build up our calluses a little bit for the playoffs. It'll be a plus for us."