Initial comments ...
"Good seeing everybody. It was obviously a very difficult, disappointing loss. That's it; that ends it. That stings. Credit to the Bengals, AFC North champs. Obviously, they were 8-0 at home, which is a great accomplishment. I think they were able to do some of the things in this game that they've done in the past to win those games at home — especially the defensive turnovers, which they did in the second half to put the game away when it got close again. We didn't do the things we needed to do in this game to win the game in the end and weren't able to pull it out."
How big was it to only convert the two first-quarter interceptions into field goals instead of touchdowns?
"Well, that's probably the biggest thing. If we could have gotten 14 or even 10 there, it would have made a big difference. I thought we had a chance on that third-down throw to Dennis (Pitta) ... But that was probably the key. When you have some momentum and you have a chance to get out in front of them like that the way we did and getting turnovers the way we did, and (then) not converting those into touchdowns ... I thought that was the issue the week before too, and the week before that. That's been an issue down the stretch for us — scoring touchdowns in the red zone — and it got us again in this game."
Did anyone let you know the Miami Dolphins' score during the game? With their loss to the Jets, if you could have pulled out the win today, you could have gone to the playoffs ...
"Well, I mean I see the scoreboard right there. I'm not sure what difference it would have made. In the end, the fact of the matter is, if we didn't win the game, it doesn't matter. So we had all of our attention on trying to win this game. A win doesn't motivate you any more to see the scoreboard. You've got to execute. You've got to make the plays you need to make to win the game. You really don't have time to give that any thought at all. There's too much going on right there."
The defense couldn't get off the field in that long Bengals touchdown drive early in fourth quarter ...
"Well, that was a key drive. That turned it for them. That was a statement drive for them I thought, in the sense that they were able to take it down the field and score a touchdown. That was probably the difference in the second half. After that, there were some other plays that put it away for them. But right there, that was critical."
Ray Rice played sparingly in the first half. Was that injury related, or a coaching decision?
"That was a decision with really the offensive coaches. When we were backed up, we didn't want to put him in those backed-up situations. We didn't feel the need to do that."
Does this season's ending make you appreciate last year's success?
"I'm not really thinking about that. Does it make you guys appreciate what we've done? It's a tough league. The question is, 'Do you appreciate it?' (joking) We're not ever going to be content with not making the playoffs. That's just not something that's going to be OK, with me personally, or any of us — Ozzie (Newsome), or any of us, or any player here. That's what makes it tough and disappointing. We expect to do that. We will fight like crazy to do that every single year. But I'll say this about our guys — coaches, players, anybody — our guys will compete. Our guys will fight — our coaches and our players. That's our personality of our football team. If we're not good enough, we're not good enough. And that fact that we weren't good enough this year to get that done, that's something we've got to address, and it starts with me. I'm responsible for how good the team is. I'll take responsibility for it 100 percent. No player needs to take responsibility for that — nobody else. So that's what we'll have to go to work on now going forward to get back to where we need to be."
The Bengals did a good job of protecting QB Andy Dalton without allowing a sack or quarterback hit. How big was that for their offense?
"I thought that was very big for them and their offense to protect the quarterback."
Early on, you had a couple of opportunities for touchdowns and had to settle for field goals — how big was that in regards to the momentum of the game early?
"It was big; it's been kind of the story of our season, getting the ball in the position to score and not quite being able to do it."
What are the problems that you see down there in the red zone, not just with execution — did Cincinnati present something on defense you hadn't seen before?
"They're a good defense. I mean, there's no doubt about that. We tried to pop some runs in there and it looked like we had some room, but we weren't hitting for touchdowns and then we were just putting ourselves in third down situations and we're not scoring on them. I'd have to go back and look at the film to remember exactly what happened, but basically, we're just not getting enough yards on first and second down and not scoring touchdowns on first and second down, either. We're playing the game and putting ourselves in third down situations where we have to score touchdowns and we haven't been able to do it."
In your first five years, you've gone deep into the playoffs — how difficult is it to have a season end like this for the first time?
"It's tough. It's disappointing. But we're an 8-8 football team — we don't deserve to be there. It just is what it is. Everybody in that locker room is used to winning and getting in the playoffs and giving ourselves a shot to win it all. It's disappointing not to have done that for ourselves, but we didn't play well and at 8-8, we don't deserve to be in there."
Did you aggravate your knee again on the hit you took at the back of the end zone?
"Yeah. It just doesn't bend that well, and when the guy landed on me, he just bent it all up into the top of my chest. It didn't do any more (damage) to my knee; it just hurt for a while — that's all. It actually probably loosened it up for a couple series after that once it kind of settled down for a bit, but he basically just bent it up when he was on top of me and kept going?
It also looked like you hurt your elbow ...
"Ah, I got landed on by one or two of their guys and you know, I wasn't able to get flat. I just landed straight on my arm and my shoulder and neck got all bent up, so it was more of my shoulder. My elbow felt fine. It was just my shoulder and not being able to get flat (on impact)."
It seemed like you were under constant pressure ...
"Yeah, well we just gave those guys constant opportunities to put pressure on us. We threw hot a handful of times, but then at the end of the game, we had the fourth down and I threw the interception. I could have thrown hot there, but at that point in the game, I wanted to give us a shot to get it without having to get tackled before the sticks or something like that. But we let them put pressure on us and we hit a couple of quick-in things a couple times and they got us a couple times.
"I think a lot of pressure in the first half didn't come from their blitz looks ... It came from those guys twisting their ends around up the middle and getting us a little bit with that stuff."
You mentioned the red zone offense has been an issue all year. Does it feel like today's game had the issues that have plagued you all year crept up again?
"That's usually the case when you're not sharp enough. Usually, the same problems keep presenting themselves, even at the end of the game. They gave us an easy touchdown there and we can't get it. It just you're that much off and when you're that much off throughout the course of the game over the course of 16 games, you're not going to be special enough to win football games. That's just kind of where we are."
Did they do anything special to limit you down the field in the passing game? I think Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones only had a few catches combined ...
"They didn't do anything special that they normally wouldn't do. It's just one of those games where we had some guys inside, had some quick game going, and they were playing more (or less) the matchups. For Torrey and Jacoby, if they have seven or eight catches, a lot of them end up being — not too, too much — but you can get them for a big play and we just couldn't get any big plays today. I think if we hit that first ball that I threw that got picked (off), if that ball gets through there, Torrey might split it. That's the disappointing thing: We had a guy open there and the guy made a play. He got his hand up, batted the ball down and did a great job of getting his eyes on the ball and making a pick."
Are you going to have to get a procedure on your knee in the off-season?
"No, I'm not going to have to get anything done. It was just my MCL and it will heal on its own ..."
It seems a lot of times this year that the defense would play well for three quarters and then the other team is able to march down the field. Is there anything that happened today that allowed them to go 90 yards after it seemed like you guys had gotten things under control?
"Are you talking about screen play to (No.) 25? (Bengals running back Giovani Bernard)? I take credit for that whole drive because I missed a tackle on 25, and he went on down the line for like 50 yards. Then we switch sides, and I got a holding penalty in the end zone, so that whole 7 points, I kind of put on my shoulders. That's my fault for that one."
Do you think this defense, which has potential, needs to go up another level to be able to finish games better?
"Absolutely — that's the goal, to finish the game. We knew we were going to be in a dogfight. We didn't think it would come down to (the fourth quarter) the way it did, but we knew we were going to be on the field and have to make some plays and unfortunately, we just came up short."
You've been here a few years and always been in the playoffs before winning the Super Bowl last year — how stunning is this season's end result for you compared to what you're used to?
"I mean, it's very disappointing. Like you said, the first two years (of my career), we were in the AFC Championship (Game) and it's kind of simple how we did it. Me, just coming into the league and watching how the Ravens played, it was kind of a cakewalk how they got in there. So to have a year like this (with) a lot of ups and downs, it shows a lot about our team. I'm proud of our guys, but this just wasn't our year."
How good were you guys feeling after running back Ray Rice made the 2-point conversion to tie the game in the third quarter? Miami was losing, and it seemed like everything in that moment was looking up for you ...
"Yeah, that's God right there — we could see up and see the Miami score to the game, so we knew we had an opportunity, and then I think at the time (I saw it) it was 27-17 (Cincinnati) and we just let them get that big drive and they scored. It took the momentum away."
What's the key to defending so many screen passes?
"We need to have all 11 men running to the ball. Everybody's got to be doing his job. If someone is not doing his job, screens go against us. We've got to have a Ravens mentality defense. Everybody's got to be running to the ball. We like to blitz and bring pressure. Screens work against that."
Talk about your interception ...
"I made a good play. Our backs were against the wall. We had to get the ball back for our offense. All of the DBs did a great job, especially Jimmy Smith with the one in the end zone. That was the biggest one of the day. It kept the season alive."
Talk about the disappointment of missing the playoffs ...
"Personally, this is my first year not making the playoffs. Now, I know how it feels. It hurts. We have to come back next year and know we don't want to be in this predicament.
Why do you feel the season snowballed against the Ravens?
"We're the champions. The targets were on our backs. Everybody was coming to knock down the world champions. We didn't make the plays we needed to during the season."
Talk about the touchdown drive after the Ravens tied the score at 17-17 ...
"It was huge for them. They are in the NFL. They make plays, too. They put a good drive together."
You finish with an 8-8 season. Do you feel the inconsistencies and ebb and flow of the season?
"There are always going to be ups and downs in every season. That's expected. It's about how you handle those ups and downs. When you get opportunities, you have to seize them. Chris Canty said this week, 'Opportunities are never lost. They are taken by someone else.' That's truly what happened today."
Do you feel that describes the situation when Cincinnati drives for a touchdown with the score tied, at 17 all?
"They stay with their game plan. They were going to attack no matter what situation they were in. I'm proud of how we played. We got our hands on some balls and caused some turnovers. We knew they were going to fight and not lay down the game for us. We hoped to come out on top in a got to have it situation, but we didn't."
Walk us through your touchdown catch ...
"It was a Cover 2 look by the defense. I gave an outside release and it was a great ball by Joe (Flacco)."
Did the season meet your individual goals?
"I wanted to play hard every game. My goals were to make the team, play hard and help the team win. I feel I accomplished that."
This is your first time not going to the playoffs in your career. What's your reaction?
"It's tough. I knew we were going to get everybody's best shot this year. We certainly did. I'm proud of the way our guys battled. We certainly will bounce back from this. I'm not used to early offseason. I'm looking forward to getting healthy and taking care of my body. I battled through some things this year. I had to learn some things myself this year. I had to learn to fight through some things. It will be different this time — taking care of the body — getting back to some things I'm used to doing."
You didn't play much in the first half. How frustrating was that to you?
"I was ready to go. There was a lot of situational football. We were backed up and we had to put the guys in that gave us a chance to get out. I was fully ready to go. I had the legs warmed up. I was like a little jitterbug. I could get up and go. When you have muscular deals, you can't crank it up right away. We thought both Bernards (Pierce and Scott) gave us a shot to get out of situational football. I think they did a good job. In the second half needless to say, I went out there. I was ready. I felt good on the two-point conversion."
Can you put your finger on why this offense hasn't been able to get things going this season?
"No. At the end of the day, the one thing I can say that we can all do better is that we could have executed. That takes play calling out of it. Sometimes it's about who wants it more. All of the guys fought. This offseason all of the coaches will say that when we get in to the red zone, we have to score points. When you get a good team like the Bengals — a good team that earns the crown — they've been building this team for years. They were a battling group. It was quite impressive to see them come out and play the last game of the season the way they did."
Knowing that the Dolphins lost today, does that make the end of the season sting any worse?
"Any loss hurts. Not going to the playoffs hurts. Any loss that you go through hurts. I'm not used to having this kind of time on my hands. But, I will take this time to regroup and take care of this muscular thing."
Talk about the offseason and what lies ahead for the Ravens ...
"With a new team, we didn't capitalize on the opportunity that we had. I have said it before, you learn more in failure than you ever will in success. This is a crappy feeling. We're going to learn tremendously from it and we have to live with it for the whole offseason. You had better believe that we're going to come in to next season with a sense of urgency."
How critical is it that the Ravens have been scoring field goals instead of touchdowns in recent weeks?
"That's why we're at this point. Our defense had four turnovers. If you can't score with four turnovers, then you're in trouble. Field goals aren't going to get it done, especially when you're playing against a (Bengals) offense like that. That's been our Achilles heel for a while this season — field goals instead of touchdowns. It's only a matter of time before that comes back to bite you in the NFL. You've got to be able to score touchdowns to win games."
People are going to pick on Joe Flacco's interception totals for the season. How do you defend him?
"You have to watch the games. You can't just look at the numbers and say, 'That's the problem.' If you're not watching the game, you're not judging anyone fairly. That's fantasy football, looking at the stats. You've got to watch it. Joe's a warrior for us. He's going to take a lot of heat. He fought through so many things this year. He battled. He didn't quit. He didn't point the finger at anyone. He shouldn't have been in this position heading in to the offseason."