Initial comments ...
"I want to give credit to the Bengals. They came out strong from the get-go. They jumped out to the 14-0 lead, and they finished strong too. They played well throughout. It was a heck of a win for them, so give them credit. They earned it."
Your identity has become a slow-starting team. Do you know what's causing that?"I'm not going to let anyone define our identity for us. We started off slow today and we started off slow a few weeks ago against Minnesota. We need to start off fast, and we weren't able to do that. They were."
There looked to be some missed tackles on defense today ..."I don't think the tackling is an issue the way you want to make it out to be an issue. I think we had him (Benson) in the backfield a few times, but he's a strong back. That's why he's leading the league in rushing — because he does a nice job of getting out of tackles — but we have strong players that get guys down. Sometimes, when you're a defensive back alone in space, it's tough. These guys can make plays. Can we tackle better? Sure. But the issue is not tackling, per se. We're generally a good tackling team."
How much did you miss Haloti Ngata and when did you make a decision on him?"We made it right before the game. We tried to get him in, but he just couldn't play. Of course we miss him. He's a great player. I thought Justin (Bannan) filled in nicely and played well, but of course we want Haloti in there if we can."
It seemed like Lardarius Webb was very active out there. How do you think he played?"He played well. He flies around the ball and is a good tackler. He covered well and took advantage of his opportunity due to an injury."
Steve Hauschka bounced back last week but missed one today. Is there concern in that area?"There's concern about everything. We have so many things to be concerned about right now, so we have to look at everything. We have to take every area and try to make it as good as we can. We'll take a look at the kick. I was disappointed he missed the kick. He has kicked the ball a lot better than that, so it's something that needs to be better."
Did you see everything you saw on film or did they mix it up a little bit?"They mixed up coverages. They do a good job of that. They mixed them up on third down, and they have a nice pressure package when they get you to third down, especially third-and-long."
How concerned are you about these slow starts?"The slow starts are not good. It's got to be an emphasis. We did it last week — we came out strong. We wanted to come out aggressive and making plays, but we didn't do it. We've got to find a way to start the game better. We'll look at it and try to figure it out."
Did they do anything new or different because of having their bye week to prepare?"They did a lot differently. A lot of their routes were different, a lot of their tendencies were different. They did a nice job of executing. Some of the throws and catches they made, especially on the sideline, were very impressive. We couldn't get off the field on third down in the first quarter, and a lot of that had to do with changing up what they normally do."
Regarding the pass interference calls against you, is it just a case of not touching guys?"I'd like to know. You look at every penalty on its own merits. There's jostling one way and it's gets called, there's jostling the other way and it doesn't get called. There's nothing we can do about it. We just have to teach our guys to cover. I'm looking forward to seeing what the interpretation is and we'll learn from it."
It seems like Cincinnati gives you and your offense more problems than any other team in the league ..."They've done a good job against us. We just weren't able to make the plays to get it done today."
Coach Harbaugh mentioned they made a few changes. Did they change a lot of defensive looks?"They aren't doing anything that's very complicated. They just do things well. They make good plays, and that's what they did today."
It seems like they took away your outside receivers ..."They did a good job. You have to give them credit. They stayed around the ball and on the guys. As soon as the ball got there, they were ready to hit them."
Once you guys opened it up, you seemed to be able to move the ball better. Do you think you should have opened it up a little earlier in the game?"When you're down by 17, you have to go out and score points. Our defense did a great job in the second half; we just weren't able to score enough points."
How tough is it going to be to pick it up at 4-4?"It's not going to be tough. We just have to go back to work and get ready to be 5-4 after Cleveland."
What's your theory on all of the slow starts for the offense?"You've got me. We didn't have much tempo to our offense and shot ourselves in the foot and got ourselves into a hole."
Did they disguise coverages a lot?"I was seeing it well. They just did a good job of playing."
Do you feel like it was just one of those games where everything was out of sync?"They did a good job. We'll look at it tomorrow and see what really happened. I think we're going to be disappointed in ourselves."
There wasn't any urgency in the first half, but there was in the second. What was going on in the first half?"I agree. I don't think we had the urgency we needed to be successful, and we realized that we needed to get it going. We came out in the second half with some urgency, but weren't able to get it done."
Where does the team go from here?"We'll we have to go and win football games. Take it one week at a time. It's about how you respond to losses. When the season's over, we'll look back and see how we did."
How concerned are you with the slow starts?"Well, today it was concerning because we didn't win the game. You have to have some ownership to the offense, and we never really did that during the first half."
Are the matchups with the Bengals more problematic than other teams?"I don't think they're more problematic. They've played well all year. They play good team defense. They stay around the ball to make plays and give themselves chances to make plays."
You had trouble moving the ball. Was it Cincinnati or was it with you?"We just have to come out playing fast, and that's in all phases. The two-week rest helped them out, but we have to come out ready to play. It was a similar situation in Minnesota. Playing from behind is always rough, and they're a good team and you have to give them credit. Any time you have to play from behind is rough in this league, especially from two scores."
Talk about the preparation for this game ..."I don't think anything was wrong in practice. Everyone came out and practiced hard. Collectively as a group, we didn't come out playing fast enough. That's just us as men. It has nothing to do with the coaches. It has nothing to do with them. That's just us. We have to come out with our mindsets together and go out there and play fast. I think it would be a totally different game if we did that. When the light switch went on, we were able to move the ball. You can't get behind against a good team. They're a good team. They're not the same team as last year. That's quite clear."
Is there anything in your mind that can account for this stuff?"Nothing can account for it. That's just us. The coaches can't do anything about that. We as players — this is what we get paid to do. We get paid to come out and play fast. ... When we were able to move the ball, we moved the ball up and down the field, (but at) a point when it was too late."
Was this a frustrating loss?"Yes, this was frustrating. I'm not going to be naïve about it. It's very frustrating, but in this league, if you stay frustrated, you'll be frustrated the rest of the season. We have a game next week against Cleveland. Great win by Cincinnati, and I wish them the best of luck the rest of the season. But I'm sure, when this team's hot, we're hot, and when we're playing good football, we're playing good football. We just need to get on that."
Talk about Cincinnati's defense ..."They're stout. They play the game the way it's supposed to be played. They keep everything in front of them and don't give up the big play. They played the ball well whenever it was in the air. That's what good defenses do. They came out and fed off their fans. They played a home like it was a home game."
Is there a reason why the team is starting slow?"That's a loaded question. I don't know what you mean by 'starting slow.' I don't think we played well. None of us played well. But it's not how you start. It's how you finish."
There looked like there was some flatness, or just a lack of execution ..."No, we just weren't using our techniques right, and some stuff got away from us. They're a professional football team. When we beat them last year, I don't think they got the same 'Was there something wrong with you guys?' They played well and we didn't — it happens. Those guys get paid."
How much of it was technique or strategy?"Technique and physical play. They are a very physical team — don't let anybody tell you different. They practice like that. They have big, tough, physical guys, and their running back is really good. If you come in and not do the things you're coached to do the right way every play, that's what happens."
John Harbaugh felt like they changed tendencies, and maybe caught you by surprise ..."Yeah, they threw on first down, which is what a good football team does. Our team does that all the time. You catch defensive lines flat-footed, not rushing the passer. That plays a huge part in it. They changed tendency. They had two weeks to work on us. While we were playing the Broncos, they were preparing for us. That kind of showed a little bit. But it's still football … chase the ball."
How do you regroup from here?"We have eight games. We have to make the most of it. We have to win the ones we're supposed to win. That's what it is right now. That's reality. That's where we put ourselves."
How did Cincinnati play today?"They came out and had a game plan that was solid. We gave up a lot in the first half. It's possible to win a game in the second half, but that team is rolling right now. You don't want to give them too much too early."
Do you have a theory on what's going on with this team right now?"No. You win some and you lose some. Some days we can beat a division leader, and some days we just get beat."
When you talk about game plan, coach John Harbaugh said they changed their tendency, especially on third down. Were you guys surprised by some of the routes they were running?"Well, not really. We expected them to change some, especially coming off the bye. It didn't surprise us. They're professionals, too. Carson (Palmer) is one of the best in the business, and they made some plays."
You got behind quick ..."It always surprises me when we don't come out and play well. But at the end of the game, I think, both (our offense and defense) still made enough plays that we could have put ourselves in a position to win. We just didn't win. Like I said, they're professionals, too. They're not only in the same division as us, but they're in the same professional league. We gave them a lot of help with the win, but also don't take any credit from them."
You're 4-4. How do you regroup from here?"Just get better each and every day. We have to come out with a chip on our shoulder."