Opening statement:"Obviously, we're very disappointed with the result, and we're disappointed with the way we played. Cincinnati played very well. They beat us really every way you can beat a team, all three phases – run, pass, special teams – every aspect of the game, they beat us. And that's what's most disappointing. I think the thing that as we sit here and we take a look at where we're going, that we come to grips with, first of all, it starts with me. It's my job to give our guys every opportunity to play as well as they can play, and I need to find a way to do my job better. And I think every person in the building feels that way right now, I know they do – coaches, players, PR people, but mainly coaches and players. That's our job, and it starts with me, and we need to get that done."
How would you like to define this team now at the halfway point of the season?"If you're going to define us right now, you'd have to say we're a .500 team. That's where we are at this point. We're a .500 team that's lost four of the last five. We're struggling to find a way to win a game right now. And I still think the definition, if we're going to define, if we're going to talk about big picture stuff – which is a fair question – I think we have a lot of tough, hardnosed guys. We have guys fighting like crazy to try to find a way to win a football game. We're playing very hard; we're trying to be physical. Coaches are coaching as hard as they can, trying to find a way to get it done. But we have come up short, way too many times, and I'd say too many times for the kind of team we are. So, our identity is still what it's always going to be: We're a rough, tough, hard-playing team. I think we're a hard-playing team. Now, we're not as disciplined as we need to be, we don't make plays like we need to make them. I don't think we've done a good enough job of putting ourselves in situations to give our guys the best chance to make plays. That starts with me. So, we've got to find a way to do those things to give us a chance to have an outcome on Sunday that we can be happy about, and we haven't done that enough."
Can you put your finger on and address the lack of focus early in games? "I don't know if I'd phrase it as a lack of focus, per se. I think [that's] part of it. For whatever reason, we have not done things well, especially in critical situations. We haven't done the things we need to do to make a play in a situation to get a first down or to make a stop. I think the penalties are a big part of that. For whatever reason, we've had penalties that have kept drives alive way too often this season – the pass interference, the defensive holding things, whether it's jumping offside, the same things on offense that have put us in a hole and gotten us off schedule. So, those are things – however you term them – what they're a lack of or not, we're not getting it done. And dropping passes, you know, all of those things are part of it. We just need to do a better job of getting that done. And as I said before, I've got to find that. As the head coach, it's my job to figure that out, and we'll get it figured out."
Has there been any thought of brining in another kicker? "We think about everything all of the time. We're not ready to make any kind of announcement on that. We think Steve [Hauschka] is going to be a really good kicker in the NFL. I'm disappointed with that kick; I know Steve is, too. He can kick that ball a lot better. It was not a good swing, but we're not ready to say we don't think he's going to be a good kicker in the NFL yet."
Have both of Hauschka's kicks that he missed wide left been a mechanical error? "Yeah, it is. If you look at those two swings, those are both poor swings, swings that he came out of his swing, came off the ball. We talked about it a couple of weeks ago at Minnesota, pulling the ball. That's basically what it was. His follow through was not… When you see his good kicks, you can tell what they look like as far as his swings, and those two swings were not good swings. So, we've got to find out what the reason for that is, because you can do it 1,000 times over and over again, and then you get in that pressure moment and you can't repeat it. That's kind of a critical issue."
To what do you attribute the struggles on third down and time of possession this past week after having so much success against Denver? "Well, part of it is Carson Palmer, on the defensive side. I thought he did a heck of a job of making some throws. There were a couple of throws and catches in there that were pretty special, under pressure. Those are the ones that we can live with, you know, the ones where we've got a guy running, he gets hit, he makes a throw high on the sideline, someone goes up and gets it, it's well defended, and they make a play. OK, you're going to have some of those. Some of the other ones, we need to figure out, whether it's pressure, whether it's coverage, whatever the case may be. Each one of them was different. And then offensively, we were disappointing. I don't think we had a third-down conversion until almost the fourth quarter. So, we've looked at the tape, we've hashed it all out, all three phases. We've had a chance as a staff to sit down and watch it all together, the whole thing, and we know what the issues are. Now we need to figure out how to get them fixed."
Is QB Joe Flacco not hitting his stride attributed to Cincinnati's defensive scheme? "Well, it's a good question. They didn't do anything different than they've been doing. They're playing their base defense. They're playing their base coverages. They're playing their base pressures – all things that we've seen. I think they played them better than we played them. We didn't see anything we didn't expect to see. We did not do a good job of getting the job done – blocking, running, throwing, catching, tackling, getting off blocks – all the things that you do in football, we're not doing well right now as of this last game. Now, every game is a new season. Two weeks ago we felt pretty good about a lot of that stuff. All of the sudden, this week we feel very bad about all of that stuff. But you are what your last game is in this league. We have to take this one-game season that we're facing against what I think is going to be a real good Cleveland Browns team on Monday night, and we've got to be ready to play and get those things accomplished."
Do you start to do some playoff math at the halfway point in the season? "Driving home you might think through that stuff. I'm pretty sure we've got to win a bunch of games to get there, and we've got to be a lot better than 4-4 in the second half to get it done. Our players know that. What that ends up being, as far as I'm concerned, is 8-0. But it has to be 1-0 before it can be anything. So, we understand all that. We get that, but we have a one-week season that starts, for our players, on Wednesday, and I'm sure they'll be in here tomorrow watching tape for the Browns. So, we better get our focus where it belongs, which is on this next game."
Is it time for individual soul-searching? "I don't know if it's soul-searching. That's a pretty broad one. Soul searching… I hope we all do that every day. But as far as finding our 'football soul,' we better do that individually and as a group, and we'll do it. Our locker room… You talked to our guys. You guys were in the locker room in Cincinnati, most of you guys. You had a good feel for how they are, and you talked to them today. Our guys take responsibility. There's not a guy in this building that doesn't take responsibility for finding a way to get his game, coaching or playing, right. My job is to make sure I can be the best head coach I can be, and right now, I'm not getting the job done. The way our team played last week was not a good performance by the head coach. I guarantee you every single person in this building, coach and player, feels that same way. Collectively, we've got to do that together. So, it's an individual and a collective issue."
Would mixing up the script jump-start the offense in the first quarter?"Well, we do mix up the script. We're not sticking to some basic script that we do week in and week out. The game plan changes from week to week, and we mixed it up. I think it's about making the plays we've got to make – blocking, tackling and running well. Those are the mistakes. In order to answer your question in a detailed way, we would have to put the tape up. You'd have to look at every single play and kind of go through it to do that. So, I know it's a very broad answer, but it's the only one I can give you right now."
There is an old saying, 'When times are tight, loosen up, and when times are loose, tighten up.' Do you have a feel where your team is now? "Yeah, I've heard that before. It's a Lou Holtz deal. It probably goes back for many, many decades. So, I don't think it's that simple. We talk about staying loose and staying focused, and that's an old Marine axiom: Work hard, stay loose, stay focused, be accountable, take care of one another. We talk about that all the time. I think our guys have walked a real good line between staying loose and being focused. We're focused in practice. We had as good of a practice on Thursday and Friday that you're really going to see, but we didn't translate it to Sunday. So, I'm looking at some things that I can do differently to make sure that gets done, and I think our players are doing the same. I know the coordinators and the coaches are, too."
How is CB Fabian Washington feeling? Is he walking around OK? "I haven't seen him today, so I don't know. I don't have an answer for you. I haven't talked to Bill T [Tessendorf] yet either."
What does CB Frank Walker have to prove to get back on the field?"Any player, as far as being on that active roster, has to be in the mix enough that he's going to play enough to be on the active roster. We try to balance that out. Sometimes we'll put a guy up, and he won't play very much. I've got to look at that and say, 'Why was that? We had him active, and he didn't play.' If you're going to have a guy active, you want him to play, with the exception of maybe the offensive linemen. You may put guys up for depth, like offensive linemen, and if nobody gets hurt, you're not going to rotate offensive linemen in and out, although we probably do it more than anybody. But, for a guy like Frank or for anybody else, they've got to be in the plans enough, and that means are you going to play on defense enough, and are you going to play on special teams enough. Right now, the last two weeks, he hasn't been in that mix enough. Now, it's nothing Frank hasn't done in terms of working hard in practice and being ready to play and learning the game plan. He's done all that. He's got a great attitude, and we'll see how it works out this week."
I thought S Ed Reed stood out yesterday for some un-Ed-Reed-like things. Are you concerned about the health of his shoulder or neck? Is that contributing to the way he is playing right now?"You're talking about the tackling, is what you're talking about. I haven't talked to Ed about those three tackles, yet, those three opportunities. I think he's tackled very well this year up until this game. Obviously, the hit against Denver was as good a tackle as you're ever going to see. From my understanding, the neck is as good as it's been in two years, but I think it's a factor. But, it's not a dangerous type of thing where he's at risk, or he wouldn't be playing. He's worked extremely hard in the weight room. He's as muscled up as he's been in the last two years since we've been here. I think Ed's worked really hard to get himself in position to play really well. I'm sure he's disappointed with those three tackles. I mean, those three tackles are tackles that you normally see him make."
What was your evaluation of QB Joe Flacco's performance yesterday?"It wasn't good enough to win. That's probably the same evaluation that I'd have of myself and everybody else on the team. That's probably the same one that Joe would give you. He's going to have to play better. [He] would have had to play better for us to win that game."
It seemed like once you went to the no-huddle offense, Flacco seemed to find more of a rhythm. Was there any thought to going to that earlier?"Well, we mix that no-huddle in all the time. So, we kind of 'no-huddle,' and our changeup is 'huddle,' if you look at what we've done. It'd be hard for us to do no-huddle more than what we do already, I think."
Would you have liked to run the ball more, or did the early deficit really prohibit that?"We like to run the ball as much as we can run it to be effective and move the ball. But, when you're down 14-0, it's hard to be too patient with that. Although, I will say this: I think we do a pretty good job of staying patient in those situations. You can outscore somebody by 17 in a half – obviously, the Bengals did it to us – and they were patient in the first half. We felt like we could outscore them, like we could score at least 17 more than they did in the second half and either tie it or win it in regulation. We weren't able to do it."
Back to Reed's missed tackles. Is there a coaching point that you can give him at this point in his career, other than just telling them to make the tackle?"Yeah, there's a lot of coaching points we put in there. We could sit here and do a football clinic on tackling if you want but there are certain techniques and fundamentals that go into it that you expect to see applied. Ed knows what those are. We talk about them all the time. We work on them. We don't work on them live too often at this stage, but we do work on them. We expect to be a good-tackling defense."
Will there be any consideration made to move CB/RS Lardarius Webb into a starting role?"I think you know the answer I'm going to give you is the one you'd expect. There's always a consideration for anybody that's playing well to be one of the best 11. Specifically about Lardarius, he's playing well, and you ask about his role every week, because every week you see him play well. He got more last week, and he played well. So, we'll see how it works this week. But, that's not to say anything negative about Fabian [Washington] or Domonique [Foxworth] or any of the other corners, because I thought they played pretty well, too. The difficult thing about Fabian's performance was, as well as he played, you had the call on the 4th-and-1 where he was running down the sideline with Chad [Ochocinco]. He's got plenty of ability to be able to run with Chad and be right there with him and make a play or have the ball be overthrown without having to grab a wrist or whatever ended up happening there. We've got corners who can play. I think if we play with confidence back there and play with great technique, we'll play well."
You haven't been on offense to start a game too many times this season. Do you think that might play into the slow starts?"It's a great start when your defense comes out and three-and-outs them, like against Denver, when you get them to punt, and now you have a great field position for your offense to start the game, and you have the extra possession in the second half. That's the one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is you do what Cincinnati did: You go down and score, and then you go down and score again. We have a plan for that every week. And I will tell you this, through the course of the season, plenty of times we planned on taking the ball if we'd have won the toss. We haven't won the toss too many times. That's not something that we don't want to do, based on the situation."
Can you address the Bengals' defense on third down against you?"I'll leave that for Cam [Cameron] when he comes up here, as far as the specifics of it. But, they were not running new defenses at us. The blitz packages were what we've seen. The coverages, the fronts were basically what we've seen. Now, did they throw a wrinkle in here or there? Cam can answer that for you. But, it wasn't anything that we haven't seen before."
Was there much separation for Flacco to have seen some passing places to throw to on a consistent basis?"Yeah, if you look at it you're going to see there was a little bit of everything. There were times when guys had separation and were open and we didn't get it to them. There were times when there was no separation. There were times when Joe had some people in his face. There were times when he scrambled. It's always a little bit of everything. Really, what it comes down to is we're not doing the things we need to do consistently. If you do everything well – if you protect, if you run great routes, if Joe sees it the right way and gets the ball where he's supposed to go – then you'll convert against anybody, no matter what kind of defense they're playing. If one thing is off – and I think the issue is us – the issue is not really Cincinnati, the issue is us. We were not consistent in what we're doing. We didn't have those three things clicking play after play, rep after rep. So, one time it's one thing, the next time it's the next thing, the next time it's something else. That's us. That's our responsibility. Again, it starts with me. We have got to find a way to get that done on a consistent basis. There have been games we've done that this year and there have been games we haven't, and that's why we're 4-4 right now, in all honesty, and that's what we've got to change in the second half of the season."
Can you talk about the status of DT Haloti Ngata and any other key injuries?"No. I wouldn't be interested in doing that. There will be an injury report on Thursday. So, you'll know on Thursday. But, thanks for asking."
How big of a challenge will the Cleveland Browns be on Monday night?"Cleveland, if you look back, they took Cincinnati into overtime in their own stadium. This is a divisional game. This is a game that [we've got to win]. When you look at your divisional games, you've got to win them, and we lost one this last week. We've lost to one team in our division already twice. We've got one win in our division, we're 1-2. So, we need to get back to .500 in our division, and I'm sure Cleveland is going to have [a plan for us]. They have a week off, they've had a chance to study us for two weeks, they already know us well, and they're going to be fresh, and they're going to be ready to play. And with whatever situation they've had going on in their place, that's only going to make them more motivated. They've got really good players, everywhere, and we better be ready to play them."
Is it starting to get a little tiresome for you to say that your next opponent is coming off a bye?"I haven't thought about it. That's a good question."
Can you address the quote about the Dallas Cowboys that was attributed to you?"That was something that I'm disappointed with myself. What I tried to do with that quote was say something real positive about a guy that I have tremendous respect for – Andy Reid – and try to explain in some way what he's done there to make the Eagles so successful over the years. It really reflects some of the things we're trying to do here, to build that same kind of a run of success. It was last March, and I think I went overboard. I had a chance to have a conversation with Jerry Jones over the weekend and express those thoughts to him that in no way, the way that quote read, is how I feel about the Cowboys organization. When I read it, I'll be honest with you, I was shocked. I was just… It stunned me, and I was disappointed that that would be attributed to me. I'm not saying I didn't say it or anything else. I'm just saying I was disappointed that it came out that way, and that's my fault. So, it just doesn't reflect how I feel. I've got tremendous respect for them, and after having had a chance to talk to Jerry Jones for the first time, it's even a hundred times more than that, than it was before."
We haven't seen much of RB Willis McGahee over the last several games. Is it because RB Ray Rice has been so hot in the receiving end and running aspect of the game?"It's hard to refute with what Ray's done. You look at that game yesterday on offense, Ray was the guy making the plays. So, it's pretty hard to take him off the field when he's making the plays. He was one of the guys that we needed out there if we were to have a chance to win that game in the second half. I don't think it has anything to do with Willis with as much as it has to do with the way Ray's playing."
Do you feel that NT Kelly Gregg is playing up to par?"Kelly Gregg played well. He played well. Watching the tape, he played a good, solid football game there."