With the Cincinnati Bengals coming to town this weekend, Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Carson Palmer spoke with Baltimore media.
The conference call covered such topics as where the Bengals are headed, why Cincinnati's offense did so well last week and the idea of playing spoiler on the Ravens' AFC North aspirations.
Here are some highlights:
Head Coach Marvin Lewis
Do you think the players are embracing their role as a spoiler?
Marvin Lewis:"I don't. That would be something beyond what it takes to win football games. You win football games through preparation and execution. Over the last couple weeks, we've done a much better job of doing the things that were asked earlier, of making game-winning plays. And that's when it counts, whether it's a stop on defense, whether it's a big play in the kicking game that sets up field position or an offensive touchdown – those are the things that matter. We've been through a whole slew of the other, and it's kind of our time to have something go our way."
What do you think about Joe Flacco and the Ravens' offense?
ML: "Well, I think the thing with the Raven offense – and it's more than Joe Flacco, it starts and stops with Ray Rice – and I think that's the focal point. We have to do a great job of tackling and getting him on the ground and really containing him. And I think with that, then you have to do a great job on these receivers. These receivers are great route-runners, great double-move guys and things like that. So, you have to be conscious of them. They do a great job of making contested catches, and that's very, very important. So, I think all those things go, and then the quarterback comes into that mix to try to keep him off rhythm as much as you can."
How did the absence of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco last week affect your team?
ML: "I think it affected some things – we were kind of forced into [the Chargers] trying to take away the run a little bit more because they didn't feel like we had threats on the outside. And so, I thought the quarterback did a fine job of managing the football game. He made some good, tight throws, and we came up with some fantastic catches."
How do you account for Ed Reed?
ML: "Run it. (laughter) He makes a big difference. He really does. He's a fine, fine player and does a great job in the passing lanes, understanding what you do and how you do it. What you've got to do is a great job of [making sure] what he thinks he sees is not what he's seeing."
Where does Haloti Ngata rank among the defensive tackles you've faced?
ML: "He's at the top. He's certainly got my vote. I've had a chance to watch those guys all season – [No.] 92 [Ngata], 95 [Jarrett Johnson], 55 [Terrell Suggs], 52 [Ray Lewis]. They play their tails off. It's fun to watch defensive football that way. Their physical, they're fast, they're smart, they understand the opponent, and they're doing a great job."
QB Carson Palmer
Do you think the Bengals embrace the role of being a spoiler?
Carson Palmer: "Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.It's something we looked forward to last week and enjoyed doing, and we have somewhat of a chance to do that this week, just changing what could happen in the AFC playoff picture. But that's all you've got right now, and unfortunately, that's where we are."
Is there any correlation between having one of your best games of the season last week and the absence of Owens and Ochocinco?
CP: "Not really. The good thing is getting the young guys in there to see what they could do and give them opportunity. And they brought a different level of excitement, a different energy just because they haven't been playing. They finally got their opportunity, and they took advantage of it and some of that energy they brought rubbed off on the team and rubbed off on us offensively, and it's just fun to see those young guys go out there and fill in for the shoes of the two older guys."
Is there anything special you can do to prepare for Reed?
CP:"I'd like to, it's just hard to do because you can't have a practice squad safety simulate what he does in practice. You know, the looks you get in practice are much different than the looks you actually get on game day, because you never really know what Ed's going to do. But you've just got to approach the game plan, and go through your reads and see the coverages unfold and try to keep one eye on him and one eye on the rest of the defense as you're playing."
Is there a sense that the team is playing for Lewis' job this week?
CP: "No. No, I mean, there's definitely a lot of talk about, 'Is it his last game?' But we're playing for ourselves, and guys are playing for jobs. We've got a lot of free agents, so guys are playing for jobs next year, and Marvin is coaching his butt off to find out what happens to him at the end of the year. But, we're playing because we're a prideful group and just trying to win a game for each other."
Can you put your finger on why the Bengals had a 10-game losing streak but are coming off a two-game win streak?
CP:"You know, during the streak it wasn't one thing. If you put your finger on one thing, we would fix it, and then it was something else. One week it was offense, one week it was defense, one week it was special teams. You know, it was just kind of a snowball effect as the season kind of crept on. If there's anything we've done differently the last couple of weeks, it's just to execute better in every phase of the game – take advantage of turnovers and take advantage of field position, and when we get our opportunities on third down, hit them."