*RAVENS WEDNESDAY TRANSCRIPTS: Week 17 vs. Bengals
*QB Joe Flacco, OLB Terrell Suggs, TE Benjamin Watson & DT Brandon Williams
(The transcript of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis' call with Baltimore media is also below.)
QB Joe Flacco
On the vibe around the team:"It is just like I have been saying, I think we are really excited. It is an awesome opportunity. We were not in this position [going into Week 17] last year, and it has been a few years since we have had this opportunity. We are definitely very excited about it."
On what he attributes his recent individual success to: "We have been talking about this a lot, but we have been playing well, playing together as an offense and doing a lot of good things and putting some pressure on defenses. Obviously, there is a lot that goes into that. We have been working hard all year to get to the point to where we are, and we feel like we are playing good football. There are a ton of things you can talk about, but we just have to make sure we continue to do them in practice and work on the things that we need to get better at and continue to improve on the things we are doing pretty well and let the pieces fall where they may be."
On if he thinks the Bengals will relish the opportunity to play the spoiler role: "Whether that is in their mind or not, you know they are going to come out and play hard. They always do. You can say all you want about these guys, but they are going to come out, and they are going to play tough football. They are a talented football team that knows how to play, and they have been dealing with some things, but we know it is going to be a tough game, and they are going to come ready to play."
On the importance of improving in the red zone:"Yes, well, the last two weeks we have struggled. Before that, we were actually hitting it pretty well in the red zone. The last two weeks we have kind of been hit or miss. In a game like last week, especially when you do not have a ton of possessions … When you look back at that game, it was a very low possession game, and when you get down there, you have to make the most of it and score touchdowns or you leave yourself in the position that we did, which is a very close game at the end. Even though we felt like we played pretty well, not putting the ball in the end zone there and not getting very many chances to have the ball in general definitely put us in a situation that was not as good as we would have liked."
On if the offense should have run the ball up the middle in the third quarter in a third-and-1 situation instead of throwing a unique tight end screen:"Hey, we worked on that play all week for that situation, and we had what we wanted; we just did not execute it. I do not know if I am really the guy to talk to about that anyway, but I liked it. We just have to execute and make it happen."
On if he is impressed with the way the offensive line has gelled:"Yes. There is no doubt. Those guys are playing really good football at this point, and they have been working hard at it all year long. It is definitely exciting for me as a quarterback to see how well they are playing."
On how he will remember OLB Terrell Suggs when he looks back at his career: "Terrell is one of the best players to ever play the position. He has had a ton of success. He has been doing it from the time he came in the league [in 2003], and now he has been in the league for a ton of years, and he is still out there doing it at a high level. He is not a guy that does it here or there. He is out there pretty much every snap of the football game playing physical run defense [and] getting after the passer. He can do everything. It is definitely very impressive, and he is one of those guys that you will definitely look back on when you are probably 50 [years old] and be able to tell everybody that you played with them."
On if he and OLB Terrell Suggs have bonded because they have been teammates for so long: "Yes, there is no doubt. There have been a few guys that have been here now since I got here, and obviously, when you go back a year before that or two years before that, you hit maybe two more guys that have been here with Terrell. The more you are in this league, you realize how quickly teams change. So to have a couple constants like that is definitely cool and definitely special to be a part of."
On if there are nerves or anxiety heading into such an important game:"It is all just normal stuff that you deal with getting ready for a game. Once the whistle blows, you are out there trying to execute the play called. It kind of all goes away [when] you start having fun and playing the football game. Honestly, it is a lot easier to be in a situation where you know if you win you are in [the playoffs] as opposed to having to win and have a couple of things happen. We have been in both situations, and I know the games where we have just had to win and be in our minds, I feel like as a football team, mine and our mindsets have been very, very positive in those instances. I think we feel the same way about this one."
On if the Cincinnati game feels like a playoff game: "It has been that type of situation the last few weeks for us. When you talk about, 'Does it feel like a playoff game or not?' I don't know. It is tough to say what that actually feels like. No, we are not in the tournament yet. But there is definitely a lot going into this one and obviously a lot riding on it. In that sense, you definitely can make the comparison. But we are still looking to get in, so there is still a little bit of a difference."
On if the past two seasons of not making the playoffs give him a sense of how difficult it is to make the playoffs, especially after making it so many times to begin his career:"There are a couple of different ways you can look at it, to be honest with you. If you have a good football team, then it is not always that hard. If you have a decent football team, then it is going to be a little bit tougher. Last year we can at least look back and say that we had the opportunity. We played a lot of meaningful football games all the way down to the last game. That is all you can ask for. As far as getting to the big game, getting through the whole 16 games, getting through the playoffs and getting to the big game, I think when you are in the middle of that, when you are in the moment, you kind of look back and say … Yes, getting to the playoffs, you look back and it does not feel hard; it feels pretty easy. But there are little instances throughout the course of different seasons where you look back and realize even though it felt easy in the moment, it is a tough thing to accomplish. There are a handful of teams in this league that have been going to the playoffs year-in and year-out. For those first few years, we were one of them. It is definitely a big accomplishment in a league like this where there are so many teams that pop up every year and can play good football. In the moment, like I said, you are not really thinking about that. You are just playing football and feeling good about everything. The last two years, I do not know if it gives you any appreciation, to be honest. It just kind of is not great when you are going through it. We all want to be at this point. We all play this game so we can be in the playoffs and have a chance to go win it all. We are always so in the moment that we do not have a ton of time to reflect. I am not doing any reflection on the last two years right now; I am just happy that we are in this moment and we have the opportunity to play for a playoff spot. That is all I can worry about."
On his thoughts on the Bengals game moving from 1 p.m. to 4:25 p.m.:"I am just showing up to the field and playing a game. I did not even realize it until somebody in my family told me. It is what it is; I do not really care. I will play whenever. That is all we are doing as players anyway. It is showing up and lacing them up when we are supposed to. That is all we can do."
On if he likes playing in extremely cold weather:"No. *(laughter) *I would rather play in 65 degrees and sunny, but it is what it is."
On if he changes preparation for cold games: "No. I do what I do; we do what we do around here. We are not one of those teams that feels like we have to go outside. I would say the majority of time we do practice outside and do those kind of things, but we do not feel like we have to do that in order to prepare and say that we are tough and do all those things. We just do what we feel is right, and that is kind of how we always have been. We have definitely leaned on going outside and things like that, but personally, not really. And I would say the team, we really just do what we feel is right in the moment."
On if the quarterback gets closest priority to the heater on the sidelines: "I do not get near the heater; the benches are nice enough. Usually, they get so hot, I have to sit on a towel, sit on my coat, do something. We have been pretty fortunate this year. Even the games that have been somewhat cold have not been that bad. You know, once you deal with the playoffs, you are going to have to deal with some cold games. But when you are playing a football game, it is the last thing you are thinking about."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On if he were playing music to fit the mood, what would it be:"I don't know. We'd probably need some Steve Aoki – just a relaxed mood. We usually play our best football when we're a little relaxed."
On if "relaxed" is the mood and the real feel of the team:"It's just Wednesday. You can't do anything about Sunday on a Wednesday. Sunday will get here soon enough. We're just handling Wednesday. We're taking care of Wednesday and being the best Ravens we can be on Wednesday."
On how does the "win and you're in" scenario stack up against the previous playoff scenarios he's played in his career:"Like you said, here it is now. Here we are now. We get to play a division foe. We want to clinch our position in the playoffs. You just have to take it for what it is. It's our last game at M&T [Bank Stadium this season], and if we win, we get to have more games. We're just going to take it for what it is."
On if this game was the opportunity he had in mind when the team emphasized finishing in the offseason: "No, actually. We would have liked to be in four games ago. But it's the NFL, and it doesn't always pan out like that. We have the opportunity to get in. A lot of teams don't have a chance to get in. Some other teams need a miracle – a football miracle to get in. We sit in a very fortunate position. If you win a home game, you're in. But like I said, it's Wednesday. We're just going to do what we have to do to win Wednesday, and tomorrow will be Thursday and so on, and then Sunday will get here soon enough. A little later than we intended, but we'll take it."
On if he likes how the defense is playing heading into this game:"Yeah, but I'm really greedy. I have a little OCD. I like to be perfect, but I also live in the real world. Yes, I love the way we're playing right now. But I think come Sunday, it's going to take a phenomenal Ravens' defensive effort."
On if there's any satisfaction with the season he has had thus far:"No. I'm not here for moral victories. I've always said it:I only know one way to play. I was very fortunate to be healthy all year. That's not going to be the highlight of this season. Absolutely not."
On if it's important as a player to have fans at the game:"You want your fans in the stands – definitely. They help you win games. Look at what it has done for Seattle. Everybody has a claim that they have 'the best fans in the world.' I think we do. We have Ravens Nation. We damn sure would love to have them in the building to help us get a place in the playoffs. We definitely need a little help; we need all the help we can get."
On what he sees from Cincinnati now compared to when they first faced each other in Week 1:"I think the two teams are two totally different teams than they were then. I think we can expect a different type of game. I think they liked what they've done – the changes they made. They're going to come ready to play. I like where we are and the team that we are at this point in the season. It's going to be two different teams than you've seen in Week 1. We're just going to go out and play an AFC North football game."
On what it means to compete against Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis:"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Marvin. He knows that. I like competing against him. Anybody that makes you be your best self, there's always a certain amount of respect there. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Marvin." *(Reporter: "Do you think his players will look to win one for him in Week 17?") *"Absolutely."
On the impact head coach John Harbaugh has made on the team getting them to this point:"He was the head coach. He stuck in there and made sure we didn't get a case of … You'll have to edit this out: He made sure we didn't get a case of the '[frick]-its.' He did a great job of being a head coach like, 'Look, we dropped this one, we dropped that one, but this is still possible.'"
TE Benjamin Watson
On what the difference has been in the offense's performance recently:"It's the same thing we said two months ago – it's blocking, throwing, catching, all those things, the execution. We've just been executing better. Even early in the year when we weren't doing as well, we stuck to it. This season is a season of perseverance, and sometimes you reap the rewards later on. Really, it's a week-to-week basis; it's a week-to-week challenge. I think that our guys have really been standing up on offense, and we've been executing better than we had earlier."
On what he has seen differently from QB Joe Flacco:"When I first came here last year, I said Joe is 'Joe Cool.' He doesn't really go up, he doesn't go down, stays very steady. I think that's an attribute that allows him to survive the ups and downs. This league, this season, there's always going to be times where you wish you would've played better [and] times that you do play well. The ability to keep coming back to the drawing board every day in practice, in the meeting rooms, to continue to perfect the timing with the receivers, with the tight ends, perfect the running game, do all those things – and be able to just survive that, is why he is the way he is, and why we're moving the ball offensively, and why we've been scoring lately."
On if it helps the offense as a whole, knowing QB Joe Flacco plays his best later in the season:"Again, it's December. I don't think anybody in our locker room is looking toward January right now. We understand what we have at hand. We understand we have an opponent coming here on Sunday. We understand that we have to perform every day in practice and throughout the week in order to accomplish any goals that we want. I haven't been around here long enough to see 'January Joe' [Joe Flacco], other than from afar. I know 'January Joe' is going to be awesome. But I do know that as an offense, and as a team, we have to do our best every day in practice. We've been saying that from the very beginning. I remember back in training camp, everyone had speculations of what was going to happen this season, and as a player, you understand that you narrow your focus down to these smaller increments. You don't look at the wide picture; you look at the narrow picture and do the best you can with each day that you have. So for him, and for the rest of us, it's going to be by executing today."
On what he takes from his previous experiences of playing a game like this upcoming Sunday, where it's "win and you're in":"I've been around a lot of different scenarios over the course of my career. Sometimes the last game, you're playing because it's your job and you have pride as a player – even though you know you're not going to the postseason. Sometimes I've been on teams where we've already known that we're going to be in, but still as a player, you come out [and] you want to perform. For us, the last four, five weeks has kind of been that 'win and you're in' mentality. We understand that coming in to the end of the season; that's how the league draws it up, especially with division games in the end. We understand that it's important for us to win every single week – especially in December, late in the year. This is not … Although this is the next opponent, this is the most important game right now for us this season. That's the mode we've been in understanding the urgency of it right now."
On if that gives him an appreciation for OLB Terrell Suggs and the level he has played at this year:"I appreciate Suggs because I've tried to block him for a decade-and-a-half now, and it's always been difficult. *(laughter) *I appreciate him just because as a player, playing against him so many times, he's always the guy you have to circle. He's the guy you have to chip when you're a tight end. He's the guy that they want to help you get the tackle back to help the tight end if you can. He's a guy that you have to be aware of all the time. Offensive coordinators have to scheme up ways to neutralize him. Now being on his team, and being able to sit and watch him on the big screen, I'm happy. I do have great respect for him. The level that he's played at for a very long time is not easy in this league. When you look at injuries, when you look at all the things that happen to football players over the course of their career, and to still be able to come out here every day and still be able to play at a high level on Sundays, you garner respect simply because of that. I'm happy to take the field with him."
On how tough it is to regain explosion coming back from an Achilles tear, which him and OLB Terrell Suggs have both suffered:"It is tough. It is a tribute to his [Terrell Suggs'] perseverance, his willingness to work hard. A lot of times you see players that are very good at their craft, and sometimes people assume, 'Oh this guy was blessed with that.' Of course we are all blessed with certain abilities, but with that comes a work ethic. I think that his work ethic permeates through the team, especially the young guys on defense. They watch everything. Young guys come into the league, and they watch guys like him. They see how he works off the field, how he studies. One thing I didn't know as much about him is as much as he studies. You look at his notebook, and he has things written down; he has memorized things. This game is physical, but it is also very mental. Having an Achilles [injury] myself, I am in the Achilles brotherhood, and I can kind of relate to some of the stuff he is going through."
On if he thinks about the temperature being so low heading into a game:"Oh yeah. We think about it. If anybody tells you that they don't think about it, they are lying. They are trying to be the 'tough football player.' We definitely think about it, but I will tell you, it is one of those things where you know what it is going to be this time of year. You know how to put on all the Vaseline under [your pads] and on your legs and sit on the heated bench when you can and put the coat on, try to keep as much heat in as possible. There all these tricks of trade that we have to do. You definitely have to plan more when you know it is going to be cold. At the end of it, you go out and you play. Everybody has to deal with it when you are out there. It is just one of those things late in the year. If you want to play late in the year, if you want to go in to the postseason, unless you are a dome team with home-field advantage, you know it is going to be cold, and it is something that we all have to deal with."
On the key to being better in the red zone: "The red zone, obviously, everything happens more quickly. The throwing lanes are condensed, the running lanes are condensed. You have those 11 guys on defense, and instead of them being spread out over 20 yards or 25 yards, they are now confined to 10 yards or five yards or 15 yards, depending on where you are in the red zone. Everything happens a lot quicker. Again, it comes down to play-calling, to execution of the plays being called, to doing those things quickly, and it has to be quick-hitters. When you throw those passes in the red zone, they are always low in the front, high in the back of the end zone, guys have to make great catches. Running backs have to make people miss. The line has to get on their blocks and stay on them. Red zone football is always an increased intensity on both sides of the ball. But for us, again, it comes down to the things that make us successful throughout the field. Again, that comes down to execution."
On if it is something that can be fixed:"Red zone is something that we work on every day. Of course, defenses work on it every day, probably. Again, things can change just like that. Sometimes in this league, you can be horrible on third downs for 10 weeks and all of a sudden, you are good for two weeks, and everybody is positive about it. It is the same thing with the red zone. That is why whenever you are successful in a game, you are treated the same way as when you are unsuccessful. You come back and you approach your craft the same way. Red zone, again, we go out and score a couple touchdowns, all of a sudden we are doing much better, feeling better about ourselves. But it will be those things that we talked about that will make us successful."
DT Brandon Williams
On the feeling of he and the team heading into an important game:"I'm feeling good. The biggest thing is getting back to the fundamentals and execution. The same thing every week, but this time it's more of a staple because it means so much – this last game. It's the end-all, be-all game. We have to give it everything we have."
On if he's proud of the team and how they reacted these past two weeks:"Yeah, definitely. Back after we lost to the Titans, we had a seven-game season left. We told ourselves that we have to take it a week at a time, game by game, practice by practice. So far, we've been 5-1. We have one more game to wrap it up, and it's a big game. It pretty much lets us know if we're going to be on the couch next week or on the field. Definitely don't want to be on the couch."
On his impression of Bengals HB Giovani Bernard: "He's a good back. He's a quick guy, shifty guy. He has Le'Veon Bell tendencies, where if you let him, he can get out and make plays. He's shifty; he catches passes out of the backfield – all that stuff. He's like a jack of all trades. Definitely, you have to stop him and stop him early."
On if HB Giovani Bernard's playing style is vastly different from teammate HB Joe Mixon: "Congratulations to [Mixon] for stepping up and coming in when he's needed. He's doing a great job right now. They differ a little bit. Giovani is more of the outside, getting the ball outside, outside the tackles. The other running back is more downhill. Either way, whichever one is playing, they can all do pretty much the same thing. We're just preparing for everything."
On his appreciation for OLB Terrell Suggs and his ability to continually play at a high level in the league: "Seems like he's just getting started. A player like Terrell Suggs – he's my kind of player. When you look at the outside linebacker position, that's the first person you think of. He's an X factor. When you have him on the field – no matter who you have in the backfield or in the lineup of the front seven – as long as he's there, you have a chance. It's great to have him. Hopefully he has many more years to go."
On if there's a sense defensively to try to get back to that dominant level:"Definitely. They [the Colts] leaked us a few [runs]; they got the ball going. Kudos to them and their scheme. In the end, it all comes down to 'Ws', and we got the 'W.' We're moving on with something to play for. That's what really matters, especially this time of the year. We're just worrying about Cincinnati. The biggest thing is, like I said, getting back to fundamentals, get back to execution and giving everything we've got. We have nothing to lose."
On if the team is thinking about the Bengals' ability to spoil the Ravens' postseason push:"Yeah, you think about it, because it's the last game of the season and it means so much. If we win, we go to the playoffs. If we don't, then we won't. You definitely have to go out there and give it everything you have. We have everything to lose, and they have nothing to gain besides a 'W' over us. In the end, it's a game about wins and losses. We have to get the win no matter what. No matter what happens, whether it comes down last week, when it was a fourth-down stop that won the game, or blowing them out – it doesn't matter how we get it done. We just have to get it done."
On how his relationship with OLB Terrell Suggs evolved as he, too, has become a centerpiece for the defense: "It's been awesome. Every year, there's something more I learn about him, more in-depth than just being loud, crazy 'Sizz.' You kind of get in his head, talk to him. You have those brotherhood moments where you just sit and talk and get in each other's head. After games, I'll call him or he'll call me, or we'll [be] back up here at the facility, and we'll just hash it out about it, and get over it. Definitely love him for being a great leader, great role model on the field, and just being there – whether it being helping us study more, or see what he's seeing so everyone else can get on the same page. He's that kind of player. He's a jack of all trades."
On how much the defense is stressing the pass rush this week: "Well, you can't rush the passer on third-and-1 or third-and-2. So first of all, you have to stop the run. That's our No. 1 goal every week: stop the run. Then let [Terrell] Suggs, and [Matthew] Judon, and everyone else get after the pass rusher. That's the first and foremost thing is stopping the run, then worrying about the pass rusher. We know the kind of quarterback Andy Dalton is. He likes to move around the pocket some, he likes to get out, extend plays, and sometimes he likes to sit back there. But, you never know what you're going to get until you're actually on the field. We're preparing for everything."
On if the team's focus changed after the loss to Tennessee: "We definitely know what it is to be later in the season and [be] in this type of situation. Going into the last game, whether it be against Pittsburgh, or the last game last year [against] Cincinnati, and having everything stripped from you. We didn't want that to happen this year. After the Tennessee loss, we had to reevaluate, go back to the drawing board, and really put everything into perspective and focus on everything we needed to get done. It's a seven-week season now. Anything we do now, is going to affect the rest of the season – win, lose or draw. We took it upon ourselves, looked each other in the eye, and promised each other that we have to play better. I feel we got that done."
On if a home game with so much importance was the opportunity the team had in mind when talking about "finishing" prior to preseason:"Definitely. This is the definition of finishing right here. You have one game left, and if you win you go to playoffs. If you don't, you're sitting at home. You have to finish. There's no excuse – you have to finish. You have to literally leave it all out there on the field, because this could be your last game."
On if the defensive unit looks to take advantage of the rotating Bengals offensive line:"Actually, since they've switched it up, they've been playing pretty good ball. They've been running the ball pretty well. Offensive linemen are offensive linemen. Whoever is in front of us is who we have to play – no matter where they are, where they're set up. We're going to attack it just like any other week and just play Raven football up front. It's going to start and finish in the trenches."
CINCINNATI BENGALS CONFERENCE CALL
(with Baltimore media)
Head Coach Marvin Lewis
You have coached against OLB Terrell Suggs for a long time. What has struck you in watching film this year about the level he is still playing at? (Childs Walker)"Well, coming into the league in 2003, he has played at such a high level. I know he has overcome a couple of injuries, but for the most part, his career was 15 years playing at the line of scrimmage – linebacker. A physical linebacker, defensive end, whatever you want to call it. He just produces year-in and year-out, both physically, the mental part of it, and you see he understands opponents so well. And obviously, there is no one in that has seen Terrell more than I have, literally, since his pro day at Arizona State."
I know you are not going to get involved with it with us, but there is a lot of speculation about your future. How are you approaching this last game? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It's important for us to win this football game. This team beat us to open the season, and we have an opportunity to return the favor."
Do you feel like the players are relishing the spoiler role? (Ryan Mink) "I don't think they are concerned much about being a spoiler. This is the football game that's up. Our season hasn't gone the way we hoped, but we have an opportunity to finish it on an up note with a good win on the road."
You are the second-longest tenured NFL head coach, but how do you look back on your time in Baltimore, and what memories do you have that really stand out?* (Ryan Mink)*"I have incredible memories. Obviously, with the franchise moving there in 1996 and the things that we were able to do and Mr. [Art] Modell and everything that he meant to the franchise and him being at practice every day was incredible. Obviously, now the passing of David [Modell] as well … A lot of fond memories in Baltimore and moving to the new stadium and everything that way. The relationship I have with Ozzie [Newsome] and Eric [DeCosta] and everybody in that building … It is great, it is awesome, and I have been stuck in this division for a long time."
Do you feel Sunday's game could have an emotional feel for you coming back to Baltimore? (Ryan Mink)"Well, I think every time I come back there, it is an emotional game for me, because I have great memories there."
Do you get a sense that the players are eager to perhaps send you out on a high note? (Ed Lee)"I don't know where they are sending me to. They want to send themselves out with a high note."
Circling back to OLB Terrell Suggs, when you reflect on how long you have been in the division, is he one of the guys you will most miss going against, and do you think you guys will share a conversation before the game? (Childs Walker)"He and Ben Roethlisberger … If it is against my team, I prefer not to see them on Sundays. But both are outstanding, outstanding. No one has seen those guys as long and as much as I have."
Is there a chance that you will have RB Joe Mixon and LB Vontaze Burfict on the field Sunday? (Jeff Zrebiec)"We will have to see."