Initial comments ...
"That was what we expected — a total, total football game, for 60 minutes. You've got to give our guys credit for hanging in there. We had some bad plays today, and we have some things we have to corrected — very simple things — and that's going to be the fun of it, the challenge of it. But we've got to get it together. It's great to do it with a win.
"But you have to hand it to the quarterback for coming back and standing in there and making plays. The receivers today — ball security is key. We gave one up, and the quarterback dropped one. Defensively, we've got to keep playing. We've got things to fix. They're just so doggone on edge all the time, and we've just got to keep them understanding that all 11 of them have to fit together every play.
"A lot of good stuff today, and a lot of stuff to correct, but that's the National Football League. That was a good team, obviously, that we just finished playing. I'm proud of our guys and excited. What a great crowd today. They were noisy, and what a difference that makes. We've just got to get people in the stadium early on, man. It's so silent early (laughs), and then it gets going. But that was a great deal there at the end. That was fun. That's what it should be. We've got to understand that all the time. It's a good day."
How important is it for the quarterback to gather himself after two plays like that? Did you feel like you had to talk to Andy Dalton at all at that point?
"You probably don't want to have me talk to Andy in those situations (laughs). My message to Andy is a good one. I think Jim Tressel told me this a long time ago, when I first started here: 'If each possession ends with a kick, you'll be in good shape — your kick.' That's your job as quarterback — make each possession end in a kick. Let the other 10 guys do their thing, you do your thing, and you're going to be all right. That was my message to him starting the second half, when we got the lead — just keep understanding it and keep it going that way. We had the bad play, we overcame it, and that was good."
Was the drive at the end of the game an example of one of the biggest reasons you believe in Andy Dalton?
"He can just block it out and go. That's one of Andy Dalton's best qualities, other than his accuracy at passing the football. But it's his ability to block out the negative play and just keep going. We had the ball, obviously, in good field position, and we flip it around and the next play they score. So a lot of bad stuff there."
The NFL's Competition Committee last offseason put an emphasis on offensive pass interference. Would the offensive pass interference on Steve Smith Sr. have been called last year?
"I didn't see it. Hopefully (laughs). Steve is very good at that. He's exceptional at that. He has a way of separating himself when the two guys are even. He's a strong catch. He's a rare, rare player that way."
You had said earlier this week that this was a big game. Considering how the game was won, how big was this win?
"It was won with overcoming bad stuff — so that's good — and because it was a grind. We've had some grinds lately that have been negative. I don't know how many snaps we played today, but we played a lot of football, particularly defensively. We've got to get better on third down — that's the doggone key to the football game again. We let them off the hook on third down far too often in this football game. So we really have to do a better job of executing on third down."
Is this one of those classic "no flinch" games?
"It was a 'no flinch' game — that's what I just said (to the team). I told them all week, 'I've got the score, you just play.' And then that we're going to have to come out in-between series, we're going to have to make adjustments, the coordinator is going to preview the next series, and let's go in there and let's put out hats on them and let's go. We knew that. They're such a physical football team in every way, and we've got to understand that. So we had to be just as physical and use our speed and athleticism to make football plays."
You've preached since you've been here that your team needs to be physical in the trenches. Today, you won on a fourth-and-two quarterback sneak ...
"Yeah. It was almost two, huh (laughs)? But it is. That's the only thing I know. I've been in this division for my whole time (as an NFL coach), except the one year, so that's all I know. I think that's what wins in our division, week in and week out. We have to play that kind of football and match it. We've got good coverage guys in the back end. The way our secondary played today was just excellent. The corners played an excellent football game, to not allow a deep ball to this group. They've been beating people with deep balls. I thought Terence (Newman), Leon (Hall) and Adam (Jones) did a very good job today. And Dre Kirkpatrick comes in and makes two great plays there."
Greg Little had a drop today, then came back to make a big play for you on the last drive. Can you talk about his performance?
"Did he drop one today? When Greg came out of North Carolina, we really felt like he was a talent. He obviously went up the road to Cleveland, so we had to play against him. We just felt like this guy has the ability to make plays. We you sit on your couch for a little bit, man, you come to the realization. This guy has really come in here and hit the ground running. He was here at 10 o'clock on Thursday night this week. This guy's in here and just trying to get his career back going. He's got great ability. Andy missed him on the touchdown earlier in the game. So it's fun to see a guy getting an opportunity. As we say, when you come here, you have a clean slate. We're going to take you for what you do around here day in and day out, play in and play out. So I'm glad for him."
In the building process of this team, how long did it take for you to get it as physical as you need it to be to play in this division?
"We kind of ground into that, but then we kind of went sideways for a little bit. People talked about, 'They've got to be able to do this. They've got to be able to throw the ball and do that.' At the end of the day, we have to be able to run the ball in order to throw the ball productively. We were able to do that today. I thought that the plans were good plans today. They guys did a nice job up front. We've been disappointed, and they fought back today."
Sometimes when you come into a postgame news conference, you're terse and serious. Today, you're very excited. Why?
"We haven't had much sleep for a couple of weeks here (laughs). And we're not going to get anything. The question was asked the other day, 'What's harder?' Well, it's harder when people were telling them how great they are. That's the thing I caution them about. This is not time to spit the bit, it's time to grind on. We've got corrections to make, but you can see what you can do and what you can play. We won a big football game without one of our best players on offense, and doggone, those receivers stepped up and did a great job again today and played. Jermaine (Gresham) is playing his tail off. Andre (Smith) settled down in the second half. Just a lot of good things that you've got to have. You need your good plays to step forward and make big plays for you."
How much fun has it been to see Mohamed Sanu step up in the last couple of weeks?
"It's been what we really expected from Mo when we took Mo (in the draft). He and Marvin (Jones) have always jockeyed for position. He's got it back, and he's taking full advantage of the whole thing. It's great."
Before the last drive what was your message in the huddle to the team?
"Just (have) confidence that we were going to go down and score. Regardless of what goes on, you have to make up in your mind that the next play is going to be a big one. It's exactly what we needed to have happen. Things can turn around pretty quickly when you have everyone on board."
Was the long throw to Mohamed Sanu your way of giving him a chance?
"We had a good play call and saw the blitz they (the Ravens) were bringing, and we were able to get the protection set right. I didn't really see how it finished, I just know he came down with it and got us in great field position."
You were on the run today, no time to really sit in the pocket ...
"Yeah, I had to move around a little bit. These guys do a good job of rushing the passer."
Coach Lewis said one of your best qualities is the ability to block out negative plays. How do you go about doing that?
"You can't focus on what's already happened. You have to focus on what's next, and have the confidence the next play is going to be the big one. I've been that way my whole career."
What were your thoughts on Haloti Ngata not getting fooled by that play?
"I didn't think he would be on me that quick. As soon as I turned around, I still had the ball in my left hand, I've got to find a way to get it tucked."
What does a drive like that do for the morale of the team moving forward?
"It just shows the confidence the team has in being able to get the job done."
Right at the end of the third quarter, it looked like you got hit on a lead block, and you motioned to come out. What happened there?
"I got the wind knocked out of me. I don't get paid to block (laughing)."
What has the atmosphere been like in the locker room the last couple of weeks?
"We've stayed the course and done a lot of good things so far. The atmosphere and mentality hasn't changed. We haven't won in the last three weeks, so to come out and get a win like this today was big for us."
What were your thoughts on the play to Steve Smith?
"I'm glad there was a flag. It was one of those things you watch happen and hope they call it, but you never know. Luckily for us, he pushed him enough and the refs saw it."
With A.J. Green out, what has it been like to have Mo Sanu and Greg Little step up?
"Mo's been great. This is my third year with him. I have a lot of confidence in him, and he has a lot of confidence in himself that he's going to go make plays. Greg was a great add for us. He's been here and put in a lot of time to learn what we're doing."
Can you summarize the fourth quarter for us?
"Up and down. You honestly never know what is going to happen. We needed a big win, and we were able to go out and get it done today."
Talk about all the big plays you made ...
"You have to stay as even as you can, and when your number is called, you have to make plays."
Were you hoping you'd have the opportunity to step up and make big plays?
"I knew Andy would look my way, and I knew I had to make a big play. We all made some big plays and we knew we had to keep it going."
You lost some more guys to injury today, but you were able to maintain focus ...
"You have to stay focused and do your job. There are 10 other guys counting on you. When you do your job, the other 10 guys are with you."
You snatched two wins from the Ravens. You're back in first place in the AFC North — how big of a statement game was this?
"It was pretty big — we had a rough three weeks. To get a win like this over the Ravens is awesome."
What was this week like at practice?
"Everyone was intense. We knew the task at hand, with a very good Baltimore team coming in here. We knew it would be a tough one."
You have long arms and big hands — your hands look like suction cups ...
"I appreciate. God blessed me with them — I got it from my mom."
What was talked about on fourth down prior to (Andy) Dalton scoring?
"(Andrew) Whitworth just got us really hyped out there and told us we had to block so Andy could score. Andy ran right behind Whit and scored."
Do you think the quarterback sneak caught them off guard?
"It was a good situation to catch them off guard. I think they were prepared for us to throw it or move the pocket, and we caught them in a good position."
You've beaten Baltimore twice, in some pretty suspenseful ways ...
"We have unbelievable camaraderie with each other. We work hard in practice so that it transitions to the game. We did a lot of great things."
Do you think you made a statement with a quarterback sneak, on fourth down, against one of the best defensive teams in the NFL?
"When we knew we were running the sneak, we knew that it was on us. We did what we had to do to win."
How big is this win?
"It's huge. It was big to be able to get back on track. We knew this was a must win. Baltimore has been playing well lately, and this was a big win. We're happy with the result."
You caught a big pass near the end of the game. What happened on that play?
"It was a play where we have guys running deep on the outside and the guys in the slot run to the flat. We knew they would play off because we had seen that all game. They sunk back in coverage, and I was able to get the ball in my hands and make a play."
What does it mean to you to come in and contribute in such a big game?
"This was a huge game. This is the type of game that you live for. We knew it would be a physical fight — Hue (Jackson) preached that to us all week, and guys seemed to really apply it."
What did this mean to you personally?
"Those days get long on the couch. You sit there and watch games, and other weeks you go out and try to pass the time. I would ask myself, 'When you get another chance, do you want to be back on the couch, or on the field on Sunday?' "
It has been three long weeks for you. What's expected moving forward?
"I think I'll be back. I'll practice this week and see how it goes, but I think I'll be fine."
How much better are you now, than a few weeks ago?
"I was at 40 percent last week and I feel about 80 percent today. I haven't had any soreness after I've worked out."
What have the doctors told you?
"They say it's day-to-day. I may not be at 100 percent, but if I can be at 80 percent, I'll play at a high level."
Do you expect to play next week?
You put up zero points last week and today you put up 27 on the number one scoring defense in the NFL. What was the difference?
"We knew the circumstances of the game. Playing in the AFC North is a tough challenge. We knew what we had to do."
Talk about the rotation between yourself and Jeremy Hill ...
"That's something that we should be able to do. Jeremy and I complement each other very well. Both of us being able to catch the ball out of the backfield makes us an explosive duo."
This is the first sweep of the Baltimore Ravens since 2009. What did Marvin (Lewis) say after the game?
"Get ready for the Jaguars."
What was your take on the touchdown that Steve Smith Sr. caught that was eventually called back for offensive pass interference?
"When plays take that long, guys usually get open . That's just the negative about it; it is what it is. Put your hands on my chest and knock me off, and the ref made a good call and we got the win."
Was there ever a "oh no" moment when you turned around and saw where the football was?
"No, I had told him I turned around, you know? It definitely wasn't PI (pass interference) on me. I looked back, saw the ball, was waiting for the jump ball, and he didn't allow me to jump. He pushed me and as much as they call defensive PI, that was a great call in my opinion."
That call rarely goes defense's way — how relieved were you when it was?
"They should call it every time. If it's PI — that's like asking the receiver if he was relieved the ref called a PI (in his favor). If it's PI, call it. If it's not PI, don't call it. He called it and I knew it was PI right away, so we were on the same page."
There were so many "what if" moments in this game — can you describe what it was like when you saw Smith running towards the end zone on that play?
"I never thought we lost. Like I said, I knew it was PI right away. Once I knew it was PI, I looked at the ref and he was running the whole time ... I started walking back. I already knew it wasn't a touchdown, so there was no 'What if' (for me)."
People in the crowd were heckling when you guys were down four points. How did it feel to win this way?
"It feels good to win, period. We've lost three in a row — well, we lost two and had a tie; that's a loss to me — but it definitely feels good to win since we hadn't won in a month. It feels good as a team. It was against a division rival in the Ravens — they were up (on us) in the division (standings). I think we're tied or whatever it is now but it's just good to get the ball rolling in the right direction again and finally get the monkey off our back."
You had a big drive to start the game and held them to only six points in the first half, and then they started to score points ...
"It's part of the game. You're going to go through adversity and all, but that can't bring your head down. You've got to keep you head up, keep driving and keep pushing. That's what we did as a defense."
Did you heart stop for a second when that ball was in the air to Steve Smith on that play that ended up being called back?
"I didn't see the ball 'til the last minute, and then I turned around and saw him running and I just saw a flag on the ground and I was like 'Oh yeah — that's on them.' I already knew it. I had a feeling. It went our way, we got the 'W' and now we're on to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That's all that matters."
How big is this to get the win today with all the things that could have gone the other way?
"I tell you, it's very big, especially (in) a division game. That counts. That's what matters the most. Like I said, we got the 'W,' we're happy with that and we're on to the Jacksonville Jaguars."
You guys hadn't won since the bye . How big was this win?
"It was huge. It's a division game (and now) we're 2-0 against them."
What were your thoughts on that play with Steve Smith?
"I was ... I don't know. He caught the ball, I saw the ref trying to get the flag out his pocket and he couldn't find it and once it threw it, I was trying to figure out who it was on. That's about it. They said it was on him and that was it."
How would you assess your play today?
"We won, so that's all that matters."
Are you feeling OK after the game? You did come off the field.
"I'm good. I'm ready to go next game."
You're a leader of this defense — from a psychological standpoint, how much did you need this win today?
"We needed it a lot. Everyone played balls out to the ball and that's what happens when you (have) good chemistry and no one's messing up, getting out of their gaps (too early) and that's what happens."
How big is a sweep of this team because that hasn't happened for several years?
"It's big. Like I said, we're 2-0 against (a) division opponent. It's huge."
What are your thoughts on Andy Dalton's play today?
"He's our leader. Coach (Hue) Jackson says it all the time: That's our leader. We can't go without Andy. All we have to do as individuals is make sure he's protected up and catch the ball and make plays for him. He tries to get us in the right situations and in the right place. We just have to go out and make plays for him. We just have to go out there and do our job and make sure he's protected up. We're going to go in the film room and I know he had a lot of pressure (on him) today that we're not accustomed to. We have to make sure he's better protected. We're going to go fix those things and just keep getting better. We know we need Andy down the stretch."
How did feel when you knew the call on that last offensive play was quarterback sneak?
"I was pumped. I just knew we needed to push him in there. I got a very late push — he was probably already in (for the score) — but it was great to (see) all the offensive linemen were in the end zone and just the way our fans reacted, it was great, man. We definitely need our fans. It was a big win for us, big win."
Can you talk about the significance of sweeping them in regards to a divisional tiebreaker?
"We're definitely going to need that, especially having a tie on our record. It was huge. It was huge to sweep them — I don't know the last time we probably did that — but it was a big, big win for us, especially at home. That's a tough, tough football team. They're going to win a lot of football games this year and it was great for us to get that win at home."
It didn't look like Andy was going to let you guys panic ...
"No, not at all. The offensive line did a great job of not giving up ground and making sure he had time to pass the football. Andy got us in the right situations and moved around the pocket and made a big play on third down. We're definitely going to continue to need him to do those things and we've got to do better at protecting him and putting him in those situations. It was a big win for us like I said and his is going to be a good season for us."
What are your thoughts on Mohammed Sanu's play today?
"Great, man. Everyone in this locker room knows how big of a playmaker he is. I knew after that fumble, he wanted to go out there and make a play and that's exactly what he did. We have all the confidence in him and especially when A.J. (Green) comes back, he's going to get more single coverage and going to make even more plays. We need a lot out of him going down the stretch."
Tell us about that play where you intercepted Joe Flacco?
"I knew it was a slant from the get-go from watching film and I stayed inside and got a good jam on (the Ravens receiver) and it worked out for me, you know?"
What happened to Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith on that play?
"I think Leon (Hall) hit him afterwards, if I'm not mistaken. I didn't get to see it, I don't know ... I got a good jam on him."
You haven't swept the Ravens in years — it gives you an advantage over them in a tiebreaker in the division if it comes to that.
"It's good for us. It's good for the city and good for the guys in the locker room, the coaches and the people upstairs (in the front office)."
Joe Flacco has thrown more interceptions against this team than any team in the NFL. Why were you pressures effective in this game?
"I think (Bengals Defensive Coordinator) Paulie (Guenther) does a great job of putting in good positions to make plays, and we understand what Paulie is telling us in different things that we do. And we play those guys two times a year, so we watch a lot of film on them. It's always good to win in the division."
How far away do you think this defense is from being where it wants to be as a unit?
"I think we're not far because if you go back and watch the film, it's just little things like guys not staying in their gap or guys not staying inside (on coverages). It's just the little things and they're all fixable and they're easy fixes, so hopefully we can keep it going and by the time we make the playoffs, we can be playing at our highest level."
Some people might have been thinking "Is Andy Dalton going to be able to get this done?" in that final drive — what were you guys thinking on the sideline?
"I believe in Andy - $100 million man, you better believe in him. I heard him say it before they went out on the field — 'Let's go out and win this thing' — so I take my hat off to Andy; he played good. He had one bad play I would say. But besides that, he stepped up to the challenge. And to you guys who keep criticizing him, I know you're going to say something, something, but he answered. He went back and won the game."
Have you ever played in a game like that with such emotional swings?
"Never in my life ... This was a movie. It was."