Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. I had a chance, just right now, [to finish] up a lot of the things that we do during the course of the day, in terms of looking back and studying the game and kind of determining all the different adjustments and processes going forward to try to continue to get better and get ready for the next game. So, that's been a good process, but [I'm] happy with the win. And after having done that, I'm extremely pleased with the defense. Also, I thought that special teams were solid, and then the offensive line did a really good job of adapting with the changes and stuff like that. I thought those guys did a solid job. One thing I kind of wanted to mention … It doesn't really get talked about much, but we kind of all know it. You guys and gals as a media corps, you see it in the stadium, but it's quite a different atmosphere. I just want to say, we miss our fans. We have a great fanbase; that stadium would've been rocking and rolling yesterday, and they would've been fired up for what they saw. I think they would've been really into the game. And not just that, but the interactions with the fans, driving in and seeing them tailgating, the cheering, the high-fives, the smiling faces, the not-so smiling faces sometimes, all the different things that kind of go into that. I just wanted to mention that. We have great fans, even on the road. We miss you. We hear you. We know you're out there. We know you're cheering, and we really appreciate you. I just wanted to say that. And the other thing, the thing that's really cool at the game is the drum corps. I don't know if the people on TV get a chance to hear that or not, but that drum corps is first-rate. It kind of reminds you of Friday night lights out there. I hope it's a tradition. I'm going to put pressure on [Ravens president] Dick Cass right now. That needs to be a tradition that we carry forward here in the future, inside the stadium and outside the stadium, maybe even in the tailgating [lots] when that comes back. That drum corps is really … It's football, to me, and it really makes a statement. So, thanks to all the people who are watching and care. We'll see you soon when this whole thing gets back to normal. With that, what questions do you have?"
You referenced the offensive line. Looking back at the tape, how well did they perform in pass coverage? And is QB Lamar Jackson having enough time to do his reads, or has he been under a lot of pressure, I guess, the past two weeks? (Todd Karpovich) "I thought it was solid, like I said. There was pretty good pass protection there for the most part. Lamar [Jackson] did a good job of going through his reads. I thought that there were a couple times when they pressured us. They brought some blitzes and things like that; we didn't always handle them the right way. One or two, we were hot. Another one or two, they should've been picked up and Lamar got surprised by that. It's not just the offensive line, it's the backs; everybody is involved in that. So, it wasn't perfect by any stretch. I just felt like they did a good job overall as a group under the circumstances. The tackles played really well. I thought the young [guys], Patrick Mekari going in there and Ben Powers going in there, they played pretty well for just getting thrown in there and trying to fill in a little bit when they hadn't been playing. So, I do believe we have some young depth in there. We'll get Tyre [Phillips] back pretty soon. It's a young group in there; even Bradley Bozeman is a pretty young guy. So, I know we're a work in progress. I'm not saying it's perfect by any stretch, but I just thought they stepped up and did pretty well."
With the defense, there were a lot of changes this offseason with DE Calais Campbell, DE Derek Wolfe, ILB Patrick Queen, even S DeShon Elliott kind of getting thrown in there towards the end of training camp. How impressed have you been with how they've gelled so quickly? And even though they've played at a very high level, does it kind of give you some optimism that there's even more growth, because they still haven't been together for very long? (Jamison Hensley) "Oh, yes. I just feel like the thing I was really happy with and proud of was the way they played. Sometimes, it's not the outcome, [but] it's how you play that really is what you evaluate, and then the outcomes tend to take care of themselves. So, the pursuit, the effort, the discipline, the technique, their eyes, back to front, all the way through the defense, to me, was really, really good. Like you said, it's definitely very encouraging. You never take that for granted, because that's something you have to pack and bring every single week. You have to focus on that. You have to be locked in play after play to play as disciplined and as hard and as well as they did. So, that's something that we just have to keep bringing; keep bringing in practice, keep bringing in games and that's when, as a defense, you can kind of build a season in terms of focusing on that part of it every single week. That's the thing I'm most proud of."
I wanted to ask about the secondary. Two things – we saw CB Jimmy Smith on the outside a lot more than usual. Is that more just kind of a tactical switch given the Bengals offense and some of the receivers they have? And then S Marcus Gilchrist, we saw him on defense and on special teams. What does he bring to the defense and what did you see? (Daniel Oyefusi) "With Jimmy [Smith], we've got Marlon [Humphrey] in the slot quite a bit. So, to be able to put Jimmy outside, I think he was feeling good and he was moving really well. So, he played [there], that's kind of how we organized it. Of course, we still have Anthony [Averett]. Nothing against Anthony, but Jimmy played a little bit more corner than he did safety this week. He still played … I think he played a little safety. But we brought [Marcus] Gilchrist up, as you said, and he was able to play some of those safety roles for us. So, adding the pieces there was good for us. I think it helped us. Any time we can kind of spread those reps around a little bit that's good. They all played well, so that's a positive."
We've seen you a lot of times, you love going for it on 4*th-and-1. Yesterday, at 4th*-and-6 near midfield, you decided to go for it. It looked like the play might have been there, but what went into that decision? (Bo Smolka) "That was kind of one where we might have run a play, [or] we might have taken the delay kind of a situation. I think I got a little too cute on that one. The players are telling me, 'No, don't worry about it. We're glad you went for it.' But I'm second-guessing myself on that one, too. I understand that we might have been just as well off to punt it down in there, pin them back and then try to get them to punt in a three-and-out. So, believe me; the same concerns you had on that one after that play, I was kind of asking myself the same questions."
Back to the defensive secondary. You mentioned it in your postgame comments yesterday, the five sacks. It hasn't happened too many times in the history since they started keeping sacks. After watching it again this morning, does anything stand out to you with how impressed you were with that statistic, your defensive backs getting to the quarterback? (Shawn Stepner) "Yes, I think it starts with … I found out today it never has happened, so that was a first, which I'm sure the guys will be proud of. First of all, just the way they blitzed; they came, they timed it up well [and] there was good disguise. I thought with that, the coverage was excellent behind the blitzes. So, there was no real easy place to go with the ball quickly, which is very important. Good angles. The guys that weren't rushing, the 'DBs' [defensive backs] will get the credit, but whether it was linebackers or defensive linemen who were rushing the other gaps, I thought they did a good job of doing their job and eating up some of those blocks. The defensive backs aren't usually accounted for in the protection quite as much, and that stayed true; they were mostly free runners. So, the guys did a good job with that. You get a big quarterback … Joe Burrow has proven that he can get out of the grasp of any rusher, especially a defensive back. I thought our guys did a really good job of keeping him in their grasp. So, all those things, those are really good things for us. It's part of our defense, and I'm really glad it showed up the way it did in the game."
I know how excited you were coming into the year about WR Miles Boykin. I think over the last three games, he only got eight targets and three catches. What can he do and what can you guys do to kind of help him get going? (Childs Walker) "He's playing well, even though the catches aren't there. I know that's how receivers are measured, but he's in the right spots, he's running the right routes and he's blocking really well. So, those are all things that are kind of unseen, unsung-type of things that get noticed, probably, more by coaches and by other players maybe than they do necessarily when you're watching it on TV or whatever. We want to get him more involved. We want to get all of those guys more involved. Just getting better across the board in terms of everything we're doing offensively, we'll get everybody involved. I don't think you can say, 'We want to get this guy [going]. We want to get this guy or that guy [going].' You start chasing that, then, I don't know, you kind of lose track of who you are and what you're trying to accomplish. So, I'm really confident that those guys are going to get their catches going forward and continue to improve."
I'm just wondering what you saw from DT Justin Madubuike in his debut? (Ryan Mink) "He was really physical, really played hard and ran to the ball. I thought he was a force in there. There are still a couple things technique-wise; he got washed a little bit on some of the runs. He even told me that after the game in the locker room; he's the first one talking about that. So, he'll be chasing improvement there, but it was a good start for him. I thought he played well."
I was wondering what your reaction was when the Bengals decided to kick a field goal down 27-0 in the final minute? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't know. We definitely … You always want the shutout. If we had kept them out of there and then got a couple stops, short yards, or maybe played a little better a couple of times on that drive on first and second down and kept them out of the short-yardage situations, it wouldn't have even been a factor. So, I guess you kind of have to look at it that way and just leave it at that."
The past couple of weeks, QB Lamar Jackson has talked about how you guys gameplan something and then a defense comes out and shows you something completely different. Is that what you've seen the past few weeks, and that maybe explains why he had 37 passes yesterday – because maybe they were just trying to stop the run? (David Ginsburg) "Yes and no. Just to kind of talk about it: They did do something completely different. They ran a true college four-three type of a look. They were playing quarters with the safeties low. They played that in the past, but they hadn't played it yet this year. So, it was a new defense that we thought we might get, but we didn't get a chance to rep it out very much, just because they hadn't done it yet this year. And that is indicative, to your point, and that happens to us quite a bit. So, that's something we've got to learn to deal with and handle as an offense, because we run a unique scheme. As far as the passing numbers, I went back and looked at that. I've got them here. I really don't have a problem with the numbers – 37 passes and  runs. That's something, but that's not the whole story. There were 11 passes in two-minute at the end of the half, so 11 of those passes came in two-minute. We had two two-minute drives at the end of the half, and those are pretty much all passes, so those are going to be passes. So, those 11 passes are what they are; they're situational. On first and second down throughout the course of the game, we had 20 runs and 13 passes. So, that's a high number in the NFL. It's even high for us. Isn't it about 60%, if you do the math? I'm not sure. You guys are probably better at math than me. I don't mind 20-13 as far as a run-pass ratio on first and second down. Third down – we had 11 passes, and we had four runs, even. So, that's something … It's really based on whether you're in third-and-short, third-and-medium [or] third-and-long. So, a lot of this stuff is situational. Then at the end of the game, we had five plays in the fourth quarter, including the victory play at the end. So, it's almost like they ran our four-minute for us at the end of the game, the way they were moving the ball down the field kind of methodically trying to get that score. So, they kind of chewed the clock up for us. I would have loved to have punted, forced a punt, got them off the field and gotten the ball back and had a chance to run the ball some more at the end of the fourth quarter. So, I think the basic, raw numbers are more indicative of the situations that we were in, than they were any design or anything play-calling-wise. What I'd like to see us … I think what we all want to do is just continue to improve execution and how we attack defenses that we're going against. So, like I said last week, we're still very much a work in progress. We have a lot to improve on. Run, pass, run-pass options, quarterback-driven, play-action pass; all those things are things that we have to chase all areas and continue to improve. And I think the game planning, and in the end, the run-pass numbers, will take care of themselves."
I know you said QB Lamar Jackson's knee wasn't bothering him, but do you expect him to be able to practice all three times this week if nothing comes up? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes, I expect him to practice the whole week, as you said if nothing comes up. So, he should be good to go."
You've always preached the importance of practice. Was there anything noticeable about a lack of practice for QB Lamar Jackson that reflected in how he was able to play yesterday? (Mark Viviano) "Just like you said, we all believe in practice. Football is definitely a practice sport, whether it's technique, timing, chemistry – just understanding the gameplan inside and out; not because you studied it, but because you operated it and practiced it. So, it's always going to have an effect. Veteran players, especially certain positions, can practice less and be ready to play more, but it's important for everybody to practice. It's especially important for the quarterbacks. So, while Lamar [Jackson] can do it, and he played winning football, and he made some really good plays out there … I know we're going to get lost a little bit in the numbers and the efficiency of it, and all those kinds of things. And heck, we want more first downs. We want to move the chains. We want more yards. We want more points. We do. And we have to improve as the season goes on to achieve the things that we want to achieve. By the same token, just Lamar himself made some really great plays. He moved around out there and made some throws. And when we scored the 17 points, he was the main driver of that. So, I'm happy with that part. But Lamar himself … I know how he is. I know how he's going to be. When he comes in here tomorrow, he's not going to be happy. He's already been in here, he's already seen the tape, and he's going to want to do better. But I agree with you; practice is a big part of that, and we really want and need all our guys practicing as much as possible."
You guys have been asked since the draft about getting all these running backs involved. We saw RB J.K. Dobbins get only one carry yesterday. Has it been a challenge, when you've had some short scoring drives and when you've not maintained a ton of possessions, to keep all those guys in rhythm? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I'm not sure what rhythm ... Rhythm would be kind of a hard thing to measure. Gus [Edwards] had  plays, Mark [Ingram II] had 19 [plays], and J.K. [Dobbins] had 18 [plays]. So, that's something that could change from one game to the next, in terms of what plays we're running and all that. But unless you're going to play one guy [for] most all the plays, it's always going to be, 'Why didn't this guy carry the ball? Why didn't that guy get more reps?' So, that's probably a conversation that we're going to have all year, because we have three guys, and we're going to play them. So, who gets the carries, who gets the catches, who has to block in the pass protection; that's going to be a little bit a function of the gameplan, and also a little bit of a function of the game and the way it plays out. And if we can get more plays … That's the other thing. We had what, 60 or so plays on offense? I'd like to get 70. I'd like to be close to 80 if we're really clicking. Those are all things that can happen to just bring everybody more into it. The wide receivers; I know they want to catch the ball more, and they're doing some good blocking. Everybody wants to be more a part of what we're doing. And in the end, that all kind of comes together when you're executing well. You're moving the ball, you're getting first downs, you're scoring points; that stuff tends to take care of itself."
Were there any communication issues with the headset on the first or second drive? It looked like QB Lamar Jackson was pointing at his head a couple times. And I think before he threw that touchdown pass, you were sprinting and almost had to call that timeout? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, there were. We had problems with the communication in the first two series', just like you said. You noticed it. And we had to signal some of the plays in, and the play clock got down on us a couple times. Even later in the game, we had a couple issues where we had to … Lamar [Jackson] even had to call a play or two. So, yes, that's the way it works. But we do practice that, and we practice the headsets being out and trying to operate that way. I'll say this about Lamar, he's pretty darn incredible at handling the play clock, because I don't know too many quarterbacks who would have gotten some of those plays off without timeouts. Especially the one you're talking about; I was just certain he wasn't going to get it off, and then you just look at it like, 'I think he's got it.' And [he] took a chance, and he got it snapped right on time. Though, I see him do it a lot in practice, too. So, he's just really good at that part of it."
We saw that you guys elevated C Trystan Colon-Castillo to the gameday roster, but he wasn't active. Was there any reason behind him not being active? (Daniel Oyefusi) "Yes, there was. I'm going to say I have to defer that answer. If you can get [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] on the phone, maybe I'd just defer it to him. I don't want to speak for Eric, but there were roster-strategic reasons, I guess is the best … I was going to say, 'strategery,' but how would that have gone over? (laughing) A blast from the past. But there was a reason or two for it. We really like Trystan [Colon-Castillo]. He's going to be on the 53[-man roster] very soon. So, I guess that's probably the big answer there. I expect him to come up pretty soon. But that was just part of our way of working the process out."
What did you think of TE Mark Andrews' flip in the first half? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "Right. He made some great plays. That's the thing I was talking about a little bit with Lamar [Jackson]; Mark [Andrews] was a big part of that, [and] Marquise [Brown] was a part of that, too, on a few of those plays. Mark came up with some catches. The one touchdown catch, I don't know how he even saw the ball. He was getting held, he was getting pulled, and he still managed to come off and make the catch. That's really what NFL football is. All the other stuff that goes into it, is hopefully putting guys in position to make those plays as best you can as a coach. And when you don't do that, you get frustrated and upset with yourself when you don't put them in position to make the plays. But guys making plays is what Sunday is about, and that's why I say it's a players' game. It's a players' game on Sunday, for sure, and Mark definitely epitomized that, especially, like you said, in the first half."