Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening Statement: "Obviously, we were really pleased with our effort, our execution, our communication, and overall, just the intensity of the way the guys prepared the entire week for New England. Once again, we need to match that again this week. We put a lot on their plate for the New England game, as far as different personnel, which you've already written about. The guys accepted the challenge, and they carried through with the plan that we had."
Are you wearing the chain? (Pete Gilbert)"Always. You didn't know I had that kind of swag, did you? (laughter) I got a little feedback from that. Here's the thing: We've been doing this for over 30 years, 35 years. If you can't have fun the last 10 minutes, 10 minutes after the game, or the last three minutes of the game … I was watching the guys celebrate. I loved it, because I know how hard they work. They called me to get into the picture, and you saw the rest. I don't know why I did it, it was just a gut reaction, I guess. But according to my son, I do have a little bit of swag now. (laughter) Now."
How have you seen ILB Patrick Onwuasor manage the season with all of the changes and the injury, and coming back on Sunday to have the big game he had? (Daniel Oyefusi)"We said it was going to strengthen our defense, and it surely did. He played really well in the game. Obviously, he got another ball out. We talk about 'shots on goals' that we have. He and Marlon [Humphrey] are always leaders, and there are new leaders every week when we're doing this. When you get into the game, those shots on goal count the most. But you just see the work that he's done, getting back healthy, like you said, and just being productive back at the weakside position. So, I was really happy for him. Did it surprise me? No, but I was really happy for him."
Do you think ILB Patrick Onwuasor and ILB Josh Bynes fit particularly well together? Do they have very complementary skills? (Childs Walker) "He and Josh [Bynes] and L.J. [Fort] all fit together very well. And you'll see them rotating throughout, because they're core special teams players as well. They play well together, that crew, that chemistry."
You looked at CB Brandon Carr at safety this summer. When you watch a consummate pro – I know you've talked about him being a consummate pro – when you watch him and you say, "Yes, he can transition to safety and play well," what leads you to make that conclusion? (Bo Smolka)"No. 1 is skillset. And you've heard me say this before: In this league, knowledge is power. And he has a lot of knowledge and experience of routes, route trees. When he's watching tape and studying tape of how they're not only going to attack the corner position, but how they attack the safeties as well … It was the first time that he was back there live and in action, and it was fun to watch. He's such a great teammate and so selfless in his approach. I think we talked about it before, about how they petitioned the NFL just so Marcus [Peters] could get a number that he wanted, and 'B. Carr' [Brandon Carr] was like, 'I'll do it. Let's do it.' So, it's just a long list of things, with all the awards and accolades that he has as a player, and also out in the community."
With CB Jimmy Smith coming back, you have the top four corners all healthy. How does that versatility help the defense? (Cliff Brown)"That's a great question. It just makes you, when you're game-planning, able to be more flexible in what you're doing. As you saw, there were quite a few times against New England when we didn't even have a linebacker on the field because of their flexibility. Each week, it changes. You have a different set of problems, if you will, to attack, and week to week, it will change. This week, obviously, it will be different going against the Bengals."
You've prepared for QB Andy Dalton quite a bit over the years. How different is this week, and what sort of challenges does QB Ryan Finley represent? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He's going to represent some challenges, because obviously, if they're letting him play in front of [Andy] Dalton – and we know the kinds of problems that Andy has given us and the type of quarterback he is – it's going to be a great challenge. We've watched college tape on him. We've watched preseason tape on him. One of the coaches in the defensive meeting said, 'What's next? Are we going to watch the rival high school tapes before he went to N.C. State?'(laughter)I'd like to say we're prepared for him, but we'll see on Sunday."
You always want to be flexible and capable of making in-game adjustments, but because of that unknown, is that even more important this week, just because the Bengals could do anything? (Luke Jones) "Right. And that excites us because of the flexibility of our defense, of how you can play different players in different spots. We'll see. Just like New England went up-tempo the entire game and the adjustments that we made there, I thought, obviously, we came out on the right end."
With CB Marlon Humphrey with back-to-back scoop-and-scores, how do you explain how a guy can be around the ball that much, to keep making plays time and time again? (Ryan Mink)"Because of how hard he plays, getting to the football when it's in the air, and breaking and flying to the ball, which a lot of them do. You see Jihad Ward do it. You see all of them do it. 'Big Baby' [Brandon Williams] was unbelievable in that game. We talked about 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor]. It's just about how hard he plays. He has a nose for it. Some people do. Let's hope he goes back-to-back-to-back."
Not long ago, you were talking about nightmares and puking up here after a game, to in a relatively short period of time, to see the turnaround on it … It's halfway through. I get that. But to see that turn around and come together, how much do you just feel like, "Alright, this is kind of what I thought we could do, and I'm glad we got through that."? (Pete Gilbert) "I'm glad we got through it, first of all. It's a credit to the assistants – Jesse [Minter, assistant defensive backs coach] and Drew [Wilkins, assistant defensive line/linebackers coach] and [Brian] Duker [defensive coaching analyst] and Sterling [Lucas, defensive assistant/linebackers coach] and Zach Orr [coaching analyst]. When we got a new guy in that Eric [DeCosta] got us, which, that was big … We talked about that last week, how fast they could get them up to date on what we're doing. And really, every one of them can teach the defense. And because it's so easy to teach with how we restructured it a year ago, they snapped into it and did the things that we're looking for. So, yes, it's exciting, but yet, we just had a rivalry game, if you will. We talked about historic and respecting the history of the game. Well, there's more history coming up here. We're not facing [Bill] Belichick and [Tom] Brady. But yet, this team is, like I said the first time we played them, it's not an 0-8 offense. It really isn't, with the skillset, the skills that they have. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
You mentioned the intensity of the preparation last week, and even to match it, just based on what you said, last week was a rivalry game. Now, you're facing an 0-8 team. Do you have to remind players more about that this week? (Tom Pelissero) "No. No, we don't. John [Harbaugh] took care of that right after the New England game. We know what this game is, and we know how important this game is. But it's a good question."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement: "Thanks for coming out. It's not as blustery today, but the temperature is dropping. It's football weather. November, December football [is] a very important time of year for us. We're getting ready to play this Bengals team. They're at the top of the NFL in red zone defense. They have a really good front led by [Geno] Atkins, and they have [Carlos] Dunlap back. They didn't play in our first game. [They are] two Pro Bowl-caliber players. They have a secondary that's laden with No. 1, high draft picks, and they have some linebackers that love to run to the ball. So, we're really focused on our plan, working the plan, our improvement, and trying to get better at this critical time of year."
As you watch the versatility of the run game come together, how much more is there to build off of what you've done? (Pete Gilbert) "You're always looking to improve. It really comes down to fundamentals. That's something I learned a long time ago. You can draw up whatever play you want, but the players executing that play is paramount. We're looking for execution, technique, consistency. So, the more we can build that, the more flexible we can be with the system. But the effectiveness of it really comes down to players getting the job done on the field, and that's a lot of work that those guys put in, not only to study the gameplan, [but to] understand all the adjustments versus all the different looks. These guys have a lot to process during the week and during the game – but also the fundamental, the how-to. [It's] not just what to do, but how to do it. Once you get that done, that's kind of the price of admission. The ball-handling has to be good. The running back or whoever has the ball has to hit the proper hole, understand the blocking scheme that we're deploying. So, there are a lot of levels to it. It's a constant process."
What is it about this offense that allows you to change it every week? It seems like every week there is some new wrinkle that catches the opponent off guard. How are you able to do that? (Ryan Mink)"It really comes down to the players. We're pretty aggressive about taking that mindset and approach. That forces them to come in every week, and it's not the same old, 'Hey, it's time to make the donuts,' same old stuff. They have to come in, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, those guys have to get to work. And they're doing a nice job of it. We're always trying to improve there. We have some versatile guys, so let's be versatile."
Along those lines, with how the offense changes, when you face a defense for the second time in a season, does your self-study process change at all? (Jonas Shaffer) "It has to. They kind of saw what you really wanted to do against them the first time. Is that what you want to do the second time? Very often, these division games are, the second time, are very different types of games. They play out a lot differently. So, it behooves us to put together the right plan and really work through it. Because you can't just say, 'Hey, this play worked this first time,' or, 'This approach worked.' They're just coming off a bye week. I'm sure they have a different approach as well." (Reporter: "And the challenge there is to remain loyal to your strengths but not in all of the same ways?") "There are a lot of different ways to approach it. The No. 1 thing is we're focused on ourselves and our improvement, and day to day us getting better, because it comes down to execution."
You have people all over the country talking about how excited they are to watch you guys run the ball. Obviously, that's not why you do it, but is it kind of a cool by-product of what you do? (Childs Walker) "How do I answer that?" (Executive vice president, public and community relations Kevin Byrne: "Yeah, it's cool.") "Yeah, it's cool! (laughter) Anytime the players execute whatever you're doing, it's cool. It's really cool."
It's been a decade since anyone has run for over 200 yards a game in the NFL. Does it feel like you're doing something historic in that regard? (Tom Pelissero) "We try not to think about all that kind of stuff. Right now, our focus is on the Cincinnati Bengals and our preparation for that. Every week in this league is a new challenge."
How have you seen QB Lamar Jackson handle all of the attention? MVP talk, Offensive Player of the Weeks – how have you seen him handle all of that? (Garrett Downing)"Seamlessly. He's just genuinely himself, exactly as how you would want him to [handle it]. But I feel like Eric [DeCosta] and Ozzie [Newsome] and those guys had a real good feel about what kind of guy he was coming into the draft. He's just a genuine guy. He's a Heisman Trophy winner, etc. etc., and [with] his genuine competitiveness and whatnot, he doesn't really focus on that stuff. So, A+. A+, but always trying to improve."
FB/DL Patrick Ricard is such a unique presence in your offense. If you can take me back to when you were building the playbook, did you envision a spot for him specifically, or did he have to earn his way into it? (Aaron Kasinitz) "We envisioned a spot for him in the rookie minicamp – what is it, three years ago? – where we saw him kind of play defense, and it was like, 'Hmm, come over here. Let me teach you 90-lead. Here's what you're going to do.' And then we saw him adjust to get through the hole to the middle linebacker, and it was like, 'Hmm, OK…' And then it just kind of built from there. Everything he does in the offense is earned. He's a valuable guy for us."
What was it you saw from FB/DL Patrick Ricard to say … Great athletes come through all the time on defense, and you said, "I want that guy on offense." (Pete Gilbert)"It was just something that flashed – the way he was moving, his size, his leverage, his ability to drop his hips, his ability to move in a short area, that kind of thing. It's just something you see."
We asked special teams coach Chris Horton a lot about WR De'Anthony Thomas, but do you envision a place for him on the offense? (Aaron Kasinitz) "We're going to work through that as we go. We're glad De'Anthony [Thomas] is here, and we'll kind of get to know him as we go, and we'll see how it goes."
Special Teams Coach Chris Horton
Opening statement: "Good morning. Good to see everyone, like always. Just to recap: Last Sunday night, we started the game out pretty good. That field goal [where New England was jumped offside], I really thought it was a great, game-changing play, good situational football and gave our offense an opportunity to get back on the field and score seven points instead of three. Then as the game went on, we kind of fell off. We didn't really play the way we needed to play during that game. We missed a PAT. I stood up here last week, and I said, 'Our guys are perfectionists. They take every little detail.' They go into it just trying to be the best, and, obviously, that could have hurt us. But, obviously, those guys are looking at it and trying to figure out what went wrong, and it's just a little technique thing. And we talk about football ... For what we do, it's all about fundamentals. And then secondly, we put the ball on the ground on punt return, and that can't happen. Cyrus [Jones] has been really good at catching the football for us, and then last Sunday night – it's just really disappointing. He understands that. We all understand that, and [when] we get guys out here in practice, we'll get them going. Moving forward, we signed De'Anthony Thomas. Obviously, he's a versatile player. He's not just a returner. He's played a lot of different phases, and he's a good talent. So, we're excited. We're excited to have him on our team, and we're just kind of looking forward to seeing what he can do. Moving on to Cincinnati, we understand our challenges as a special teams [unit]. We're going up against a good team. These guys are well coached, and they're probably the best right now out there, and it's going to be a great challenge for us. We accept it. We know our guys are willing to go out and work, and we look forward to it."
Are you convinced the extra point was no good? (Pete Gilbert)"The refs, they said it was no good; it was no good. 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker] looked at it. Again, it was just a technique thing."
As you guys did break it down on a detail level, what was a little bit off? (Childs Walker) "If you ask 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker], I think he might have planted too close to the football and just kind of overswung. Those little detail things, man – everything has to be precise in the kicking game, and that was just something that didn't happen on that play."
Do you look at this as a competition now at returner? Do you want to see how these guys get through practice before you decide? Or in your mind is WR/RS De'Anthony Thomas going to be returning for you on Sunday? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's always competition. It's always competition. [When] we bring a guy in here like De'Anthony [Thomas], we just want to see him work. We want to see what he can do, and then as the week progresses, we'll kind of take it from there."
CB/RS Cyrus Jones seemed a little bit down in the locker room when we tried to talk to him yesterday. How do you go about helping him overcome this mistake? (Bo Smolka) "You just tell him, 'It's football.' It's football, and, obviously, again, we all want to be perfect in our jobs at what we do. And when those things happen, you don't get down on the guy. He's a pretty confident guy. He knows his skills, and you just kind of keep bringing him along, keep encouraging him. Tell him, 'Hey, man, our job as a returner is to catch the football. That's why you're here, and you've done a great job at it. Just lock yourself in.' Again, that was a technique thing. He didn't get square on the football, and he knows that. He needs to be square underneath the football to make that catch."
We, obviously, focus on the punt because CB/RS Cyrus Jones put the ball on the ground, but have you also not been satisfied with the production you've been getting out of the kickoff returns overall? (Childs Walker) "Absolutely, and again, it's just little things. Every week I stand up here ... We watch the tape. We're close, but at some point, just standing up here saying, 'We're close, we're close ... Hey guys, we have to go out and we have to play, and we have to do the things right that we do in practice, and then we'll hit some of those returns.' But absolutely, not satisfied at all, because that's not our standard."
You mentioned that the Bengals are one of the best [special teams units]. I know they had the kickoff return on you guys. What makes them so good on special teams? (Aaron Kasinitz)"It's just what they do. Their coach [special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons] is good. He's been around a long time, and we kind of know each other a little bit. He's seen us. He's been in this conference for a long time. He just knows his system. He knows how to find those weaknesses and things like that. That's why we always do a good job of really just trying to look at ourselves and see, 'OK, what can we do better to make sure these things don't happen again?' And again, it's small, little details. Going back, I've probably watched the play from the last time, that opening kickoff return, probably a thousand times already, just to kind of see what went wrong. You know what? You see the same thing. It's one or two guys just not playing the play properly, and that's really what it is. [If] we play that play properly, it's a no gain."
Have you showed that play to the players a good amount? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Oh yes, I'm going to show it to the players. As long as I have to watch, they're going to watch it, right? (laughter) My job is to coach and to make sure they do the right things. Well, their job is to go out and play. I can't play for them, so I have to continue to show them the play so they understand how we play that play better. So, when we see it again, which we probably will expect to see it again, we know how to fit that play."
Overall in this matchup from the outside, it's 6-2 vs. 0-8. You might be looking past [the Bengals]. I imagine though a play like that, what happened last week, [makes it] a little easier to keep their attention and focus at practice this week? (Pete Gilbert) "I think no matter who you're playing, our guys – with what we've done around here – our guys are going to go out and be ready to play. We're not letting down. We know where we're trying to get to, and every week is important, just as important as the last week. So, our guys, they came out, and really, the attention to detail this week at yesterday's practice, it was outstanding. I'm looking forward to coming out here today, going to work and then lining up on Sunday and playing really good football."
Does it give you more confidence that CB/RS Cyrus Jones can bounce back given that he bounced back before when he had the fumbling problems in New England? He came here and was an impact player last year and at the beginning of this year. (Ryan Mink) "It gives me a lot of confidence. I have a lot of confidence in Cyrus [Jones]. I know what he's capable of. The same thing with Justice [Hill] early on in the year. I told you, 'I'm not losing confidence in our guys, because I know and understand the importance of what happens in games sometimes.' When you don't follow through with your technique on every play, those things happen. So, I don't lose confidence in any of those guys, because those guys are good players, and they're here for a reason."
S Earl Thomas III
On if he reminded ILB Patrick Onwuasor about the type of playmaker he can be as Onwuasor worked to return from injury: "I haven't had to remind him. He made a statement already. He came in and made a bunch of plays. I think we moved him to WILL. That's his comfortable position, and he's been playing really well. I'm glad he came back fresh. I'm glad he came back making a statement."
On if he coached CB Brandon Carr on playing safety and on his impression of Carr's play against the Patriots: "Brandon [Carr] is our Swiss Army Knife. I really don't have to say too much. Just make sure our communication is right and let him kind of add his own flavor to the game."
On if there's anything from his experience that he can use to fool a rookie quarterback: "Well, experience is going to help with all the times I've faced rookies, but you just can't go in thinking like, 'Oh, this is what it is.' You just have to go play the game. You have to play the gameplan we came up with. [We must] trust the calls, whether it be a pressure or man coverage or anything."
On how much he can learn from looking at the tape from Week 6 with the Bengals now using a new quarterback: "If you look at that tape, you look at all the mistakes that you made. And then you go back to preseason and watch him [QB Ryan Finley], because that's when he got most of his plays. So, [we] went back and checked him out. He's pretty solid. We'll see what happens, though, when we get out there."
On John Harbaugh setting the tone this week and the overall approach of the team coming off a big win vs. the Patriots: "Yes, I think Coach [John] Harbaugh, he's just trying to stay ahead of the curve. That's what great leaders do. They kind of stay ahead of the pack and make sure we don't kind of trip up. So, that was that, but I feel like we're very, very focused. We understand. We'll see what happens once we get out there, but I feel like we're going to go out there and challenge. And we're going to try to dominate, as well."
On how satisfying it's been to turn the defense around over the past three games:"Yes, it's always good to have success, especially when we're winning. Nobody wants to give up all those yards, and I definitely don't want to make a bunch of tackles out there. The new guys that came in, they've been playing really well. Our front seven has been locking up, and it starts with us stopping the run. And once we do that, man, we're really, really hard to beat."
BENGALS HEAD COACH ZAC TAYLOR
(Conference Call with Baltimore Media)
What have been your impressions of QB Ryan Finley, from the moment you guys drafted him, got him in your building and his overall development until now? (Luke Jones) "He was really impressive when we all watched him on tape. We brought him in for a visit, were really impressed with our board sessions with him. He had a lot of experience in college. He's kind of an older rookie, in a sense, with a lot of experience and all the traits that you look for in a quarterback. [He] throws with great anticipation and accuracy, [and has] good leadership skills. The coaches there at N.C. State spoke very highly of him, a kid that transferred in and was able to become a leader on the team, fall under a really good quarterback in Jacoby Brissett. So, just a lot of good things that we fell in love with, and that's why we took him in the fourth round. He showed enough in the preseason that when we got to this point, we felt like he was deserving of an opportunity."
People talk about facing QB Lamar Jackson for the second time and how beneficial it is. Do you find that to be advantageous, and what did you learn in the first meeting about a month ago? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Anytime you play an opponent for the second time, there are always things you feel like you learned and have a better understanding [of] when you see it live and in person. But he's a rare quarterback. He's a Heisman Trophy winner. All the success he had [in college], and now he's doing it in the NFL. The pieces around him are really impressive, as well. Greg Roman is doing a great job. He's kind of run a similar style of offense before over the last decade and had a lot of success. They have a lot of pieces in place to make this thing really successful, and certainly, Lamar [Jackson] makes the whole thing go. He's playing with a lot of confidence. So yes, you like to think that playing an opponent one time before helps you, but he has certainly proven to be really dynamic and really cause a lot of issues for teams."
Along those lines, coaches have talked about how difficult it is to simulate QB Lamar Jackson in practice. Are you doing anything differently this week that you didn't do the first time around that will maybe give your defense a better sense of what a Lamar-Jackson-type player is like out there? (Jonas Shaffer)"We feel like we have a good plan in place that our guys are confident in and that our coaches have done a good job communicating. It is difficult to simulate [Lamar Jackson] in practice. There's not just that style of athlete laying around who is able to work the cadence and utilize all the motions and all that stuff. So, it's a hard thing to replicate, but I think our guys have done a good job so far."
Is WR A.J. Green going to practice today? (Tom Pelissero)"We'll see. Right now, we're just taking it day to day. I've gotten in trouble with predictions before with him, so I'm going to lay low on that one."
How is WR A.J. Green feeling today? (Tom Pelissero) "He feels better every day. Every day is kind of a new day with him. It's unfortunate that he couldn't go yesterday, but we'll see when we get out there how he does."
How do you anticipate Don Martindale and that Ravens defense will approach the task of playing a rookie quarterback? I know they pressured you a lot last time. (Aaron Kasinitz) "I think they've ... 'Wink' [Don Martindale] has done a great job. I remember practicing against him last year in training camp [while with the Rams]. We were real impressed with their style of play and their defense overall, schematically, and this year you can tell they're playing with a lot of confidence. They have a couple big wins. They beat us three weeks ago and then went on the road to Seattle and then New England. They seem like they're getting a little healthier on the back end, as well, getting guys back and trading for Marcus Peters. And so, [it's] certainly a defense that's playing with a lot of confidence. I know 'Wink,' he's got a lot of scheme in there. His guys believe in it. They understand what they're doing. It presents a lot of challenges, and so, we've certainly got a nice test in front of us."