Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
The media voted Justin Tucker as the team MVP. Just your thoughts on a specialist having that kind of a season and his progression over the last couple of years? (Luke Jones)"I'm sure he appreciates the award that he received from you gentlemen. He did have an outstanding year, and it's not over. The task at hand is really the one that we're all focusing on. Playing well this week, kicking well this week and getting into the playoffs has been the topic at hand. We'll evaluate all the offseason awards in the offseason. That's really kind of the way we're looking at it, but I'm sure he feels very good about your vote."* *
You were asked a lot earlier in the year about Sam Koch when he was struggling, but it doesn't seem like there have been any issues with Sam over the last couple of weeks. I'm just curious how he's been playing? (Matt Zenitz)"He had a good game last week. I think one of the things that we know about Sam is that he's always going to work to get better. If he has a bad game, we have confidence that it's not going to continue. The other thing about Sam that we all know is that he's built for this division. He's built for playing in December and January, and we hope that he has a lot more games left in him for this year."* *
I'm sure Sam was frustrated, and I'm sure you guys are encouraged just to see him move past that and overcome those troubles? (Matt Zenitz)"Yes, anytime your players are playing well, you're always happy for them. Yes." * *
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
Torrey Smith has proved this year that he can be that go-to guy, and he's closing in on the single-season receiving record. What does he need to do to take that next step going forward, to continue his development and evolution as a receiver to get better and better, now that he has set the bar this high? (Matt Vensel) "I think what you see from him is the fact that he's been developing in all aspects of his repertoire in what he can do. I think we've all known that he has the ability and capability to get down the field; he's a huge deep threat. He also can run intermediate routes. I think that's what you see now – his development and maturation within the route-running system. [Wide receivers coach] Jim Hostler does a great job with him. All he's doing is just getting a little bit better and better and better each week. Teams are also forcing a guy that runs that fast, runs that well, and has caught as many balls as he's caught … They're going to pay some attention to him, so he's going to get a variety of different coverages. He's probably going to get the best defender that the team has to offer. As a result of that, it requires that he goes out and adds something to his game – which he's been able to do, week-in and week-out."* *
I know [Torrey Smith] is hard on himself. He's the kind of guy that will talk about the play he didn't make over the plays he made. Is that what you see from him?* (Matt Vensel) "Yes. I don't think there is any question that he's intrinsically motivated. He's one of those guys that is a self-starter. He takes a lot of pride in what he does. He comes early and stays late, in terms of what he does out here on the field. He works at it consistently, and I think you see that he's improving as a result of that work ethic."* **
The last couple of games you've obviously scored only one touchdown. Is there anything linking the two that you can point at and say, "Hey, we need to do this better than we have been." (Clifton Brown) "There's a number of things we can do better – no question about that. That certainly starts with me. I've got to do a better job of helping these guys in different situations [like on] third downs, down in the red zone and converting them, and getting ourselves in situations where we have an opportunity to start a fresh drive or a fresh set of downs. That's something that has been giving us a few problems here and there. We just haven't been as efficient as I'd like to. Also, we have to be able to get some yardage on the ground, particularly when teams are dropping a number of guys into coverage. When you do that in the red zone, it makes windows a lot tighter. It makes it a lot more difficult to throw the ball. Either you are throwing underneath passes – where guys have to run for it and get you some more yards – or you have to be able to run the ball. Both of those things, we can continue to improve at."* *
What do you do to prepare for a top defense like the Bengals? (Adam Vorce) "The great thing is that we've played them before. We know how good they are, because they're a very talented team. The unique thing is the fact that they've continued to get better since the last time we played. They do as fine a job as anyone, in terms of breaking tendencies, so you have to be ready for literally anything. It's a multiple defense with a lot of different schemes. They have a lot of different variety of looks that they give you. From four-down looks up front to three-down looks with a variety of different stunts where they blitz extremely well … You could get a blitz from any of their guys. You really have to get prepared for everything that they've done previously and make certain you have good sound principles, because you can't practice every stunt they give you – it's absolutely impossible. What you can do is make certain your principles are sound, make certain you're good at your fundamentals and techniques, and let your system take care of any issues that may arise."* *
What have you seen from the defenses the last couple of weeks with how they've defended Dennis Pitta and prevented him from making as much impact as he did in the second half of the Minnesota game? (Luke Jones) "When guys run that fast, can catch the ball and create problems for you, you're going to find some creative ways to try to take him out of the game or disrupt him a little bit. They've been trying to disrupt him quite a bit and hit him as he comes off the line from different angles just to slow him down a little bit. The good thing about him is he finds a way. He'll make a play where they'll try to double-team him or leave him in a one-on-one situation and try to disrupt him physically. He's slippery enough and cagey enough to be able to still find a way to get open. Also, the nice thing about him is the fact that, when he gets doubled, that means somebody else is single-covered. We have to have some other guys that step up, as well. I think you do see that from time to time; we've just got to be sharper at what we do. We have Marlon [Brown], who can make plays. Jacoby [Jones] can make plays. Obviously, Torrey [Smith] can make plays. Ed [Dickson] can make plays for us. There's a lot of different guys … Ray [Rice] can make some plays for us in the pass game, as well. Joe [Flacco] will do a great job of spreading it around, so Dennis [Pitta] doesn't have to carry the whole load for us."* *
In what ways has Gino Gradkowski's game evolved or improved over this past season? (Matt Vensel) "One of the things I think is when you look at experience, he's been able to see a variety of different looks. Every week, there is a new challenge for him. Sometimes he's faced with a 345-pound nose guard standing right in front of him. The next week it may be a 'two-high' that slants down over his right shoulder – different sort of pass rushers. The different guys we see week-in and week-out … Now he's had an opportunity to go through and see a number of different styles, a number of different techniques and things of that nature. How to handle all of the different looks that they give you – the movements, the disguises – it's a complicated scene in there for a young guy to be able to handle all those things, get the offense set, in both run and pass, and then function, as well, in terms of his technique. He's just been getting better and better and better. The experience is invaluable for him. I think you're just seeing him scratch the surface, right now. You'll see him take off, and pretty soon everything slows down for him. He's a very smart guy and he works at it. I just see him getting better and better and better. He's challenged every week, which is a good thing."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
**What kind of challenges do you see from Giovani Bernard? He seems like a tough guy to bring down. *(Ryan Mink) *"We've used the term before … It's like when he gets the ball out in open space, it's like playing punt return – anything can happen. I've seen him, when he gets through the line of scrimmage, that's the scary part. You've got to do a great job of setting the edge on him, or he'll take the edge. Then, what you've got to do is everybody has got to corral him. Everybody is at the point of attack. Great example was the last play of the last game that we played them [in Baltimore] on that screen pass. He took it from one sideline back to the other sideline. But, I thought our guys did a great job of staying at home, 'tempo-ing' the thing and making a play, which was a big play in that game because it was for a loss. But, that's him. Every time that he touches that ball, he can take it anywhere. BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] is more of a downhill [runner], knows the value of a yard, going to thump you. He'll spin, too, and do some things, but the other guy – [No.] 25 [Giovani Bernard] – it's no holds barred. He's going to go any way he can go."
**A lot of teams seem to be running "trips" or running crossing patterns. How can you stop something like that from happening? *(Kevin Richardson) *"One of the things you can do is probably play it a little more zone than man, because if they catch you in man, it seems like it's a new wave here where you're now able to block downfield while the ball is being thrown. In that case, maybe we're going to have to identify a formation and certain formations that they're in when they do that and maybe play more zone. Because that is the biggest problem, is when you get caught in man, there is always a chance for a pick play – anytime you're in man. And we play a lot of not just straight man, but what we call pattern match, which is man after the ball is snapped. You're kind of zone, but then you match the man because we like to play tight coverage. The downside of that is there is usually space between the 'backers and the secondary in that case. But, the good side is then they can't throw a bunch of check-downs on you. We try to mix it up the best we can. Sometimes you get caught in that. The other thing is just trying to fight through it, but it's really hard. The offense knows what they're doing. They can pick you if you're in man coverage."
How would you assess how you played against New England defensively? Is there anything you can take from that game for this game? (Clifton Brown) *"There are a couple of things in watching the film. No. 1, actually, the way we wanted to play the game, our guys really tried to do. We were going to be a little more vulnerable to the run because we were not going to let Tom [Brady] beat us down the field. And the only time really we didn't get beat down the field was the interference call on Jimmy [Smith]. I think that is the only deep ball, and that really wasn't caught. I'd like to comment on it; I won't. But, that's the only ball to me that was down the field. To hold him to  yards passing, I think that's the fewest yards we've held them in the last five times we've played them, including beating them in the playoffs last year. I didn't like the way we finished the game in the run game. I didn't like the last drive when it was 20-7 and we couldn't get off the field. That was not good. The other thing that comes away from there is that I'll take some blame … They hit us on a little short route to [Julian] Edelman, and we ended up missing a tackle. I'm not going to take the blame on the missed tackle, but I will take the blame on the actual call. I actually told [head] coach [John Harbaugh] that in this game. There were some things that I had done against Tom when I was at New England every day in practice, and just because we did them up there doesn't necessarily mean they were going to be good here. And when you try to put something in that's really pretty new, you're not always going to get the formation that you practiced in practice. You can't practice everything, and what happened is we got kind of a weird formation on a new call that I had put in. There were some communication problems between two guys, and all of a sudden, Edelman is free. That's my fault. That's me as a coach. I've got to do a better job of, if I know the whole thing is going to be hard for them to figure out all the formations, then I can't call it. No matter how good it was back then and how good it was against him, it wasn't good for us. In that case, to me, that one is on me." *
**What makes the Bengals' scheme difficult to defend? *(Adam Vorce) *"Personnel. It isn't the scheme; it's their personnel. They've got one of the best wide receivers in football, they've got two excellent tight ends, two excellent backs, and I don't know if anybody is watching, but those other wide receivers aren't bad, either. The scheme is just a good scheme because they do the same thing all the time. They're very comfortable with it, they give you multiple formations, but what makes any scheme go – offense or defense – is your personnel. Coaches like to take a lot of credit for a lot of things. It works a lot better when you've got good players, let me say that. My best coaching job was when I have really good players. They've got good players."
Would you look at their personnel and say that it's the best you've faced this year? (Ryan Mink)"Close to it. If not the best overall, close to it. I really thought Detroit's offense was pretty darn good, personnel-wise. They were a scary team, and I think I could compare the two of them very similarly – good tight ends, good running backs – couple of them – pretty good wide receivers out there. And, I think when those two played it came right down to the end. Wasn't it a real close game between Detroit and Cincinnati? Not a shootout, but close to it. I'd say they could be the best. If not, they're right there. They and Detroit I thought were the two, and Denver is not bad, either."
**Is the key to winning getting to Andy Dalton? *(Kevin Richardson) *"The key is always getting to the quarterback. But, the other thing is, the key thing for us is just to play sound football, stop the run and don't give up big plays. When you do that, if you don't give up big plays … If you look back at the games that they've won and the games that they've lost, the teams that have beaten them haven't given up big plays. Pittsburgh played them a couple weeks ago and did not give up one play over 20 yards. Cleveland played them real early in the season and did not give up a play over 20 yards. Indianapolis gave up five, Jets gave up six, Minnesota gave up six. I'm talking about plays [that are] 30, 40, 50 yards. You can't do that against this team. They score that quick on you. That's why they've scored 40 points at home the last four games. So, the key for us is to play good, sound football, tackle well, play the run and don't give up big plays. That's our key."
RB Ray Rice
On how he is feeling: "Tuesday was a great rest day, recovery day. [Head] coach [John Harbaugh] is doing his best to try to take care of us, and for me, I definitely needed the rest. It felt good today getting back out with the guys and catching up to speed. There is nothing like getting a live rep with the guys, so it definitely felt good getting back out today."
On if the thigh injury is related to his hip injury: "It's not related to the hip at all. It's different. It's on the injury report as a thigh; it's a thigh."* *
On the current state of the Ravens: "We're battle-tested. That's the thing – we take pride in being battle-tested. Last week was last week. If I know the group that's going to show up on Sunday, the group that's going to show up on Sunday is going to fight until the last whistle until it's all over. Hopefully, it's good enough to take care of business. It starts right now. These are the guys that we have. You're probably not going to see anybody happy. Yesterday was Christmas, and we got to take time off to embrace our families. But, you're not going to see anybody smiling, happy or anything right now because of the situation we're in. It's strictly business. We're going out there for nothing else, just going out there to win the game."
On the Bengals' run defense: "They are the AFC North champs, if I'm not mistaken. They're good. They're pretty good."
On if beating the Bengals in 2011 to close out the regular season gives the team any confidence: "It puts a lot on our mindset. Everything from here on out, from the last five, six weeks for the Ravens, has been a must-win, so nothing has changed from that standpoint. Every game we said was a must-win. We got some help along the way. Every game is a must-win; this one just happens to be the last game of the regular season. Right now what we're chasing is trying to get back to our way."
On an evaluation of his season: "Man, it's life. From a personal standpoint, understanding that I played through a lot this year … So I'm going to just get back out there and battle and not worry about what I've got to do statistically week-in and week-out. Statistically, I put all of that stuff aside, but personally, I'm glad I was able to overcome some things. I had a platform NFL career. Everything has been great, even for some of the people who say that you lost a step. It's different when you have an injury that controls things that you're normally good at doing. I had to battle that this year. Needless to say, I've still got to focus on this year, finishing this year out as strong as I can, and next year will be next year. I'll make sure I come back in the best shape, bigger, faster, stronger – whatever you want to call it – to prove myself again that I can still be a premier running back in the NFL."
On if it's been difficult to deal with not living up to expectations: "Like I said, I've dealt with shoulders, I've dealt with sprains, I've dealt with muscular kinds of injuries. That will put my mindset on something that I need to work on in the offseason. Whether it's something with smaller muscle groups that have to fire faster, that's something that I know I can fix. I didn't have any shoulders or ankles or stuff like that. I had purely muscular kind of deals, where maybe something will change for me – maybe less muscle mass and more speed. It might be something that I want to change up, but that will be an offseason study for myself. Like I said, I've always sculpted my body to be ready for the season. I wouldn't change anything I've done training. I think I came into the season in great shape. This just happened to be a freak deal. It's something I probably wasn't used to."