JANUARY 5, 2014
“The finality of things hurt when you lose in the playoffs. Obviously the biggest difference was turnovers. We turned the ball over, gave them points and field position, and we failed to get any (turnovers) back on our side. It’s the difference in the football game. I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed by us. This group has fought together, played together, done great things all year. But we just didn’t make enough plays today, and the turnovers hurt us.”
Is this your toughest day as a coach?
“It’s a tough day, yes it is. It’s disappointing, for as hard as we’ve worked and played, to have a football game where we’ve got opportunities, and we let it go.”
Does it make it question everything that you do, after a loss like this?
“I don’t know about ‘question everything you do,’ it’s just that you don’t get to start it tomorrow. That’s the problem with it. You don’t get to go back and rectify it tomorrow. That’s the hurt of it, the pain of it.”
Do you have questions moving forward about
“No, I don’t. I don’t have any questions about Andy’s role in this thing. We just have to keep working it. We’ve got to make sure we’re doing everything to help Andy all the time. He’s going to be very disappointed in himself today, obviously. He is the football team, and I’m sure he’s very disappointed.”
You had those periodic bursts on offense, and it looked like you were getting things going, and all of a sudden it’s not there:
“Yeah. Obviously when you turn the ball over like we did today, that keeps you from scoring. We had opportunities to score and continue to move the ball, and we didn’t get it done.”
You had the lead in the middle of the third quarter, then all of a sudden you seemed to have trouble protecting the quarterback. There was a stretch there where you couldn’t keep them out of the backfield:
“They came with some pressures off the edge and flushed the quarterback (out of the pocket) a couple of times, but they did that throughout the ballgame. There might have been one or two plays there, but there were a lot of plays where we made the play. In that sequence there that forced us to punt the football, then yes.”
When you were leading at halftime, did you feel good about how the team was playing?
“Yeah. I felt good about us and where we were. We obviously fumbled the ball, we get it, we stop them, get the ball back, we kick the field goal. The drive (the last questioner mentioned), we get the ball in the third quarter, we get the ball moved out to midfield, then we punt it, it goes for a touchback, and they take an 80-yard scoring drive which was keyed by the ball (deep pass) down the boundary.”
When does this (playoff win drought) start to become some sort of mental obstacle?
“I don’t think there’s enough people that have that ... these players, their memory is so short-lived. It really isn’t anything like that.”
But is it a little true, given that most of your roster has now gone through this?
“Yeah, but I wish I could say there was that much carry-over, because there would be that much carry-over all the time for the positives. You’re starting from scratch all the time.”
What needs to change to make that breakthrough and win in the playoffs?
“We have to outplay the opponent. Point blank. There’s no special words for it or anything. You just have to go and outplay. You just keep doing it. We’ve just got to keep climbing the mountain; we’re not going to quit climbing it. We’ve got to get there and push over and get it done.”
Aside from the turnovers, is there something you saw in Andy Dalton that you had not seen all season long?
“I can’t sit here today, right now, and analyze Andy’s play throughout. It’s unfortunate we had the turnovers today, and that ended up being the difference.”
You guys thought this year would be different, how frustrated are you?
“It’s very frustrating. We had another opportunity. What you do in regular season doesn’t matter once you get to the playoffs. All the good things we did this year, and to come out and not win this game hurts.”
What went wrong?
“There are different things that went on. We didn’t make enough plays when we had the chance to make them and we didn’t execute as well as they (San Diego) did. There is not one particular thing that went wrong, but it cost us the game.”
You’ve been playing this position long enough to know the quarterback gets all the blame and/or credit. How much of it is deserved?
“It all comes with playing the position. There’s a lot that goes on during a game, and the quarterback is in control of everything. He’s the leader of the team and of the offense, and when things don’t go right the quarterback is going to get the blame. I’m willing to take every shot at me. You’ve got to have thick skin.”
After three years do you feel like you have grown at this position?
“I definitely have. I’ve improved a lot and it shows with everything we’ve done this year.”
What do you think you all will have to do in order to overcome the hump?
“Execute a little bit better and finish the game.”
Was the game plan sufficient for today?
“We had different things planned going in. We wanted to get some guys in who made some big plays for matchups, but we weren’t able to make any of those plays in the second half.”
Good quarterbacks are judged on how they do in these types of games, how do you think you’re being judged right now?
“Unfortunately, the last three years, we haven’t been able to win one of these playoff games. Obviously, there is going to be a lot of criticism and talk, but until you win and prove people wrong, people can say whatever they want.”
You spoke of consistency, how do you stay the ship to get that consistency?
“It’s doing all the little things right. We have to find different ways to get bigger plays on first downs in order to give ourselves better chances on the second and third downs.”
It will be a year before you can get back to playing, how do you stomach all this?
“It’s tough, to know we didn’t take advantage of an opportunity and it ended this way. I’ll definitely be doing things in the offseason to keep improving, and doing whatever we can to get back here next year.”
Does a day like today shake your confidence at all about what the long-term future holds?
“No. There have been so many great things happen for us this year, but we’ve got to do it in the playoffs. Unfortunately for us we haven’t done that yet.
Did they do anything to try and take
“Yes, of course. Everybody is aware of what A.J. can do so that’s just part of it. There are a lot of other guys who can make big plays when something like that happens.”
Did you ever feel forced to make a play that wasn’t there?
“I wouldn’t say I was trying to make plays that weren’t there, it’s just kind of how things ended up working out.”
“Marvin is really talented. He’s shown that he can make those kinds of plays, as he’s done all year. It was great to see him come out and perform. I’m excited for what he’s been able to do in his two years here.”
Is the disappoint felt today any different than previous years?
“It is a different kind of disappointment because we’re a better team than that. The core group of our guys were all back from last year and the improvements we’ve made along the way didn’t show with what we did out there today.”
What improvements do you foresee for next year?
“We’re getting all our guys back so everyone will see things better. The experience of playing will drive us to work even harder.”
It’s been 3 years of one-and-done — what needs to change?
“Don’t turn the ball over. That’s the biggest thing. At this point in the season, you can’t turn the ball over.”
How tough is this loss to swallow?
“It’s going to be very tough. We weren’t ready to be finished right now. It’s going to be tough because we believed that we had the team to take it the distance and obviously, we didn’t, so it’s going to be hard.”
Was there a particular turning point where you felt the game was starting to slip away?
“Not really. Like I said, we turned the ball over too much and that’s the biggest thing.”
Andy’s going to get a lot of heat for this loss. What do you say to help ease the pain of that?
“Man, it’s just not him. I could have made that play down the sidelines for him. It just happens. We’re still young (and) still got a lot of football left to play. We thought we had the team to take it all the way. That’s the biggest thing, man. These last 2 years, we were coming in feeling we were hoping to win; this game, we went in knowing we could have come out with a ‘W’ and that’s the most frustrating thing: Knowing you had the game plan already and if you had just executed it, you know you would have come out with that W, but we didn’t.”
What’s the emotion of this team right now?
“We’re a tough team. We’re a family, so we have to continue to get better. Take this off season, get your body right and come back with it.”
On that pass deep down the sidelines in the fourth quarter, did it just slip out of your hands?
“No. The safety (Darrell Stuckey) just made a great play on it, came and knocked it right out of my hands. I was trying to shield the corner off just a little bit and safety came out of nowhere and swatted it. I had him beat so bad, I usually just try to light-hand those things — I didn’t even know the safety was around.”
How much differently did San Diego play you today than December 1?
“It was just a lot of cover 2 on my side. Probably no man-to-man, just a lot of cloud (on) my side.”
The look on your face after that play kind of said it all:
“I thought I had it. I thought I had it. It stuck in my hand and the freakin’ safety just came and swatted it. I tried to light-hand it because I had the corner beat so bad. I tried to slow play it like I usually do, and the safety just made a great play on it.”
The offense had another playoff game today where it came up short:
“We can’t turn the ball over. That’s what it is. You can’t expect to turn the ball over three times and win the game. Can’t do it. Not at this point in the season.”
Is there anything you could say to Andy at the end of the game?
“Keep his head up, man. A lot of people are going to give him heat for this; (it’s) not deserved. We all had a hand in it, including myself. Like I said, it’s not his fault. We didn’t play as a whole to help him out.”
Is it more than San Diego executed on offense than the defense didn’t execute its game plan today?
“I don’t know. They just came out and played very fast, very physical — we matched their intensity, but we didn’t play up to our level today.”
Can you put a finger on why the Bengals can’t advance past the first round of the playoffs?
“I don’t know, but that’s the thing we need to fix to get past it. All of us, as the leaders, we need to figure out what’s going on and be ready for next year.”
How frustrating is this for you?
“(It’s) very frustrating. It’s football. There’s always going to be a winner, there’s always going to be a loser, but for me, I’m going to try and take it to the off season and try and get better.”
What was Andy’s mentality like in the second half when things started falling apart? Was he still the same Andy?
“I think everyone got frustrated. We knew coming into this game we expected to play well and we just really weren’t. We had costly turnovers and a ton of mistakes that haven’t been happening. Like I said, we’re going to get criticized for it and we deserve it.”
Do you think knowing you needed that victory to avoid the criticism enter your mind during the game?
“No, not really. They (the Chargers) came out here and played a great game. Offensively, they played really well and I think, at times this season, we had been relying on our defense maybe too much. We needed to do more today to pick them up and they had a good plan for them. The defense did a heck of a job just holding them to field goals and it could have been a much worse score than it was.”
With this loss being the third consecutive one in the playoffs in the first round, what needs to change?
“I don’t know all that at this point. I just know that whatever it takes, we have to do it to be able to go forward and have a mentality that there’s got to be a way you enter this game and probably look at the teams that are really good in the postseason, what do they do and how do they change and the way that play in these games. San Diego came in here with a great plan — possess the football, run it and try and have short third downs that they could convert. It seemed to work well for them.”
Does this loss sting a little more? It seemed like things were different this year?
“They were different. We were a good football team. But when you play in the tournament, the truth is it doesn’t matter how good your year was. That one day matters. Nothing else does. Today, we weren’t a very good football team and we’re sitting here going home.”
You guys wanted to run the ball today. Do you think once the score got to 14-10 in San Diego’s favor that you stopped running the ball?
“I don’t know how much we ran it; I felt like we ran it well when we did. But you know, we really just got in a situation where he tried to throw the ball some and then got down by more than a score and you kind of missed your window to be able to run it.”
It’s tough to win when you lose the turnover battle:
“Tell me about it. Tell me about it. You can’t beat anybody; I don’t care who you are. We fought. We tried. Like you said, when you turn the ball over, it’s hard to beat any team in the playoffs. So hats off to them.”
The Chargers ran the ball a lot once they took the lead in the second half to try to run out the clock:
“Once you let a team get momentum like that, it’s hard trying to get it back.”
It’s hard to look back right now and see that you had a good season:
“Maybe a couple months down the road you can sit back and reflect on the good of the season. But right now, it sucks, because we feel like we had the team — like we had the guys in this room to get us over the hump — but we came up short once again. Hats off to the fans that stayed throughout the whole game. This city deserves better than that. Our fans deserve better than this. But it is what it is. We came out, we fought ... it wasn’t in our favor today. Hopefully we have a better outcome next year.”
Did the Chargers approach anything differently compared to the first game you played them this year?
“No, not at all. Their a zone team, we knew what they were going to do. We lined up and played. That’s what it comes down to — they made the plays that counted, and we didn’t. The scoreboard shows it.”
You were able to play through the foot injury and got it done today:
“Rest over the week (helped), obviously. The trainers did a great job — modern medicine has come a long way for years. Obviously, the foot didn’t bother me today. What bothered me, obviously, was losing this game. With this group of guys, we really thought we had a special team here.”
It’s hard to beat anybody when you go minus-four in turnovers:
“Yeah, turnovers, and time of possession. Anytime that other team holds on to the ball longer than you and you turn the ball over four times, it’s not going to come out right.”
Did you feel like the defense did what it could to try to stay in the game?
“It’s a team game, man. I can’t talk about, ‘Well we did this. We did that.’ We didn’t do enough. That’s why they won. It’s why they’re going to be playing next week, and we won’t.”
Is this playoff loss different from the others, or worse?
“An ‘L’ is an ‘L’. It’s over with.”
Did you have a good feeling leading at halftime?
“Yeah, I felt like we knew what they were trying to do. But it’s a big difference knowing what they’re trying to do, and actually going out there and stopping them. We didn’t do a good job of that. They were able to march the ball down the field and get a score. I’ve got to go back and look at the film, but I’ve got a good idea of what happened.”
Does it make it harder believing you were the better team?
“It’s embarrassing anytime you lose, but especially at home when we’ve been so good here. It’s a big letdown for the whole city, man. I know everybody really wanted it. I know we wanted it. It’ just embarrassing to go out like that.”
How do you move on from another playoff defeat?
“I don’t know, because I thought we did the things to move forward. I’ll be listening on Monday to see what we can do to move forward and change things. I think the people upstairs and the coaches, did a hell of a job putting us in a great position to win the game. Guys just didn’t step up to the plate. We’ve got to do some self evaluation. It is what it is, you know? Nobody’s pointing fingers. Everybody needs to own up to their responsibilities.”
Was the fumble before halftime a momentum changer?
“That was a big momentum swing. If you get three points right there, you’re up six. Come back (after halftime), then you get the ball. I don’t know. Turnovers, period. It’s hard to win the game — period, point blank — regardless of how good your defense is playing, if the other team gets (four) turnovers and you don’t get any. (Phillip) Rivers played a smart game. He didn’t force anything. He took what was there, and they were the better team today.”
The turnovers killed you today:
“Any time you turn the ball over, it’s a low success rate of winning. We know that, but we just have to turn it around.”
How frustrating is it to be a team with so much potential and leave again with a first-round playoff loss?
“Like I said before, we have that potential and we still have that potential, and we had it going. We had it going but we didn’t make the plays that we needed to make. It’s tough but we have to overcome it.”
As the last few minutes ticked off, what did you think — that the situation was very disappointing?
“(I thought) the same thing you feel after every loss — you had opportunities, you had advantages but you just didn’t capitalize.”
Andy had a rough day today — what did or do you say to him as a teammate to help lift him up after a game like this?
“Just keep you head up, you know? This stuff happens and we depend on him like he depends on us, and we’re not going to bat an eye about them. He’s still a great talent and we all in general didn’t make enough plays that were needed, not just him. We just have to do better.”
Did you feel like anything was different with those guys or you guys than it was when you played in the regular season on Dec. 1?
“No. We knew that they were a hard-nosed defense and they could do some stuff on offense. It was just us. It was all on us — we didn’t get it done.”
On today’s game:
“We have to go into this offseason and remember this pain. Remember the drive that got us here. I feel like it got away from us today.”
How different was San Diego today versus earlier this season?
“We knew what they were going to try to run. We had to stop the run and they just made plays. Turnovers obviously killed us today. We just have to put this behind us — not put it behind us, but put it behind us and still reflect on it in the future.”
Was there playcalling changed so there was something you didn’t expect out of them offensively?
“No. They did everything that (our coaches) drew up on the board. But like I said, you’ve got to execute everything on (all) phases of the ball. We struggled at times with that, know what I’m saying? I don’t like to say we have to go into the off season — because we should have done it now — but this off season, we have to look at it and stay focused on what happened today because we can’t just let it go. I feel like we got to stay focused and watch film because I don’t want to feel this no more. It’s devastating. All the hard work that we put in, for us to fall short in the first round, man, it just hurts.”
When playoff losses pile up like this, does it start to hurt more when you realize the potential this team has?
“Yeah, man. Like I said, I’m devastated. I hate losing, this team hates losing. Like I said, we need to remember this because I don’t like feeling like this. I hate feeling like this. I ain’t got too much to say about it; we just should have won the game.”
Did it feel like San Diego was different this time around?
“I mean, they had a few wrinkles that they threw at us that were different, but for the most part, they were the same team. Like I said, we should have just executed.”
A lot of people are going to the blame for the loss on your quarterback:
“There’s no blaming our quarterback; this is a team. You should blame me for not making enough tackles or enough turnovers or something. I’m not putting it on the quarterback. We got go out there and play as a unit.”
What happened on the fumble? Did he surprise you from behind?
“I was just tucking the ball away and his (Chargers linebacker Donald Butler’s) hand was there and it just came out.”
I’m sure that was a pretty big disappointment at that point:
“Yeah, it was. Losing is always disappointing. It doesn’t matter what the score is.”
Did you think you were closing to the end zone than you were when it happened?
“Nope. I just didn’t get away in time.”
It looked like you guys were effective running the ball in the second quarter:
“Yeah (but) when you’re playing catch-up, you can’t run the ball that much.”
What can you guys do to get over this playoff hump?
“It is what it is. (It) doesn’t matter what the year is, you’re losing in the first round, it’s always disappointing. (It) doesn’t matter what year it is.”
It seemed like the game plan was to dominate and to be a control the clock and be more physical:
“I think the way we’ve run the football the last month was something coming into the game. We know playing the Cincinnati Bengals, what kind of a team they are. We knew it was going to be a slugfest from the very first snap all the way through the game. Very physical team. We challenged our football team coming into the game to understand, hey, this is what happened to us last time, this is the way we played last time. They got the best of us from time-to-time up front. We challenged everybody up front — actually the whole entire football team — that going on the road in a playoff game is not going to be easy, regardless of who you’re playing. Coach Lewis and the whole entire staff, they do a great job there, and we knew it was going to be a tough challenge for us. But the players did a heckuva job.”
This is the kind of game a lot of people didn’t think you could win on the road. Was that a challenge to your defense?
“I think the whole football team, not just the defense. The defense played lights out in the second half, you know, really the whole entire game. I don’t know; I haven’t looked at the stat sheet or anything. I think they did a great job creating some turnovers — the fourth-down stop, a number of big plays from a lot of different players. Give the coaches a lot of credit. Ken Whisenhunt, John Pagano, Kevin Spencer, the rest of the whole staff of putting things together the whole year. They’ve done a phenomenal job. That’s a big reason why we’re here today. The players have gone out and executed, they’ve bought in, and you can see by the way we played today they’re having a lot of fun flying around.”
You didn’t throw the ball a whole lot. Did you feel the way the game was going and the defense was playing that you didn’t need to?
“We said from the first game, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first game against Houston or it’s this game, we’re going to do whatever we think it takes to win. As the flow of the game changes and things happen, there are certain things that are going to come up, and we’re going to decide this is how we’re going to play it. It might be more clock management from time-to-time, it could be weather like it came out today, what’s the situation, how are we protecting the quarterback, how are the receivers running outside, there are a number of things that come into the equation and it’s our job as coaches to make the best decision we think to win.”
What did you think of Philip Rivers play today? The numbers don’t jump out at you but how important was it that he didn’t make mistakes?
“That’s the key thing in a game like a playoff game. It’s really about in big games, a lot of times teams lose the game rather than win it. When you make some mistakes and turn the football over and do certain things, it hurts your football team. The way the game was going, Ken (Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator). did a good job of calling the game.”
Do you feel you’re starting to make some believers out of people?
“It’s the San Diego organization. We’re just worried about ourselves right now. We said that all week long it’s about us, and we’re going to keep taking it one week at a time, and just keep going, keep plugging away.”
What was the team’s mood after giving up points at the end of the first half, and then what did you say to them that helped inspire the second half?
“We’ve got 30 minutes left — that’s the only thing guaranteed to us. You’ve got 30 minutes left in the season. Let’s do what we want with it. It’s about fundamentals. In playoff football and the rest of this year, it’s going to be about fundamentals. Let’s go out there and do all the little things right and the big things will take care of themselves. Just go do your job, do your job for the next 30 minutes, and if it’s good enough we’re advancing. If it’s not, we’re done for the year. It’s as simple as that. You shouldn’t need a big speech at halftime, or the beginning of a game right now, or a playoff game at this point in time in a season. They’ve heard me plenty of times already this year.”
After what you’ve done to get here, do you value it more than had you won the division?
“We’re just going one week at a time. To be honest with you, we don’t care as an organization what anyone else thinks about us. We’ve got confidence in our room, within in our organization from Dean Spanos all the way down, and that’s the most important thing for the whole organization.”
Once you got the lead, it seemed like you turned up the heat defensively. Was that the plan?
“As the game goes along, you change things. You start getting after them. The DBs cover certain things, and like we’ve said from Day One, the best coverage is a good pass rush, and they got after him (Andy Dalton).”
Cincinnati was a team that averaged 35 points a game at home. Can you give a general statement on the defense and what they were able to do to create turnovers?
“I think John Pagano called a phenomenal game. He did a great job adjusting things and giving them different looks, and that was something you constantly heard him say throughout the game to give them a different look and mix some things up. Give the players credit for the extra. It’s about the 11 guys inside those lines, and 11 guys being on the same page and not having any breakdowns. When you play that way — you’re running the football, create some turnovers, you hit the quarterback, you do what you can to stop the run and do some big things — good things happen.”
What is the condition of Ryan Mathews?
“We’re doing what’s best for the football team. We rested him a little bit during the week as we’ve done the past couple weeks, and we’re still playing. We’ve got to do what’s best for the team moving forward. Whoever has the hot hand, doing certain things, running the football a certain way, we’re going to keep doing that.”
You didn’t seem to lose much with running game the way Ronnie Brown played when he was in there:
“I’m so happy for Ronnie. I’ve probably touched on it, but what he’s done for this football team, what he means to the team — his leadership, his knowledge of the game, his role that he’s played — he never changed. He showed up to work every day. All he does is look and help his teammates out, and that’s all you can ask. He’s a true professional — a great guy to be around. We’re very fortunate to have him. Really, for him to score like that there’s a reason for it. There is.”
How do you feel about facing the Denver Broncos for the third time this year?
“We’re playing the Denver Broncos. We’re going to put a great game plan in and we’re going out there. We know it’s an outstanding football team. We understand what they’ve done the entire year. We’re going to enjoy this plane ride home and get in the office early in the morning and get rolling.”
How do you feel about the winning streak you’re on?
“We just played better together consistently. There were some games early in the year where the offense was rolling, and defensively we just couldn’t get it together, and vice versa. There have been some games — Cincinnati being the first time — when the defense was rolling, and we couldn’t get it going. We have played better team ball for five weeks in a row. We’ve been fired up all week about getting into the playoffs, but we’ve been in playoff mode for five weeks. This is the fifth round for us. We knew if we lost one more, we’d be done, so that continues through the playoffs.”
Are you finally playing the way you thought this team could play?
“Yeah — and we played this way in spurts during the regular season. In the playoffs, it’s about who can be the best for 60 minutes. We knew it would be a challenge, and today we were the best team for 60 minutes. That’s a heck of an opponent, as you saw. We didn’t have a lot of yards passing, but we made the plays when we had to, and our running backs and the guys up front worked their tails off. Our defense created four turnovers, and if you don’t turn the ball over, you’ll win a lot of games.”
Was it tough to stay patient in the first half with only six throws?
“No, I think it’s what the situation presented. We were backed up a few times. Was it a little conservative? Probably. Was it the right decision? Yeah. I didn’t love it at the time when we ran three times and punted at the end of the first half. I thought, ‘Goodness gracious, our defense just got a turnover and we sat on it.’ That’s why the coaches make decisions. It was the right thing to do, even though they go up three before the half. You didn’t want a disaster, and with the way our defense was playing, as long as we didn’t have a disaster and made the plays when they were presented, we were going to win the game.”
Do you feel that you’ve had more success this year because you’ve had more control over the offense?
“I always had some leeway; I just think that this system is set up to do more at the line. I don’t want to make more out of it than what it is. Ken Wisenhunt is calling a great game over the stretch we’ve been on. It’s awesome to have the responsibility and I take it seriously. I try to get us out of a bad play and get us into a good one without overdoing it and trying to be perfect. I have enjoyed that part of it. Today there wasn’t a ton of them, but there were a handful where you feel like, ‘Let’s keep ourselves out of a negative run, or this pass doesn’t look great, let’s get into a run,’ or whatever the case. You go with your instincts down there on the goal line. It’s kind of how the system sets up.”
How did you escape the rush and get the floater to Danny Woodhead for the touchdown?
“It’s one of those where you really cover up and brace, and then you feel him slip off so you try to see what can happen. I liked Danny the whole time, but Maualuga was right there, and I didn’t really have a way to get it to him, so I peeked up ahead to make sure the corner didn’t come off and knock Danny out. I had to wait a little bit before I let that one go.”
How confident will you be going into Denver, knowing you’ve already beaten them there once?
“We will be confident, but we have to be careful not to be over-confident, and we won’t be. Just because we won there a few weeks ago doesn’t mean anything. Cincinnati came to our place and won too. It doesn’t mean anything, but it will give us some confidence knowing that we’ve gone there and won before. They have the best quarterback of all time, one of the best offenses of all time, and a defense that really gets after it and feeds off that noise. They’re a No. 1 seed for a reason, but we will go in there hungry and fired up, and give it our best.”
Did this game remind you of “Marty Ball?”
“It’s Charger ball — it’s playoff ball. It really is. It reminded me of the Tennessee playoff win in 2007. It was a back-and-forth game — you just find a way to win. You complete the passes that are presented, complete a few big passes, and you run it, run it, run it — and when you look up at the board at the end of the game, you’ve won. Playoff games aren’t meant to be pretty — you just find a way to win, and we did that in all three phases today.”
You played most of the game without Nick Hardwick:
“That’s the longest we’ve gone without Nick. Give a lot of credit to Rich Ohrnberger. The last few months Rich has gotten a lot of reps, so I’m sure he had confidence and I had confidence in him. It says a lot about the whole group. We didn’t have a lot of mistakes. You hate to see Nick come out, but thankful that we have an experienced guy in Ohrnberger to go in there.”
The play mix in the second half was fantastic:
“Yeah, that was huge. We stopped them at the beginning of the second half and got the ball and scored. We were able to mix the run and pass well and hit a few big plays. That’s the type of game it was — two big drives and don’t turn the ball over, mix in some field goals, and you win the game. They way our defense was playing was lights out. We did what we were asked to do.”
What does it say about Ronnie Brown, going unused for a month, and being able to do what he did today?
“It shows a lot about our team and how this league is. Every guy is important. Ronnie Brown is a team favorite and a great teammate. He’s so unselfish. He’s dressed so many games and not played. When he’s called on, you see why he was picked high in the draft and why he’s had a heck of a career. We’re glad we got him. You saw the sideline erupt — they were excited for Ronnie Brown. It was awesome to see him go for 40-plus for the touchdown.”
At what point this year did you feel that you became comfortable with the offense?
“I’ve felt comfortable since week one. We put up 28 points in the first game but let it get away from us in the second half. I’m way more comfortable now than I was then. The time we put in during the spring, OTAs and training camp really paid off. It’s a group effort. Our players bought in. We spent lots of time on communication and terminology. Ken Wisenhunt was very respectful of what we had done here in the past, and I know the veterans really appreciated that. We were able to keep some of the stuff we were really good at. There has been respect from day one for the new offensive staff. To this point, it has played out very positively.”
How much time did you put in this offseason compared to others?
“It was different. I’ve always put in the time but you’re working on different fundamentals. For this year, it was more system — grinding on terminology, repeating plays over and over and drawing them up. It was that type of studying. I took a great deal of pride in learning it, learning it fast, and playing well in it. It wasn’t just me having to learn it — the whole offense had to. Everyone had to be on the same page. A lot of credit goes to the whole unit for how we’ve adapted to the new system.”
Talk about your touchdown run:
“It was a four-minute situation. The offensive line did a great job. I got to do the easy part and run through the hole.”
What did you see on the play?
“On the series before, we had a few runs and they had us three-and-out. I read it. The guys did a great job (of blocking) for me and created a hole on the backside. I had the opportunity to run through it.”
It seemed like the Chargers dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage. How accurate is that?
“We’ve done a great job these last few weeks of running the ball. Ryan (Mathews) has done a great job of running the ball. Danny (Woodhead) gets in and the offensive line does a great job of getting the running game going. Today, we had to lean on the running game a little bit. We didn’t have a great day of offense. It comes down to who makes the plays.”
Talk about your defense being able to hold the Bengals to just 10 points:
“I think the defense did a great job all day of holding those guys to a minimum amount of points and not letting them make big plays. They had some key drives and threw the ball down the field on us. Getting them to turn the ball over made a big difference.”
Now, you have Denver for a third time. That’s really amazing:
“It’s going to be big. We know the task we have. They have great offense and some good guys on defense. We’re familiar with those guys and they’re familiar with us. I think against a team like that, you have to be fundamentally sound. As long as we don’t give them a lot of extra opportunities, we’ll be OK. We have a lot of work ahead of ourselves. We have to go ahead and look at this film and see what we can do better. See some things that we made mistakes on and keep going.”
Talk about playing on the road and hearing how silent the crowd was at the end:
“I think that’s big. Basically, when you go on the road, it’s a good feeling to be able to go on the road and silence the crowd. They’re all there to support their team and when you get a chance to make it quiet, it makes it a lot easier on the offensive side of the ball. At the same time, it’s a lot more momentum when you can hear the cadence.”
You know there are a lot of people eating crow, because of what the Chargers did today:
“I think before the game we all said it, ‘We’re all we’ve got. At the same time, we’re all that we need.’ As long as we believe it this locker room, everything outside of here doesn’t really matter.”
The Bengals seemed to be the better team physically in week 13. What do you think the difference was today?
“It was a physical game early. When it came time to make plays and get off the field, we did that. We matched their physicality. They have a great group. They are very talented, and very big and physical up front. They had a couple drives on us early, but we kept rallying and got a couple turnovers. I think the turnovers turned out to be the key.”
How big was Donald Butler’s play to strip the ball from
“It’s huge. It’s huge. They just had a long drive for a touchdown, came back, and they were driving again. For him to be that aware and come back to get that ball, ... Any turnover is big, but a turnover in the red zone is huge for us.”
A.J. Green is one of the best receivers in the league, and you guys made him a non factor today. What was the secret?
“It’s one of the main things about their offense. They have talent across the board, but their bell-cow is No. 18. If you can stay on top of him, then you have a good shot. He’s as good as they come.”
“Shoot man, what a win. It was a team win. Words can’t really explain. It’s been so long that I’m just enjoying it and trying to embrace everything after this — the emotions, the energy — but I’m also looking forward to Denver. We’re not satisfied with this. We’re ready to move on and get on to Denver. It was a great effort today, offensively by not turning the ball over, and defensively by creating four turnovers. We pressured him all day, and kept them off balance. It was a great team effort, (including on) special teams, when we punted the ball out. It was a great game to be a part of.”
Do you think Denver will be confident going against you guys next week?
“I don’t know. I’m sure they are confident against anyone that they face. We’re excited, and confident. We are playing well as a team, and we’ll see what happens. We are going to enjoy this and have a great flight home, and then tomorrow we will move on to Denver.”
Do you feel confident going out there since you know them so well?
“We know them and they know us, personnel-wise. It’s going to be a great game and a great battle. We held them to 28 and 20 in both games. You never know. It could be a shootout, or it could be a close game. That’s the great thing about the playoffs. That’s why you just have to come out and focus and play together. It’s a 60-minute game, just like the Colts and Chiefs game. Everyone counted the Colts out, and they came back and won it. You just have to play every down, play together, and rely on each other.”
You guys know Denver pretty well. Do you feel good going there?
“You have to feel good. You have to feel confident, whoever your opponent is. We played Denver twice already, and we know it’s going to be a good game. We are going to go back and watch the film to correct the mistakes from this game, and then move on to Denver.”
How crucial were the turnovers today?
“We knew coming out for the second half that we had to play our best football. Coach always emphasizes that it’s a 30-minute game in the second half and every play matters in the playoffs. The coach dials up the plays, and we have to execute the best that we can. That’s exactly what we did. You saw that run. That was a great run, and a great way to end the game.”
How much of the harassment of Andy Dalton has to do with the win today?
“It got to him pretty good. The game is won and lost in the trenches. Our front did a tremendous job of getting pressure — especially when we were only rushing four, we were still getting pressure. Whenever you are playing a high-caliber quarterback like Andy Dalton, you have to get pressure on him, and that’s what they did today.”
How do you keep this momentum going?
“Like I said, every play mattered to us. Every opportunity to play and to play together and play for each other, that’s how games are won. It’s not won with a whole lot of individuals.”
Did the momentum the Chargers were riding coming in to the playoffs carry over today?
“The biggest thing in the NFL is playing good toward the end of the season, and we have been. We almost didn’t get in (to the playoffs), because it took us a little too much time, but we’re playing some good football. We’re going to continue to work and try to keep playing good football.”
Are you happy that you get to face Denver in the next round?
“We’re happy that we’re in the next round. It was a big win today. I’m sure tomorrow, we’ll get right back to work and get ready for the next (game). It’s playoff football and we’re excited about it.”
Why were the Chargers able to affect the passing of Andy Dalton so much today?
“We were just out there playing hard, playing aggressive. When we go out and play hard, the results take care of themselves.”
Were there vulnerabilities to take advantage of that was noticed while scouting?
“We feel like every opponent is vulnerable. If we play our ‘A’ game, everybody is vulnerable.”
Five straight wins. How does it feel to be a part of this run?
“I’m blessed to be a part of this. I have never really been a part of anything like this. Right now, we’re excited to keep playing.”
How important is it that the Chargers have beaten the Broncos in Denver this season?
“That really doesn’t matter. Right now, it’s either win or go home.”
When and why did you know you would be a significant part of this team?
“The day I got hurt, I knew I would be back. It’s all about your will. It’s all about how you push yourself to get better. I knew God had a good plan for me.”
When you came out of surgery, did you count how many days, weeks, months it would be until you were able to play again?
“Yes. How many days, months, hours, and cities is it going to take for me to get better?”
What was the confidence level of this team like coming in to today?
“For about five games, it’s been win or go home. Every game has been a playoff game for us.”
How good did your fourth-quarter interception of Andy Dalton feel?
“It felt great. You work so hard that when you have a chance to make a play, it feels great.”
Are the Chargers the hottest team in the NFL?
“I don’t know, but we’re going to go out there, play hard, and everything will take care of itself.”