ML: “I’m probably just as disappointed today as I was yesterday after the football game. There were a lot of things that we didn’t complete, things that we left out on the field, both on offense and defense. There were a lot of smaller details of things that ended up being very important within the concept of the play, whether it’s a positive play or negative play. That’s probably the biggest disappointment with yesterday. We wasted some good opportunities to convert plays and take advantage of field position.
“Special teams, throughout most of the day, did a pretty good job with things. One thing we have to be, still, is a little bit more disciplined with our returners and follow the plan.
“Offensively, we have to be more complete in the running game throughout the football game. Turn these three-yard gains into five-yard gains, five into seven, and so forth. That will make it much easier on the third-down percentage. We had the one false start penalty on offense that gives us the bad down. We had the sack the first play of the game that gives us a bad down and gets us off sync. Then the holding penalty, which should not have been called but was, hurt us later. So those are the things that get you off balance. We had too many third-and-very long situations in the football game. There were a couple second-and-twos and third-and-twos that we’ve got to convert to first downs. That will keep us moving the football down the field a little better.
“Defensively, we did a lot of good things. But, again, on the drive where they get the pass on the scramble, then later the run on the outside and we don’t get the right leverages to get the back on the ground. Those ended up being big plays.”
When you mention being ‘incomplete’ in the running game, what all do you mean? Penalties? Blocking? Finishing?
ML: “Finish of the block. Finish of the block on the right guys. There’s different terms we use up front, with the technique of it, finishing the technique of it, seeing it through the same eyes and seeing the alignments the same ways. Then getting through and getting the execution, whether it be by the runners – it wasn’t as much about the runners yesterday as much as the people blocking the looks.”
ML: “We’ll do it with the guys that we’ve got until we find someone else. If we don’t like what we’re doing, we’ll find somebody else. But we are where we are right now.”
Could you envision possibly making a trade down the line? Making a move in free agency?
ML: “I don’t need to envision anything right now. I’m just worrying about where we are right now, today. It’s not my worry to envision anything right now. We’ve got the guys we have now – 53 players – and they’re good enough for us to get done what we need to get done.”
You’ve been without Scott most of the year anyway, but do you at all change what you’re doing with the guys that you mentioned you already have?
ML: “No, I don’t think we need to change what we’re doing. Obviously BenJarvus (Green-Ellis) will have a little bigger impact in things, along with the other guys –
ML: “I have no idea.”
Now that you’ve had time to go through the film and think about it a little more, why not go for it on the fourth down late in the fourth quarter when you were down by four? You went for it earlier in the game and got it:
ML: “In that (earlier) situation, we weren’t in position to kick a field goal. So that’s the difference, where the field position was at that point as opposed to where it was later on. There (on Miami’s 23-yard line), we’ve got automatic – or what should be automatic – points. We’ve got the ability to kick off, have a touchback, pin them back again, get the ball back again – just like we had done the previous series – have another opportunity for a field goal or touchdown, and win the football game going away. I’ve got to trust our guys are going to get done what they’re going to get done.
“Fourth-and-five, at that point, is not as high of a percentage. Sometimes we have to do it – we did it a year ago in Jacksonville, when we were down by more points than that. But in this situation I chose to take the field goal, but unfortunately Mike (Nugent) missed it, so it opens things up to all the second-guessing, and we lost the football game.
“There are a lot of decisions I have to make during the football game. Do we take a penalty or not take a penalty by the offense on second-and-long, then they missed the 53-yard field goal. Everybody’s got an opinion, and unfortunately I have to make the decision and live with it. When you win the football game, none of these questions are ever asked. Obviously when you lose, you’re opened up for second-guessing. But I’ve got to make the decision at the time, and I still feel like it was the best thing to do. It gives our guys an opportunity to get the ball in our hands. We had three more possessions of the football. And from the time we didn’t go for two, four times. Early in the fourth quarter, we have a chance to get the ball, playing good defense. Or you can go conversely and say it the other way around. But that’s what I chose to do yesterday.”
You had not been too successful on third-and-five or more. Does that have any impact on your decision on whether or not you go for it or kick a field goal?
ML: “I don’t think of it as in depth as that. It would be a good excuse to use today (laughs), but I don’t think of it that way. I thought of it more like we would get the three points, then we’d be kicking off to them, and we were likely to have a touchback because we had the wind. Then we have an opportunity to pin them back again and make him (Miami P Brandon Fields) punt, which he had not done a good job of all day, and we’ve had a chance to return punts all day. Any time we can get the ball in
In that scenario, you have to know that you’ve been strong on special teams throughout the year – both punting and on punt returns, right?
ML: “It’s been very good. Kevin (Huber) didn’t have his best day hitting the football yesterday, but it worked out for us with the touching (downing of the ball) on the first one. But he has done a great job throughout the season, and our guys covering have done an excellent job of downing those punts inside the five-yard line. We had another nice couple of plays yesterday. We just have to keep that up. Conversely, when they had those opportunities, we got touchbacks. Our guys did a good job of getting their punter off-rhythm and doing what needed to do to provide for the touchback.”
You seemed like you got Miami’s attention with the fake punt the previous week at Jacksonville, because they came out in a base defense on fourth-and-one:
ML: “We saw the base defense a few times – three times I think in the ballgame yesterday. It’s something we’ll see more often. As I said after the game in Jacksonville, it frees up our gunners a little bit more because we’re not likely to see the vice as much, and it enables them to make more plays. Jeromy (Miles) and Andrew (Hawkins) were doing a good job coming through in those situations.”
Turnover margin is a stat you have been emphasizing – you’re minus-four for the season in that category – yet you had some issues with bobbling the ball yesterday:
ML: “We’ve got to make sure that as we’re trying to gain more yardage we keep the ball secure. The most important thing that we have is the football, and we have to possess it. Armon (Binns) gets up trying to run for more yardage after he stumbles on the throw. We’ve got to take care of the ball. Same thing with A.J. (Green) – trying to get more yardage. We’ve got to do a good job of that. It was twice yesterday with A.J. Those are the things that are important. And obviously in the pocket, Andy (Dalton) always has to be aware and take care of the football. Time and time again, that’s what we’ve got to do. You just have to keep doing it.
“Conversely, on defense, we’re doing a good job of getting the ball out. We’ve got to keep doing that and come up with them. But we’ve got to create more interception opportunities. That would be important. That’s probably the stat that gets us more than anything –they (Bengals opponents) have thrown the ball 170 times and we’ve had one interception. And on offense, on third-downs we’re not very good. We’ve got to do a better job on third down on offense.”
Do those interception opportunities go hand and hand with things like the pass rush and the coverage you guys are playing?
ML: “It goes hand-in-hand with tipped balls. It goes hand-in-hand with the balls getting tipped up in the air. Right now it’s not falling our way. Hopefully you just keep tipping it up in the air. We’ve got to get more tips at the line of scrimmage and hopefully get more tips downfield, and start converting them. You get them from pressure, you get them from coverage. You get them a lot of different ways. But we’ve got to keep doing things correctly and stay poised in everything we’re doing, throughout what we’re doing. Just play within ourselves and our schemes, and everything will be fine and the ball will bounce back our way.”
ML: “I think so, yes.”
What about the rest of the secondary? You had
ML: “Throughout the year, the cornerback spot has done a decent job. I’m not completely pleased because we’re sitting here at 3-2, so I don’t want to be giving anybody any ‘atta boy’s’ for anything. We relaxed one play yesterday. We covered them like a blanket but then relaxed on a play and they make a play down the field on the scramble. Those are the things more than anything we’ve got to continue to guard against. We’re in a fine line right now, and if we dip underneath that line we’re having a hard time overcoming it. We have to make sure we’re staying on point with everything we’re doing. With Nate playing safety yesterday, he made some positive plays and some plays that with experience and repetition will continue to do better and better. We just have to continue to work at it and see what the best combination of guys are with what we’re doing.”
How do you defend against tipped passes at the line of scrimmage like the one Randy Starks had?
ML: “The timing of that, generally the guy that makes those kinds of plays is not necessarily rushing. Sometimes the protections are aggressive protections in order to keep hands down and things like that. Sometimes the ball might have been thrown outside rather than where it was supposed to go. That’s going to happen some, but we’ve got to continue to get the quarterback with his drop and get his depth and his rhythm and our fit in the pocket and our passing lanes in the pocket. We just have to keep working at that. Unfortunately those things happen sometimes in football, and we have to overcome them. We were able to go in and get the stop on defense in that particular case, but we’ve got to keep doing that time and time again.”
You played excellent defense on a third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 stop near end of half. A lot of times, that’s a big momentum-builder:
ML: “It is, but then we failed to convert the second-and-two and the third-and-two. Again, there’s another decision of do you go for it with 1:22 on the clock and the ball at their 44-yard line with two timeouts. There’s another one. There are a lot of decisions that happen in a game. Some of them happen earlier than others. When you lose, you go back and you think about them all, just like Mike (Zimmer) and Jay (Gruden) and Darrin (Simmons) think about every call they make throughout the football game. That’s what we do.”
Miami stuck with run game, despite 1.9-yard average. Jay Gruden said after the game that he might have gotten away from the run a little too early. Do you agree?
ML: “It does us no good to sit here and second-guess how things played out for us yesterday. We didn’t win yesterday. That hurts, that sucks and we’ve got to make good on it. The only way to make good on it is to learn from it in every way, otherwise we both wasted the opportunity to win and an opportunity to get better. That’s what we have to do. Sometimes you get frustrated as a play-caller when we have one guy fall off a block and it ends up being a gain of one or two as opposed to a gain of seven. You get more excited to keep running those balls up in there when you’re getting gains of seven, eight, nine and 10, rather than a gain of one or you’re struggling for two. We’ve got to do a better job all around in order to help that situation.”
It looked like to the naked eye that you’d have only one guy get beat, but it was only one guy here and one guy there and not an entire breakdown. Do you agree?
ML: “Right, and what you can’t have happen is everyone else adjusting because one guy gets beat. The next time that guy has a stellar performance, and then you don’t get your guy done the right way. We knew it was going to be a tense football game, and through a tense football game and the tense situations, we’ve got to stay poised and still have that workmanlike attitude and still get things done.”
When you signed
ML: “Sure. That’s one reason why we got Ben (BenJarvus Green-Ellis), to have the ability to do that.”
Did you think he’d be averaging 3.3 yards per carry?
ML: “I’d like to have our running game average more than that.”
You saw Green-Ellis as a big-carry guy?
ML: “We saw Ben to have an opportunity to compete with Bernard (Scott) to be our lead back, and whoever else we had at the time. That was the plan.”
Wasn’t the plan to have a ‘backfield by committee?’
ML: “You guys (the media) came up with the backfield by committee. I never in my mind (said that). I don’t even know what that means. We’re going to put the best 11 guys out there all of the time.”
Bernard Scott never got a chance to be out there because of injury:
ML: “Right. I feel Bernard Scott is good enough to be a productive NFL back, and that the more opportunity he got the better he would be. Unfortunately this season didn’t work out for him that way. That’s the way it goes. We have to get the next guy ready, whoever it may be – or one of the guys we have. Get it going and let’s go to work.”