MARVIN LEWIS (with Cincinnati media)
ML: “As we get into preparation this week for the Raiders, the No. 1 thing is the urgency we have to continue to prepare with. Guys have been doing a really good job of understanding the opponent – how the opponent applies to us, and how we apply to the opponent. The Raiders, as they were having the success they were having, had a lot of explosive plays. They had explosive plays early in the year in the running game. Not quite as many the last couple of weeks. But that was a big part of their offense – screens and vertical throws. So we have to do a great job against those things. They have great speed with the perimeter players. They have guys that are athletic in the running back position that can both run the football and catch the football well. So we have to understand that.
“Defensively, they’re a group that has a lot of guys that can impact the game with their speed and ability to both rush the passer and be disruptive. They were creating more turnovers earlier in the year, and that was helping them in their games, so it’s going to be important that we take care of the football offensively.
“In the kicking game, they’ve got some guys with some speed and ability that are dangerous returners. We’ve got to do a good job. Obviously, they have as a tandem probably the two best specialists in the league – (Shane) Lechler and (Sebastian) Janikowski. That’s an important phase for us, and we want to come out of this football game feeling like we won that phase. That’ll be very important.”
When you watch the film, does Carson Palmer look any different in their scheme compared to how you’ve seen them in the past?
ML: “It’s a little different scheme than what we had here; it’s similar to what we are now with more of a West Coast scheme. They’ll have a lot of vertical throws in it though.”
Palmer has developed a rapport with TE Brandon Myers. He seems to be his go-to guy:
ML: “Yeah. They do use the tight end quite a bit, and they get him the ball in pressure situations and things like that. Underneath things, and also in a check-down type of situation when the vertical throws aren’t there. He’s got a really good comfort level that he is going to be in the right spot.”
The Raiders use a lot of different running backs. Do the things they do change with each running back?
ML: “Darren McFadden is such an explosive player. Great speed, and when he gets to the perimeter, he’s quite a dangerous guy. As far as the base runs, they didn’t change very much, but there are some special things you do with a guy like McFadden.”
What does Marcel Reese bring to their running game?
ML: “He’s a big, strong guy. I think Hue (former Raiders head coach and current Bengals assistant coach Hue Jackson) said he was something like 250 pounds. For a guy to possess his athleticism and to be that big of a man, that’s unique. He has unique abilities. You would liken his to a Jerome Bettis-type of guy, with maybe a little better speed. He’s an excellent receiver when he’s been played in the fullback spot or deployed on the wings. He’s an excellent receiver and a guy that also does a good job with the run after the catch. He’s a good screen-runner, and other different situations. So he’s a unique type of player.”
He came within only a couple of yards last week of having over 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving. That’s a difficult feat:
ML: “It is. He has that kind of ability. I remember seeing him on tape last year and calling up Hue and asking who that guy was and where he came from. But he does, he has some special ability.”
Didn’t he originally come into the NFL as a wide receiver?
ML: “I think he came into camp as a wide receiver. I think it was the year before Hue was there (as head coach), when Hue was the coordinator, and they converted him to an H-back or fullback type of player that year. Then he really grew into his own last year.”
When you guys signed Hue Jackson back to the coaching staff, you had to figure that he could help you against the AFC West. How much have you been able to fall back on him in that area?
ML: “I don’t know that I thought much about that, but he obviously has a great knowledge of the AFC West. We played Denver and Kansas City, and now the Raiders, and then San Diego next week. But yeah, he’s been a great plus to have back here. His knowledge of the opponents that we’ve prepared for, and secondly just his perspective on things from having been a head coach, have been great to have.”
You were obviously unhappy with the defense at the bye. What have they done well over the last few weeks, since the bye?
ML: “The same things you’re always striving to do, and that’s third down, doing a good job in tackling, and not allowing explosive plays. That’s always really the theory of defense.”
So that’s what you emphasized over the bye?
ML: “That’s what we emphasize every day. So there’s no different emphasis – it’s always the emphasis.”
The third quarter was a problem for you for a while, but the Raiders are being outscored in the third quarter 123-34. Do you see anything that would point to why that’s happening for them?
ML: “No. They’ve not had particularly good first quarters and third quarters. But there’s really nothing specific that way. We had the same thing going on with the third quarter, so we’ve been in that situation. We rectified it against the Giants, but still for the season we’re not as good as we’d like to be.”
Since the bye week, what’s been the biggest improvement in
ML: “His ability to continue to have confidence in himself and just play. As we said, let everybody else play to Andy’s standard. If everybody else plays to Andy’s standard, we’ll be all right. That’s all we were striving to do a year ago – ‘don’t worry about the quarterback, you do your thing. The quarterback will be better than you are if you do your thing, then that makes him look better.’ It’s the same thing – offensively, everybody else to play up to his standard, and good things will happen.”
He seems like a tough-minded guy. Is that one of his best features?
ML: “He’s probably harder on himself than anybody else is. He’s able to deflect things and move forward. That’s what you have to do. He’s got to learn from things, but you can’t dwell on it. But as we said, continue to be demanding on your teammates – get them to your level. Our thing for them is that you’ve got to play to his level, because he’s expecting you to. We’re counting on you being there for him. I think the guys have done that.”
Is there anything you do to manage the expectations and pressure of winning and losing?
ML: “I don’t think we’ve got quite that far yet. We just have to keep doing – put it right there in the telescope and focus on what we’re doing. We say play-by-play and brick-by-brick. That’s all we’ve been doing. Take one series and play at a time. If we keep building on that, we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the game. That’s really what we’ve made the focus to be.”
Have you noticed any changes in the leadership of Andy Dalton or
ML: “I empowered them to go forward. It has also spurred their teammates on to play to their level, and it’s been good.”
ML: “Chris has contributed in making football plays, but also in getting everybody lined up correctly. He’s been good for our younger safeties, a good role model for the younger players. It has been a real positive for the team. He’s helped us play better and done well in his own play. He adds another heady player, which is helpful with Nate (Clements) and Leon (Hall) back there too. It’s a calming force.”
Is it more effective for you to individually call in a player and emphasize to them that they need to stop someone, rather than make it a broad point to the entire unit or team?
ML: “I think it is. We kind of individualize it once in a while. I try to reflect that a lot with the captains we put out there, because we feel that it’s important that the hat’s on your head. Guys do respond to that challenge – guys with some substance to them. Some guys would pee down their leg (laughs), but other guys are ready to go.
“That’s the deal. A pro can handle that. You have to watch who you do it with. That’s part of the challenge of the NFL. You are going to be in the sights (of the opposition), and you have to go battle. We had that a couple weeks ago with Leon against Victor Cruz, and we’ll have that this week with our guys on their vertical receivers. They’re going to be challenged. We’re getting challenged at our tackles week in and week out.
“For the interior guys (on the offensive line), it is going to be a great challenge for them.
A couple weeks ago, there was the discussion of needing to have a sense of urgency. How have the players responded?
ML: “We’re 2-1 with it. We’re a quarter away from being 3-0 with it. We just have to keep going and have to keep doing it that way.”
Considering your former quarterback, Carson Palmer, is coming in this week, is this game more personal than others?
ML: “I don’t think it’s more personal. Every game we play is personal to us. We put ourselves in the situation where there are playoff opportunities involved and implications for us over the next six weeks, and the last two after the loss to the Broncos. In order to win the division, we have to win each game, and then whatever happens after that happens. Our guys realize that, and this is the next week coming.”
It’s been said around here that your players have played with a lot of fire the last few weeks, but what if someone on your team is getting a little too fired up and is playing out of control? How do you reign them back in?
ML: “You just have to do your job and you can’t get out of your responsibility. You have to play within yourself. We want to be that assassin rather than mass murderer. You want to be that sniper. I show a lot of sniper videos. When he squeezes that trigger, he has to check the wind and all of those other things. We want to be very calm. When you know what you’re doing inside and out, you have the ability to play fast.”
ML: “I’ve thought about that. We talked at length on Monday. The last 2-3 weeks he has played – what a joy. To watch him play and get his opportunity has been great. This is what we envisioned for the guy. All his enthusiasm and ability has been great. It’s just fun. Those kids from Alabama come with something special. They’ve been so competitive for so long that when they come to the NFL they’re pretty hardened and battle tested. The other secondary players, they know their responsibility of (playing with) a first-round pick. They’ve done a good job of understanding it and helping him understand it and being inclusive of the group. It’s been a great thing.”
ANDY DALTON (with Cincinnati media)
The Raiders have given up a lot of points this season. What do you see from their defense?
AD: “Teams have hit some big plays on them. They have given up a lot of points. Our big thing is, we've just got to come out and play our game. We can't stress too much about that stuff, we've just got to come out and play. So for us, just like these teams, when we get our chances, we've got to hit them. That's going to be the emphasis. We took some shots last week, and now I wish I could have a couple throws back. But when we get those chances, we've got to hit them.”
Oakland has only 11 sacks this season. Is that surprising, given the talent on their defensive line?
AD: “Yeah, it is. The strength of their defense is up front. Those guys are really good. You turn on the film and you can see those guys can be disruptive up front, especially in the run game. Our offensive line has done a good job this whole year. It's another week where we're going to challenge them up front, so I've got full confidence in the guys that we've got. We should be fine up there.”
Do they blitz a lot in order to get pressure?
AD: “They do have some blitzes. They do some of the walk-around stuff; that stuff they've shown on tape. So we've got to be sound in our protection calls and make sure everybody's on the same page.”
Is there one area you've focused on for improvement since the bye week?
AD: “The biggest thing was the turnovers. I did have the one in the Denver game, but I think that's the key to the game – I'm not turning the ball over, and we’re getting turnovers. The biggest thing for me is, I'm trying not to let the other team have the ball.”
What goes through your mind when you’re deciding whether to pull the trigger on a big throw? What goes into that split-second decision?
AD: “It is a split-second decision. You have to know, and if you think you can get it in there, you have to take the chance. But it also just kind of depends on the situation. If it might be a little tight, not making the throw.”
Does any of that decision depend on the situation in the game? Winning or losing, field position, etc.?
AD: “It all comes in. You've got to know the game situation, you've got to know the down and distance, and know where you are on the field. You've got to take all that into consideration to make that decision.”
AD: “Jermaine has done a lot of good things. So we really see the type of player that he is. We're trying to get him the ball, and it's just part of the game. He's getting open. It's great to see how he played last week. He's playing with a lot of fire, a lot of intensity. So he's just got to keep that up.”
The players on this team that made the Pro Bowl last season have led the way for you guys over the last few games. Is that a sign of the leadership you guys have gained?
AD: “For the guys that went to the Pro Bowl last year, we feel like we're leaders on this team. We've got to be the guys to step up and make plays. I think it kind of is. We've stressed that we’ve got to beat one-on-one coverage, keep drives alive and things like that. It just happens to be that the guys that went to the Pro Bowl last year that are doing it, and it's what we expect.”
You mentioned before that
AD: “He's a great route-runner. He has great feel for the game, a great understanding of what we're trying to do. The guy had inside leverage on him, so he's not supposed to let him inside. He (Sanu) gave him a move and got right underneath him and crossed his face and made a big play. Again, it was man-to-man coverage, and it comes down to beating the one-on-ones.”
Sanu had a reputation going into the draft that he wasn’t very quick or fast. Do you think he’s a little quicker and faster than people give him credit for?
AD: “I think so. I'm sure that was one of the knocks on him coming out, that he wasn't a straight-line speed guy. But he's so quick, he's got good feet. I think that's why he's the type of player he is.”
Do you think it helps him as a receiver that he started out as a safety in college at Rutgers?
AD: “I didn't even know he played safety at Rutgers, so I don't know. I would think a little bit.”
What's the biggest thing you learned from going to the Pro Bowl last year?
AD: “Obviously me going to the Pro Bowl last year wasn't anything I did by myself. It was definitely the team's success. With team success starts coming the awards for the players, and that's something you see. It's crazy to think I was able to come in and play as a rookie and get a chance to go to the Pro Bowl and be a part of all that. I just felt extremely blessed with that whole thing.”
Marvin Lewis stresses being like a sponge spending your week at the Pro Bowl learning from the other great players. Did you talk to a couple of players and learn from them?
AD: “There is some learning from it, but a lot of it is just guys relaxing and having a good time. I obviously talked with all the quarterbacks and got to know them some, but for the most part, everybody is just having a good time.”
You said a couple weeks ago that you had never lost three in a row. What's your longest winning streak?
AD: “Shoot, I don't know. I guess I won 15 in a row in high school, and 13 in a row at TCU. So I guess those are pretty good.”
Do you know, or have you had any contact with Carson Palmer?
AD: “I've never talked to him. All I know is watching some of the film and stuff from when he was here. I wasn't worried about any of the stuff that was going on with him. I knew coming in that was the least of my concerns. In training camp, he wasn't here. It was a new offense I was trying to learn. I was trying to learn my teammates, learn new coaches and everything like that. So I wasn't worried about any of the stuff that was going on for Carson. I'm happy that the situation worked out like it did, that I got the chance to come here and be the starter and they felt confident enough in me where they were willing to trade him. With the whole Carson situation, I wasn't worried about it coming in.”
What stands out about Carson's game?
AD: “He's really good at throwing the ball downfield. Marvin showed the stats earlier, and they're averaging 300 yards passing per game. It comes down to the way the quarterback is playing. He's a big guy, he's got a strong arm and can really move the ball down the field.”
How much does it help when Jermaine Gresham is playing the way he did at Kansas City?
AD: “He did a great job. I think he got fired up a little bit. There's guys talking a little trash and things like that, and that got him going. It's great to see. He's got to keep playing like that because he's a special player, especially when he's like that.”
How does he help you in matchups?
AD: “When you put him on linebackers and safeties, you can use his size and can use his speed. All that stuff. I think just the matchup there is huge.”
Maybe you should talk some trash to him in the huddle every game?
AD: “(Laughs) Yeah, maybe I need to get some dirt on him or something.”
Is there any concern about having to settle him down?
AD: “It just kind of depends on what's going on. You don't want him to get out of control. I guess some of it's good.”
The game against Kansas City was very chippy – probably more chippy than usual:
AD: “Yeah, there was some talk going back and forth. I wasn't part of any of it, so I don't know.”
The Chiefs were obviously frustrated, which is to be expected, but were you expecting to have to deal with that?
AD: “Yeah. It's a tough situation that they're in, but you can't let any of that affect what you're doing. You can't have a stupid penalty or react to what's going on. With as much talk that was going on, we didn't have anything like that, which is good.”