STEELERS at BENGALS SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2009 KICKOFF 4:15 P.M. PAUL BROWN STADIUM BENGALS QUOTES
HEAD COACH MARVIN LEWIS
Initial comments ...
"Hanging in there was obviously a test for the guys. We didn't get off to a good start today — penalties on offense, and not being able to stop them on third down defensively. We kind of dug ourselves in a hole. But I thought, as the game went on, the guys settled in and played. We were able to make enough plays to keep the third quarter going, and then get in the fourth quarter and get our legs underneath us. The third-down conversions on offense were huge in the fourth quarter, and that made the difference in the game. Obviously, there still are a lot of corrections to be made. It's a great victory, but it won't matter if we don't continue to take care of business the next couple of weeks. We'll enjoy this one for a little bit, and then move on."
You made a strong late drive for a TD against Denver, and did the same thing today. What is it about that situation with this team?
"I think it comes back to the quarterback. He feels comfortable, and he's very collected at those points in the game. It just speaks to his maturity — his leadership abilities and his command of what we're doing. Our guys did a good job of manning up and doing what they had to do to keep Carson (Palmer) protected."
What did you guys do differently in the second half?
"Guys did their jobs."
At the end of training camp you said, "This is my team, these are my guys." What is it about this team that makes you feel that way?
"Because they're a bunch of castoffs, you know. They're grinders, they're football players, and that's the fun of it. Bringing together a group of guys that understand what a team is all about makes it enjoyable. Had we not won the football game, I would have went in there and said about the same thing. Every time we enter this building, we leave better than we were. And if we keep doing that, then things will be good."
On the topic of grinders, what about that play Brian Leonard made at the goal line to get you a first down?
"He got open, the quarterback did a nice job of staying alive, and Brian made a nice catch-and-run and dove for a first down. That's why we have Brian, he fits that bill of what this football team is made up of."
At a time when the team needed a lift, Johnathan Joseph stepped up and took the ball back. How big was that for the team?
"You get a chance to get back in the football game without having to drive the field for a touchdown. They (the Steelers) don't give up many big plays to defenses, so any time you score against them, you probably had to drive the field. That was a quick strike, similar to having an explosive play on offense."
Andre Caldwell and Laveranues Coles really came up for you in the fourth quarter ...
"That's why they're here. Coverage dictates where the ball goes. They did a good job. Carson was able to get good protection from the line in order to go through his progressions and get the ball in the right areas."
Did the injury to Rey Maualuga give you a little bit of a scare?
"Yeah. He's going to be a little bit sore; he tweaked his knee. Tank Johnson also had an injury to his foot. He'll be a little sore also. But I don't know that these injuries will keep either of them out for next week."
It's your first win over the Steelers here in Cincinnati, you don't seem ...
"I expect a win every time I come in here."
Now you don't have to be reminded?
"That's right, it was my time. It was a good win for the team. It was a division win, and we've got two more the next two weeks on the road. Obviously those games are huge, so it will be a fun week."
How much does this victory speak for the team? After a bad first quarter, you were able to get off the canvas and rally to a win ...
"Well, they're just those kind of guys. They have to battle and keep fighting all the way through it. We have enough weapons that, if we can keep it close and get into position, we can make plays."
On the final fourth down when they called time out, did you change anything?
"We would never tell you."
Can you take us through that final drive? Was there anything said beforehand?
"Nothing inspirational. There was nothing from a book or movie. We just talked about each situation, as far as when we were going to get into a two-minute offense and when we were going to clock it after certain first downs. Just a lot of communication as far as what we were thinking on the next play. But no pumped-up speech needed. We knew what we needed to do, and we got it done."
Thoughts on the development of and your trust in Andre Caldwell ...
"He has spent the last two years coming out to California to practice with me. It's a big commitment by him, and obviously I appreciate that, and it has paid off. So far this season, he's done a really good job. Andre is a guy that you love to have on your team. He doesn't say much, but he goes out and does his job. If you ask him to go out and block a linebacker, he'll block him. If you ask him to block a cornerback, he'll block him. If you ask him to run a certain route versus a certain coverage, he'll do it without whining or complaining. You never hear him say, 'Well, I blocked all game and didn't get the ball thrown my way.' He understands that he is part of a team. He's the ultimate team player. When his number is called, he makes plays."
Thoughts on the play of Laveranues Coles ...
"I just went to a veteran in that situation where we needed a veteran to make a big play, and he did. He understood what coverage he had, and he broke off of his route and converted a route versus a certain coverage. He was exactly where he needed to be on all three of them. He made the plays that you expect him to make. He's another guy like Andre Caldwell, who will drop safeties on blocks or seal the end versus defensive linemen. When his number is called, he makes plays. Those are the guys you like having on your team."
Thoughts on Brian Leonard's catch on fourth down ...
"That guy just makes plays. He's a football player. He converted the fourth down and then converted the two-point conversion. Then he sprinted down to cover the kickoff because he is on the kickoff team. He didn't say a word. He didn't smile or laugh. He's a workhorse. I have a lot of trust in him and I've only been working with him for a very short time. He's always where he needs to be and he's always picking up pressure when he needs to. When he needs to make big plays, he consistently makes big plays with his spin moves and his leaping over defenders. That play on fourth down was just a football player making a football play."
It seems like this team is full of those types of guys ...
"We have a lot of good character guys. We have a lot of guys that love the game and don't care about all the hoopla, drama or glitz and glamour of the NFL. It's fun to play with guys like that. I get a lot of enjoyment playing with guys who love to play the game and live for moments like that. When you need the defense to stop them on third down so you can convert a long drive for a win, it makes it extra special."
Is the football team starting to feed off of your calm demeanor?
"No. I think our football team is very professional. We have some individuals that bring some extra flare to the game. We have a lot of guys that love to work, practice and study. They're professionals, and they want to go out and execute their job. It doesn't matter who gets the credit or who scores the winning touchdown. We have guys that enjoy playing the game and who enjoy working together. I think that is the type of character we have as far as the team is concerned."
How big of a challenge was it today?
"It was huge, for both teams. They were coming off of a loss and we were coming off of a good win. And to start off your divisional schedule with a win at home is huge. We need to enjoy this but also move past it. It's one game and it's only week three. We have a dangerous team that is on the ropes next week. They're at home and they have some controversy with a lot of things going on in their locker-room. We need to go up there and handle business, be professional and not get caught up in anything else."
Was it a grind for you early in the game?
"It was a struggle. For the whole first half, we were a little bit off and seemed timid. Our coaches made some great adjustments in the locker room (at halftime), and we came out and executed. We played more on our toes as opposed to sitting back on our heels. We played a little more aggressively and it paid off."
You looked more comfortable throwing outside of the pocket ...
"I haven't been able to do that recently. I made a living doing that in college. I'm comfortable doing it. With the way our guys played up front today, there was no reason to leave the pocket besides a few instances late in that drive. The pockets were so nice with a lot of room to step up and throw, that there wasn't a reason to step outside the pocket until late in the game."
Thoughts on adjustments in pass protection ...
"They brought some pressure. That is a good defense too. I don't think we played great in the first half, but that is a really good defense, even without Troy Polamalu. They did a good job of bringing more guys than we could block and covering our hot routes. When you play against Pittsburgh, they're going to do that. Sometimes they are going to get you and have the right call for the right guy at the right time. We stayed calm and kept our heads down."
Was Johnathan Joseph's interception a huge confidence booster for you guys?
"It was a big momentum changer. To have them pinned down after they have shown to be resilient in that situation, you could feel a bit of momentum change — a things-are-going-our-way kind of feeling."
Thoughts on red zone defense ...
"Red zone defense, midfield defense and back-field defense has been great all year long. Like their defense, their offense is going to get you once in awhile. They were resilient. We had a third-and-one stop and made them go for a field goal twice on fourth downs. When you get down inside the defense's 10-yard line and only walk away with three points, it messes with your head. It makes you think, 'I should have done this,' or 'I should have done that,' and I'm sure they're thinking that now. But our defense is very resilient and salty. They're not going to give you anything down there, and they did a good job today."
Did you try to calm your team down by stating assuredly that you were going for two points, before you scored the touchdown?
"It's not a group that needs to be calmed. That last drive was just like any other drive mentally. It's a group that understands that we'll move the ball because of all the playmakers around us. Everybody did their job, and we let our playmakers make plays."
Was it Andre Caldwell's coming out party?
"I hope not. I don't think you've seen the best of Andre. I hope his coming out party is next week and every week that follows. He's capable of making big plays. He's fast, strong and a great kid. The sky is the limit for him. He has a lot of potential, and we expect him to make plays just like the touchdown catch. He's a tough guy who's just a football player."
Is Caldwell similar to T.J. Houshmandzadeh?
"He's playing T.J.'s position, so he'll get a lot of those plays. He did a great job."
Thoughts on Caldwell breaking off route of fourth-down play ...
"That's a football player making a football play. Where he was supposed to go, he wasn't going to be open. He made a decision and didn't leave any second guessing, and it won the game. He didn't end up where he was supposed to end up, but he ended up making the biggest play of the game."
More on Caldwell ...
"We were off a couple of times earlier in the game. We talked about it and we were a little confused with the looks. We came back later and he caught the same pass on third down. He made a great adjustment, understood the situation and did a great job."
What's it like to make a game-winning throw in that situation?
"Indescribable. Our fans wanted it as bad as we did. To see everyone's hands go up and signal touchdown, and to feel that roar of the stadium, you feel blessed and lucky to be wearing that uniform. It was a great moment, a great play and a great game for our fans."
Thoughts on noise level ...
"It's as loud as anywhere I've played. Our fans show up every week regardless of who we are playing. I don't know if it's as loud as it's ever been, but they showed up every third down. I couldn't hear myself think down there, and that's what you want when their offense is trying to make audibles and change things up."
Can you guys build off of this fantastic finish?
"We will. We'll continue to work and we'll continue to show up. We'll enjoy this tonight. But we'll come in and watch some film tomorrow and get a workout in and then get ready for Cleveland. They're going to be dangerous, especially playing in the Browns stadium. There's a lot going on with that team and organization, and those are dangerous games to play."
How big is it for you to get your first win against the Steelers at home?
"It's huge. It's a big home victory against a good team. They're the defending champs. The locker room was ecstatic after the game. We hung around long enough and we deserved to win the game."
Who picked the music in the locker room after the game (Sam Cooke)?
"I didn't even hear it."
What's the victory celebration going to be like for you?
"Priceless. Well deserved, well earned. Priceless. I'm going to enjoy it tonight, but then it's on to Cleveland."
Do you feel like you lifted a mountain off your back?
"It wasn't on our mind. The past is the past. This is a new team and a new day. We came in with an even slate, and that's what allowed us to have our confidence. We knew that we could make plays. Once we settled down, the offensive line took charge, and we let Ced (Cedric Benson) do his thing and Carson do his thing."
Two games in a row, you've needed a drive at the end and you've gotten it. Is there a feeling that you can do it when you need to?
"Absolutely. No one can stop us but us. If you don't stop us, we know we'll get it done."
It must feel good being able to contribute after battling for a job in training camp ...
"It feels great. I know it was only four or five yards, but it was one of the biggest plays of my career."
What was Carson Palmer's demeanor like in the huddle on that final drive?
"He was calm and collected. He feels no pressure. He did a great job."
What was your presence of mind to not only catch the ball, but turn and get those extra yards?
"I knew it was on my back hip, so I didn't think I'd get the touchdown. I just tried my hardest to get those extra few yards, and I did."
What does it say about this group to be able to drive down and win the game?
"At this point I know that we have a lot of good players. It shows we have a lot of resilience."
Where does Carson rank in commanding the huddle?
"He ranks up there with the best of them — not just the ones I've played with. He's the face of this team, and we all understand that."
What does it say about this team — the fact that you were able to drive down and score when you had to?
"It shows a lot about the guys that are here, and the coaches also. We came out after halftime and switched the game plan up a little bit. We got balls into the hands of guys who could make plays, and it worked."
What does this win mean for the team?
"It's huge. This team is a very good football team. If we eliminate the immature mistakes, the sky is the limit."
How did you feel watching the final drive from the sideline?
"It was hard. I'm eager to get back on the field."