Q: What did you think of the low hit from Vontaze Burfict on Martellus Bennett? Secondly, what did you think of the play of Dont'a Hightower yesterday?
BB: Well, I thought High [Dont'a Hightower] did a good job for us, made a couple of big plays in the running game and was involved in a couple of sacks. The safety he came clean on. It looked like they couldn't quite get it between [Clint] Boling and [Giovani] Bernard. They kind of got tied up in there but then he made a real good play to athletically shift all of his momentum over and be able to tackle [Andy] Dalton, who's not the easiest guy to tackle in the pocket. That was obviously a huge play, but the sack that he had at the end of the game, that was a good rush and was good overall coordination, too. He did a good job for us. We'll let the league talk about that play that you asked about before. It's their decision. It doesn't really matter what any of us think about it anyway.
Q: What have you learned about Eric Rowe since his arrival here with the team and what specifically did you see from him in yesterday's game?
BB: Right. Well, it was our first chance to see him in game action for us, too. But I thought he did some good things, not perfect, some things to work on but he did some good things. The play he made on [A.J.] Green on the flag pattern there in the end zone was a very good play. We'll keep working. I'm sure he'll keep working and we'll just see where it takes us, but certainly an encouraging start.
Q: In regards to Dont'a Hightower's blitz that resulted in the safety, we've heard that referred to as a 'hug blitz' before. What goes into the timing of a play like that for a pass rusher?
BB: Well, the best thing about the good hug blitzes are when the linebacker can anticipate them. If he can anticipate that the back's going to block then it's really like having another blitzer. Then the huggers really like another blitzer. The linebacker's thinking about coverage and then he just doesn't anticipate it or doesn't see it as quickly, then there's some time lost between when the back blocks and then how long it takes the linebacker to become part of the rush. So, anytime you can anticipate it if you run a certain type of a play where you think you're going to get the back to block and then he does and the guy who's got the back just comes right in on top of the guy who he's blocking, then he can get there almost as fast as the blitzer can. It's hard for the offensive line on those kinds of plays because they sometimes lose that coverage player especially if he doesn't come right away. Sometimes they lose him in all of the traffic that's going on there around the line of scrimmage.
Q: Statistics have shown that a large number of the kickoffs for your unit that are returned by the opponent are resulting in them being stopped inside the 20-yard line. How much of an emphasis do you put on that for your kickoff unit?
BB: Well, I think that's a very big play. Obviously, there's only two times when you kickoff. One is after you score and the other is at the start of a half, but good play in that situation is really kind of a momentum play and it sets up the coming series for the defense. It's hard to go on a run in this league, but that's one way to do it, is to score, have good kickoff coverage, good field position, make a stop on defense and now the offense is in pretty good position to score again. So, the kickoff coverage really gives you an opportunity to possibly string a couple of points, some points together if you can play good complimentary football. Our guys take a lot of pride in it. Joe [Judge] and Bubba [Ray Ventrone] do a great job of coaching it. We have a good kicker, we have good coverage players. They work together and we do take, as I said, those guys take a lot of pride in it and they put a lot of effort into it and it certainly helps us. I mean defensively, the thing you hope for the most as a defensive coach is good field position. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't. You've got to go in and play regardless of where you go in at, but it's always good to have good field position. It certainly gives you a lot more options defensively in terms of play-calling and game management. That's where I think it becomes very helpful for the defense. Obviously the same thing is true in the punting game and our coverage in both phases this year has been good. The return game's been another story but yesterday was the best we've had on that so hopefully that's heading in the right direction.
Q: What were your thoughts on the play of Elandon Roberts and what he does to compensate for a lack of size that he may have as an inside linebacker?
BB: Well, Elandon's instinctive. He sees plays quickly, reacts quickly. I think he has pretty good playing strength and he's an explosive player so he does all of those things well.
Q: Did getting ejected the week before have anything to do with Cyrus Jones being inactive for yesterday's game?
BB: Well, every week we can always talk about some players that weren't active because there are always going to be seven of them. In the end, each week we try to activate the players that we feel will give our team the best chance to win. That's what we do. If there's a health issue and a player is not able to play, then that is a decision. But after that, we activate the players for the game that we feel, based on the game plan and the preparations going into the game and what we know about it at that time as well as the game plan depth and all the other factors that go into it, then that's how we decide on the inactives. Every week, there are going to be some guys that are inactive and if it's not injury-related, then it's related to how we feel we can best play the game and try to win it. That's what we're out there for - to try to win games.
Q: What has James White done over the course of the season and the last few games to earn such an increase in opportunities?
BB: James [White] is a very consistent and dependable player for us. Every day he walks into the building, that's what you get. You get a player who's well-prepared, who's alert, who's on his job, who's dependable, tough, consistent, and he's like that all the time. It doesn't matter what phase of the game it's on. It could be special teams, offense, scout team, or what day of the week it is, he's very dependable, knows his job; tries to do it the best he can. If he makes a mistake, he works hard to improve on it. He definitely has skill as a runner, receiver; an ability to break tackles and make people miss in the open field, so he's been a productive player for us. His role hasn't been being there on every single down all the time, but when he has been in there, he's been highly productive and he made some big plays for us yesterday.
Q: What did Devin McCourty do yesterday that helped you guys out in particular, in terms of maybe changing some things on the fly?
BB: I've been very fortunate through my coaching career to coach some very, very good free safeties; be around a lot of real good safeties and free safeties. When you play that position, you know, a good player back there can really see all 22 guys. He sees the players in front of him. He can predict the players on the outside - the receivers, the corners - and really get a good feel for the game. It's a picture that you don't see from the sideline or from the press box. And so throughout the course of my career, those players a lot of times can give great information and great perspective on how they see the game from back there, where they see the quarterback looking, where they see things from receivers or route combinations or formations and so forth. You know with Duron [Harmon] and Devin [McCourty] back there, those are two very smart players. They're experienced players. They know what they're looking for. They know the passing game very well from just an overall schematic standpoint, but then specifically with each team that we play and the quarterback, and again, the route combinations and situational tendencies that our opponents have or have shown. So it's not unusual during the course of the game to ask them or for them to comment on something that's happening or isn't happening and how the quarterback is reading a certain coverage or a certain look or where receivers are located and so forth. As I said, it's something where I've been fortunate to have a lot of guys throughout my career who have really done a good job with that and Devin [McCourty] and Duron [Harmon] I would say are two very good ones. Devin [McCourty], again, as he normally does in the course of that type of a game, you know, some of the comments and observations that he made affected some of the things we were thinking about doing. I think as usual he was right on the money with his observations, especially when you go back and take a look at the film a little more closely today. You see what he saw. Then a couple of the things we tried to do after that, he was very helpful in kind of recognizing that and helping us steer some of those things in the right direction.
*Q: When a cornerback is covering a receiver like A.J. Green yesterday or Antonio Brown this week, do you try to stress that the reception likely will be made and not to panic or react when that happens? And just how important is it to have a short memory at that position? *
BB: Well I think that's a little bit of a part of the position. There are great skill players in this league - great quarterbacks, great receivers - with a lot of receiving skill, different types of skills. There are times when defensive players, it could be any position really, you have great coverage on a receiver, the defender is doing everything that you taught him to do, everything that he really can do, and sometimes the opponent, quarterback or receiver makes a great play. The ball is placed perfectly or makes a great catch. There's not much more that you could have done. It's just great execution on their part. I wouldn't say that that's normally the case but there are certainly plenty of those. So when that happens, maybe there's a little correction you can make, something that the defender could do a little bit better. But overall, he did a lot of things right. Ninety-five percent of the time, that would be an incomplete pass or maybe better for us, but on that one particular throw, catch, the way the route was run or whatever it is, he just can't quite make it. I don't think those are plays you want to forget as a defender. Those are plays you want to do again. Again, every throw is not perfect, every catch isn't perfect, every route isn't perfect but sometimes they're just a little bit better than the best you can do. That's professional football. That's the great skill we have in this league. Sometimes that happens and you've got to give them credit. The throw that [Andy] Dalton made to [A.J.] Green in front of our bench on that flag route, the coverage was about as good as it could really be. It was a great throw. [A.J.] Green is a tall receiver with length and long arms and [Andy] Dalton put the ball where only he could get it and he got it. So there's going to be some plays like that when you're talking about that kind of skill and athleticism at those positions. It could be a star receiver or it could be somebody who doesn't have the same kind of resume. But look, everybody in this league is very talented or they wouldn't be in this league. So when that happens you've just got to move on and like I said, if you've done everything right then you try to do it all right the next time and maybe their execution isn't quite to the same level that it was on the play that they just hit on you.
Q: What did you see on film in the second half that enables the offense to get going?
BB: The biggest thing for us yesterday was just when we were able to avoid negative plays and stay out of long yardage, we moved the ball fairly well. But we got into second and third-and-12, third-and-11, third-and-15, third-and-30. In some of those down-and-distance situations it's hard. We were fortunate we got off the hook on third-and-15 there. There was an illegal contact penalty which was part of a touchdown drive. When we were able to pick up first downs or get into third-and-four, five, six in those areas where you have a chance to run the ball, you can throw to any of your receivers for four or five yards. You have a lot of options and it's a lot easier to execute in those situations. I mean you still have to do a good job of it but you have a lot more options. When it's third-and-30 or third-and-15 how many guys on the field can you actually get to that distance to have a chance to pick up the yardage. It's not very many. When we were able to play the game on our terms we had more success. When we had negative runs, sacks, penalties and we're in a lot of long yardage situations, then that was a problem. I'd say those negative plays were a combination of everything. A couple plays weren't great plays. We had some blocking breakdowns; we had some breakdowns in the passing game at all positions. When those negative plays happen and we're in long yardage, then that's not where you want to be against a team like Cincinnati. We've got to try to avoid those situations and move the ball forward instead of backward. That will give us more options and it'll give us better results. You just can't play a game in third-and-15 and third-and-25. You might luck out every once in a while but that's just not where you want to be. I'd say that had a lot more to do with it than any kind of adjustments to their coverage. They mixed their coverages throughout the game like they usually do and they try to keep you off balance. They do a good job, they're well coached, have a good team, good secondary, good front. It wasn't like they just sat in one thing all day. They moved it around. Again, when you're so far behind in down-and-distance, you're really working uphill. We had too many drives like that but that's really been the story in multiple games this year. When we can't move the ball forward then we don't have many drives. I know there's chattering there but that's just the way it is.