Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron met the media for the second time since inheriting the starting job in the wake of starter Andy Dalton's broken right thumb.
He talked to local reporters Wednesday in the bowels of Paul Brown Stadium about, well, all kinds of things.
When asked about his learning experience from the Steelers game to the 49ers game, McCarron said: “I think the biggest thing was turnovers, for sure. I had some in the first game that was just not me, but you make those mistakes and you have to learn from them. In my situation, I've got to learn from them quick and play better. I felt like we did that as an offense in the San Fran game. And, me personally, I felt like I did a better job of playing well and taking care of the ball.”
The first-year QB said he doesn't view this week as being any different from previous weeks even though he'll be making his Monday Night Football starting debut against the Denver Broncos in a contest with major playoff seeding implications.
“To me, I don't think it feels any different. It's another football game. Go out; the field's still 120 yards and 53 1/2 or whatever it is wide. Just going out and playing football," McCarron said. "It’s the media's job and the fans, to blow the game up. But our mindset should be that it's another game. It's just like San Fran, where we're going into a hostile environment, and we've got to have each other's backs, and take care of the football and give us a chance to win the game."
But, he admitted that Monday night will be a special time.
"First, just being in the NFL is a special opportunity and just a blessing," McCarron said. "But, to play in the places that you saw growing up when you turned the TV on Sunday afternoon or Sunday night football or Monday night football or whenever it was, to see where some of the all-time greats played, it's definitely special. It's an unbelievable opportunity for us as a team, for us as individuals. It's going to be special no matter where we play. It's just a blessing to be in this league and playing every Sunday."
Monday's game is in Denver. McCarron was asked if he quarterbacks differently at home than on the road?
“I don't think so," he said. "I think you're just playing to the game. Like the San Fran game, they were turning the ball over, and I knew the biggest thing for us was to take care of the football. And we were going to put ourselves in a situation to win the ballgame. So, I think it just really varies on how the game's going. If you can take some more chances or not, managing the game.”
McCarron is relishing being the caretaker of the Bengals' offense in Dalton's stead, and he doesn't view the term "game manager" as pejorative.
“Yeah, I think first and foremost, I'm not trying to compare myself to any quarterback," he said. "But, all great quarterbacks -- I'm not calling myself a great quarterback -- just saying all the great quarterbacks in the history of the NFL have been a game manager of some sort, whether it's knowing the clock, knowing the situation, when to take a sack, when to throw the ball away, when you can take a little more risk, when not to. There's a bunch of different aspects that go into that thinking and that thought process. I don't view it as a negative at all. Me, personally, I've never viewed it as a negative. Even in college, I took it as a compliment. When you win ballgames, people can say whatever they want as long as you win.”
He talked about his NFL learning curve
“I feel like I've been here, at least been practicing, for two years or really a year and a half. So I feel I have a great feel," said McCarron. "Yeah, it's a little different from college because usually, in college, you're going against 11 guys on defense, and eight or nine of those guys are really good, but you've got maybe two or three or however many where you think, ‘We might be able to go after this guy.’ When you get to this level, it's the best of the best and everybody can play. When you see your opportunity, you can't miss. You've got to hit them and capitalize on them. Timing-wise and windows and everything, I feel real comfortable with all that. We've just got to go out and execute when we see them and capitalize on them.”
He was asked if he's getting more comfortable with timing on deep balls.
"My job is to put it in the right place and allow them to have the opportunity to make the play," McCarron said. "I don't know, I feel I've always had good timing. I know I've got some unbelievable receivers. When you have those type of players out wide, it makes your job a lot easier. If anything, those guys deserve the credit. They do an excellent job of getting up on top of the corners, finding the windows and going up and making plays. I can't say enough good things about those guys from A.J. (Green) to Mo (Sanu) to Marv (Jones) to (Brandon) Tate, anybody that's in there I feel comfortable with. I feel like we've done a really good job of hitting the deep balls, we've only missed a couple. Hopefully we can keep that up. We're going to need it.”
McCarron said he feels comfortable throwing just about any route on the field. "I don't think there's one where I really don't want to throw that ball. But, I feel like I have a good timing with the deep ball, and I know where to put the ball," he said. "But, at the same time, like I said, it makes my job a lot easier when you've got receivers like that. They do an excellent job of getting on top of the corner, getting back outside, giving you enough leverage and room to make that throw. So it's just my job to put it in their area, and those guys do an excellent job of going up and getting it."
McCarron was asked how different it is changing protections at the line in the NFL, compared to when he was at Alabama, and said: "I think it's pretty similar. I felt like in college, I did a lot of that. I'm growing each play, each game when it comes to the NFL level. So I feel really comfortable with it. We made some really big checks last game in protection against San Fran. Also when you make checks like that and hit them with a big play, it hurts the defense. The defensive coordinator kind of second-guesses that call next time or sometimes they'll even check it off the list and say, we're not going back with that.
“That's the biggest thing when you get those opportunities and you hit them. That hurts the defense the most and kind of makes the coordinator question himself on should I call this, should I pressure, should I drop back. So it puts a little doubt into their minds.”
It's supposed to be cold in Denver, and McCarron hasn't played in many cold games. He said the weather won't necessarily change his preparation
“I don't think at all. I’m going to prepare the same way. Instead of one long sleeve, I might just have two long sleeves," he said. "But, I mean, other than that, I think it's pretty much the same way. When you're out there playing, it's a lot different from when you're standing on the sideline and you're freezing and you're trying to sit on the heater bench as long as possible or trying to stay warm any way possible. But when you're out there playing, you stop thinking about it. You don't even notice it until you go to the sideline and you kind of calm down a little and realize how cold it is. Other than that, I've never noticed it when I'm playing. So hopefully it stays that way.”