Steel Quotes - Cincinnati

<b>BILL COWHER</b><br> It certainly felt good to get off to a fast start. The first time we've had a lead. … We had some takeaways and I thought we played an outstanding football game. The running game was solid and Jerome (Bettis) ran well. I thought defensively we did a good job defending Corey Dillon.

(PR Man: Any more questions?)
They're not sure what to do. Usually there are a bunch of problems and you can't ask enough questions. This is kind of uncharted waters.

You hit the first deep one. Was that something you planned?
We pretty much script our first 10 plays and we never come out throw, throw the first couple plays. Mike (Mularkey) scripted it. We talked about it last night. We hit some big balls and we made some good catches. The only one I thought Tommy (Maddox) kind of forced there was that interception that they scored that touchdown on. But I thought he played a solid game. I thought the receivers as a whole played a really, really good game. Plax (Burress), Hines (Ward), Antwaan (Randle El) gave us a solid effort.

How good did it feel to see the kicking game change the scoreboard?
We've been close. Our kickoff returns have not been - I know last week we had a couple of chances. They've been working hard. We had struggled a little bit there in the second quarter. Outside of that and the one where Todd (Peterson) missed a make-able field goal, but the last one he kicked was a real solid kick, I thought it was a real good effort by the kicking game.

After last week you have to be pleased with the defense.
Yeah, the defense played well two of the last three weeks. And if you look at it, you can take away two plays the last three weeks and I'd say they've been pretty solid. I know you can't take away those two plays, but we eliminated a lot of the big plays today. We stopped the running game and we played solid. We came up with some big plays. That's the other thing. We haven't had any takeaways. Today Lee (Flowers) had a couple interceptions. He had two. It probably matches his career (total). A big play by Joey (Porter) and Casey (Hampton). The ball bounced our way a little bit today. We're going to need that. We can't control what's taken place behind us. We talked about it last night. The only thing we can control right now is us moving forward. We're fortunate that we haven't fallen too far away, playing the way we've played, and now what we've got to do is take this thing one week at a time and try to seize each opportunity.

Was it a matter of better discipline on defense?
No, I just think we had a couple of plays. They hit a double move last week and they hit the cutback on Larry (Foote), who was overpursuing and was anxious to get to the ball. It was just a solid effort today and I think, really, the last three weeks, outside of a couple of plays, it's been pretty solid.

Are you pleasantly surprised at how comfortable the quarterback appears?
Yeah, and we've been close. And I said this last week. I think we were close to putting together a complete game. Take away a couple plays, but you can't do that. And even the kicking game, we need to have that becoming a factor to get us over the edge. Now, it's a matter of consistency. Execution isn't just doing things one quarter or four quarters; it's what you do over a period of time. We have to sustain this level.

How about the quarterback?
I thought the quarterback played very well. I thought he made good decisions. Even the big third down; he hit Plax in the third quarter. He kind of scrambled out of the pocket and threw to his right. I thought that was a big throw. He's throwing the ball accurately; he's making good decisions and he's doing a good job of leading the football team.

Did you notice Hampton switching hands with the ball?
No, I couldn't believe he stayed on his feet that long. He hasn't run that long since the run test in Latrobe. He was probably hoping someone would catch him. He only had so much left.

Did the chain gang have a bad day?
I don't know. I'm going to have to look at that. Somehow that just didn't seem … I couldn't challenge that. I wasn't challenging the spot; I was challenging the chain guys on the sideline where they initially spotted the ball, but that's not a challenge-able play I guess.

What does winning like this do for your team?
Well, no one likes losing. At some point, you just kind of get mad and say "Enough's enough." We had a good meeting last night. It put a lot of things in perspective.

What's the difference between being 2-3 and 1-4?
A game. I mean, it's big. I don't know what happened to the Ravens in their game, but there was a chance we could come out of today being tied for first place. That's the reality of it. But it doesn't make any difference. Where you are in October, you'd like to say you'll be the same team in December but you're not. There will be a lot of things you go through, adversity, ups and downs, and challenges you're going to have to meet along the way. And it's how you respond to those situations that are going to create the fiber and the backbone of your football team. That's what this football team has had to endure: High expectations that weren't met immediately. And when you respond you either get frustrated, throw your hands in the air and quit, or you get determined and you say, "You know what? Enough's enough," and you get mad about it. That simply is where we were.

Did your team play mad today?
I'd like to think so.

Could you comment on Burress?
He's playing solid. And then you have Hines Ward, the Pro Bowl player, on the other side. Those two can create match-up problems and you've got to be able to utilize that. Plax is a big target. He gives us a lot of margin for error and he made some big catches for us today. And Hines is so solid in every aspect of the game. That's why he's a Pro Bowl player. Those two guys are special.

Were you trying to kickoff high and short?
No. We were attempting to kick them high and long. They just ended up short into the wind. The squibs were designed. We were trying it all.

Could you comment on Bettis?
He's running well. He's been running well the last couple of weeks. It's good to see. We're going to need him.

Did you just pin your ears back today?
It wasn't anything complicated. Just believe what you see and keep flying and good things will happen.

Ever have three sacks in one game in HS or college?

Is it nice to get that kind of pressure?
Yeah, you just have to have a confidence and keep coming, no matter what happens. It's one play at a time and if you play it that way your effort will take you to the ball.

Was it special doing it here, near your old college?
Games like this you want to have at any stadium.

Was it extra nice that it was here?
It didn't matter. A win's a win and I'm glad we played well on defense.

What spurred your sack outburst on?
Taking all the thinking out of it and just react to what I saw. Just come in and think effort, effort, effort and good things will happen. If you keep coming, the technique you work on all week in practice will pay off.

On your big play
It was big. I mean, we already had the momentum. That kept it in our favor. We were really rolling on defense today and it was just one of many big plays.

Has this defense been stung by criticism?
Yeah, we were upset about it. We know how good we are. We know how good we can play; we ain't never just put it all together. When we put it together we're really good, and that's what we need to continue to do, put it all together.

Would you like to play the Bengals every week?
I don't want to comment on that.

Were you hoping to get caught from behind on your run?
No, man. You have to look at that. I was diggin'. I was thinking end zone. I had the form and everything going. The dude just had an angle.

On switching hands with the ball
Back in the day, you know, I used to run the ball. I still have some ball-handling skills. I was just trying to get in there.

When's the last time you ran that far?
I run that far all the time, but with the ball, yeah, it's been a long time.

If the offense keeps playing like that, giving us that many points, I like our chances of winning the game.

Was the defense the final piece?
It was the final piece that we needed so everyone's locked in to play like we normally play. It was only a matter of time before we got the little things worked out.

We're five weeks into the season. We have no more time to say we need to get this straightened out so we can be better. We can't say that no more. After how we performed today, I expect everybody to go out there and perform like that every week. Everybody just has to raise their level of play up to where we played today. We can't accept nothing else but that.

But wasn't it only against the Bengals?
It doesn't matter if it was only against the Bengals. We executed our defense today. You can say it was the Bengals. You can say it was just whoever we played. As a defense, we know we ran our defense like it was supposed to be run today. And the offense was hitting on all cylinders. Even the specials teams showed up. So, no matter what you want to say, or who we're playing, if we play like we did today, we're good against anybody.

Was there one particular area of improvement for the defense?
We were relentless on what we did. We were just playing very aggressive today. We had everyone running to the ball and that causes big plays. We played with a frenzy. It was an attacking, aggressive defense today and that's what's been missing.

If you had forced that fumble for anyone else it's six, right?
You know, Big Hampton, that was a chance to get on SportsCenter right there. He messed it all up. It would've been a perfect story, "Joey Porter caused a fumble." And I can hear Chris Berman saying, "He's rumbling and stumbling." He couldn't do it, but it was a beautiful site from behind watching him. He was holding the ball in one hand like he's a fast guy. I thought, "Man, you're supposed to be faster than an offensive lineman." He just didn't have it. He was out of gas. He reminded me of myself against Oakland.

A little redemption for you?
Yeah, a little bit.

How difficult was this week?
I was down, but when Coach Cowher went to bat for me and said I was starting again, I didn't want to let him down.

Did you have a good game today?
Yeah, I was doing my job. They didn't gain that much running.

What was the most important thing you did today?
Well, it was unfortunate what happened last week, but fortunately there's a learning curve. Definitely today I was in my gaps, waiting on the cutbacks. A couple times he wanted to but saw me there and kept it frontside. I learned from it.

On the previous night's meeting
Wayne Gandy stood up last night, and usually players don't talk after the head coach talks on Saturday night. He stood up and he was very adamant about guys stepping up. He made it a point that if you turned on the film from last year you didn't see people doing the same thing. We just made it a point the whole week that we've got to stop BS-ing. Everybody on each play go as hard as the other guy.

When did you become a ball hawk?
For whatever reason they made me play a lot of cover two. I can do interceptions, but I like to be down in the box. But like I said before, whatever my role is this year I'm going to do it. If it's my job to get more interceptions I'll take them.

What's your goal for interceptions?
Three, so I'm one step closer right now.

On the big picture
We don't need to get too high right now. I thought we played well, but at the same time we were in the right position at the right time. I thought (Jon) Kitna made some bad throws today, so it wasn't like we made great breaks on the ball or anything. We've just got to keep doing it the next 11 weeks. If we finish and play like we did today, we'll have ESPN and all the reporters back in the locker room at the end of the season. I see how you guys got the locker room on Wednesdays now. There's about three of y'all in the locker room now. Hopefully we'll get more attention this week.

What you guys saw on the field, that's what you guys have been expecting. We've just got to keep it going.

On Saturday night's meeting
Coach put on a clip from the moving Network when the reporter stood up and said he was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore. We all got up and started saying it. It's frustrating to have all the same players we had last year and come out 1-3. Sometimes it's all right to be mad. If you go out there and play mad and with a purpose, you're going out there to get better. It's OK to be mad I guess. That's what we took from the little clip. After it was over, we had guys running around saying what the guys were saying.

What was the key defensively?
Playing with an attitude, playing mad. Sick and tired of all the bull. Let's go out with an attitude, like we used to. It actually started Wednesday. We got together Wednesday and talked about how we're supposed to practice, how we practiced last year. Thursday, (butts) and elbows. Friday, turn it over to the game.

Difference in practicing?
Last year, every day in the locker room, there was a competition between me and Aaron in tackles. We had a bet going. The sides of the line, Aaron and Jason and me and Joey would take a lot of pride in which side was doing better. We kind of lost track of that.

Hadn't you been practicing the right way?
There's a difference between thinking you're practicing hard and practicing hard.

--Jim Wexell

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