Good afternoon. As I stated last night, that was a big win for our football team, something that's absolutely necessary. We've got to be able to go on the road and win games versus quality opponents. That's something we hadn't done until last night. Thankfully we were able to get that done. Solid contributions by a lot of people. Perseverance. Not the kind of fluid start you look for offensively, or defensively for that matter. The guys were resilient. They didn't blink. They hung together. And as the game wore on I think they imposed their will on the game. That's what good teams got to do. Hopefully that's a signature moment for us. What we do from here on out will define that, which brings us here to today. We've got a big AFC North matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals who are atop the division. Very hot football team. I respect those guys. Carson Palmer is a guy that directs it. He's a winner. He's a competitor.
When you look at what they're doing offensively, they're running the ball with Cedric Benson and Carson's moving the chains on get-off downs and scoring touchdowns in the red zone. I think they're No. 1 in the NFL in red zone offense. When you've got a guy who's running the ball like Benson, and you're efficient in the red area, you're gonna win a bunch of football games. That's going to be a big challenge for us. I think this week when they get down there, make them kick field goals. Of course we've got to do a nice job of tackling Cedric Benson. This guy is running with a mission. He ran through Baltimore pretty good the other day, and that's not something you hear said too often. Durable, tough, great pad level, they're feeding him and feeding him well. Guys like (Andre) Caldwell are emerging. If you talk about some of the differences in things that you see since the last time we played them, I think Caldwell's really emerging as a go-to target for Carson Palmer.
Defensively, I think the young corner tandem is playing really well. Leon Hall, (Johnathan) Joseph, I think they have four picks apiece. Aside from the interceptions, they've been rock-solid in coverage and it allows them to put a bunch of people in and around the box. They've gotten after people's run games, made them one-dimensional. Playing spirited and together, so we've got our work cut out for us and a short week in which to do it. Preparations are going to be quality-based as opposed to quantity-based. Coming off a game on Monday night, we might exercise some caution and protect some veteran players here. Tomorrow I can anticipate doing that. But we've got to get ready. We've got a big game at home. We'll also be back in front of our home fans, AFC North critical matchup.
Not much clarity on the injury issues. I'm sure as the afternoon wears on we'll hear about minor bumps and bruises from the football game. The only significant injury was Carey Davis (hamstring). Don't have an update on him but I can imagine it's going to be tough for him to participate this week. Usually when you pop a hamstring and are unable to come back in the football game very rarely are you able to participate the next week.
Q: Do you differentiate on not just what you did last night but how you did it with the way you closed out the game and took control of the game on a big stage?
A: It's encouraging, but it's only going to be significant based on what we do from here on out. It'll be a game or a moment that we'll be able to point back to of significance if we use it and move forward and let that become our consistent personality in terms of how we finish football games. We're going to need those kinds of performances because each week with each win these games get bigger.
Q: Do they tend to serve as building blocks?
A: I always proceed with caution with that mentality. I'm less concerned with what we've done in the past and more concerned about what we're going to do to meet the challenges that lie ahead. I think it's great for the group. I think it builds confidence. But what we do will ultimately determine what that moment or how that game closed out is going to be perceived.
Q: What about your defense and the importance of Dick LeBeau and the adjustments he made last night?
A: I don't know that we made any adjustments last night in the midst of that. Really, I felt we had a good plan. They had a good plan. They came out and made some plays on us early. We stuck to that plan. We respected those two runners and what they were capable of doing with those two guys. That was first and foremost to slow down (Correll) Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno. Once we were able to do that I felt we were able to get consistent pressure up the middle of the pocket with some of our blitz package. Guys like James Farrior and Keyaron Fox really created a lot of disruption. Even though neither guy registered a sack, they created disruption. They broke the pocket down. Guys did a nice job complementing that with solid coverage on the back end, and as the evening wore on we were able to gain a significant advantage in that regard.
Q: How did the offense get rolling?
A: I really just think it was finding our rhythm. I'm not naïve. We were a team that was coming off a bye. I felt it was important to find our rhythm. It probably took us longer than we would've liked. We didn't possess the ball that much in the first half. Whenever you have a pick six and the other team is moving the ball some, offensively you're going to spend a lot of time watching. We did that. When we were able to establish our rhythm and get some things going we fell into a comfort zone. Even with that first drive in the second half resulting in a sack-fumble, which they returned for a touchdown, I still felt pretty comfortable that we were finding our rhythm and moving the ball, and subsequent drives confirmed that.
Q: What do you see in Benson now that's different?
A: I didn't study him that much when he was in Chicago. He experienced some adversity. I think all men grow and learn from adversity. It's obvious that he's done that and matured, just based on the results of his performances. He's an inspired, motivated runner. It shows up on tape and I'm sure they're glad that he's in that state of mind at this point.
Q: Is it a similar story to Rashard (Mendenhall) and the way he's finding his way in the NFL?
A: Two totally different guys. Two totally different scenarios. Rashard is a young guy who came to a good team. Young guys don't get their turn right away when they come to good teams. They've got to earn it. They've got to wait. He's done both and now he's taking advantage of it.
Q: Was last night's game a statement game?
A: Again, it's only a statement game if we run with it. I'm not going to make more out of it than what it is. If we proceed and continue to grow and get better it's a game we can point back to when the dust settles in March or February, but at this point I'm not ready to say that.
Q: How much different are the Bengals on defense from what you saw on tape last season?
A: I don't know that they're very different. I think it's a couple of things. Number one I think continuity's big. Coach (Mike) Zimmer's been there now and any time you've got continuity it's a plus. The better you understand the minute details of your assignments, the better you execute them and create splash plays, which is what they're creating. But they've also added high quality players, guys like Tank Johnson, high-round draft picks, getting good corner play. I think all of those things make them an emerging rock-solid group. It's just part of going to work and rolling up your sleeves and going to work every day. And obviously they've done that.
Q: What one absolute do you need to beat them this time that you didn't do last time?
A: Just play 60 minutes of football. I hadn't really pondered that point at this point. Really. I'm more of an information gatherer mentality, looking at how they've changed and emerged since the last time we played them.
Q: What do they have behind Chris Henry?
(Tomlin resists urge to hand reporter the depth chart, and lists names and colleges for a while.)
Q: Does a win change the way you approach this week? Or do you move right to Cincinnati?
A: Move right to Cincinnati. You have to. Time is of the essence. We're 30-plus hours behind those guys from a preparation standpoint. Got to respect that. Not going to complain about it. We've got no control over that. The standard will be the standard for us on Sunday, so we'd better work today and tomorrow. Make no mistake, we have to work hard, quality over quantity. We've got to be very thoughtful about the looks and reps that we provide our guys because we acknowledge the wear and tear that playing on Monday night does to you
A: I don't know at this point. I'd imagine they're going to be closer. When I get that information, I'll be happy to share it, or not.
Q: How much more interesting is the AFC North now that the Bengals are a contender?
A: It's really not surprising that they're a player in the game. They've got their franchise quarterback back, they're gaining continuity on defense, they picked up Cedric Benson who ran very well over the second half of last year and he's back. So it's not surprising that they're in the mix. We know what Baltimore's about and what they're capable of. I think everybody in this division takes a great deal of pride in the quality of teams in this division and how we play football in this division. I'm sure I speak for the entire division when I say we'll put what we do against any division in football. It's going to be an exciting game inside of Heinz Field, one we're excited to be a part of, classic AFC North warfare.
Q: Coach, does Stefan Logan have the green light on every kick? Or would you like him to maybe use a little more discretion?
A: We're going to play to win. As long as he's catching the ball above the waist inside the framework of his body with a forward-moving mentality, he's got the green light to play to win. That's what he did last night.
Q: What did you like best about Mendenhall's running style and what would you like to see him do better?
A: He's doing a nice job of seeing blocks develop. Very rarely is he missing holes. The vision aspect of the game that has very little to do with physical skill, I think he's doing a nice job of. I think he's finishing off runs. When he gets into the second level and into the secondary, he's doing a very nice job of making 8 to 10-yard runs 20 to 25-yard runs. That speaks to his pedigree and what he's capable of doing. But I'm sure Rashard would agree with me when I say he can grow in all aspects and areas of his game. This is a young guy. The more he plays he's going to improve. The more he walks into this building right-minded on a daily basis, he's going to improve. Like what we're getting from him in regards to that.
Q: Was it good for him to run out of bounds?
A: Not as significant as one might think. It wasn't inside of five minutes so the clock continued to run. But that speaks to what I was talking about earlier. Everything's a learning process for young guys. But we like where he is.
Q: Larry Johnson wants to play here. If he came on bended knee saying he has changed his ways, do you have interest?
A: I don't discuss free agents. That opens Pandora's box.
Q: Do you have to give the run to Carson Palmer?
A: You have to respect that. You have to rush with that in mind. I was just looking at the Baltimore game this morning and he pulled down a third and 6. This guy's playing with an edge. He's missed some football. He's committed to driving this team. Guys with that mindset will move the chains by any means possible, so we've got to respect that element of it.
Q: Did you like what you saw from Ziggy Hood last night?
A: I did. He played above the line. Like Rashard and like young guys like Mike Wallace, they're best days hopefully lie ahead, as long as they remain humble and continue to work. I thought he was disruptive last night. His pressure created that interception return that Tyrone Carter had. But he's still a guy in development, a guy on the come. He'll be the first to tell you that. He's working extremely hard, and I'm more pleased with what he does in here throughout the week than I am with what he does inside stadiums at this point.
Q: With the emergence of Wallace, have you noticed other defenses having a hard time deciding who they're taking away?
A: No I think they're still committed to taking away Hines (Ward) on third down (laughs) and not letting Santonio (Holmes) get over the top. He's still earning his stripes. His reputation doesn't precede him. In that regard he's got some Super Bowl MVPs that he plays with. He's got a rock-solid veteran tight end that he plays with. I would imagine that he's down the to-do list for a lot of people when they play us, but he is making plays when given the opportunity.
Q: What does it say about Champ Bailey covering Holmes and Holmes catching all six passes thrown to him?
A: Santonio's a competitor. He'd probably have been insulted had Champ not looked him up. That's the mentality of those guys that play the game. He's doing a nice job for us, and I'm equally pleased with some of the things he's doing that don't necessarily show up. He's playing a complete game. He's doing a nice job of blocking in the running game, in some of our perimeter screen game. He's really maturing as a player.