“After watching the video a little bit yesterday and then again today, offensively we did some good things and converted some third downs in the first part of the game. We had some opportunities we left out there. Obviously we left some points out there with the two missed field goals, so you want to take advantage of those things particularly. Right before halftime as we moved the ball down there, we got the penalty (defensive pass interference), we had some opportunity but we kind of underthrew that ball. We had a chance for a touchdown on that play.
“Defensively, in the first half, we played extremely well on third down. We did some good things in coverage that gave us an opportunity to get the ball back. As the game played on in the fourth quarter, offensively and defensively, we didn’t play as smart in either phase as we had earlier. We have to continue to play the same mentally as we did in the first part of the game. As I said after the game, we had two personal foul penalties that were critical – one defensively, one offensively. Those put us in jeopardy. You can’t have those critical errors. We just had some things mentally that we made some critical errors on. Both phases needed to tighten it down a little bit and play better to finish the game out, just like they started the game.”
The coverage on kickoffs and punts on Saturday was very successful in holding down Arizona’s return yardage. How pleased were you with that?
“Kevin (Huber) did a really good job of executing our plan. I thought the guys did a good job in coverage. We continue to do a consistent job in coverage. It’s going to be important again as we go into this week.”
In particular, how important was your kickoff coverage? Arizona’s average start after kick returns was inside the 20-yard line, and it’s been that way for much of the season:
“When the rule change occurred, I thought there would be some advantage for us, but I think our guys have done a nice job of turning it into a real advantage thus far. But we have to keep it up. They take great ownership in it, great pride in it. It’s a bunch of different players. There’s a lot of confidence, and they have fun. They know how important it is. Some of the guys start and play in certain phases full time, some don’t. But I think they’ve earned the respect of everyone on the football team for what a great job they do.”
How much does it help that a lot of guys on the special teams coverage unit have at least one year of experience, whereas last year there were a lot of new guys thrown into the fire?
“Having guys with the year of experience, having some ‘pros’ (helps). We’ve got some pros sprinkled into that group. Manny Lawson comes in and does a great job filling in this last week in a couple of phases. Gibril Wilson is a guy who has been a starter in this league and has done a great job for us all year. And there’s the guys who have been the core of the unit throughout: Jeromy (Miles), (Dan) Skuta, (Cedric) Peerman, Vinnie Rey. Those guys do a yeoman job week in and week out. We keep having guys step up and come to the forefront.”
Your team is in a position where it will have a winning record, and it controls its own destiny for a playoff berth going into the final week. That has to make you feel good, right?
“That’s why we do what we do. We have the opportunity to take care of our own business, and that’s a good thing. That’s all you can ask for.”
You said Saturday after the game that you hadn’t gotten a chance to see a replay of Jerome Simpson’s flip into the end zone, but now that you’ve had a chance to watch the film, what do you think of it?
“I don’t know what the Russian judge would’ve given him. ”
The Germans gave him a 10.0:
“A 10.0. It was a pretty good landing. With Jerome’s athleticism, we’ve spoken about it many, many times, and that was another display – a public display – of it. He’s got incredible athletic tools. He played very hard in that game. I’m proud of him for how he continues to keep playing. He went in there and blocked hard. We just keep pushing him to be as consistent as he can be in all phases of his game.”
Does that give him a good boost into this week’s game, since he’s had success in his last couple games against Baltimore?
“What happened last time or last week has no bearing. He’s had to be just as diligent in his preparation this week as he’s been week in and week out. Hopefully good things will happen.”
Simpson seems to have an unbridled enthusiasm, and he’s so athletic to go along with it that plays like the flip from Saturday could scare you a little bit. If he lands the wrong way, he could have been injured in a number of different ways. Do you ever have to rein him in a little bit?
“You just have to be careful. There are other ways to score. It’s him and a linebacker, so just cut back and score the easy way. For effect, it sure was big.”
It seems Andy Dalton has developed a rapport with his receivers, that he can put some air under the ball and place it just right to where they can go up and get it. They are almost jump-balls for the receivers to go up and get:
“We don’t want it to be a jump-ball. We want it to be a ball that’s us or nobody. He does a nice job of that, and he’s got great location of the football. His anticipation and accuracy are great traits.”
You mentioned early this year that you’d be leaning heavily on the defensive line this year, and they seemed to do a good job of pulling their weight on Saturday, with five sacks and a number of different pressures:
“Yes. They continue to do good jobs. I’ve said it a zillion times: the heart of the football team is being led by the offensive and defensive lines. That hasn’t changed. Now, here we are in the 16th game of the season, the 17th week, and we’re saying the same thing. So I think we’re in a pretty good spot to be in. You feel good about that. The football team is led by the hard-working big, tough guys. That’s where we are, and that’s where we want it to be.”
How important to have a full stadium for this game?
“Well, we had a very enthusiastic stadium last week on Saturday. I tell these guys, ‘I can’t wait to see us play.’ I think people that haven’t seen us play in person will have a good time. We’ll do some incredible things. We’ll do some things I wish we didn’t quite do, I’ll tell you that (laughs). But we’ll do some incredible things. It will be a good football game. We are playing a very good football team.”
Do you think A.J. Green’s play on Saturday was affected by his injured shoulder?
“There are going to be some effects. He is one week out (removed from his injury). He will be much better this week than he was last week, just like he was better Wednesday than he was Tuesday. So, I think in another week’s time he’ll be much better. The thing about it, though, is if you went out there and you didn’t know his shoulder was hurt, you wouldn’t’ have known that he had any kind of injury at all. He did a good job of playing. He’ll be much better this week than he was last.”
Carlos Dunlap seemed to do a good job on Saturday of getting pressure on the quarterback:
“Carlos did a good job.”
You called the Houston game the most important game of your career, with overall impact. Is this now the most important game of your career?
“Well, it’s a very important game because it’s the one that’s up this week, just like last week was. It’s an important game for us overall, and for this football season it’s very, very important.”
The front office is offering a two-for-one ticket deal to season ticket holders for this weekend. What’s your message to the fans?
“I think I just gave it. I’ve (said) it a zillion times in here this year: they’ll have a good time. The people that have been here have been great, they’re very loud, they’ve had a good time on Sundays. I look forward every week to watching our team play, because I know guys are going to do incredible things and there’s going to be some things I have to correct. But I know we haven’t played our best football game yet, and we’ve got another opportunity to do it this Sunday. It’s exciting.”
How much have you been impressed by Andy Dalton’s ability to scramble?
“That’s part of being a successful quarterback, and he’s got that. That’s part of him. He’s got a great feel for that, great anticipation of it. He learned from early on when he didn’t quite get down and slide good enough. He has dived and made first downs when he needed to. He’s had obviously a very productive first year, and he’ll do nothing but grow and get better at things. It’s been good. But he’s done well with that, moving the chains.”
You say you haven’t yet played your best game, but you’re on the cusp of making the playoffs. How much better are you now than in September?
“It’s hard to judge. We’re better in a lot of areas. We kind of know how our bread’s buttered, and we know where things are. But we have a lot of things we can still improve in, and that’s the good part of it. Last week was a big week fundamentally to get better, and we took big steps. This will be another week where it’s important that we have our base of fundamentals, and how we execute those will give us an opportunity to be successful come Sunday.”
Cedric Benson has five fumbles in the last two games. Is there a common thread you see with those as you watch them on film?
“There is, for most of them. But regardless of that, you can’t put the ball on the ground five times in that many attempts at any point, really. That’s a season’s worth. Unfortunately it’s happened to us the last two weeks. We can’t do that. Anybody that carries the football – quarterback, receiver, a guy that intercepts it or recovers a fumble – when you have the ball in your hands, we’re all with you. And you’ve got us all on your back. If you give the ball up, you’re killing our opportunity to win a football game.”
Pro Bowl results come out tomorrow. Do you think any of your guys are deserving of being selected?
“My comments on that really wouldn’t matter. We’ll see what happens.”
Looking back on the first Baltimore game, what plays stuck out that made a difference?
“The thing that we can’t have are the penalties we had in that game. We had some pre-snap penalties and some things in that game that really caused us an issue. That’s the thing going in this week: We’ve got to have crispness about us, and we’ve got to use the cadences to our advantage and play that way.”