Head Coach Gary Kubiak
Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison
OLB Connor Barwin
LT Duane Brown
WR Andre Johnson
QB Matt Schaub
LG Wade Smith
DE J.J. Watt
Cincinnati Bengals Conference Calls
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
(on the team's health in practice today) "I'm not going to be giving a health report today. I think the first time we have to give one is sometime this evening. So I'm following protocol, so no injury reports from me."
(on CB Alan Ball's status) "He's doing good. He's doing really good. Our expectation is if he holds up all week he'll be ready to go. We were shooting toward this week the whole time."
(on how important it would be to have CB Alan Ball back) "It'd very important, if he's ready to go. He's probably as good a special teams player as we've had all year, went in and played extremely well in nickel and played the corner position. We just feel very fortunate that he's got a chance to come back and help us this week. That's a big piece we've been waiting to get back."
(on what CB Alan Ball's role will be if he returns) "We'll see. We'll see how the week goes. I think it's too quick to make a decision on something like that. He could become very much involved or it could be just more special teams. It kind of depends on how he holds up throughout the course of the week."
(on OLB Brooks Reed) "He did a little bit. We're pretty light today. It's been 48 hours since we played. We're heading in the right direction."
(on the Bengals defense) "They're really good. I think sixth in the league, giving up 12 points a game in the back half of the season. Boy, that's incredible in the National Football League. They've got an excellent front, some very active linebackers. They added a young linebacker this year that's made a ton of plays and then the secondary is really different than kind of what we saw last year. The corners last year we saw, a little bit different group than what they've got going on right now. They're playing extremely well. They're playing a lot of close football games. I guess you're sitting there holding people to 12 points a game, that's exceptional."
(on the importance of pressure on third downs) "It's very important. We're going to play better on the back end when we get to the quarterback. That's as simple as that. It's kind of like that last week. We give up that third and 20-something play. He's got a lot of time to look people off and make a throw right there. Hopefully, being at home, the noise, all those things, we can do a better job from that standpoint."
(on the mood of the team) "They're good. They're upbeat. They're back to work today and they've got a lot on their plate. They've got to get ready real quick. We played in a game, like I said, it's been what 48 hours since we played and they've got to refocus on another opponent, another game plan and get back physically, too. Get back physically, get ready to go. They're upbeat. They're ready to go."
(on if there is anything specific that QB Matt Schaub is not doing well in the past month) "I don't think it's one thing. I think it's a combination of things that we can help him with. Obviously, I've got a job to do with him, how we're playing, our style of football can sure help him if we're playing our type of football. We've been in some tough situations playing from down a bunch three out of the last four weeks so that's been difficult. I know there are some things he can do better, but we can obviously all help him, too."
(on QB Matt Schaub's ability to play well when the team is behind in the past) "Yeah, he did. You go back to Jacksonville. You go back to Detroit, some of the things that he pulled off in that stretch there this season whenever that was, five, six weeks ago. He's very capable of doing that. It's like last week. I thought we had a chance to do that last week. We're moving the heck out of the ball. We're down 12 or whatever it was and we're right back in position at the 25-yard line. We turn the ball over right there. If we don't, we score. We've got an excellent chance, but we don't get the football back. We get in that situation this week, then he's got to handle it and be able to lead his team to victory."
(on the Bengals' special teams) "They're good. They're kind of the same group we played last year. There hasn't been much change on their team from that standpoint. They've got two excellent returners and obviously (Adam Jones) Pacman is the guy touching the ball right now and he's made a lot of big plays throughout the course of the year. We've got our hands full there."
(on how he stays optimistic and upbeat) "I got a very strong belief in what we're doing, strong belief in the coaches, in the players, and I know these opportunities are hard to come by. I've been doing this for a long time. There are a lot of people that coach in this business, play in this business and never even sniff a playoff game. I've been a part of many of them. I appreciate them and know the opportunity we have. Like I said, I believe in our people. I know it's been a tough month from that standpoint. It's a new start for us and like I said, we're excited about it. I know we've got the right people to go out there and compete."
(on the inside linebackers) "We've got obviously some issues going on right there with (ILB Darryl) Sharpton going down, which all you know about him right? You're sitting there with (ILB Tim) Dobbins, trying to get Dobbins healthy for the game, get him ready to go. (ILB) Barrett Ruud starts to play more. We pick up (ILB) Mister (Alexander), who knows our system and will play on special teams for us. (Linebackers Coach) Reggie's (Herring) had his hands full since (ILB Brian Cushing) Cush went out to be honest with you. It's kind of been a little bit of a revolving door in there. Reggie has done a hell of a job with the guys and this week will be extremely important because there is more shuffling going on."
(on how tough it is to see ILB Darryl Sharpton go through another injury) "You feel bad for him because he's had some tough injuries. He's a fine young player. Health is the only thing that's held him back. He works extremely hard to get back out there and play. He plays very well for us, probably played his best game against Minnesota a couple weeks ago. Then he goes out there and here we go again, so you just feel bad for the young man because he's very capable playing a long time and playing at a high level if he can stay in one piece."
(on DE J.J. Watt's season) "He's been exceptional all year long. I guess if I walk in a meeting the night before a game and you say 'How many plays can I put you down for tomorrow?' You can always put him down for his. He's going to make some plays a lot like (WR) Andre (Johnson) does, very accountable, big energy player, watching him just get ready to play today, watching him do his job you know you're always going to get his best and get good things."
(on DE J.J. Watt's special season) "You are watching something special. I don't think you're really going to know that for about 10 years. Watch him play and let him go through his career. If you probably went and broke down what's happened over a period of first two years in the league for a player, I'm not sure many guys can put up some of the numbers he's put up. We'll see what everybody else thinks, but I would imagine he's got some awards coming and some things to look forward to."
(on DE J.J. Watt's interception against the Bengals in last year's Wild Card game) "That was a game changer. We're in a 10-10 game when he made that play. We're in a heck of a football game with them and he makes it right before the half, from a momentum standpoint. That's what these games are about, big games in this league. You've got to have guys step up and do great things to win. That's just the way it is. Normally, when good things are happening for your team and you're winning games, guys are making big, big plays and obviously that was a huge one last year."
Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison
(on Cincinnati's defense) "They've been so good because they're very talented up front. (DT Geno) Atkins has been very, very active all year, not just the last half; and deservedly so, he's gotten in the Pro Bowl. Last year when we played them twice, they were a very good defense. They offer a lot of things. They have a lot of defenses, coverages; they can pressure well with the four guys or adding any number of guys to it. It's a unique challenge for us."
(on the defensive front of Cincinnati) "Like I said, they can add guys – they've brought secondary guys, they've brought backers – but the four guys that at any one time are in the game can certainly pressure the quarterback."
(on the team missing opportunities on offense) "We've missed some things and everybody on the team could be better, coaches included. We're back at it and we're grinding and we know that it's a great opportunity that we have. We're looking at this as a chance. We're one of six teams in the AFC that get a chance to play. We're wiping the slate clean and going after it. We know what we did right, what we did wrong and hoping to capitalize in the things that we do right."
(on QB Matt Schaub's play and the team's play ) "I think it's every bit of the everything. I think Matt knows exactly what he needs to do right, and we've told him that and I'll just leave it at that. He needs to sharpen his game, and everybody needs to."
(on Cincinnati's linebacking corps) "They're very active and they're good-sized kids. They have the guy that they did not draft (LB Vontaze Burfict) that's a free agent has played very, very well, and 58 (LB Rey Maualuga) has played a long time and been very active. I've played him several times over the years and he's hard to get a hat on. The other guy, 99 (LB Manny Lawson), is a big man; he's played d-line at one time. He has long strides and he's very, very active. It's an impressive front seven."
(on QB Matt Schaub's play and if the team has called plays differently because of his play) "Absolutely not. We're going to ask Matt to do everything we've asked him from day one and we expect him to do that."
(on QB Matt Schaub getting out of his slump) "Certainly he's made some plays, he just hasn't made all the plays, and we expect him to make all the plays."
(on getting QB Matt Schaub and the offense out to a quick start on Saturday) "I think we all need to get off to a quick start. I don't think there's anyone who's really immune to that. I think that's a team issue. I don't want to spend an undue amount [on it] because I think we all as a team have not played very well, and we haven't coached very well either, but we'll get better."
(on the offense not having many first drive scores lately) "Last week at Indy, when we scored our first field goal, we would have loved to have seven to match their seven. It's a difficult place to play on the road because it is loud, but that's no excuse. We have to get it done. Each game has been a different situation to start. We're hoping to use each game as a learning experience. We get better and better at certain things. Now certainly, that might be wishful thinking at times to get better with every situation, but we're certainly going to try and say, 'Alright, this is what we did wrong. Let's move forward.'"
(on which player is the most likely to lead on offense) "Well, I think it's not a real vocal group. Certainly, when you have a guy with (WR) Andre's (Johnson) stature and the amount of time that he has played and the things that he has done, he leads a great deal by example. And he's one of our playmakers, so is (RB) Arian (Foster). Usually those guys, give them a ball and make something happen [and] usually we go along. We do need to progress as far as making some noise too, there's no doubt about it. And I think we have our leaders, and they'll rise."
(on if there is another player you can count on to be vocal) "Sometimes. Each guy does it in his own way. I think they all lead. But you can't make one guy be a leader; they've got to be that themselves. The chemistry of the group is very good, don't get me wrong there. I think they will rise and we will play well."
(on if the team's first-year receivers have given enough production) "I think at times they have, and I think it's a consistency thing, but with all young players, it's a consistency thing. I've been around a couple that have been very consistent as young players, but there's rare; they're hard to find. But each one has been bright and each one is progressing, too, improving, and we're hoping to be on the rise here."
(on Cincinnati's defense not giving up many yards) "I don't think they give up yards anywhere. That's one of the things: this team does not give up any big plays. So we're going to have to grind it out. And you watch, even looking at the last seven games or eight games when they've been 7-1, there have been a lot of close games, and they win close games. That's what we're telling our players, it's going to be a close game, and we have to win a close game. We have to make the plays necessary to win those games."
(on focusing on the things the Texans are good at) "I think whatever you do well, that's where the emphasis should be. If that's what your strength is as a team, and we think that we run the ball pretty well, so we're going to lean on that. Obviously it helps us in all the other sections."
(on if the Cincinnati defense is tricky up front) "They're very good up front. Tricky is hard for me to define. They can do a lot of defense. They can be [tricky], and they can sit there and stuff you just as well."
OLB Connor Barwin
(on getting pressure up front being a key this week) "Yeah, that is obvious, like you said. We work together: the better pressure that we get, the easier it is for those guys in the back. If we don't get any pressure, it's impossible to cover guys for 5 or 6 seconds, so we take a lot of pride in that. And we know if those guys get good coverage, it helps us if we can get an extra half a second or second to get to the quarterback."
(on what keys there are to have success against Cincinnati's offensive line) "You have to take advantage of any opportunity you get. You don't get that many; when you do, you have to take advantage of it. You have to be disciplined in your rushes and just be consistent and kind of relentless all day long."
(on how this team is bouncing back) "I think guys are locked in. It's the playoffs; you have to be right now. There's no other way to do it. I think the atmosphere around here is good, guys feel good. I think we're confident going into this game and I think that we feel like we're going to play well."
(on the team's penalty struggles) "Well I think it just comes down to a lack of focus. I think that if we just wire in a little bit more then we won't have those penalties this week. Because I think the only thing you can credit it to is guys just not being focused. That's an easy thing to fix."
LT Duane Brown
(on Cincinnati's defensive front four) "They have a very talented front four, one of the best that we'll face all year. I'm very familiar with them. Most of them are the same guys they had last year. They're relentless guys, very strong. They're really good at pressing the pocket if they can't get to the quarterback. They present a huge challenge for us. The good thing about it is we're very familiar with them. We faced them twice last year, so we know exactly what they bring to the table."
(on how much the team can pull from last year's games) "A pretty good amount. I'm not sure how much their defense has changed. The one thing we do know is they pressured us a lot last year and that's not something that they've done a whole bunch of this year. They haven't really pressured a lot of teams. But based off of our match ups, we're expecting that."
(on penalties being an issue) "I can't say, maybe it's a loss of focus, guys getting too anxious. I'm not sure. It's definitely something we're going to have to correct. I think everyone realizes that it's something that can't happen this week and weeks going forward. You can't hurt yourself. It's a great team we have coming ahead. It will be tough enough for us to beat them without beating ourselves."
(on the challenges Cincinnati offers) "(DE) Michael Johnson really has progressed throughout his career. I had the chance to face him a few times. I'm very familiar with him. He's very long, fast, explosive. (DT) Geno Atkins is one of the best defensive players in football. Very powerful guy. Plays with great leverage. And both are very smart players as well that really have a lot of crafty moves over their careers; very great players. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
(on who steps up on the offense to be a leader or pump the guys up) "I think people have taken their chances. If it's (QB) Matt (Schaub), he tries to get us going every now and then. Dre (WR Andre Johnson) will come talk to us if he feels we're dragging a little bit. (RB) Arian (Foster), (C) Chris Myers, (Texans Head) Coach (Gary) Kubiak, there have been a lot of guys who have stepped in and tried to get us going through different lulls throughout the game. I don't think we'll really need that this week. Everyone is locked in and focused and realizes that this is the playoffs, it's now or never."
(on what it means when WR Andre Johnson becomes vocal in the huddle) "It means a lot. You're lucky to get five words out of him a day. He doesn't say much around here, just goes about his business. And he's one of the best players in the game. You have to respect a guy like that. When he feels the need to be vocal and address the team, address the offense, and we all respect him and take heed of what he's saying."
(on if what he expects from QB Matt Schaub this week) "I expect big things from him. It's a group effort. It's up to us up front to keep him clean, keep him comfortable back there and able to stand tall. It's up to the receivers and running backs to make the plays when the ball is delivered to them. I expect him to play at a high level, and I expect everyone else to, as well."
(on righting the ship, and if the Texans stand in their own way at times) "I feel like there hasn't been a team that's flat-out beaten us in a long time. I think we really hurt ourselves and beat ourselves for a few weeks. This is the best time to do it. Nothing else matters up to this point. Nothing else that we've done or gone through matters at this point. We're going out to win a ball game, to win a playoff game at home against a great team, and that's all that matters."
(on not overreacting to wins or losses) "Yeah, you can't overreact. You can't get caught up in everything, everyone talking about how we're in a slump, how, based off of our last three games, there's no way we're going to win a playoff game. You can't get caught up in that. We know what kind of team we have. It's just about going out, executing, starting fast. I said it every week, and it hasn't happened some games, but you have to have faith and your teammates have to have faith in themselves to get it done."
(on if the team learned from last year's playoffs) "Definitely. I definitely feel like we've grown from it and I think that that's shown throughout the season, just the kind of approach we've had week in and week out. That playoff experience and playoff victory last year has really helped us grow and give us maturity and give us character."
(on playing like AFC South champions and having confidence) "Like I said, you can't get caught up in any kind of disappointments that we've had. We are the AFC South champions. We've gotten a lot of wins around here this year with a few disappointments. So you have to play like that. You have to play with the confidence, play with the swagger that you have. Play with the confidence and faith, knowing that you can go out and compete and succeed against any team."
WR Andre Johnson
(on the team responding after what happened last week) "It's no secret. It's either you win or go home, period. That's the way I feel about it. That's pretty much it. That's the time of year it is. You have to go out and win every game that you play. No time to make no excuses, no time for 'my bads.' You've got to go out and win the game. That's it."
(on the mood of the team) "Everybody is fine. It's nothing different. We know what's at stake. There's nobody panicking or anything like that. Everybody is still loose."
(on QB Matt Schaub's struggles over the past month) "That's just part of it. When the team is not playing well, the quarterback is going to take most of the criticism. Like I said before, it's all about how you respond. We have another game Saturday, so however he goes out and plays Saturday that's what people will talk about."
(on the team realizing that they can't play the way they have in the past month) "Yeah, I think they know. If they don't know, they must not know a lot about football and what's at stake. Like I said, it's either win or go home. That's pretty much it."
(on the Bengals' defense) "I think they're very talented, probably one of, might be the most talented defense we probably have faced. I they're 7-1 over their last eight games. They've been playing good football. Like I said, very talented, a lot of good players on the back end so it'll be a big challenge for us."
(on the Bengals' being fresh up front) "They definitely can get to the quarterback. We know we have to do a good job of trying to protect (QB) Matt (Schaub). As receivers and tight ends, we have to go out and make plays."
(on how hard it is for him to be the No. 3 seed in this situation) "It's not tough. Would we like to be in a different situation? Yeah, but at the same time, it's the playoffs. It's the start of the playoffs. Everything you've done up to this point, it doesn't really matter, to be honest. It only matters what you do now. I wouldn't say that I'm frustrated. We'd like to be in a different position. Could we have taken advantage of being in the top of the AFC and stuff like that? Yeah, but it didn't happen. It didn't work out that way so we just have to take advantage of the opportunity we have now."
(on the team's penalty struggles recently) "I don't know. I couldn't answer that question."
(on the team's recent struggles) "We just haven't been playing football the way that we know how to play it. That's pretty much it. We just have to get back to what we have done earlier during the season. Find that same kind of focus and everybody just lock in to what they're doing and just go play football the way we know how to play it."
(on having playoff experience) "Well, it's not new. I think last year it was new to us. This time it's not new. It's crazy that we're in the same place we were in last year, playing the same team. It'll be big. It'll be a challenge for us. And we'll be ready to go."
(on QB Matt Schaub having his first playoff game) "When you're in that position, when you're in the quarterback position, if the team is doing good, they're going to talk good about you. If the team is doing bad, they're going to talk bad about you. That's just the nature of the business, but he'll be ready to go."
(on the play of DE J.J. Watt) "I mean, that's why he was brought here. When you draft players you never know how they'll turn out. You never know what you're going to get. I guess we hit the gold mine with (DE) J.J. (Watt). What he's done over this past season has been awesome. Hopefully in the years to come he just keeps doing what he's doing."
(on what surprised him most about DE J.J. Watt) "I think when he first got here, I really didn't know how athletic he was. But I think over this past season, you really got to see it as far as swatting balls down and things like that. He's a very talented athlete."
(on DE J.J. Watt's interception last year against Cincinnati) "Yeah, that interception is probably one of the top plays I've probably seen. He runs around and catches the ball pretty well, so to see him do it, I mean it was awesome. Especially at the point in time of the game that it was. It was awesome to see him do that."
QB Matt Schaub
(on the Bengals' defense) "They're a very good group. Their front is exceptional. It starts inside for them. They have good interior pass rushers and their outside guys rush really well, very active, very athletic. Their linebackers are much the same. They're built off speed. Their secondary has played together for a few years and they've added a few pieces, but they're very veteran and they've seen a lot of looks. From front to back they're very strong."
(on the Bengals' pass rush) "They do bring a bunch of pressure, so it's all about recognition and where they're bringing it from. They can at times just bring their front four and create a lot of problems for you."
(on if he feels any differently at this point) "No, I like to keep things the same, my preparation and just going through my game week. It's exciting to be in this position and be a part of the postseason. Our team has a very business-like approach and just concentrating on what it's going to take for us to be successful come Saturday."
(on if the offense has talked about moving forward) "We definitely have. We've talked about it as groups. We've talked about it as a team. What's in the past, you can't change. You can't do anything about it. We've got to move forward. We've got to approach this thing, it's a whole new slate. We're in the playoffs and you win and you keep going. We've just got to take each week and figure out what it's going to take to be successful against the team we're playing and move forward. You've got to put everything behind you. What's done is done and move forward."
(on the Texans' penalty issues lately) "They've been coming from all different areas. Offensively we had our share, special teams, defense. We've just got to get a hold of those things and get those numbers back down because that's when we're playing efficiently. That's when we're staying in rhythm, staying on schedule in the down and distance, especially offensively. You can't have those things because they set you back and you put yourself in a long yardage situation, which against any defense, it's going to be tough to convert. We've just got to figure out a way to eliminate those mistakes."
(on picking his own game up) "I've just got to play a little more consistent. I definitely know when things aren't going well to look at myself first because I'm the one that's putting everyone in position and trying to make the plays. I've got to play better. Our whole team, everyone across the board has got to pick their game up especially this time of year, but I definitely do."
(on if he's talked with the offensive line about the increasing sack totals recently) "There are a lot of things that factor into those, whether there are a lot of guys in protection. There are a lot of times teams are blitzing us. Whether we're protected, there are a lot of things that play into that, but those guys, they work their tail off. They're on top of their assignments. We've played some pretty good pass-rushing football teams, but we've been pretty good in not allowing sacks around here, so we've got to get back to that scenario."
(on how excited he is to start his first playoff game) "It is exciting. It's an exciting time of year to be a part of this to get ready to play in a playoff game, especially here at home in front of our home fans. I'm definitely looking forward to it, but the thing that's going to help us win the game are the same whenever you're playing, wherever you're playing. That's playing smart, clean, good football."
(on if he has specific techniques to stay even keel) "That's just my personality. That's how I am. I thought you'd know that by now. I've been the same guy since I stepped foot (here). This is how I am. I try to keep things the same, keep my routine the same, keep my preparation the same. That's just how I am."
(on the leaders on offense being leaders by example and if anyone ever leads vocally) "We pick and choose our spots. For the most part, we're leaders by example, but you've got to, especially as a quarterback, you pick and choose your spots. You understand your team and your huddle's personality, what guys need and when. You use that to your advantage when you need to say things or how you need to approach things. We've got certain guys that are a little louder and more vocal than others. It's something that you've got to pick and choose your spots."
(on if he's paid attention to extra criticism) "You play this game, you're going to have some bad days. You're going to have critics. That's just part of it and that's just part of this game. When you're not getting the job done, you're going to have those things. That's just part of the game."
(on the importance of fast starts) "We always play better when we have a fast start. We get out to a lead, let our defense play with that lead, then we go from there. We can come from behind also. We've done that in the past."
LG Wade Smith
(on giving up more sacks recently) "As far as up front, we have to make sure our technique is sound, our communication is on point and [we're] just finishing blocks. There are some times that maybe people aren't open and we have to hold the blocks longer, and we have to do that as part of our job, but the main thing up front is to make sure that we have good technique and we communicate and everybody is on the same page."
(on if there has been a big difference in the first 12 games compared to the last four) "Not really. I think that the biggest thing as far as recently, we've been throwing it a lot more because we haven't been running it as well. By the time you're behind , you're throwing it more. Early on in the year we only had 15 sacks, but we started off the season 11-1 and we were pretty much dictating everything that was going on in the game. That cuts down on a lot of your sacks. I think that's probably the biggest thing was us not starting as fast and playing our game early to where you're behind the eight ball."
(on Cincinnati being second in the league in sacks) "They have a great front seven. Really, they're pretty much two deep everywhere across the front. Then they have Pro Bowlers up front [and] a great linebacking corps. They're a really good defense, sound all the way around, but at the same time we feel like we're a good offense. We feel like we're a good team. We're at home. We're going to have home field advantage with the best crowd, the best fans in the league, so we're ready to play."
(on Cincinnati DT Geno Atkins' play) "First and foremost, he's really strong. He's not the biggest guy. He's probably like 6'1'' or 6'2'', maybe 300 pounds. He's really strong. He plays through the whistle. He's deceptively quick. He really doesn't have to play quick; he could play quick but he doesn't necessarily do that. But he's really strong. There aren't many guards I see him going against that he doesn't get push when he bull rushes. And like I said, he finished every play, so sometimes as a defensive player not just off of cleanly beating somebody, but just by finishing every play. He's definitely one of those guys."
DE J.J. Watt
(on his mindset going into this game) "It's playoff time, baby. It's time to roll. We're here to work. There is no time to worry about anything. It's playoffs. It's win or go home. That's all we're worried about. I the think the intensity at practice today was as good as it's been in a while. Guys are flying around. We were in hats in a jog-through situation, but I can tell you, the defense was flying around. It was a lot of fun."
(on his interception in last year's Wild Card game against the Bengals) "You were correct at the beginning. I will not talk about it. That was last year. This is this year and I have things to focus on this year. It was a great play, huge moment in my life, but looking forward to making bigger moments this year."
(on pressuring the quarterback) "Of course, they have a very good quarterback, obviously a very good receiver. The only way I know how to stop a quarterback- receiver combination is to not let the quarterback get it out of his hands. That's where I come in. That's where our defensive line comes in. We need to put pressure on him. We need to get after him. We need to fluster him. I know our fans are going to do a heck of a job making it loud in there, making it tough to hear, making it tough to audible, checks. I can't wait to be playing at home in front of our fans."
(on the importance of responding to the last month) "We're at an all-time high. We're ready to roll. The past is the past. Like I said, this is the NFL playoffs. Twelve teams, one goal, that's it. You lose, you go home. You win, you move on. At the end of this month, month and a week, there is going to be one team standing with a trophy in their hands. Every team is working for it and we want that to be us."
(on who is a vocal leader offensively) "I think they can all do it. I think (WR) Andre (Johnson) can make a huge play at any time. I think (RB) Arian (Foster) can bust a big run and (QB Matt) Schaub can make the throws. You've got guys like (TE) Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter. Our offense can do so many different things with so many different players. I think that's why they're so dynamic. I like watching them."
(on how far this team has come since last postseason) "I feel like we've come a long ways. Obviously, this isn't new to us. This is something we've been through before. We're excited. We can't wait. We had a taste of the playoffs last year and we're really excited to get back in it this year and to go to work."
(on the loss of ILB Darryl Sharpton) "It's tough. It's really tough. He battled his way back. He came back. He's playing well for us and then obviously, to lose him again is tough. On this team, we've dealt with injuries before, many injuries before, and it's next-man-up mentality."
(on having OLB Brooks Reed back) "It's great. It's great to have (OLB) Brooks (Reed) back. We have good chemistry. It's good to have him out there as a pass rusher and as a run player. He's a very good player, a lot of intensity, and it's going to be nice to have him out there."
(on the team's recent penalty struggles) "I couldn't tell you the reason, but I can tell you we're getting it fixed. We're not going to have that problem moving forward. I don't know what it is. It's from all over the place. I had one. We're going to get it right."
(on how they're going to fix the penalties if they don't know what the problem is) "I can only talk for myself and I'm not going to jump offsides. I can't speak for anybody else."
(on the intensity at practice today and if the intensity of the playoffs is a tangible difference from the regular season) "We were having fun. We were having fun out there. I think postseason, you can definitely tell there is a difference in the postseason, but I think even just we had a rough month. This last month we lost three out of four. We came out this week with a goal in mind to change our luck back around, not change our luck, to change our outlook. On defense we're getting back to being the Bulls on Parade. We're getting back to scoring on defense, to making huge plays, to just having fun .We want to have fun. I think out at practice today you could tell there was a little bit different pep in the step. There was a little bit more fun out there. We're excited."
(on Bengals' QB Andy Dalton's improvement) "He was pretty good last year. He's definitely improved. He's a heck of a player for being so young, playing such a tough position. He's a very good quarterback. He obviously has a great receiver to throw to and he's got weapons. We need to do a great job of getting to him and flustering him."
(on the effort by players to change the team' mentality this week) "It's something we talked about. It's something that when we came in on Monday, we said we're flipping the mentality. We're going to come in here. Nobody is going to be down about the loss. Nobody is going to worry about what happened in the last month. It's playoff time and all we're going to worry about is this game, having fun, playing like Texans and doing what we do best."
(on the guys with them that led that charge) "That's in the locker room. We took care of it."
(on how this season has been for him personally) "It's been great. I'm having a lot of fun playing the game, doing what I love, living the dream I dreamed as a kid. But that dream doesn't leave me empty-handed, so I got to go out and there is one big silver thing missing from that dream so that's what I'm chasing. All the individual things are great. My season has been a lot of fun and it's been great. If we don't go out there and win and we don't go out there and take care of business in the playoffs, it's just going to be another season to me. The individual stuff will always and forever come second to team goals and awards. I love it. I appreciate all the support I've gotten, all the love I've gotten, and obviously all the awards and everything but I want a Super Bowl. That's it."
Cincinnati Head Coach Marvin Lewis Conference Call
(on trying to stop Texans DE J.J. Watt) "I wrote a letter to the commissioner to petition for 13. I figure if we put a guy on each side of him and a guy in front of him, we've got a good opportunity."
(on if adding extra players on the field is really the only way to stop Texans DE J.J. Watt) "Well, I don't know, give him something to slow him down. He's been an incredible player and he's fun to watch if you're not preparing to play the Texans. He's a great model for young players to look at and be like. He really is something."
(on how impressive Texans DE J.J. Watt's accomplishments are in just his second year) "Well it is because you can see his mind working as a player. You can see he understands the slides and the protections of the offensive line. He knows how to work back against the slide when he feels the slide go away from him. The coaches say well that guy always when he's hearing we're going to slide and we're going to protect and we're going to move this way and he's going to be here. Then he jumps back outside the guy and puts that offensive tackle in a very precarious situation or an offensive guard, if he's on it. You can tell he understands the offensive tendencies and so far and then he does a great job of physically putting himself back in position to make a play."
(on Texans DE J.J. Watt's interception in last year's playoff game) "Obviously, at that point in the game, it's a close football game. We're moving the football productively and then we have maybe a chance for points before halftime. He turns it around and it becomes a seven-point or more swing the other way. It's kind of a big dagger for us. We never really overcame it. He's done that a lot. He's made the big sacks and sack fumbles and the things that he's made. You can't put on the tape where he's not doing that."
(on what QB Andy Dalton learned from that play) "There is nothing (QB) Andy (Dalton) can learn from that other than you've got to, as a quarterback, you want to make sure your release point is where it belongs all the time and if you can find the open lane. We've got to do a good job of protecting Andy and Andy's got to do his job. That's a great play by (DE) J.J. (Watt). Unfortunately, we've seen a couple of those this year by a defensive lineman. We made one last week actually. It's unfortunate. I don't think the quarterback can guard much against it. He has to go out and he has to do his job delivering. He can't block them and throw it as well just like the runner. They've got to go do their thing and trust the other guys to do their thing all the time."
(on how QB Andy Dalton has developed from last year) "I think he's done a great job of being the leader of the offensive group and really the football team. He has continued to be very demanding, but he's got a lot of pressure he keeps on himself. I think he's getting the players around him to understand and get it right all the time and play to his standard and play to his level and prepare to his level of preparation, which is outstanding."
(on QB Andy Dalton playing for defensive-minded head coaches) "I was a quarterback, a quarterback that majored in screen pass. I've always seen the game through the offensive eyes. I try not to do anything other than always encourage him and just remind him it's his football, take care of it, but always encourage him. Coach (Gary) Patterson at TCU, I know he just felt so great about (QB) Andy (Dalton) and the things that he did. I think the fact that the things he saw there in college has helped prepare him for the National Football League. There is not much else that he can say that he hadn't seen there, as far as defenses go."
(on the difference in the Texans' offense this year with QB Matt Schaub) "Well, when we played the first time and (QB T.J.) Yates was just moving into the job and then obviously in the playoff, there was more so they continued to do things more and more things. Now with (QB) Matt (Schaub) back at the quarterback position, obviously, he's their guy. The offense is built around his abilities and so forth, which are special abilities. You have the great running game built around (RB Arian) Foster, but you have to sell it, the play actions, the screens, the nakeds, the boots, and everything that comes off the runs and the ability to make the vertical throws whether the deep balls to (WR Andre) Johnson or the stutter and double moves that (WR) Kevin Walter and the receivers run so well there. They've got a great tight end who they utilize in receiving the ball in (TE Owen) Daniels and (FB James) Casey. They've got a lot of parts to this offensive group and their skill guys all run and catch the football so well."
(on if shutting down WR Andre Johnson is the way to limit the Texans' big-play ability on offense) "He's a fine, fine player and I don't know about shutting down and if you can virtually do that because it's kind of as we know, it's a two-pronged attack there with both the running game and the throwing game that comes off of it. You really have to play really sound, sound defensive football in order to do that. If you can limit your exposure when on third down and don't give up explosive plays I think you help keep the game manageable."
(on if the defense clicked after the first few games of the season) "We had some different guys playing through injury and so forth. We lost some of our starters early on in practice, not necessarily in games. We lost a couple in games I guess and a wave of guys. We were able to set in to what the group was going to be and what we were going to be in our own personalities and get back to being fundamentally sound and really understanding what it was going to take for us to be successful. I think our guys, the defensive group, is very prideful and they really continued to play together and believe in each other and just do your job."
(on the impact CB Leon Hall has had this year, and could have in this game) "I think that through the season (CB) Leon (Hall) has continued to play better and better. Coming back from an Achilles injury is much like an ACL. Those are generally year-plus recovery injuries. So it takes some time. It's taken time to get back and he brings another very, very intelligent player to our defensive team and also obviously a talented player."
(on drafting DT Geno Atkins) "Well he wasn't a late-round pick, he was a fourth-round pick. We thought (DT) Geno (Atkins), other than the guys who went in the top five picks of the draft that year, we thought he was the best inside pass rusher there was in college football. We were fortunate obviously to get him. I can't remember who we picked in the third round that year but we felt really good, I felt great about Geno. I thought he had this kind of ability. We knew he had a motor, so it just worked out that he was still luckily for us, there in the fourth round after whomever we picked in the third round. But we felt good enough to pick him in the third round and we felt like he would still be there in the third round and we were very fortunate that he was there in the fourth round."
(on having CB Terence Newman come in to play) "Well it was important. When (DB) Terence (Newman) was released by the Cowboys, it didn't take us long to get ahold of him, to look at him and get ahold of him and gauge his interest in us. I'm glad it just worked out. He had played for Mike (Zimmer) in Dallas and he was just anxious to get back to somebody coaching him and correcting him and critiquing him. And it's worked out very, very well. We weren't sure about Leon (Hall). We felt like we'd have (CB) Dre' (Kirkpatrick). But we went out and signed (CB) Jason Allen because we were again unsure about where we were with Leon. And we signed Jason and we later eventually signed Terence and signed (CB) Adam Jones back. We wanted to make sure we covered our self because prior to the draft, you don't' know necessarily, we didn't know we'd end up with a first round corner, a guy who we could put out there day one to start."
(on how the rotation of the cornerbacks works) "Our coaches on defense do a good job of that. We space them out as we go through the game and so forth. The guys do a nice job of, they know if they need a breather for a play or two there's somebody waiting there to go in there and take up the slack and raise the level."
(on having a variety of players with sacks on defense) "I think back in day one, where I coached the linebackers in Pittsburgh, I think we had guys like that, the entire defensive group. It can happen and guys, they're doing a good job within their roles. And they're getting opportunities. When you have some leads in games, obviously you get more sacks. And I think that's important. Our group defensively and offensively, the guys up front have to continue to be the engine on this football team and lead us as far as we're going to go."
(on the Ravens' defense he was with a few years back) "That Ravens defense, no one has ever been as good as that one, so I don't know about that. We're just a young group of guys trying to play hard. The group you mentioned in Baltimore gave up 16 touchdowns in the first 16 games. Or 17 touchdowns in 20 total games, including the playoffs and Super Bowl. I don't know if anyone will ever do what they did. Obviously defense is about limiting scores and that's an important part of playing. And we've got a big challenge ahead for our defensive group this week."
(on the success of LB Vontaze Burfict) "He's done a great job. He's a guy who was fortunate enough to get an opportunity and, as I tell our guys, many guys when we begin with the rookies and the college free agents, it really doesn't matter how you got here. Once you're here, it's what you do when you're here to stay here as long as you can. And (LB Vontaze Burfict) obviously heard that message and has taken full advantage of it."
(on what QB Andy Dalton will bring that is different from last year) "I'm anxious for a better outcome this time. I think (QB Andy Dalton) is a lot further along than he was a year ago. He knows how important this football game is and being in the playoffs. He's had two playoffs appearances in two years. That's something to be proud of. But he's not done and that's a great thing for him. I don't think, and I'm sure last year there was a little bit more nerves and it was tough. I talked to his parents last weekend and obviously that was a huge weekend for him. Now he's been there and done that. So he can relax and just focus on him and playing football and that will be good."
(on if there are particular ways that QB Andy Dalton has improved) "He's been a confident player and we asked him to do so much with the offensive football team. I think he really continues to do a great job of that and has grown tremendously with that."
Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton Conference Call
(on if playing under defensive-minded head coaches in the past has helped him under Marvin Lewis) "It's just kind of how the coaches that I've been around have been. They've been defensive guys. I wouldn't say that there is one thing that because they're defensive guys that I really took away. I think it's good to have a coach that focuses on defense because everywhere I've been we've had pretty good defense. It's definitely worked out throughout my career."
(on if those coaches have practiced a style of play that molded him into the quarterback he has become) "Everywhere that I've been, Katy, then TCU and now here, we practiced really hard. I wouldn't necessarily say that's just because they've been defensive coaches or what that is. I think that attitude that every team that I've been on has had. I think all that stuff has helped me get where I am today."
(on what he learned from last year's playoff game at Reliant Stadium) "We know what the atmosphere is going to be like. We obviously fell short last year, but I think we've got a lot of guys that were there last year and experienced all that. I don't think there will be too many surprises for us going into it. I think all that other experience of playing there last year and all that is going to help us out this year."
(on Texans DE J.J. Watt) "He's been very disruptive this year. We definitely know where he is on the field. You see all the big plays he makes, leads the league in sacks, he's definitely a good player."
(on DE J.J. Watt's interception of him in last year's playoff game) "He just made a good play. He got his hands up and was able to get the interception. It was just a good play on his part. If he didn't touch it I complete the pass. He made a good play."
(on if he expects to make big plays with WR A.J. Green against the Texans' defense) "Yeah, if you want to win games in the playoffs, you have to make big plays. For us, when we get those chances we've got to him them. That's the mindset you have to have. You have to be aggressive. Like I said, when you get those chances you have to hit them."
(on what sets WR A.J. Green apart at such a young age) "Well I mean, he's so talented. He's a big guy that can run really well and there's not much that he can't do. His athletic ability and his ball skills and all that stuff has really shown in the first two years that he's been in the league. And I only expect him to get better and better. But he's definitely one of the best receivers in the league."
(on what people will see differently in this game compared to last year in the postseason) "I definitely feel like I'm a better quarterback this year. I've got more control of the offense. There's a lot more stuff that I'm doing at the line of scrimmage, and making checks and doing different things this year than I was doing last year. But that's helped me become a better player."
(on if it means anything to be playing in Houston again) "Yeah, it'll be fun having, there's a lot of family and stuff around the Houston area, and in Texas in general. It's definitely cool to come back and play where I'm from."
(on how many ticket requests he's gotten so far) "I don't know, we haven't got the total yet. I'm sure there will be a lot of people there."
(on how the interception to DE J.J. Watt last year affected his play) "It was unfortunate. It was the end of the first half and we were trying to get something together. It didn't affect the way I played, he just made a good play."
(on how the Cincinnati defense has affected the offense's play) "I wouldn't say it changed the way we approached games. It's been nice to have those guys playing as well as they have been because it's changing field position, it's doing a lot of different things, getting us the ball. Hopefully they can keep that up. They've been playing well. They've helped us win a lot of games. We need to keep that up now that we're in the playoffs."
(on his degree of confidence coming into the game) "We have full confidence in our ability. We have full confidence in the way we're going to prepare this week. Now we just have to come out and we have to show it on Saturday."