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  1. http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/The-General-in-stripes/1911753d-59a4-4775-8dd4-70039ddcb43d The General in stripes Posted 16 hours ago Geoff HobsonEditorBengals.comFollow Me Blog A A The Bengals are among the NFL's best at preventing big plays since George Iloka has been in the lineup. He may get that calm letter-of-the-law knowledge of the playbook from his father, a corrections officer for the state of Texas. And he may have got the strength to play 16 games despite an AC joint injury that required shoulder surgery this offseason from his mother, a Houston pediatric nurse that can still carry him on her back if asked. But one thing is for sure. George Iloka believes, “Everything I am comes from my parents. Both of them.” What Iloka is: the Bengals’ sixth-year safety (the most experience of any AFC North starting safety with his current team) who symbolizes how the Bengals have become one of the NFL’s more consistent defenses over the past decade with stay-at-home continuity. If they weren’t ranked in the top ten in total defense in 2009 and from 2011-13, then they’ve been ranked in the top 11 in scoring from 2014-16, including the franchise scoring record in 2015. They’ve done it with smart, reliable, punch-the-clock grinders like Iloka on a depth chart where the only first-round defensive picks in the last nine drafts have been at cornerback. Their current Pro Bowlers up front are a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick. Their play-making linebacker who once led the NFL in tackles is a college free agent. Their Pro Bowl selections in the secondary have been players cut or traded from other teams. And there is Iloka, the man secondary coach Kevin Coyle has dubbed “The General,” because that’s what he does. A fifth-round draft pick in 2012 (courtesy of the trade for the last first-round non-cornerback in linebacker Keith Rivers), Iloka is heading into his fifth season as a no-nonsense starter now secure as the secondary’s commandant and a member of the Joint Chiefs with linebacker Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones. “It’s the old cliché,” says safety coach Robert Livingston. “The safeties are the quarterback back there, but it’s true. George is a tremendous calming influence who gets everybody lined up and makes sure everyone is on the same page.” Don’t let the eyes glaze over on that talking point. Yeah, yeah. Everyone always talks about them drafting a play-making safety high, but this is a defense run by a coordinator in Paul Guenther who believes more NFL games are lost than won. So, like all good generals, Iloka takes the last line of defense seriously. Especially the way the Bengals grind on you. “If you make a mistake playing that positon, bombs go off,” Livingston says. “If the defensive tackle is out of his gap, the only people that know are him, the coordinator, his position coach, and maybe his mom. But it’s always (the safeties) they’re talking about in the stadium.” After he signed his extension last year, Iloka deployed press coverage. In the end, at safety, you have to gauge the plays that are stopped as well as the plays that are made. According to Elias, since Iloka became the starter in 2013 opposite Reggie Nelson the Bengals have allowed the fourth fewest plays of at least 40 yards with 38, behind only Seattle (26), Denver (27), and New England (34) and the third fewest pass plays of 40 with 28 behind only Denver (21) and Seattle (23). Don’t think this is a big play league? Is it any coincidence all those teams have been perennial play-off clubs? “It’s a lot easier to come back from a six or eight yard play than 60 or 80 yards,” Livingston says. In the middle of it all is the 6-4, 220-pound Iloka who Livingston says still has notes from his rookie year and always sits in the front of the room with questions at the ready. Guys like cornerback Darqueze Dennard kid him about having an opinion on everything from Pittsburgh to Paris and even “my girl asks me why I’m arguing and I tell her I’m not arguing I’m just giving my opinion.” Coaches love it. “He’s a very black-and-white guy,” Livingston says. “He knows exactly what it says in the playbook because he studies and he has learned it. Because that’s what he’s made his brain do.” Like A.J. Green at wide receiver, Iloka and Adam Jones are straddling a transition of sorts in the secondary from the Nelson-Leon Hall-Terence Newman days to the Dennard-Dre Kirkpatrick-William Jackson-Shawn Williams depth chart. “He’s a general back there. He makes us all go,” says Williams, the safety opposite Iloka for the second straight season. “He’s a smart one who keeps us all on the same page. When it gets chaotic he’s the one that kind of calms us down and gets us back on page. Very smart. Very smart.” But it wasn’t always like that. For a time in that season of 2013 when he first started Iloka was very much a buck private trying to earn his stripes for the Stripes. On the corner that Opening Day in Chicago were Newman and Hall and about 250 NFL starts. When Hall blew out his Achilles a month later, here came Jones and his seven NFL seasons. First-round picks all. It seems like the only place where you can’t survive a credibility gap these days is an NFL secondary. “The minute I got here Coach (Marvin) Lewis said they want their safeties to make the calls,” Iloka says. “It comes with experience and respect so they listen to you and trust what you’re doing.” When Iloka made one of those checks, one for which he was responsible, he remembers Newman and Jones pushing back. “No, no,” and Iloka thinks that may have been a turning point for him when he pushed back. Shawn Williams moves into his second year as a starter opposite The General. “Wrong or right, I’m in this defense. I’m starting. If I make a check, let’s roll with it,” Iloka recalls of the conversation. “We can’t be back there having a full-on discussion and they’re about to snap the ball. There comes a point in every safety’s career, especially the way we run our defense, where you have to earn that trust. If you’re messing up consistently, no one is going to listen. That means the onus is on you to make sure you’re in the playbook. Make sure you’re on the Ps and Qs so guys trust you right or wrong … It’s a trust and credibility thing. They had to build their trust in me and I had to gain credibility.” The Bengals finished third in total defense that season while winning the AFC North. Trust earned. But he hasn’t stopped there. Livingston, who joined the Bengals personnel department for the Iloka draft, puts him in some high company. “In terms of personality and knowing the defense, George is a Leon (Hall) type of player,” Livingston says. “‘Hey George, how do we play this?’ And he can tell you. “When he’s the old guy in the room (at 27), its’ a fun group to be around. It’s a young energetic group.” Iloka is a good fit for Livingston’s room. If Harry Potter has the Chamber of Secrets, then Livingston chairs the Den of No Secrets. There were no punches pulled in the first four games of last season, when they allowed five passes of plus-40. No coincidence it was their first four games without Hall and Nelson on the roster. Not to mention Livingston’s first year with the secondary and Coyle’s first year coaching everybody but Jones. “Candidly, I take as much responsibility as anybody,” Livingston says with safety candor. “Shawn was new. I was new. I think as the year went on people got more comfortable. You play off each other. You know other people’s strengths and weaknesses and you kind of build off that.” They gave up two passes of 40-plus the rest of the way. And it goes beyond that as Iloka pulled Jackson aside this week to let him know how to play a certain coverage with a tip that’s not in the playbook. “There are things in there you don’t really talk about,” Iloka says. “It’s just from playing with a guy. There’s stuff that me and Dre know that Willie and I don’t know … ‘This is how we play it. I know that’s not what they’re saying, but this is how we play it.’ Dre and I have that kind of rapport now. That’s all that was last year.” Since Iloka has been in the same system for so long, Livingston finds him a great resource. Borrowing a page from defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s tip sheet, Livingston has his players install coverages to the group. No current AFC North starting safety has more starts with their team than Iloka. “Even though there’s only seven of us, getting up and having to talk in front of the group and present it is a great way to learn and George can spit it all back,” Livingston says. Now that he’s in his second season with his core guys, Iloka, Livingston says, is beginning “to spread his wings.” This kind of continuity just doesn’t grow on trees. According to the AFC North depth charts supplied by Ourlads.com, Iloka has started the most games at safety with his team in the division. The Ravens have two unrestricted free agents, one from this year in Tony Jefferson and one from last year in Eric Weddle. The Browns just traded for a starter on Thursday when they acquired Calvin Pryor from the Jets to team with Ed Reynolds, a practice squad player pickup from the Eagles last season. There’s also Michigan rookie Jabril Peppers trying to make the transition from linebacker. And the Stealers start 2016 second-round pick Sean Davis to team with Bengals’ public enemy No. 1 Mike Mitchell, the closest to Iloka’s 60 starts with 48. “As a veteran guy he knows what it’s supposed to look like,” Livingston says. ‘He’s been a part of some really good defenses. If it’s not right, he knows it and lets you know.” Iloka is counting on the continuity carrying the opening part of the season. “We need to pick up where we left off,” Iloka says of 2016. . “And I think we can do that. We should come out better this year than last year.” Livingston’s black-and-white guy may have an opinion on politics, movies, basketball. But he’ll save it for Twitter. Even then he’s reluctant to post about politics because everyone is so polarized and not budging. “I say what I say,” Iloka says. “If I feel like engaging, I’ll engage back,” Iloka says. “I won’t speak on certain subjects in certain settings. If we’re in football down here, l ’m not going to talk about politics. I’m going to keep it football. Twitter is like my thing. It’s my space.” But he’ll prove his point. He remembers joking around with “my girl,” last year in Houston when he said, “my mom can carry me on her back, why can’t you?’ She said, ‘No she can’t.’ And my mom carried me on her back. Walked me like five, 10 yards. I’m about 220 and she’s small. Just strong.” Which is exactly what Iloka is giving the Bengals. Strength through reliability and experience. He may not be carrying them on his back, but he’s got their back.
  2. Read the entire article and watch the video on Bengals.com Hot takes Posted Aug 10, 2016 Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com Follow Me Blog The starters for the Bengals and the Vikings played a lot more against each other during Wednesday’s joint practice before a crowd of 1,950 than they will in Friday night’s pre-season opener (7:30-Cincinnati’s Channel 12) and here are some hot takes from the hottest practice of training camp that ended in 90-degree weather just before 5 p.m. The starters for the Bengals and the Vikings played a lot more against each other during Wednesday’s joint practice before a crowd of 1,950 than they will in Friday night’s pre-season opener (7:30-Cincinnati’s Channel 12) and here are some hot takes from the hottest practice of training camp that ended in 90-degree weather just before 5 p.m. -The defending NFC North champion Vikings are a heck of a lot better than the 2015 New York Giants. The Giants didn’t have half the good players head coach Mike Zimmer has and that’s a major reason why future Hall-of-Famer Tom Coughlin was here Wednesday in his new role as a member of the NFL office instead of still the Giants head coach. The Bengals dominated the Giants last season in their two-day session, but it was much more even this year with the Minnesota defense stifling the Bengals’ long ball early before Andy Dalton and company made hay in the red zone. The Bengals defense looked slow early in 11-on-11 passing, but flexed its muscles against the league’s best running back and came up stingy in the red zone. “I think Friday is a good thing, but this is an experience that I think down the road for certain players is invaluable as far as experience and reaction,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis before the festivities. “It’s also valuable to our football team when it comes to that 46-man roster down the road, because these situations will come up throughout the season. I think how a guy handles those situations or whatever it may be, will help a guy push forward.” _Rookie defensive tackle Andrew Billings looked to be Wednesday’s lone casualty when he went down during one-on-one pass rush. He injured his knee when he got his feet tangled on what appeared to be an end tackle twist and underwent an MRI Wednesday night. The Bengals defense gummed up many Minnesota runs. -Early in practice, Zimmer’s cornerbacks played like Zimmer cornerbacks and blanketed people while giving hardly anything downfield. And that was with Terence Newman back in Minnesota and 2015 first-round pick Trae Waynes lost a third of the way through, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press that also reported Waynes was ailing on an extremely hot day, and was replaced on the first team by Jabari Price for the rest of the way. “I felt like as the practice went on we started hitting some things,” Dalton said. “The red zone period was good for us. Obviously it’s scripted so in certain situations you’re not going through the normal phase of the game, but it’s good work.” Whatever it was, it failed to please offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. Zampese told a couple of reporters as he walked off the field at the end of practice it wasn’t the offense’s finest moment for both players and coaches. _But as soon as you began to wonder if the only wide receivers that can get open other than A.J. Green are in Detroit (Marvin Jones) and Atlanta (Mohamed Sanu), Brandon LaFell re-appeared again. LaFell, one of Bill Belichick’s transplants, caught back-to-back touchdown passes in the red zone on those across-the-middle routes he’s supposed to cash as foes blanket Green. After a slow first week, LaFell continues to make more and more plays as camp goes on. _But no one is having the camp No. 3 tight end C.J. Uzomah is having with Tyler Eifert (ankle) and Tyler Kroft (knee) iced with injuries. Uzomah made another diving, juggling catch Wednesday in 11-on-11 and when told Uzomah just may be the “Player of Camp,” Dalton said that could be so. “He’s one of the only tight ends left,” he said. _While the offense struggled early, you only had to look at the adjacent field to see the metaphor. The Bengals have time to get things straightened out with their new receivers because the defense is still salty, experienced and intact. The defense isn’t supposed take runners to the ground, so Burfict and Maualuga had to be content with shoving around the great Adrian Peterson, most of the time at the line of scrimmage. “We came off the ball well. We were coming downhill in the run game and that was good to see,’ said nose tackle Domata Peko, who pointed to the play of linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga. “The linebackers were really flying around.” Bengals Pro Bowl cornerback Adam Jones was on most of the day. -The pass defense was a little more complicated. Maybe it was the specter of Vikings backup quarterback Shaun Hill working behind Teddy Bridgewater. It will be recalled Hill won his first NFL start against the Bengals in his sixth season back in 2007 for the 49ers. He’s won just 15 since, but on Wednesday Hill and Bridgewater had success finding No. 1 pick Laquon Treadwell and fellow wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Charles Johnson running free underneath, causing defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and secondary coach Kevin Coyle to remind frequently, “Finish.” Diggs pulled off a rarity and got behind Bengals Pro Bowl cornerback Adam Jones down the sideline for an estimated 20-yarder. But Jones, who talked about how the Bengals DBs dominated the Giants receivers last season in the joint practice, also led good coverage in the red zone in a drill they clamped down on Bridgewater’s accuracy with solid coverage and a good rush. “It took us a little while to get going. Their tempo was a lot different. It was a good day to build on,” Jones said. “We played a lot man. There was a lot of (rub routes) and stuff like that. They’re different than the Giants … The only long one they caught me was off me for about 15, 20 yards … I was in the wrong leverage … Everything was underneath … They’re more dink-and-dunk … We didn’t look at the offense at all. We just came out and practiced.” _The Bengals are backing down from nobody. During the first 11-on-11, when Treadwell came over the middle, cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris knocked him down. It appeared when wide receiver Adam Thielen tried to get a block on the other Adam, Jones’ counter move knocked off Thielen’s helmet. Which means it took Jones and Zimmer, who had their moments when Zimmer was here, about a half-an-hour to start jawing again. But after the period, Jones, Zimmer, and Lewis-Harris were laughing and smiling. “(Zimmer) was talking to me because I knocked the dude’s helmet off,” Jones said. “He should have had his stuff buckled up. It’s not like I was trying to hurt anybody. I went to the kid and talked to him. I’m not out here trying to be the bad guy. I’m just trying to play the game the way I play it always. Just compete.” Jones recounted the conversation with Zimmer thusly: Zimmer: Come on Adam, we’re friends. Jones: That has nothing to do with me trying to do my job. If you’d been listening to Jones before practice, you knew it was business as usual. “You can't go out there thinking about that,” said Jones, when asked if he has to back off in such a setting. “You've got to go out and play the game like you play the game. Whatever happens is going to happen anyway, so you don't go out and think it's a fine line. You practice the way you normally practice, get to the ball, tag off and play how you play. If you're thinking about stuff and what can happen, then something's going to happen. I don't think nobody's got the mindset of that in here, or you won't be here for long.” -There’s a lot of admiration still for Zimmer on this defense. They can still tell what he taught them. Starting with Jones. “He's a big technique guy. He taught me a lot while he was here,” Jones said. “(Zimmer taught) just to give it 110 percent in whatever I do, and make sure you study, and technique is the key. Technique can get you a long way..... Read the entire article and watch the video on Bengals.com
  3. http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Marvin-Lewis-news-conference-transcript/b4da9094-d29c-438a-9523-2489f4541ebd Marvin Lewis news conference transcript Posted Aug 10, 2016 Marvin Lewis news conference transcript 8/10/2016 Opening Comments: “I’m looking forward to having a productive day today with our practice against the Vikings. I think its good for our football team to take a step forward and practice against different people, new things, and new schemes. You have to react differently to things much like you have to do in a real game, where everything isn’t do scripted and you have to react. These are really good opportunities for our skill players to move forward and play against different personnel. Its really good and I’m looking forward to it being a couple productive games for us prior to the game.” Is this like the old days with Mike Zimmer, and coordinating with him to script a practice? “What Mike and I did in the springtime was decide what areas we wanted to cover. We talked last night and yesterday morning, and will talk here again today. We have some adjustments we will put in from the other coaches. Its pretty easy when you do it with people you’re friends with and respect that way.” Do the players feel a different level of excitement with these next few days? “Yes I think there is, no question. There’s way to pull back from that. I tried to pull back yesterday in preparation for today. That’s a good thing.” How much do you get from these two days in comparison to Friday? “I think Friday is a good thing, but this is an experience that I think down the road for certain players is invaluable as far as experience and reaction. Its also valuable to our football team when it comes to that 46 man roster down the road, because these situations will come up throughout the season. I think how a guy handles those situations or whatever it may be, will help a guy push forward.” You guys both have the same mentality of grooming smart football players who understand the bigger picture. Is that starting to click with the younger guys? “I think so. You want the younger guys to go out and be able to execute their jobs, do them to the best of their ability. It has to be play after play and not have any breakdowns or meltdowns. Hopefully it will reduce some of the anxiety that will come about Friday evening.” How much satisfaction do you get seeing many of your former coordinators go on to head coaching jobs? “It gives me a great deal of satisfaction. First off, Mike and I have been friends since the early 80s, and spent a lot of time around each other. It’ the same with Hue (Jackson) and Jay (Gruden). and all the success they’ve had. I’ve had with a relationship with Hue for a long period of time. I remember him when he first got into coaching. Its special. Jay I didn’t know as long, but I’ve coached with Jon (Gruden), so we got back to those times. You feel good about it. What all three guys have in common, as with most of our coaching staff, is they have been career coaches all their life. All they’ve done is grind. They were grinders as young coaches, and they’re grinders now. That’s why they’ve been so successful.” How did you first meet Mike Zimmer? “Mike coached at Weber State when I coached at Idaho State. We obviously played them. The coaches in the Big Sky conference decided they were going to take a page from the Pac 10 conference and have the assistant coaches’ golf tournament. And then we carried it over to the WAC conference after that. We were really big time (laughs). “But it was good times for all of us then. I started in the NFL in Pittsburgh in 1992, and I think Mike started with the Cowboys in ’93. It was right around the same time. We would see each other. We played against the Cowboys, obviously, quite a few times. I remember riding on the bus to the Pro Bowl game, and his son Adam being just a young boy then and riding up front with Mike and I. So we spent a lot of time together. “And then obviously when we had the opportunity to sit down and discuss Mike coming here to Cincinnati, when we were in the room for six or eight hours and forgetting to eat dinner. We were just filling up all the (dry erase) boards. It was fun. It was great, I got to see him last night, and it was just really cool. We spend a lot of time together at the owners’ meetings now. It’s just fun to have a friend, and him be so successful, and be a part of it.” Who is the better golfer? “Well, I don’t know. I don’t think he’s playing much golf. But that’s not to say that I’m the better golfer (laughs). I went on golf overload there for a little bit. I’m good for a while (laughs).” How much did the stuff that you guys do here with the double A-gaps, which Zimmer and Paul Guenther put in, impact your success over the last five to seven years? “People have been lining up different ways in the NFL for a long time. There are only so many ways. But coaches have done a great job of taking and building upon it per plan, week after week. Mike kind of looks at it as his baby, which is cool.” You know you’re onto something when other teams start doing the same thing, or at least pieces of it, like a lot of teams are doing with that philosophy now… “Well again, they’ve done a good job it. I’m sure, Dave (Bengals radio analyst and former Bengals offensive lineman Dave Lapham), at some point you faced that in your career, or something like it. So it’s similar. But people continue to put their spin on things. Most importantly for our players is how our players understand the things we do out of those looks and the critical coaching points.” How much did Paul Guenther’s relationship with Mike Zimmer have to do with his promotion to defensive coordinator once Zimmer left for Minnesota? “As you’re part of the meetings on offense and defense, you know the expertise of coaches and you know their input with the things you’re doing and what they bring to the table. I thought Paul was a very valuable part of what we were doing and a great asset to Mike. “And that’s what you want on your coaching staff. You want guys who bring very sound ideas. Something that checks out A to Z, not something that falters halfway through because it’s not sound. You want guys who can give input. And you get a chance to “yay or nay” it, just like I get to do from the top of it once they get it around third base. My thing is, ‘How does the player understand, how does he know and how does he play fast with it?’ We can be what we think are the smartest coaches, but it’s how the players take it and what they do with it that counts.”
  4. Read the entire article at Bengals.com Bengals, Vikes tune for tune-up in Zim Bowl Posted 12 hours ago Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com Follow Me Blog While Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer feted both staffs at his New Kentucky Home Thursday afternoon with the Cincinnati delicacy Montgomery Inn ribs, their players cooled down from the last practice before Friday night’s pre-season buffet (7:30- Cincinnati’s Channel 12) at Paul Brown Stadium. Zimmer and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis oversaw a brisk one-hour set in shoulder pads Thursday morning on the PBS practice fields and then outlined their Friday plans to the media. Maybe the biggest bomb dropped was by former Bengals tackle Andre Smith, who revealed that Zimmer is “more relaxed,” in Minnesota than Cincinnati. “He still gets after you, but he’s more relaxed,” Smith said of The Volatile One. Lewis was not in relaxed mode Thursday. He only made one definitive lineup move, scratching WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict from Thursday’s practice and from the opener, making him the only defensive starter not expected to play Friday. Which is how they hope to line up in New Jersey for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the Jets, when Burfict begins serving a three-game suspension. But it’s believed left tackle Andrew Whitworth (shoulder), out all this week, also won’t play Friday, as well as slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard (ankle) and rookie defensive tackle Andrew Billings (knee). Lewis confirmed Billings’ knee injury, but offered no timeline or MRI results. It’s believed he’ll travel to get a second opinion before they make the next move. Also, scratch Pro Bowl cornerback Adam Jones from any punt and kick returns. But it could be anybody else out there returning for the Bengals, ranging from wide receiver Brandon Tate, the franchise’s all-time punt return leader, to sophomore Mario Alford, to rookie receivers Tyler Boyd and Alex Erickson. Take away Tate and that’s 0.0 NFL regular season NFL returns. Lewis sounded as if he’ll go by feel when it comes to playing time. Quarterback Andy Dalton’s first team offense traditionally gets one series in the opener. Last season after scrimmaging the Giants, the Bengals routed them, 23-10, in the pre-season opener and Dalton took a seat after he hit all three of his passes for 31 yards in the opening six-play 52-yard touchdown drive that never reached third down. And the defense sat down after two three-and-outs in what was arguably the fastest and crispest a Marvin Lewis team ever opened the preseason. But things haven’t gone as smoothly this week. Zimmer, the Bengals former defensive coordinator, had to take delight in the frustration flashed by Bengals perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green Thursday. In a red-zone drill the only touchdown went to a wide open Boyd down the seam from Dalton. Dalton couldn’t connect on three high throws over the middle to 6-5 tight end C.J. Uzomah and tight end Ryan Hewitt dropped another one. Tate was well covered in the back of the end zone on one incompletion and when Dalton had Green working open against second-round pick Trae Waynes on a fade route, Green couldn’t track down a wide throw in the end zone and uncharacteristically yelled to no one in particular. “We can’t just miss the ball like that,” said Green, also uncharacteristically quiet the last two practices. “It’s a combination of a lot of things. When we get down there we have to score. I want to be the guy that scores all the time. “We didn’t prepare for anybody,” Green said. “We just came out and practiced, not changing anything. It’s their scheme vs. our scheme and they got us. In a game, we prepare for everything.” The frustration continued into the final team drill, a hurry-up segment. Boyd made some nice catches that included some separation from Clemson rookie corner Mackensie Alexander, selected with the pick before Boyd at No. 54. But the last two plays in the red zone got blown up by coverage sacks. Marvin Lewis vowed not to play Vontaze Burfict much this preseason and he's iced him for the opener. The Vikings were without starting cornerback Terence Newman and middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, along with two other backers. Uzomah, who has caught everything in this camp moving into a No. 1 role vacated by injuries to Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft, couldn’t put away one of Dalton’s three high throws. He got one hand on all of them, but blamed himself on all three for not making the necessary adjustments against the looks of a new defense. “It was just bad timing all on my part. Andy was throwing dimes out there like he always does,” Uzomah said. “We made the adjustment. We talked about it. We’ve got it figured out. It won’t happen again.” This is what Lewis was talking about Wednesday when he said in the joint practices his players “have to react differently to things much like you have to do in a real game, where everything isn’t do scripted and you have to react. These are really good opportunities for our skill players to move forward and play against different personnel.” A guy like Uzomah, a fifth-round pick in 2015, came into this camp with just 50 snaps from scrimmage as a rookie, so he’s not exactly used to seeing different schemes and teams on this level. “I know what to do on certain routes against certain coverages, but we haven’t seen some of these routes against these coverages and I need to adjust ever so slightly,” Uzomah said. “I have to run it differently based on different looks if they play one high (safety), two high, press. I’m going to have to run a route a different way. Be in the right spot.” Uzomah is going to be one of the few starters that plays with backup quarterback AJ McCarron Friday. The young tackles, Jake Fisher playing for Whitworth and right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi making his debut as the starter, also figure to get some extra snaps. Ironically, the man Ogbuehi is replacing who started the five previous Opening Days, the aforementioned Andre Smith, lines up to start for the Vikings. Once the Bengals took Ogbuehi in the first round and Fisher in the second round in 2015, the Bengals didn’t make a big move to re-sign the 29-year-old Smith. But after Thursday’s practice he only heaped praise on Lewis with “no hard feelings.” Read the entire article at Bengals.com
  5. Read the entire article on Bengals.com Billings hitting all the right notes Posted 3 hours ago Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com Follow Me Blog Rookie defensive tackle Andrew Billings is putting up so much weight in a Cincinnati gym getting ready for training camp next week that they put a limit on him. Andrew Billings has shown up ready to go. Anthony Billings, a 300-pound opera tenor who lifts notes like his brother flings around weights, took a break this week before joining the Baylor choir and helped Andrew Billings move into his new apartment in downtown Cincinnati. “Every table and chair in Andrew’s apartment, he built it,” says their father, also named Anthony. “Andrew and I would look in the box, see the instructions and we want no part of it. But (Anthony) wants to put it together.” Anthony Billings, the oldest by two years, is getting something out of it. Andrew, at 21 the youngest of the 89 Bengals set to gather at training camp a week from Thursday, gave him his two guitars that he used twice a week to sing his own songs. “I make up a song each week. I don’t remember it,” says Andrew, who prefers to sing in private while also enjoying a wide swath of guitar solos from Herbie Hancock to Santana. “Like everything else when I moved in, I’ll buy some new ones.” Jazz. R and B. Whatever is easy listening, you can find it on his phone. He also dabbles with the violin and keyboard from his elementary school days at a magnet school for performing arts. But a consistent, hard-driving lick is emerging with the 6-1, 311-pound Billings, their prized rookie defensive tackle out of Baylor some think can get on the field as early as that first drive against the Jets Sept. 11 if it’s not a three-and-out. The kid likes to jam after hours. He took a mere week off after the Bengals’ last spring workout on June 16 before he went back into his precious weight room. Then he joined local strength coach Clif Marshall at the Ignition Training Retreat in Florida during the first week of July, where he worked with such veterans as Panthers Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. “Usually rookies don’t make that trip. He’s one of the first ones. He reached out to me,” says Marshall, the disciple of Bengals strength coach Chip Morton who has run 350 players or so through the Ignition gym in Mason, Ohio since 2008. The trip was not only an eye-opener for Billings, but Marshall realized there was already another serious pro on the Bengals defensive line. He watched while Billings made his own arrangements for his flight and hotel and then asked him to accompany him grocery shopping to get him set up for the week. “First impression is everything,” Billings says. “So I didn’t want to take any time off.” When they came back to Cincinnati, Billings followed Marshall into the facility, where he is already being mentioned with guys that put Ignition on the map. “His lower body strength is the best I’ve ever seen here,” Marshall says. “His upper body is in the same category as Geno Atkins, Bobbie Williams, Tank Johnson.” A few days ago, Marshall’s heart did a bench press when he saw Billings squat 605 pounds so easily that the bar was moving around like Giovani Bernard in the flat. “That told me he could put on 100 more pounds, but we don’t want anybody getting hurt,” Marshall says. “So I put a governor on him. I didn’t want him going over 600.” Billings may have a limit for the next week, but his father is starting to believe there are no bounds. “It’s nice,” Anthony Billings says, “when your kids keep surprising you.” Anthony and Sylvia Billings kept a close eye on them in their adjoining bedrooms back in Waco, Texas, where they could hear each other play the guitar and violin. But one day after high school, Anthony, an electrical engineering major at McLennan Community College, casually invited them to his singing audition at a community theater. “Sing? We knew he could play just about any instrument. But sing?” Anthony asks. “That was a shocker.” Billings at work this spring. The younger Anthony carried the audition and the next thing they knew, he switched majors to voice and last year he won first place in the Young Artist Vocal Performance competition sponsored by the Texas Music Teachers Association in his debut. Like his brother, he became heavily recruited after being featured as a soloist in McLennan Chorale concerts and the lead tenor in the McLennan Opera. He’s headed to Baylor this fall after touring Europe with a choir and arrives at a campus where Andrew left early last year as a junior when he was named an improbable Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12. “It’s a big jump from high school to college. They’re big boys,” says Anthony Billings, executive director of Workforce Solutions for the Heart of Texas, a U.S. Dept. of Labor bureau focused on matching people with jobs. “But he began to play a little bit as a freshman and then I realized, ‘Hey, Baylor is not going to red-shirt him.’ Then he started against Texas in the Big 12 championship game. We were shocked. “I guess football really didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was the powerlifting. I’m a transplant down here. Where I’m from, when you did a physical sport it was football and then wrestling. There was no powerlifting.” Anthony Billings, 51, grew up in Chicago, but he’s no stranger to strength. He ended up in Dallas at Paul Quinn College, a historically black school where he got his education paid for batting cleanup and playing third base before moving on to get his Master’s at Prairie View A&M. “If you could get money for your education shooting marbles, I would have shot marbles,” Anthony Billings says. He began to think Andrew could get some help in that area when he started following powerlifting. He was good at it. Really good at it. “You ever been to a meet?” Anthony Billings asks. “It’s pretty intense. They’re grunting and screaming and when they drop (the bar), it’s scary. The sound it makes hitting the floor. His mother almost couldn’t watch it. I only saw Andrew drop it once. It was the state championships his senior year and he said it slipped because of the powder on his hands.” Every schoolkid in Texas knows about that meet. That’s where Billings set the state record with 2,010 total pounds (805 squat, 705 dead lift, 500 bench) and arrived at Baylor as a household name. But if you ask Andrew, he thinks the sport gave him the work ethic rather than the name. Billings was the Big 12's Co-Defensive Player of the Year last season. “Some of the craziest workouts of my life were in high school,” Andrew Billings says. “That was my first sport. That really got me into football.” But football was always there. It’s always there in Texas. Anthony played until he was eight. “A little skinny running back,” Andrew says. That’s about the time his father pulled them out of pee wees “Between that and track, it got to the point where we couldn’t even go on vacation,” Anthony Billings says. “I wanted him to ride his bike, fish, do what we did as kids growing up. He was out for about five years, but then in seventh grade he came to me and said he’d like to play football again. OK.” Anthony Billings has an idea the work ethic might have come from the music days. Both sons were in orchestra playing the violin until Andrew went to high school and played football. Plus, Andrew spent a lot of time at Anthony’s practices and performances and vice versa. “A lot of practice and then you get the optimal chance to make it happen and then go back to practice,” their dad says. “It’s a lot like sports. You have to execute.” Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney is asking the same thing. He’s looking for Billings to stay low, stay in shape to play a bunch of snaps, and not be a powerlifter playing football. “Earlier I was studying the basics. First start with the new playbook and learn that,” Andrew Billings says. “Now I’m learning the whole scheme with the idea knowing what the whole defense does.” .... Read the entire article on Bengals.com
  6. Read the entire article on Bengals.com Notes: Bengals cut rookie CB to go one under limit; Pre-registration urged for Dre's Saturday camp Posted 14 hours ago Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com Follow Me Blog The Bengals are now one under the 90-player limit and are down to eight cornerbacks there are no indications they are on the verge of making an addition. No signing appeared imminent Wednesday to fill their last roster spot after the Bengals waived free-agent rookie cornerback Corey Tindal. The move came a week after Marshall’s Tindal was robbed at gun point in a poker game at a Huntington, W.Va., motel room. Media reports said Tindal was hit over the head twice with a pistol in an incident police estimated more than $4,000 in cash and other items were stolen. It’s been a few weeks since the Bengals were connected in talks with a pair of veteran free agents, their own cornerback Leon Hall and Arizona’s future Hall-of-Fame pass rusher Dwight Freeney. But even though the Bengals are one under the 90-player limit and are down to eight cornerbacks there were no indications they were on the verge of making an addition. Rookies are expected early next week before veterans report Thursday, July 28 for the first practice of training camp on Friday, July 29 at 3 p.m. on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields. Gates open at 2:30 p.m. DRE CAMP: Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is extending his outreach from his 21 Kids Camp in his hometown of Gadsden , Ala., to his adopted home of Cincinnati at the first annual Kirkpatrick Kids Kamp for football players and cheerleaders Saturday at Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School, 420 Ezzard Charles Dr. Read the entire article on Bengals.com
  7. Read the whole article at Bengals.com Numbers smile on defense Posted Jul 18, 2016 Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com Follow Me Blog a a If numbers don’t lie, then the 2016 NFL Record and Fact Book takes the stand and testifies that defense has been at the heart of the Bengals’ resurgence into the NFL’s tight circle of consistent winners during the last decade. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's men have been stingy on the scoreboard. If numbers don’t lie, then the 2016 NFL Record and Fact Book takes the stand and testifies that defense has been at the heart of the Bengals’ resurgence into the NFL’s tight circle of consistent winners during the last decade. Among the 855-pound page treasure trove of anything NFL is the birth date of Paul Brown (Sept. 7, 1908), the list of the league’s oldest starters in 2015 (the Bengals’ 34-year-old Andrew Whitworth carried the day at left tackle), and the compilation of the won-loss record of all active quarterbacks with at least 10 starts (where Andy Dalton’s .656 winning percentage trails only Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Ben Roethlisberger). The good book also charts trends of the last 10 seasons in the major offensive and defensive categories and while Dalton and perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green take their rightful spot among the offensive sultans of stats, the Bengals defense has been a consistent force since 2006 and a top five presence since 2012. In that 10-year stretch the Bengals are tied for ninth place in the NFL with 85 victories with Atlanta and the Giants, and they’re one of only five AFC teams with at least six post-season berths. In the last two seasons the Bengals have the NFL’s second best winning percentage at .703, tied with Carolina behind the .750 trio of New England, Denver, and Arizona. And since 2012, only Denver (.781), New England (.750), and Seattle (.719) have been better. A steel-belted takeaway/giveaway ratio fueled by an opportunistic defense has mirrored the climb. They’ve racked up the second most turnovers by an AFC team since 2006 with a total of 278 that only trails the Patriots’ 304. The plays have generated a plus-18 takeaway/giveaway ratio, fourth best in the AFC and seventh in the NFL in the last ten years. And in the last two seasons the Bengals have allowed the league’s fifth fewest points during the first two years under defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Guenther took over for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer after he led Cincinnati to top ten overall rankings in 2012 and 2013 and in the last four seasons the Bengals have allowed the second fewest points behind only Seattle. But The Book also reflects how Dalton and Green have paved the way on offense. Besides his 50 wins, Dalton has completed enough balls to Green that in the last four seasons Green is the NFL’s fifth most prolific receiver with 5,114 yards, 633 yards shy of Calvin Johnson in Johnson’s last four seasons and only 128 short of his 2011 draft soulmate Julio Jones. No one in the NFL has more rushing touchdowns since 2014 than Jeremy Hill. And since 2013, his 3,764 yards are still fifth most, just 19 yards short of Johnson. But no one is near Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown’s 5,031 over the last three seasons. Denver’s Demaryius Thomas is the closest at 4,353. (Green, who has had at least 1,041 yards in every season, should overtake Brown in one category this year. According to Elias he needs 923 yards to pass Brown for the fifth most yards in the first six years of a career at 7,094. The top four of Randy Moss at 8,375), Torry Holt at 8,156), Jerry Rice at 7,866, and Calvin Johnson at 7,836 is miles away. Bengals running back Jeremy Hill leads the NFL with 20 rushing touchdowns in his first two seasons, one more than DeMarco Murray and four more than Marshawn Lynch and Lamar Miller. Read the whole article at Bengals.com
  8. Read the entire article on Bengals.com Hobson's Choice: Bengaldom can't wait to camp out Posted 3 hours ago Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com Follow Me Blog Training camp opens a week from Friday and the readers can't wait. One of the leading topics heading in is the roster joust at wide receiver as rookies like Cody Core try to get a foothold. A.J. Green has never played in a home opener in his six NFL seasons. Hey Geoff, thanks again for the continuous updates! Ready for camp to start! Any more contracts you think can be completed before the end of camp? Is the team prioritizing Kirkpatrick or Zeitler? Zeitler has always been consistent but Kirkpatrick came on toward the end of last year...thoughts? Chris Smith, Denver, CO CHRIS: Thanks for the note. I think we’re all ready to get started. As you know, the Bengals extended both fifth-year options to starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and starting right guard Kevin Zeitler, their first-round picks in 2012. The Bengals have a history of paying big money to their own cornerbacks (Leon Hall and Adam Jones), but not guards (Eric Steinbach and Nate Livings), so we’ll see if this follows the script. They’d also like to get an extension for fullback Ryan Hewitt. Hello Geoff, my question is about the schedule this season. We open the year away (for the 7th straight year) @ the Jets on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. We then play at the Steelers without Burfict. After that, we play the defending Superbowl champions, again without Burfict. We get Tom Brady's home opener week 6. To top it all off, one of our home games is in another country. My questions are: 1. Do you think we have a home opener next season? 2. Can we overcome this brutal first half schedule? Cliff Riley, Florence, KY CLIFF: If they didn’t get a home opener this year, they never will. In years past they’ve opened on the road because of a conflict with the Reds but there was no such problem this year. Plus, they are coming off absorbing nationally-televised games late in the season against Denver and Pittsburgh and they’ve got a bunch of returning Pro Bowlers, not to mention the AFC passing champion. You would figure they deserved it and are one of the league’s most attractive teams. The fact that A.J. Green and Andy Dalton have never had a home opener is ludicrous. You’ve hit it right on the head. That’s the key question. Like American diplomats John Adams and Benjamin Franklin during the revolution, they’ve got to come out of London at least even. They’ve got to get to 4-4 after the Oct. 30 game in London against old friend Jay Gruden. And don’t forget that they’re not sure when they’ll get back Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert (ankle) after he rehabs in the preseason. So, yeah, September is extremely tough with the Jets and Steelers back-to-back on the road before opening the home schedule against the Super Bowl champion Broncos on Sept. 25 followed by one of those quick turnaround Thursday nighters at PBS against the Dolphins that you never know how they’re going to go. Do they have a 6-2 finish in them? It’s plausible with only two play-off teams from last year over the final eight games in a home game against Pittsburgh and a Christmas Eve game in Houston. Trips to the Giants and Browns find them playing teams with new coaching staffs and they’ve won their last two games in Baltimore. Home games against Buffalo, Philly, and Baltimore are against teams with a combined 20-28 record last season. And, November has been the best overall month for Marvin Lewis teams at 31-21-1 while Andy Dalton is .606 in both November and December at 20-13. Call one of the NFL's new rules the "Giovani Bernard Interpretation." Hey Geoff, looking back to the WILD card game vs Pittsburgh a lot of the media has demonized Burfict and Jones blaming them for our meltdown. Not to defend them for their actions but it's very unfortunate we ran into the Steelers solely because of the intense rivalry because we were the better team. Before the season even started the officiating in the league had obvious issues and it brewed up disaster for our deep playoff run. And looking back at the game, there was obvious missed calls that killed momentum for us (Shaziers hit on Bernard, Williams penalty on Wheaton) which I want to blame for the hit that Burfict inflicted on brown if it was even intentional, and we all know the story...So what has the league done to prevent this? If everything was called correctly for both sides it easily could have been us taking the win and Munchak and the Steelers antics being the headlines instead of relentless Bengal bashing everyone has focused on. Do you see any rule changes dealing with challenges or clearer definition of what's legal? It seems the rulebook needs simplified, and player safety has gone a bit too far because the players know the risk involved. Brit Rothwell, Seaman, OH BRIT: I don’t think you can ever say player safety has gone too far. That has to be everyone’s top priority. Just because it’s a dangerous profession and the players know it doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t do what you can to make it as safe as possible. But as for the other issue of simplifying the rules, I think everyone agrees with you there. The Wild Card Game certainly wasn’t a proud moment in NFL officiating. They’ve told us that themselves by admitting they blew two calls, one of which resulted in Pittsburgh’s only touchdown on wide receiver Martavis Bryant’s alleged catch between his legs. The other, allowing Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter on the field, probably cost them the game on the last play. And, it took them two months to admit they also screwed up the Giovani Bernard-Ryan Shazier hit. Well, they never came out and said it, although one member of the NFL competition committee not Marvin Lewis said it should have been called when it happened. But the league did re-interpret its crown-of-the-helmet hits in an effort to make things safer. If Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier gave that shot to Bernard in the flat today after he caught a pass for a concussion, there would have been no fumble at the Steelers 25 on third-and-nine late in the third quarter and there would have been a 15-yard penalty that would have put the Bengals close to a first-and-goal while trailing, 15-0, in a game they eventually took a 16-15 lead. The NFL said Shazier wasn’t called for a foul because he didn’t “line up,” Bernard head on. But from now on, no matter what the angle is outside the tackle box, a defensive player can’t use the crown of his helmet. “If there were angles involved, it wasn’t a foul,” said NFL director of officiating Dean Blandino back in March at the league meetings. “We looked at that hit and it’s not a technique we want in the game. We’re changing the interpretation of the rule. For the defensive player, it’s not about angles. It’s about lowering the head and using the crown of the helmet. Outside the tackle box, that hit will become a foul. Forceful contact, (use of) clear crown regardless of whether there are angles involved.” So hopefully that helps clarify things. As for the Bryant non-TD catch, maybe Blandino cleared it up the other day. (By the way, the only guy that can talk sensibly about what is a catch and what is not a catch is profootballtalk.com’s Mike Florio. But even he can lapse into mind-numbing legalese when trying to explain it to the rabble like you and I. Florio reported that Blandino told his officials in a meeting last week, “When it’s bang-bang, rule it incomplete . . . When in doubt, make it incomplete.” Florio then observed, the “advice to err on the side of calling a pass incomplete flows from his confidence that the ruling can be fixed via replay review, if there’s indisputable visual evidence that the player actually had the ball long enough. “f we look at it on replay and it did appear the receiver had it long enough, then we change it and move on,” Blandino said. “Don’t change how you’re officiating these plays. Bang-bang is incomplete, and the time element allows us to be consistent on these bang-bang plays.” So maybe that helps. But then, of course, they looked at the Bryant play two, three, four times, or however long it took them, and they still got it wrong. As for Porter, Florio believes the NFL took care of that with a clarification in this year’s set of rules: “Regardless of what the league or anyone else calls it, the Joey Porter Rule shows up in the 2016 rule book as new language aimed at keeping Porter and all other assistant coaches off the field,” and Florio points to the line “The Head Coach may enter the field to check on the welfare of a player who is injured, but no assistant coach may enter the field.” But they still have to call this stuff even though it looks great on paper. To me the most under-reported story of the year is Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak grabbing Bengals safety Reggie Nelson’s hair after a play on the sidelines. Yeah, the Steelers got hit with 15 yards, but come to find out a few weeks later Munchak told a reporter his $10,000 fine was rescinded. How can that be? How can they demand discipline and then let a coach get away with that? You’re right of course. Winners write history. You don’t see any books written by Al Gore about the 2000 election. If Jeremy Hill holds on to the ball, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is ripped for blowing a 15-point lead and he’s the coach getting ripped for lack of discipline on the sidelines. And Munchak is buried for losing it. Grabbing a player’s hair? The last play never would have happened, but while you can criticize Burfict for risking a penalty you have to admit the narrative of the play was overblown. My opinion (and I think many at PBS share it) is it wasn’t a malicious hit worthy of the media rage. In fact, Shazier’s hit on Bernard and Steelers safety Mike Mitchell’s hit on Eifert a month before both caused on concussions on hits that were more vicious than Tez’s hit that gave Antonio Brown a concussion. And, sure, Jones should have walked away from Porter and not gone after him for the 15-yard penalty. Easy for us to say in the safety of the stands. But at that point in the game, the last snap of an emotional and taut elimination game between two heated rivals, no player should have ever been put in the position of seeing an opposing coach in his huddle. What did they expect? It should have been off-setting penalties. But, at the very least, the flag on Jones should have been picked up. You don’t make that call in a game like that on the last play. But the Steelers won and the Bengals lost. And there were more hanging Chads at PBS that night than in Gore’s Florida and that’s why Pittsburgh got to write the story. Cedric Ogbuehi impressed last year as a rookie playing mainly as an extra tackle late in the season. Like most fans, I'm pumped about the upcoming season. Do you have any updates as to how the O Line is shaping up under the veteran leadership of players like Whitworth and Boling? Jeff Christmas, New Carlisle, IN JEFF: The big move, of course, is 2015 first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi replacing Andre Smith at right tackle. Ogbuehi missed the spring with a muscle problem, but it’s believed he’ll be there for the first practice of training camp. Smith held down the spot ever since he overcame injuries in his second season in 2010 and ended up being a part of six post-season runs as a solid player. But the Bengals are extremely excited about Ogbuehi. Certainly in the Marvin Lewis Era they’ve never had a young tackle this athletic and quick who would have been worthy of a top five pick if healthy. Rookie free agent wide receiver Alex Erickson out of Wisconsin had a nice spring. Hobs, Loved seeing us sign Calgary WR Simonise to fill the #90 spot on the training camp squad. I have been tracking that situation and lobbying the web sites and twitter sites for us to go after him. I am hoping our final 53 include: 6'4 Green, 6'5 Simonise, 6'5 Kumerow, 6'4 Core, 6'2 Lafell & 6'1 Boyd as the slots. I also hope we keep a 7th WR {6'4 Olonzo or Erickson) this year. If not, keep at least 2 of those WRs on the practice squad. I do however realize, that at least 2 or 3 of those undrafted rookies must step up as a PR/KR and on special teams to beat out Tate, Wright and Mario Alford. Also, I am pretty sure 6'5 Eifert and 6'7 Kroft are locks at TE. I hope the 6'8 John Peters makes it too, but imagine he will get bumped by the 6'4 Uzomah. Your thoughts on if we might keep 7 WRs on the 53, and what are the chances that Peters makes the 53 by either beating out Uzomah or keeping an extra TE? I am assuming we usually will only keep at most 3 Tight Ends Thanks. WFSTOTT USN {Retired 21 yrs) BILL: Thank you for your service. The CFL player has yet to sign and won’t until he passes his physical when he reports next week and he has to be considered a longshot to make it since he missed the spring workouts. But, yes, an interesting get. They’ll keep six wide receivers and pending how the preseason goes, maybe two on the practice squad. After Green, LaFell, Boyd and Core, it is anyone’s guess for the final two spots on the 53. The best guess is that sophomore Mario Alford and veteran Brandon Tate are vying for one spot to back up punt returner Adam Jones and be on the active roster every Sunday. And it’s not certain if James Wright (knee) is going to be ready to work at all right away. Peters’ best hope is to make the practice squad. Uzomah, who had a terrific spring, figures to make it behind Eifert and Tyler Kroft at tight end. They’ll keep three tight ends with fullback Ryan Hewitt also able to play there. Would the Bengals be interested in Andrew Hawkins if he is cut by Cleveland; after they drafted 5 wr? Chris Speyrer, Mason City, IL CHRIS: I would think Hawkins would be on the Bengals’ radar. He broke in here as a rookie in 2011 and stayed for three years before he went to Cleveland, so he knows the system cold. One of the questions would be if they think he can play more than the slot. But unlike Alford, he would have plenty of experience in there. One thing working against him is he doesn’t return but, yeah, you’d have to think the well-liked Hawk would be of interest for a receiving corps that lacks experience. Hobbs, Can U tell the Jungle, on what day will the 90 players entering training camp be assigned a Jersey number and when& where will those Jersey numbers be biblically available l? Also, if they make the final 53, do they usually get to keep that number? WFSTOTT Pensacola FL BILL: The list is finalized when the roster is handed out for the first practice a week from Friday and very rarely do they switch the number if they make the final 53. The number you see is usually what you get. New offensive coordinator Ken Zampese brings stability, the key element in building any NFL team. Hey Geoff, can't wait until summer is over, we need some football! So we lost Hue Jackson, which wasn't a surprise, but we had previously lost Gruden, which wasn't a surprise either. All this within five years. My question is, when you lose coordinators can it be better so opponents can't figure you out? Ben Mccollum, Hamilton, OH BEN: That’s an interesting take, but I think the Bengals believe stability in a system is better than constant change..... Read the entire article on Bengals.com
  9. Read the entire article on Bengals.com Hobson's Choice: listing into '16 with '15's top plays Posted Jul 20, 2016 Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com Follow Me Blog a a Everyone wants a list. Here is our offering of top five plays from 2015. In order to qualify, the play has to have two requirements. Obviously, it has to have a decisive voice in the game. But the play also has to have significant ramifications for how the Bengals must respond to the challenges of 2016. The NFL loves lists. NFL Network and NFL.com have more lists than the Bengals and Steelers have axes to grind. In an attempt satisfy the fever-pitch appetite for NFL football ten days from training camp, we offer our top five plays from the Bengals’ 2015 season. With one caveat. In order to qualify, the play has to have two requirements. Obviously, it has to have a decisive voice in the game. But the play also has to have significant ramifications for how the Bengals must respond to the challenges of 2016. So here’s our ticket of the top five plays in 2015, along with a few honorable mentions down ballot: 1. BIG BEN CLOCKED: Third-year safety Shawn Williams saved his first NFL interception for the most opportune moment of his career in the AFC North showdown with the Steelers at Heinz Field on Nov. 1. The 6-0 Bengals trailed the Steelers, 10-6, with 5:34 left in the game and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger about to put in the knife with one of his patented scrambles. But Williams made a wondrous, diving catch just before skidding out-of-bounds at the Steelers 45 when Big Ben tried to improvise into the teeth of a three-safety look. The Steelers came out in a run formation with just one receiver and max protection with multiple tight ends. That’s how Pittsburgh opened the game, which is why Williams started and not cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick as defensive coordinator Paul Guenther matched bulk with bulk. The pick paved the way for 10 points and a 16-10 win that gave the Bengals an insurmountable 3.5-game lead in the AFC North with nine games left and basically gave them their fourth division crown under head coach Marvin Lewis. It’s that kind of heady, icy play that the Bengals expected from Williams when they drafted him in the third round out of Georgia and why they signed him to a four-year extension this spring in the wake of starting safety Reggie Nelson’s departure in free agency. No more third safety. Williams and George Iloka are the starting safeties. Since 2012 only Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman (22) has more interceptions than Nelson’s 17 and six of them came against Big Ben. Williams has staked his claim with a very big one and he’s looking to re-pay their confidence as he replaces the much admired Nelson. Cornerback Adam Jones said during the spring workouts he’s been ready for a while. 2. THE GREENING OF BALTIMORE: After Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green wrecked his Ravens again on a career-best 227 yards in Baltimore, head coach John Harbaugh openly wondered if his team would ever cover Green before he retires. A year after he beat them in the ’14 opener on a 77-yard throw from Andy Dalton in the final five minutes, the Ravens certainly didn’t cover Green back on Sept. 27, 2015 in a 28-24 come-from-behind win that Green clinched with a seven-yard grab from Dalton with 2:10 left. But it was his stunning 80-yard TD with 6:37 left in the third quarter that sent a message to the rest of the league that the Bengals were in to something good. It came 12 seconds after the Ravens gave Cincinnati its first deficit of the season on a stunning 41-yard fumble TD return by linebacker C.J. Mosley off Elvis Dumervil’s sack-and-strip of Dalton. Dalton didn’t blink. Green went in the slot avoiding the bump and Dalton had great time because the 5-9, 205-pound Giovani Bernard fended off a blitzing behemoth. That gave Dalton just enough time to pump a seed to Green outrunning safety Kendrick Lewis in a zone. Then Harbaugh watched Green run away from Lewis before running over cornerback Jimmy Smith at the 20. The win buried the Ravens at 0-3 and with Big Ben limping with a knee injury in Pittsburgh the Bengals were in front to stay in the AFC North. It’s the kind of dominant performance the Bengals are going to need from Green early in the 2016 season as their corps of young wide receivers adjust to the free-agent departures of starter Marvin Jones and slot man Mohamed Sanu. 3. TIPPING TYLER: It was easy to get lost back at sold-out Paul Brown Stadium on Oct. 11, 2011. After the Bengals erupted for 20 straight points in the fourth quarter and overtime to take down the two-time NFC champion Seahawks, 27-24, and stay unbeaten at 5-0, you needed YouTube to catalogue the heroics. Yet tight end Tyler Eifert’s 25-yard diving finger-tip grab behind Seattle Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor with a minute left in regulation to set up Mike Nugent’s tying field goal at the gun not only defined his season but showed just how devastating the Bengals are with Eifert as a weapon down the seam. Athletic enough to line up as a wide receiver on the outside and big enough to give defenses fits as a red-zone target in two tight end sets, Eifert is arguably Dalton’s most important option while Green is his best in the passing game. That’s why Eifert’s ankle injury that could take him out of the first few games (or none) is going to be heavily scrutinized. They need Eifert to play just as well, particularly with the loss of Jones and Sanu, and the Seattle win underscores it. It will be recalled that Green’s last catch against Seattle came midway through the second quarter while Eifert led all receivers with eight catches for 90 yards. And it will also be recalled that the play just before Eifert’s heroics jump-started that last drive on a 27-yard pass interference penalty with 1:25 left when Seattle simply couldn’t keep up with Marvin Jones and got the ball out to the Seattle 45. The Bengals need a healthy Eifert down the middle and a threat opposite Green to emerge in 2016. 4. DUNLAP’S THEFT: It was an uneasy time in Bengaldom even though its club was 10-3 and the 49ers were 4-9 entering the Dec. 20 game. A week before they had watched Dalton cut down in his finest season with a broken thumb that ended his season atop the AFC passer rankings. They were out in San Francisco for AJ McCarron’s first NFL start and they were trying to find their legs in their first game without their quarterback in his 77-game career. Plus, they needed a win to keep their hopes alive for the AFC’s top seed in a Monday night showdown in eight days in Denver. And it wasn’t going well. The Bengals were locked in a sleepy scoreless stalemate in the middle of the second quarter when beleaguered 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert converted a third-and-10 on a 12-yard throw to wide receiver Anquan Boldin when the Bengals allowed the 35-year-old Boldin to wriggle for the last six yards after the catch to the San Fran 32. But the second effort cost him. Bengals sack leader, left end Carlos Dunlap, hustled after the play and wrenched the ball out of Boldin’s hands before racing 21 yards the other way. Less than three minutes later with 5:16 left in the half, the Bengals had a 7-0 lead on running back Jeremy Hill’s one-yard touchdown run courtesy of replay, underscoring just how much of a grind it was. Dunlap’s play loosened everyone up. McCarron settled down to finish a solid-no-frills-no-turnover game with a 192-yard effort on 71-percent passing and he got seven more points when linebacker Vontaze Burfict came up with a pick on a bobbled pass in the half’s last minute to make it 21-0. The play captured a couple of major reasons why the Bengals have made it to the playoffs the last five seasons and what they need to keep doing to make it six. In that stretch they’re 25-15 on the road, which means they’re packing defense and special teams to find different ways to win when it gets ugly. And it’s usually nasty on the road. Over the last 10 seasons they’ve generated the second most turnovers in the AFC while conjuring up the NFL’s seventh -best takeaway-giveaway ratio at plus-18. And let the NFL’s No. 2 scoring defense take a bow. They kept the scoreboard clean until McCarron and the offense got its act together for a classic ugly but necessary win worthy of a defense that has allowed the second fewest points in the league since 2012. Hello World. Adam Jones: no one is more electric with the ball in his hands. 5. ADAM POWER: Seattle again. How could it not be? It has to be one of the five biggest wins in Bengals’ regular-season history. His 35-yard punt return helped set up one of the fourth-quarter touchdowns and was his longest of the season, but it was cornerback Adam Jones’ 19-yard return in overtime that set up Nugent’s winning field goal. And here was, Jones nursing a groin injury, pleading to get on the field to return a punt after just playing corner in the first half “I kept telling Darrin (Simmons) we’d break one,” said Jones to his position coach. Ah, defense and special teams. You have them in 2015 or 2016 or 1988 and you’re going to win. The Bengals allowed just one of six third-down conversions in the fourth quarter and overtime and on third-and-eight in the OT Dunlap continued his harassment of a neophyte right tackle and it turned into a sack of Russell Wilson that backed up Seattle at its 14. In a blink, Jones had the ball on his 43. In two blinks, a 12-yard throw to Eifert and a big run by Bernard, and it was over. HONORABLE MENTION: Oct. 4: The Bengals are wrestling with the Chiefs at PBS and are holding on to a 14-12 lead midway through the third quarter and face a third-and-11 from their 45. With Marvin Jones needing a breather after running a long incompletion, Brandon Tate takes his first snap of the season at wide receiver on his 28th birthday in a year he has only been rotating returning punts with Jones. Against a big rush, Dalton gets away and races to the right sideline before he sees Tate breaking off his route and running past Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters when he sees Dalton in trouble. Dalton hits him on the dead run and Tate makes a diving, fingertip grab at the 8 before he alertly gets up and goes the rest of the way for a 55-yard TD to get the Bengals moving to a 36-21 win. Tate is fighting for his roster life this training camp as the Bengals look at a host of inexperienced young receivers in response to the losses of Jones and Sanu. But whoever they are, they’re going to need guys like Tate that know what they’re doing and come in cold off the bench. So maybe it’s time once again to never count him out. Sept. 20: The Bengals are clinging to a 17-13 lead with 11:50 left in the game against the Chargers at PBS. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who has 24 fourth-quarter comebacks, faces a third-and-six from his 9. Enter Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey. With the injured Burfict sidelined Rey is calling the signals and is trying to outfox Rivers, one of the best in the business at the line of scrimmage. Even though Rivers is in a confusing triple cadence, Rey holds his water. He and fellow nickel backer Emmanuel Lamur are lined up in an A gap blitz. But when Rey sees Rivers is at the point of no return, he makes a new call. He and Lamur drop into coverage while the defensive line moves from its usual four-man look to three. That puts unblockable Geno Atkins over center Chris Watt with no help. Make that a first-year center and second-year NFL player working against a Pro Bowler who has already wrecked the game. Thanks to Rey, who doesn’t allow Rivers time to get to the proper protection, Atkins and Dunlap meet at the quarterback to force an end-zone punt that sets up a TD for a 24-13 lead in what becomes a 24-19 victory. Rey returned in the spring with a three-year contract and with the arrival of 13-year vet Karlos Dansby and the emergence of third-round pick Nick Vigil, the Bengals figure to have their deepest linebacker corps in years. With Burfict suspended for the first three games this year, Rey gives them ballast calling the shots that Burfict usually makes. Jeremy Hill, here running away in Cleveland, had his two biggest games in the division. Jan 3: The Bengals are trying to put away the Ravens in the regular-season finale, which would tie them for a franchise-best 12th win. They’re holding a 14-9 lead early in the second half when Hill bursts out of a heavy formation for a 38-yard TD run on the way to a 24-16 victory. Working behind emergency fullback Jake Fisher and an offensive line featuring three tackles, Hill knifes between left guard Clint Boling and left tackle Andrew Whitworth and like he did in his rookie year of 2014 he quickly goes north and south. He didn’t do that as often. It took Hill all 16 games to get his first carry of the season longer than 20 yards, a feat he accomplished eight times as a rookie. Read the entire article on Bengals.com
  10. Read the rest of the article - http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Alford-Is-Getting-Up-To-Speed/25dbd54f-b98d-46c7-bde2-955f7dca6ba2 Alford Is Getting Up To Speed Posted Jul 15, 2016 Dan Hoard Bengals.com Bengals Radio Voice Blog Alford spent most of last season on the practice squad, seeing action in one game and making a 15-yard reception at Cleveland. During the Bengals’ OTAs and minicamp, he showed flashes of his big-play potential. When the Bengals used their seventh round draft pick on wide receiver Mario Alford last year, the reason was obvious. “We just couldn’t pass up his speed,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. Alford was timed at a blistering 4.27 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his West Virginia pro day, but his transition to NFL football wasn’t as fast. “When you come in as a rookie it’s a little complicated to adjust,” Alford told me. “Everybody goes through it.” But it was even more challenging in Alford’s case because he had not been a wide receiver before his two seasons at WVU. Mario was a quarterback in high school and played running back for two years at Georgia Military College. So when his first season as a pro ended, the 24-year-old went back to college. “I trained in West Virginia back at my school and did stuff that I need to work on like route running and getting in and out of my breaks,” said Alford. “Little stuff like that.” Alford spent his rookie season on the Bengals 53-man roster, but only saw action in one game making a 15-yard reception at Cleveland. During the Bengals' OTAs and minicamp, he showed flashes of his big-play potential. “Mario needs to continue to be consistent,” said receivers coach James Urban. “As I tell him all the time, he’s like a tease. You see, ‘Hey look what you can do.’ And then the next (play) it’s, ‘Ahh.’ He needs to make the ‘Ahhs’ go much more away.” “Mario Alford has been a 50-50 proposition,” said my broadcast partner Dave Lapham. “They’ve figured out ways to feature him – sometimes he’s delivered and sometimes he hasn’t.” Following the departures of free agents Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, the 5’9”, 180 pound speedster is clearly in the mix to be one of the receivers on the Bengals’ 53-man roster. “We have bigger guys, we have smaller guys, we have guys that can really run, and we have guys that are really crafty,” said Urban. “We’ll put ‘em all in the pot, stir it up, and see what the best ingredients are.” “I’ve got a great opportunity,” said Alford. “I’m not worried about what number I am (on the depth chart) right now, I just have to go in and work my tail off. We’ll see. It’s going to be interesting.” Read the rest of the article - http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Alford-Is-Getting-Up-To-Speed/25dbd54f-b98d-46c7-bde2-955f7dca6ba2
  11. http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Cool-hand-nicknamed-Luke/18d9da45-74f3-469f-acf2-02f1a7abb9c5 Cool hand nicknamed 'Luke' Posted Jun 2, 2016 Geoff HobsonEditorBengals.comFollow Me Blog A A The one thing Nick Vigil hasn’t done since he arrived in the third round is talk. He’s flashed, dashed, and re-hashed while seducing the coaches, but he’s been a little light on the conversation. So when Vontaze Burfict, the brains of the outfit and the man Vigil backs up at WILL backer, asked Vigil if he could call him, “Luke,” in honor of Luke Kuechly, what was he supposed to say? Nick Vigil (right) eyes a play in practice. The one thing Bengals rookie linebacker Nick Vigil hasn’t done since he arrived in the third round is talk. He’s flashed, dashed, and re-hashed while seducing the coaches, but he’s been a little light on the conversation. So when Vontaze Burfict, the brains of the outfit and the man Vigil backs up at WILL backer, asked Vigil if he could call him, “Luke,” in honor of Panthers Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, what was he supposed to say? “Whatever,” is basically what happened. “It’s just kind of a little joke he calls me. He never calls me by Nick. Just Luke,” Vigil says. “One day he just said, ‘Is it all right if I call you Luke?’ I said, ‘Ohhh, whatever,’ and he just started calling me that and that’s how it’s been.” What it’s been is not Nick-Vigil is-the-next-Luke Kuechly. It’s been more like Nick-Vigil-plays-with-the-same-style-as-Luke-Kuechly. Burfict, a texting friend of Kuechly, sees similar smarts in Vigil. “He’s got the same kind of mannerisms,” says Karlos Dansby, who’s been looking like the Karlos Dansby that plays over the tight end these days. “His ability to move around and just show flashes, that’s a good sign coming in as a rookie to be compared to a guy like that.” The Bengals finished their sixth of nine spring practices on Thursday and counting the rookie minicamp that’s now nine times they’ve seen him practice and the coaches are still raving about Vigil, the third-round pick out of Utah State. There are a few things in town that come as advertised in the spring, but so far Vigil is right there with Taste of Cincinnati and the May Festival. “I think he’s going to be a fantastic player in this league,” says special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. “He’s got great movement skills. He can really run and on top of that he’s smart. I can see it in the meetings.” Smart enough that linebackers coach Jim Haslett hasn’t put many minuses next to his name. “He makes very few mistakes. Very few,” Haslett says. “If he does make one, he doesn’t make it the second time. He’s exactly what we saw on film. We liked him because he was smart and has good speed.” Like Burfict, Vigil has the same kind of M.O. coming out of college. Smart. Instinctive. But while Vigil played all over the place in Logan in a similar 4-3 defense, the Bengals are making sure he learns the WILL spot. He can play the middle and did in rookie minicamp and he’s also playing in various packages. But it looks like they want to get him acclimated to the outside. Because there’s smart and then there’s Tez smart. “He’s an extremely smart player. He’s always in the right spot,” Vigil says of Burfict. “He knows what the offense is trying to do. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. People say I’m a smart player, but I’m not there yet. I’m still trying to learn the defense. I’m out there thinking a little bit.” Even though the scheme is similar to what he knew in college, Vigil has needed time to study the vocabulary since the terminology presents a brand new language. “Everything is called differently,” Vigil says. “It just doesn’t register in your mind as quickly. So you’re out there thinking about it a little bit. I feel like I’m picking it up OK. I’m learning it pretty fast.” Vontaze Burfict nicknamed Nick Vigil "Luke," since his mannerisms mirror Luke Kuechly. In preparing for a regular season the Bengals know they won’t have Burfict in the first three games, they apparently are going to make sure they have the WILL covered with Vigil or Vincent Rey and guys like Marquis Flowers andJayson DiManche making a run at the roster. P.J. Dawson is flexing his muscles behind Dansby. Dansby, who is in his first spring in Cincinnati after playing virtually every position during his dozen seasons in the league, seems comfortable back over the tight end at SAM, where he played for so many years during his first stop in Arizona. “I played on top of the tight end last year a lot,” Dansby says of his 16 games in Cleveland. “I did it in college. Being over the tight end is very natural for me. It’s like riding a bike. You never forget.” That’s where the Bengals need to get Vigil, but it’s apparently been a pleasure so far. Haslett says there are a couple of different kinds of speed he’ll have to get used to. There’ll be preseason and then the speed quickens in the first four regular-season games. Then it kicks up a notch in the last eight games. “The playoffs are hyper speed. The game is over and you’re like, ‘What happened?’ Haslett says. “That’s what he’s got to get accustomed to. Crowd noise. Communication. All the things you take for granted when you’re practicing. Once he gets that under his belt he’ll be fine.” So far, there have been no surprises. Not even the nickname “Luke,” really. The coaches invoked Kuechly’s name shortly after they drafted Vigil. And Haslett doesn’t expect any surprises. “He doesn’t scare you to throw him in there,” Haslett says. “I think the preseason will be big for him to see if he’s ready to play right away. I don’t think the game is too big for him. I think once he gets in the game, will he make a mistake here or there? Yeah. But I don’t think he’ll make another one.”
  12. Gang looks all Wright Posted 1 hour ago Geoff HobsonEditorBengals.comFollow Me Blog A A This was the week of The Re-Union of the Dalton Gang.  At least in seven-on-seven, where tight end Tyler Eifert checked back in for the offense on that first day of voluntary field work Tuesday, his first work since missing all but the first quarter of 2014. Starting wide receiver Marvin Jones, after dealing with a hamstring issue at the end of a year-long stretch where foot miseries kept him off the field, assured the media he would be back for the rest of the week’s work that was closed to the press. And wide receiver James Wright, coming off a promising rookie year he had emerged as the No. 3 wide out before injuring his knee and missing the final month, was back full go in 11-on-11. He appeared to those watching to still have the speed and explosion that convinced them to take Wright in the seventh round despite not making a single catch at LSU his senior season. The Bengals headed home Thursday after their first three days on the field with word filtering back from at least one long-time Bengals observer that quarterback Andy Dalton looked as good as he has in the four years he’s been here. It is no coincidence that he was throwing to The Gang. guys that were nowhere to be found during the stretch run.  Two of them, his best pass-catching tight end (Eifert) and 10-TD man in 2013 (Jones), never made it to the bank. On Tuesday, it was like watching a March free-agent haul come out of the training room. For one thing, they are a two tight-end team again, albeit an inexperienced one with third-rounder Tyler Kroftasked to complement Eifert in the blocking game. “Oh yeah they make us better,” says offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. “Tyler gives us more flexibility. He’s a talented guy that can get down the field for you...He just has to keep going and getting better.” While Jackson regains his X-and-O flexibility with Eifert, Dalton gets more outside options with the return of Jones and Wright. Jones is assuring the worrywart media types that there’s nothing wrong with his speed after his surgeries and on Tuesday the 6-foot-1, 201-pound Wright looked as big, physical, and quick as he did when he impressed last year in the spring camps. Wright caught only five balls last season, but they were of such the huge variety that there have been some T.J. Houshmandzadeh comparisons. His first NFL catch was a big one, 24 yards in the tying drive against Carolina, and his second came at home in Louisiana on Dalton’s first long third down in the wake of his 2.0 passer rating against Cleveland. When they converted the third-and-eight, Dalton was on his way to a career-best 143.9 rating in the 27-10 win over the Saints. Then two weeks later Wright converted a third-and-six in the winning drive against Tampa and late in the game pulled off a 30-yard catch on a Dalton beauty down the sideline on third-and-11 that bought 28 seconds in the 14-13 victory. By the time the nerves cleared in Tampa, Wright was their leading receiver with three catches for 59 yards and had emerged as their No. 3 receiver with no Jones. But he also had torn his PCL and wouldn’t be back in time for the Wild Card Game. But Wright is back now and Jackson has been waiting. Instead of playing just one position last year, Wright is now working out of all the wide receiver spots. There are some whispers that Wright, with his third-down heroics and physical, aggressive approach, may be a latter-day Houshmandzadeh. “I have a lot of trust in James with his speed, athleticism and toughness,” Jackson says. “He knows how to play. He knows what to do. He does it with confidence. A lot of people say we won’t play young guys, but we play the best players. If you have a chance to help us, we’ll play you.” It will be recalled that Wright is a textbook study on how the Bengals have made the draft work for them the last several years in combining the eyes and ears of the scouts and the coaches. There was no tape of Wright catching a ball at LSU his senior year because he was buried behind a first-rounder and second-rounder. But he made enough noise on special teams that the club’s southeast scout at the time, Robert Livingston, made notes on it. And Livingston noted on the second play against Alabama that Wright delivered a crack-back block on safety Landon Collins that sprung running back Jeremy Hill for a long gain. Livingston, now a Bengals defensive assistant, gave his information to the coaches and Jackson and special teams coach Darrin Simmons jumped all over it. Simmons, without a wide receiver that could cover kicks since the days of Quan Cosby, coveted his gunner speed and physicality. Jackson, in Baton Rouge at the LSU pro day to check out Hill, had been apprised of Wright by two friends before the workout. Jackson had worked with LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in Baltimore and wide receivers coach Adam Henry (now with the 49ers) had been Jackson’s tight ends coach in Oakland. “They got me before the pro day and said, ‘Hue, you’ve got to see this kid. He didn’t catch a ball, but he can play,’” Jackson recalls. “When you hear something like that from two guys you trust, you’re looking. Adam knows I like big receivers that can run.” When they brought in Hill for his pre-draft visit, the Bengals asked him about Wright and he gave all the right answers. As the seventh round neared, the Bengals were talking about him and Stanford fullback Ryan Hewitt. There was sentiment in the room for Hewitt because there was tape on the kid playing both tight end and fullback while there was virtually no tape of Wright at receiver. But he had two coordinators heavily on his side. Wright probably became a Bengal the morning of his own pre-draft visit. “Darrin told him he’d pick him up at 7 in the morning in front of his hotel,” Livingston says. “It’s raining like heck. Just miserable. Darrin shows up at 6:45 and there’s James in front in the rain with his bag. And he’s been that way ever since.” Now it sounds like Dalton and his Gang are coming in from last year’s rain.  
  13. Notes: Magic No. 10 wins; Bengals cash out Manziel; Jackson, Nugent game balls; Hill sets the tone Posted 3 hours ago Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com  CLEVELAND _ At 9-4-1,the Bengals have yet to clinch a thing in the AFC playoff scramble. A Bengals' win combined with a loss by Pittsburgh, Baltimore, or San Diego puts them in their fourth straight postseason. When Denver beat San Diego Sunday night as the Bengals pulled into Paul Brown Stadium, that meant a Benglas' win over Denver next Monday night or in Pittsburgh in the Dec. 28 finale would get it done. Easier said than done. They've never beaten Denver quarterback Peyton Mannning in eight tries and they are 15-27 all-time in Pittsburgh. The way it stands now, the fourth-seeded Bengals would host the fifth-seeded Steelers in one Wild Card as the AFC North champ and the Ravens would go to Indianapolis as the sixth seed... After one of the worst defensive outings of the Marvin Lewis Era last week, the Bengals defense played an impeccable game in deflating Johnny Football in its first shutout in six years, 30-0,  and allowed their third fewest yards in club history with 107. The last time the Bengals gave up fewer than 130 yards was Joe Namath's last game as a Jet on Dec. 12, 1976 at Shea Stadium when they held them to 72 yards. Earlier that season Cincinnati held the Packers to 36 for the fewest ever allowed. “All we hear is Manziel, Manziel, Manziel all week and we just wanted to go out there and keep people quiet,” said nose tackle Domata Peko. "We did. The Dawg Pound was kind of quiet today.” They silenced the sellout sacking Manziel three times, picking him off twice, stopping him nine out of 10 times on third down and holding him to a 27.3 passer rating while stuffing the running game on 3.1 yards per carry in 17 carries. “The sacks, the quarterback hits, the inability to run the ball, anybody would get frustrated and we did our game plan,” Peko said, alluding to last month’s loss where the Browns ran for 170 yards. “You know our defense, you know our locker room. We don’t like to get embarrassed like that. We made a point this week in practice to attack down hill. They ran it 52 times. That’s a punch in the face. We came out and got redemption.” ... It was an emotional win. Head coach Marvin Lewis gave kicker Mike Nugent and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson game balls after a week they worked even though their fathers died. Jackson left for Los Angeles right after the game while Nugent thanked his teammates for their support. The only time he kicked during the week after his father died suddenly Monday night was Wednesday night at Paul Brown Stadium long after his mates left practice. They put the lights on and while his brother shagged balls, their wives watched. "I didn't want to go a week without kicking," Nugent said. "The kicker has to be the closer." Lewis just does not hand out game balls willy nilly after the game. It’s believed he’s only done it twice before: in 2009 when Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer coached in the wake of his wife’s sudden death, and in 2003, his first season as head coach, when he gave one to Bengals president Mike Brown after the win over the 9-0 Chiefs... The Bengals piled up a season-high 244 rushing yards the week Jackson declared he wanted one back to get the bulk of the carries instead of a split. It worked perfectly. Rookie running back Jeremy Hill went for 148 yards on 25 carries and Giovani Bernard added 79 on 15 carries. "Hue called us both into his offce, shut the door, and said he needed us because we were going to run the ball today," Hill said. Hill was at the center of the controversy last month when he said after the game the Browns "were worse than I thought." "I just decided not to say much this week to the media," Hill said Sunday. "The focus by everyone was extremely high." With two games left Hill is 123 yards away from becoming the club's first rookie 1,000-yard rusher since Corey Dillon in 1997...   http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Notes-Magic-No-10-wins-Bengals-cash-out-Manziel-Jackson-Nugent-game-balls-Hill-sets-the-tone/6b1f98c6-f4d8-4a17-adee-f1fb6ee9d3d4  
  14. Pre-game slants Posted 1 hour ago Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com    CLEVELAND _ Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green has come up big when the Bengals have needed him most the past month and none bigger than last Sunday against Pittsburgh with a career-high 224 yards. But Green thinks he’s got to come out “small,” when he meets arch nemesis Joe Haden this Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 19) and the Browns. “He got up into my chest,” Green recalled of last month’s meeting in Cincinnati. “I’ve got to play lower and aggressive and get off the line like that.” Haden held Green to three catches for 29 yards, giving Green a total of four catches working against Haden in the last two meetings.  Chad Johnson, the Bengals all-time leading receiver, had the same kind of advice earlier in the week, as well as urging Green to change up his gait.  But Johnson also said he doesn’t have much to work on and says Green is better than he is. “I don’t know about that,” Green said. “Chad is one of the greatest receivers I’ve ever seen. The way he comes out of his routes with his quick feet was unbelievable. I’m working on that change-up stuff. Just trying to get better.” Here’s something else that will help Green: the running game. Haden has had some help from linebackers buzzing underneath Green and it if they’re tied up in play-action or stopping the run, that may give Green some more space. BULLETIN BOARD: There’s enough bulletin-board material to go around this week. Forget Marvin Lewis and Jeremy Hill. Word out of Cleveland after last month’s Browns’ rout was they knew what the Bengals were going to run and the Bengals have heard it. “We have to give them all the credit in the world. They did a tremendous job,” said offensive coordinator Hue Jackson last week. “I’ve heard all the things that they knew exactly what we were doing and how we were doing it and kudos to them. This Sunday we’ll find out - it’s going to be a different show. “Every good offense has tendencies. I’m sure there are certain things they saw that we do that we do. There are certain things that they do that I know that they do. At the end of the day that’s just part of football. We’ll find out. Come Sunday the tale of the tape will be there.”  BOLING ROLLING: Jackson used a lot of unbalanced lines last week, but he said it wasn’t so much to protect Clint Boling in his first NFL start at right tackle. He thought Boling did well, but no one is going to be surprised if new pickup Eric Winston gets some snaps at that spot or as an extra tight end against the Browns. Particularly if tight end Jermaine Gresham can’t play, although it sounds like head coach Marvin Lewis thinks he can.  “I thought Clint did a good job. I thought he battled,” Jackson said. “He was playing his first game at tackle and playing against some of the best pass rushers in the world and he did a tremendous job. He’s obviously got to play some guys this week that are just as good so it’s a challenge. He walked out there, didn’t blink and got it done. I think he did a heckuva job.” HALL-HAWK: Two friendly foes go against each other Sunday after Bengals cornerback Leon Hall and Browns slot receiver Andrew Hawkins both missed last month’s game because of injury. “If anything, that’s what I’m more excited about. Not the Johnny Manziel thing,” Hall said. “I don’t want it to sound bad, but I’m glad (Hawkins) missed the last game because I wasn’t playing anyway. So it was one of those things where I didn’t miss too much with him. It will be fun. I went against him a bunch, but this time it really counts.”  Hall went against the 5-7, 180-pound Hawkins the previous three years in practice, so he knows he has to guard against his elite quickness. But that’s not the only thing going on with them. Hall says it may be more like chess than practice. “He’s smart, too. He works people’s leverages,” Hall said. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s not just trying to out-quick everybody. But that’s definitely his biggest strength.” “Hawk is tricky. He’s a tricky matchup. There were days I’d come in and say, ‘I’m going to get my hands on him and see how that works out.’ Sometimes it doesn’t work out as well. Sometimes I’ll say, ‘I’m going to back up a little bit and let him do his little shakes,’ and that doesn’t work out. It’s a little match up game. It’s a little chess game. That’s a term that’s used a lot, but it kind of is. You can’t sit there and do the same thing against him. He’ll figure it out. He’s smart enough.”     http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Pre-game-slants/d9b72230-47a7-4512-8bf2-723caf13cc20
  15. 'Battle' to swing AFC North Posted 8 hours ago Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com  Ohio has been deciding presidential elections for generations and now on Sunday in Cleveland (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 19) it has a hand in deciding a NFL division for the first time in the 21st century when the 8-4-1 Bengals try to hang on to first place in the AFC North against the 7-6 Browns. The state has yielded eight presidents, a King in LeBron James, and now a prince with Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel getting his first NFL start. The Bengals.com Media Roundtable, stacked with Ohio roots this week, opts for Manziel’s playmaking instead of the Bengals’ track record of success on the road. But Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, a native who has covered the Browns in four decades, says the Cleveland defense is the best he’s seen in the 15 years since they came back into the NFL The Dayton market has heavy dose of both fan bases, so The Table turns to a past and present Bengals beat reporter for The Dayton Daily News. Jay Morrison, the current scribe, is the only one today going with the Bengals, citing how well their defense played on the road last month and is now facing an inexperienced quarterback. Alex Marvez, who worked in Dayton before conquering cyberspace for Fox Sports and the air waves for Fox Sports 1 and Sirius NFL Radio, taps Cleveland in choosing to stay away from the Bengals’ inconsistency. Joe Reedy, a northern Ohio native who grew up with the Browns, lived with the Bengals as a former Cincinnati Enquirer beat man, and now dies with the Indians as a beat man for Fox Sports Ohio, took time out of his busy winter baseball meetings to weigh in on a tilt he’ll cover. He figures if guys named Seneca Wallace and Brandon Weeden can beat the Bengals in Cleveland, so can Manziel. Let’s go around The Table. Visitors first, as always.         GROSSI Beyond the debut of Johnny Manziel, the fact is the Brown defense is playing better than I’ve seen it since 1999. For that reason and everything that’s at stake, the story of the day in Cleveland will be the defense more so than Johnny Manziel. They don’t have a star player in the front seven and have been decimated in the front seven, but they’re getting production from a lot of different players and they’re heathier than they’ve been. The secondary has been the heartbeat of the defense all year long. They play lot of press coverage. They mix it up, but they play a lot of man, a lot of press zone and you can’t get a read on them week-to- week. You don’t know if they’re going to play press man. They did vs. the Colts, which was a surprise against that passing offense, and it was their best game, but they will mix it up. A lot of times they get a coverage sack. Unless the QB gets the ball out quickly, he’s going to be in trouble because guys aren’t getting open against this team. They’ve clicked with what head coach Mike Pettine wants. It shows you how bad the offense has been because the defense has played really well the last month and they lost three of the last four games. They won’t have their rookie free agent find. K’Waun Williams has been fantastic in the slot, which has left Buster Skrine to play the outside. They don’t like moving Skrine in and out, but now they have to because Williams is out with a hamstring injury. That means first-round pick Justin Gilbert is going to be on the outside and he had a pick-six last week for his first big play. Free safety Tashaun Gipson still leads the league in interceptions even though he’s missed the last two games with a knee injury and he’ll miss this one. But Jim Leonhard has two interceptions since he’s filled in for him, along with an interception on a two-point conversion, a sack, and 15 tackles. He says this is his last year and in his 10th year he’s on his fourth Pettine team, so he’s like a coach on the field. Not only do the rest of us don’t know what Johnny is going to do, it seems like the Browns don’t know either. They’re excited about the unknown. They’re feeling positive. They’ll definitely look different on offense. They’ll try and run the ball and that will be the basis for everything. But they just added an extra runner with this move and they plan to use that extra runner, believe me. We’ll see zone reads, option runs, keepers, improv runs, ad-lib passes. You know how tough it is to defend Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger once the play breaks down and trying to cover his receivers. It’s all of that, and just imagine Ben running the free option on top of it. It’s unpredictable, but they’re excited. He’s a big-game guy and this is a big game. THE EDGE: Browns, 20-10. I think the defense carries the day and Manziel will do enough to supplement it where Brian Hoyer couldn’t. REEDY  It’s a difficult game for me to gauge. Johnny Manziel impressed me with the one drive he led in Buffalo two weeks ago but the Bengals have a lot more time to prepare for him since he was announced as the starter. I’m sure the offense will look different compared to what Brian Hoyer ran and Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has experience using read option plays and taking advantage of athletic quarterbacks.   To also show the instability of quarterbacks in Cleveland, this marks the seventh straight year that the Bengals are coming to FirstEnergy Stadium and facing a different starter — Ken Dorsey in ’08, Derek Anderson ’09, Seneca Wallace ’10, Colt McCoy, ’11, Brandon Weeden ‘12 and Hoyer ’13.  To me it is going to come down to the running games and the defenses. I’d put the running games at even but the Bengals defense is reeling while the Browns defense scored more touchdowns than the offense last week. THE EDGE: Browns 20, Bengals 17. The Bengals have struggled in the past at Cleveland and Andy Dalton has never won there in a game in which he has played all four quarters. If Wallace and Weeden can get wins over the Bengals in Cleveland, I think Manziel can.  MARVEZ I’ve got to think Cleveland is going to use more pistol, more shot gun, more read option to take advantage of what Johnny Manziel does well. The good news is the Bengals could trick Manziel into some interceptions with their coverage, potentially, provided they cover this week, as opposed to the Stealers game. Offensively, it’s the same question every week for the Bengals with quarterback Andy Dalton. Good Andy or Bad Andy? He was pretty good last week, but the defense just didn’t play well. The Bengals are just too unpredictable. When these guys play well, they win. When they don’t, they don’t. It’s just been so goofy. I don’t get it. They’ve been so erratic. Some of it has to be personnel on defense. Cincinnati is really tough to get a handle on. Pittsburgh is really tough to get a handle on. New Orleans is really tough to get a handle on. Consistency is what every team strives for and this team is consistently inconsistent.  THE EDGE: Browns, 24-20. Cleveland’s defense is really good. It’s going to be high energy at home.  I just have a hard time trusting this Bengals team. Saying that, the Bengals will now win by 30 MORRISON One of the big questions is if the Bengals are going to stick with their standard and go with the four-man rush and protect the back end. Or are they going to blitz the heck out of Manziel and hope the rookie makes mistakes. I think they’ll stick with their M.O. and try to force him to sit back there and make throws. They’ve had a couple of sacks called back and they had a decent rush, but they’re not getting sacks. That may be what they want against Manziel. Maybe they want him to have to hold the ball and make decisions. You have to give them the edge over the rookie QB. I think the defense has a big role. They played so well in the three games on the road last month; I don’t think the environment will be that rowdy for them. New Orleans is a pretty hostile place. Houston is a loud place. Tampa was a little dead, but they had a good run of playing in hostile environments and I think that will carry over into Cleveland. You look at how Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is playing right now. It’s about the best he’s played in his career. It’s going to be interesting to see if they’re going to come out and try to establish the run with rookie running back Jeremy Hill with the December old AFC  North style. Or are they going to try and get A.J. involved early, get the passing game going and get that 2.0 out of Andy’s mind right away? How they start the game is going to be interesting. I don’t think the last game against them will linger with Andy. I think if there’s a mistake early it’s going to not only get into his mind, but creep into everyone’s mind. THE EDGE: Bengals, 23-20. I think the defense does enough against Manziel. Create maybe some short fields with a turnover here and there. They haven’t got a lot of turnovers this year, but you have to figure a rookie quarterback is going to make some mistakes somewhere along the line. I think they’ll get their offense going enough to stay ahead of Cleveland. I don’t think they’ll have an explosion by any means. That’s a really good defense and a really good secondary. But I think whichever way Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson decides to go early, they’ll stick with whatever works. They ride that out. Another reason to give an edge to Cincinnati is the Browns haven’t swept the Bengals since 2002. It’s just one of those series where it always seems to play into a split. You saw it the last two years when the Bengals were the better team and they went up to Cleveland and lost. I think things even out in this game. THE BOTTOM LINE After last week’s game against Pittsburgh, everyone is down on the Bengals’ secondary. But their experience should carry the day Sunday, considering that their first three cornerbacks, Leon Hall, Terence Newman, and Adam Jones, bring in 331 starts compared to Manziel’s experience and the 45 starts of his three top wide receivers. But all that will mean nothing if the Bengals can’t stop the run or Manziel’s option game. The Bengals have tape of what Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan did to them running rookie RG III at them in 2012 and the Browns have tape of them letting Panthers quarterback Cam Newton get 107 yards rushing against them back in October. The Bengals have lacked enough discipline in the run game that they’re on pace to allow 2,000 yards rushing in a season for the first time in 10 years, but they also are coming off a stretch they didn’t allow more than 75 yards rushing in three straight wins. Cleveland is the ancestral home of the Big Back in the person of Paul Brown’s Marion Motley and Jim Brown, so it’s fitting that this is where they are in the first game the 230-pound Hill (wearing No. 32 no less) figures to get the bulk of the carries. His quarterback has struggled against the Browns, in large part because the Browns have stacked the box and dared the Bengals wide receivers to beat their cornerbacks one-on-one and they haven’t. And there have been absolutely no spaces to throw it. With Joe Haden draped on Green, it’s been a long day. But Green’s toe is feeling much better than it did five weeks ago and since the Cleveland game he’s on fire with 529 yards. Plus, Dalton has never been teamed with Green against the Browns with a pounder back that can also break a long one. Their run defense has been tight vs. the Bengals with eight men, but it’s an alignment vulnerable to giving up big runs to big backs through the line. The Browns said after the game they knew exactly what the Bengals were going to run on offense and that went over with the Bengals about as well as Hill’s comments about the Browns defense went over with the Browns. Believe that both clubs have had plenty of bulletin-board material this week. It is a bulletin-board game and that may help a Bengals team that has struggled in the spotlight. With everything pointed at Johnny Football, it’s just the kind of game where the Bengals may be able to sneak in and sneak out with that ninth win before the Dawg Pound realizes it.     http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Battle-to-swing-AFC-North/29a5f54f-2e51-4fa7-892c-5864e6de95e0
  16. Steelers at Bengals Postgame Quotes Posted 6 minutes ago   Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals postgame quotes DEC. 7, 2014 PITTSBURGH AT CINCINNATI BENGALS POSTGAME QUOTES   MARVIN LEWIS Head coach Initial comments ...         “I just finished telling those guys that we’ll need to have the same focus the next three weeks, regardless. I was going to have the same message, I just wish I was able to tell them with a smile on my face. We had the game at hand at halftime and we had the game at hand in the fourth quarter, and we let it get away from us. We didn’t do a very good job on either side of the ball, on third down. They converted about 50 percent and we didn’t do a very good job on offense. It ended up being the difference in the football game. We also didn’t stop the run down the stretch.”   Do you feel like the mistakes began to snowball in the fourth quarter?         “Well, I don’t know. We’ll see when we look at it. I can’t put it all on a timeline right now. I think the fumble was in the fourth quarter, and we also had opportunities to stop them and we weren’t able to. We have to stop them and take care of the ball. We have to stop their running game as well. We did a good job in the first half, except one play, and we have to continue with that.”   Is it easy to shrug off a game like this and just say, ‘That’s how it works in the league sometimes’?         “I don’t know about that in perspective of the NFL. I know that we have to move on from it. We have to move beyond it.”   A.J. Green had a big day today ...         “We’re just trying to run our offense. If the ball goes to AJ, then it goes to AJ. He made some big plays, but we have to make more as a team.”   Is it concerning when you see the defense struggling to stop the run game?         “What’s concerning is seeing the other team’s running back going into the end zone. I didn’t like that.”   Was it more what they were able to do than what you couldn’t do to stop the run?         “We had a collective thing. We have to fit it right. We have to get to the right spots and tackle them when we get there.”   ANDY DALTON Quarterback Are you OK?         “I’m good.”   Things looked good at the end of the third quarter. What changed in the fourth?         “The turnover hurt us, and they started rolling. You can’t have that at that point in the game. We were still leading in the fourth quarter, and so we just needed to put a drive together. We were close, we didn’t, and then they scored pretty quick.”   On the handoff fumble, was it a miscommunication?         “It’s one of those things where you read somebody, and either he can get it or I take it. I tried to take it and he thought I was giving it, so that’s the reason why it came out.”   Obviously it worked pretty well in the first half on your touchdown run, but is that a tough dynamic with that play between the communication of giving it or keeping it?         “You just have to be good with the ball-handling of it, I think. It’s one of those things where you just have to work on the ball-handling. But there’s a chance that obviously something like that can happen because he thinks he’s getting it, and I tried to take it. But we’ve just got to be sharp on the looks and everything, and the feel of everything so that won’t happen again.”   You obviously had a good connection with A.J. Green today. Did you feel the matchup was something you were going to be able to really exploit?         “When you’ve got a guy like A.J., you want to get him the ball. We had a lot of really good looks today, and we hit big plays. Down this stretch we’ve got to rely on him. He’s such a big play waiting to happen, and it showed today.”   As a quarterback, are you aware of the matchup? No. 24 was on him most of the game, or is it just a matter of he’s open?         “Yeah, we knew that Ike (Taylor) was following him, but he moves around quite a bit, so wherever we get good matchups.”   Do you feel the fumble sucked the life out of you guys, or was it more a matter of them getting on a roll?         “At that point they get points off the turnover, scored a touchdown, and then they scored pretty quick after that. You can’t have a play like that at that point in the game.”   You still come out of the game controlling your own destiny in the division ...         “It’s one of the things that we knew going in. Regardless we would still be in control. We still have three big games coming up. Obviously, you want to win every game that you play, but we’re still in a position where we control everything.”   Did you take a helmet to the stomach?         “Yeah, he hit me pretty square right in the chest. I was just trying to catch my breath.”     A.J. GREEN Wide receiver You had a career game today. How does it feel?         “I just tried to make plays when my number was called. Nothing special. I was just making plays when I was due to receive the ball.”   It appeared that Jeremy Hill and Andy Dalton struggled on a connection on a handoff this afternoon, resulting in a turnover. Turnovers are hard to overcome against the Steelers. Any thoughts?         “We still have to be able to make plays and overcome those situations. Things like that are going to happen.”   Are you disappointed in the team’s play during the fourth quarter?         “Yes. It’s tough. It seemed like we played well until the fourth quarter. We didn’t execute the entire game, and it cost us. We needed to take advantage of every opportunity they gave us.”   DOMATA PEKO Defensive tackle Your thought on today’s game ...         “We struggled in every phase of the game today — offense, defense, and special teams. It is going to be tough for us to win, but we really need to play better, especially on defense. We must stop the run better.         “We had a nice stretch where we played well on the road the last three games. I thought we held our own in the first half today, but they came out the second half and made some adjustments.         “They ran the ball well today. There were a number of times when we had guys in the gaps, and we didn’t take advantage. We were missing tackles. We must wrap up and grab cloth. I give credit to Le’Veon Bell. He is one of the top runners in the game. We’ll see the Steelers again a couple of weeks, and we are still in control of the AFC North race.”   The defense struggled to stop the run today. How do you stop the power play?         “We’ve just got to play better. This one hurts, especially at home. It seemed like the power was hitting for them all day today. The ball was creasing outside, and the running back was making things happen. He was getting to the second level and winning the one-on-ones in the open-field against the smaller guys. Bell was making people miss.         “We must fit our gaps, and destroy blocks. Then we must wrap up the ball carrier. Our tackling was horrible. I cannot wait to watch the film. I think you’ll see that we have multiple missed tackles. Those are things we must clean up going into the stretch closing the season.         “Basically we need to get back on the right track. This game is a tough one to lose, especially when it’s at home against our rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. We have to get back to work because we travel to Cleveland this week to take on the Browns. It is a one-game season from here on out. Our division is tough, and just like this one, the next one counts.”   Your thoughts on where this team currently sits within the division?         “Last week we were a game up. This week it feels like everyone won accept for us. We need to go out this week and get after Cleveland. We’ll sweep this one under the rug, look at the tape, make our corrections and move on. There is no time to dwell on this loss.”   JEREMY HILL Halfback It has to be frustrating losing today after having success the previous three weeks ...         “Obviously when you’re playing someone in the division, it’s a big game. We were doing everything we could to put ourselves in position to win the game. However, they were creating turnovers and turning them into points. We needed to control the tempo of the game, and in the second half, we didn’t. They dictated how this game played out. They ran the ball successfully.”   ADAM JONES Cornerback It seemed like coming out in the second half this team was in position to win the game and it didn’t execute. Can you elaborate?         “We’ll look at the film and learn from it Monday. I thought we played good until the fourth quarter. We need to take care of the football better, and we cannot give up the deep ball like we did today.”   The Steelers have some very talented skill players. Can you speak about defending them?         “I felt like we contained them until the fourth quarter. We didn’t stop the run. We didn’t stop the pass either, if you think about it. And if we take away the deep ball, it’s a normal game. As I said before, we’ll look at the film and try to fix it.”   This team has three big games left. This has to be exciting, even after today’s loss ...         “Oh yeah. This is like playoff football now. That is December in the NFL. Everyone is upset about this game. This team has a number of leaders. We will get this figured out.”   ANDREW WHITWORTH Offensive tackle When things start to snowball, how hard is it to snap yourself out of that?         “Sometimes in a game, you can feel like you have a good grasp on the game and you’re in control. The next thing you know, it’s NFL football. Every play matters, and they got a couple huge plays that really put them in a good position. And then there was the turnover. We said all along that turnovers were going to matter, and then we had it at a crucial time.”   How disappointing was the fourth quarter, considering how well you played in the first three?         “It’s disappointing, but like I said, the turnover hurt. In this division, that’s always been true. Fourth-quarter turnovers have probably told the story more than once. That one hurt, and then they caught fire. The best thing you can do is understand that you played good football for three quarters, and then try and bounce back and play well next week.”   How big of a setback is it for this team after winning three straight on the road?         “It’s a loss. But the truth of the matter is, we still have everything in our hands if we can win out. It’s a loss, and that’s all it is. Just like we see with the historic and great teams in this league, they bounce back and go on another streak and we have been able to do that this season. This is going to be another critical time to do that as well.”   The last two division games at home, you’ve been beat by 21. I bet you wouldn’t have imagined that?         “At that point, they had a big lead in the fourth quarter and made some big plays. The game wasn’t like that. For three quarters of the game, it was a tight football game, and we had the lead. One quarter of football doesn’t define our season, and we don’t worry about the end score of the game. We worry about we won, and that’s the only thing they keep track of. Winning the next three football games by a half a point or 30, I don’t care. We have to win and put ourselves in a position where we want to be.”   VINCENT REY Linebacker You guys were in this spot after the Cleveland game and you were able to bounce back. How much can you draw on the fact that you were here four weeks ago?         “It’s a familiar territory. Its win, or I don’t know. It’s a must win and we need to correct this. I need to figure out what I need to do to get better. We all need to get better and do anything it takes to win the next game. It doesn’t matter what it takes — we need to do it.”   You guys did a good job until the fourth quarter, and then they made some big plays ...         “They did a good job of converting on third down. They did a good job of breaking tackles. The fourth quarter, we didn’t finish and football is all about finishing. That’s what we have to do.”   You guys are still in first place. Does it feel like it?         “No, it definitely doesn’t feel like it. I’m kind of at a loss for words right now. I need to listen to coaches and see what we have to do.”   You guys do a good job of coming up stout after turnovers. Is it tougher in the fourth quarter?         “We got to do a better job. Give credit to their backs for hitting the right holes and making plays.”   You guys made a couple of big stands. Did you think you would be alright after making those two stands?         “Whenever it’s third down, we know we have to get off the field, whether it’s third-and-one, or third-and-21. When those times come, those big plays, everything heightens up, and there is a heightened sense of awareness. You break on the ball, do your job and stay in your rush lanes.”   You had to think after that 94-yard bomb, that it was the crushing blow?         “The game wasn’t over. It was only a two-score game, so it wasn’t over. We tried to get the ball back to our offense, but credit to them.”   GEORGE ILOKA Safety Thoughts on the defensive performance ...         “We have to do a better job of finishing. You have to fight the whole game, especially against a team like this. They don’t give up. They are playing for a lot. If they would’ve lost, they probably would’ve been out of it. We should’ve known they were going to fight all four quarters, and we didn’t do a good job of playing the whole game.”   How much of a handful were Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown today?         “He was one of the better backs that I’ve played. With that being said, if we stay in our gaps, then he can’t capitalize. We did a bad job of stopping the run and stopping the pass. I think that’s the first time we gave up a deep ball, and that’s not like us. We usually keep plays in front of us. We’ll work on that as a secondary. And as a whole, we will fix the run gaps. That’s not how we play championship defense. The offense put up 21 points, and we should be able to hold teams to under that.”   The last two division games, the Browns and Steelers, both at home, you’ve lost by 21 points in both games. Should this team be concerned about the way you’re playing against some of the AFC’s best teams?         “No. It’s one week at a time. The way we lost is pretty bad. It might be disappointing for our supporters and our fans, but we just have to take every game as a one-game series and a one-game playoff. We have to know that we are playing for all the marbles, and we don’t want to think that we’ll just get the next one.”   It does make the next three games very important ...         “Yes, very important.”   Were you giving help on that 94-yard touchdown, or were you playing more of a center field?         “Yeah, center field. I was hauling ass and he was too. I was trying to make up 20 yards in a limited space.”     ----------------------------------------------------     STEELERS POSTGAME QUOTES   MIKE TOMLIN Head coach Initial comments ...         “That was a tough AFC North December battle. It was what we anticipated. Giving credit to those guys (Bengals) — it seemed like every time we got control of the game, they made a big play and regained control. Also give credit to our guys, because they did not fold in the face of that adversity. In a hostile environment today, the guys made necessary plays.         “We still are not perfect. We’re still giving up big plays which created problems for us today. I like the resolve of the group and the fact we played as a team, and there is a lot to be excited about. Hopefully we learn from today and move forward preparing for our next challenge.         “No major injuries. Ike Taylor got beat up a little today with a knee contusion, but the rest seem to be pretty clean.”   What about decision to go to Martavis Bryant?         “We just were not going to live in our fears today. We needed to be aggressive and create some splash. It worked out for us.”   What was the weight of the risk and reward of that particular play call?         “Every moment of every day, but that’s life, particularly in this league.”   Was there any indication earlier in the week leading up to this game that made you think that play might be available?         “They’re aggressive when you’re backed up and they want to keep you backed up. That’s football 101 — that’s any defense. Those opportunities are usually there. It’s more about whether you are willing to take the risk.”   How hard is it for a defense to keep its confidence when it’s giving up plays?         “It’s less about the defense and more about the people. One of the things that is positive about our group is we have some guys back there who have played some football. Guys like Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Mike Mitchell, and Will Gay are not young people, and they are able to flush it out, move forward and understand the next snap is the most important.”   What are your thoughts on Ben Roethlisberger’s play today after the past couple weeks?         “It was very necessary. It always seems like he plays pretty good in Ohio. We knew what we needed from everyone today and he’s central to that.”   How does Justin Brown and Le’Veon Bell continue doing what they do when teams try to take them out?         “They get the headlines and do a lot for us, but the other guys also step up and answer the bell when their number is called upon. That creates a level playing field for Brown and Bell both to continue doing what they need to do.”   After the long run by A.J. Green, did you decide Ike couldn’t stay out there with his knee injury?         “I did.”   How much of the swing momentum allowed you to capitalize and come out victorious?         “It was a huge play in the game and something we needed. It was a short field. But many times a short field alone is not what does it — it’s playing together in concert. We did not do a good enough job of it last week, but today we did and gained the victory.”   How pleasing was it to come out with the win in style?         “I don’t care about the style points. We’re just trying to do what is necessary to get out of these stadiums with wins.”   If Le’Veon had not had such success today, would we have seen more of Josh Harris earlier?         “No (laughing). We’re going to give it to Le’Veon.”   Was Dri Archer hurt at all, or was it just the way the numbers were?         “No, it was just the best mix for us today. We have some defenders coming back and some special teams contributors — we didn’t want to lessen that. They had a dangerous kicking game and return-men in Adam Jones and Brandon Tate, so we allocated the bodies in the areas where they were needed.”   BEN ROETHLISBERGER Quarterback Your wrist looked like it held up well, for as much angst as everybody had over it ...         “Yeah. I tried to tell everyone after the game (last week) and again this week that there was no issue. It was a good team win for us.”   How big was Le’Veon Bell in terms of giving you the balance that you had?         “It’s huge. He’s doing so much in the run game, pass game, blocking game, and I don’t know how many check-downs he had today. His game right now is at a very high level, and it’s very fun to watch.”   How confident are you that you can keep riding him these next few games, down the stretch of the season?         “We have to. He’s one of our best players and one of the better players in the league. As long as he stays healthy, we’ll keep feeding him and riding it to him. Today I was happy to see some of the break-out runs, because we’ve seen what he can do, but then to actually get on the outside and get some big runs was awesome.”   What did you say to the team after the game?         “Just that that was a good win for us. It doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish. From now on, that’s how we have to play.”   Take us through the deep touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant ...         “It was a pass-run check. They showed a coverage and I didn’t believe them. We did a little play-action and just let it fly. I’ve underthrown him in practice because when he gets running, he’s fast. I just put it out there, let him run under it, and he did the rest.”   It’s starting to look like Bell is a special talent ...         “It’s not starting to look like it, he is a special talent. I’ve said for many, many weeks now that he’s one of the best all-around backs in the game. I think every week he continues to prove that.”   Is this team a bit schizophrenic, with the tough loss last week and this week, especially in the second half, coming out and really get it going?         “It’s just AFC North football. It felt like an awesome day back in Oxford, Ohio. It was a lot of fun out there today. It was a hard fought game — it was far from easy. We expect that from those guys. We’ll see them in a couple of weeks.”   Did you guys emphasize patience offensively going into the game today?         “Not really. We knew that coming out that we were going to start in a certain personnel group and then go into the no-huddle (offense) and mix and match some things. But I don’t think patience was there (as an emphasis). We always want to be aware that sometimes you’ve got to take what the defense gives you. Today, they gave us a lot of good runs and some check-downs, and then we took our shots when we had it.”   Was part of that a ‘protect the ball at all costs’ mentality?         “Yeah. We don’t want to turn the ball over. That’s been our issue when we’ve lost games — it’s usually because we turn the ball over. Today we didn’t, and that’s key to winning.”   Can you talk about your offensive linemen today?         “Those guys are awesome. They do so much. We’re going against a great defense that the Bengals have, and they have a great pass rush and blitzing and things that they do. We were communicating in a loud environment, and there were some late checks that I had to make and that they had to make. I just thought that those guys played really well.”   You have tough tests ahead these next few weeks. How do you keep that focus?         “We just know that it’s one game at a time. Every week is kind of a playoff week for us. We’re going to give it everything we have every week. And it doesn’t get any easier moving forward. We’re going to enjoy this one for today, but we’re getting ready to move on.”   On playing back in his home state of Ohio ...         “Ohio is home. I love coming back. Like I said, I just felt with the weather and everything like it was a day in Oxford. It’s just a lot of fun to play in AFC North environments. It’s rowdy, it’s loud, it’s crazy, and it’s always fun when you win.”   What’s the difference between Le’Veon Bell at the beginning of the year and now?         “He’s been doing everything at a high level all year. It’s not like I’ll sit here and say, ‘He’s gotten better at this and better at that,’ From Day 1, he’s been playing at a very high level. That’s why he’s, like I said — no disrespect to anyone else — one of the best all-around backs in the game, because he can do it all. You don’t see a guy that takes pride in catching the ball and pass-blocking and picking up blitzes like he does. I’m just so proud of the way he’s continued to grow every week.”   LE’VEON BELL Running back Have you ever seen highlights of Walter Payton, and what are your thoughts on him?         “Yeah, I’ve seen plenty of highlights on him and everything he’s done for the game, things like that. Growing up, there were a lot of highlights on him. I’ve heard a lot about him. Obviously I haven’t seen a full game of him of how he runs, things like that, but I’ve seen a lot of highlights.”   You and Walter Payton are the only people to rush for three straight 200-yard games in NFL history. What does that mean to you?         “It’s an honor to be mentioned with a guy like Walter Payton. It’s just a good start to what this team has been able to do. On offense, they’re doing a lot of good things. The offensive line has done a great job of opening holes for me. On check downs, Ben (Roethlisberger) is doing a good job of getting me the ball and allowing me to run with some space. So you’ve got to give a lot of credit to the offense and the offensive coaching staff.”   Are you starting to think of yourself as an elite player in the NFL as a running back?         “No, I’m not going to say that. I’m just trying to do whatever the team needs me to do. I’m a competitor. I just want to do whatever it takes for us to win the game. We can get to where we want to be at the end of the day; that’s all that matters to me.”   Why were you able to run to the left side so effectively today?         “We saw that they couldn’t stop it. The offensive line — that’s the play they wanted to go with. We ran a lot of counter, a lot of ‘Georgia.’ The offensive line was like, ‘Man, we feel good about it.’ As a runner, I’m running whatever the offensive linemen want to run. So those guys felt good about it. We ran the same play two, three, four times in a row, consecutively. Those guys just couldn’t stop it. So we continued to run with it. I tried to stay patient, made sure I held onto the ball and got what I could.”   ARTHUR MOATS Linebacker You guys gave up some big plays, but when it counted the defense made the plays it had to ...         “And we talk about it all the time; it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Of course we want to have the perfect game from start to finish, pitch a shutout and stuff like that. But it’s the NFL; those guys get paid, too. So ultimately for us to continue to rally together, especially after giving up a couple big plays, it definitely showed a lot for us.”   With what the offense was able to do, scoring 25 in the fourth quarter, how much did that help the defense?         “Any time you get the offense running the way they were running today, with Le’Veon toting the B, you’ve got Martavis (Bryant) with the big catch, and once it was in the fourth quarter as well, it makes Cincinnati’s offense not be able to just run the ball and eat up the time. They have to go ahead and play aggressively. Ultimately that’s what you want on defense.”   STEVE McLENDON Nose tackle On the importance of this game ...         “I feel like every win is a must win. I’m not saying that just because we won today, but I feel like we should have won last week and every game that we lost. But we’re only going to focus on one game at a time. We’re going to Atlanta and have single focus on them, go in there and handle our business.”   How did you feel today? You guys defended the run well ...         “I’m feeling really good. I think I was just extremely excited just to be back. That was the biggest thing for me — just excited to be back on the field.”   CAMERON HEYWARD Defensive end What was your overall impression of the defense’s performance today?         “We were successful. I thought early on we stopped the run and then we were giving the plays over top. But those are part of the game, those are going to happen; they’ve got players over there. Throughout the game, momentum started switching back and forth, but we were able to finally keep momentum. The offense was putting up points. When we’re able to do that, and our punting game was pretty good, we put them deep in their own territory. So when we have everything clicking together and everybody working together, we’re a tough team to stop.”     http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Steelers-at-Bengals-Postgame-Quotes/aedc266c-f9fe-4800-a895-52e28a6552e4  
  17.     http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Boomer-hands-off-some-advice--/06abc620-e9d6-4ae8-835d-206f3ef4b7cc   I absolutely believe everything Boomer said and I bolded that last line because that is so true. I believe Andy could win us a Superbowl. 
  18. http://prod.www.bengals.clubs.nfl.com/news/article-1/Bengals-try-to-time-out-Big-Ben/46f1ff21-5c09-4113-b7b3-f9f77f8b249c   Bengals try to time out Big Ben Posted 4 hours ago Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com Follow Me Blog         For the second time in three seasons the 8-3-1 Bengals have a shot to all but eliminate the 7-5 Steelers Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12) at sold-out Paul Brown Stadium. When the Bengals dispatched them in 2012 two days before Christmas in Pittsburgh, it was done with the gift of defense in a grimy 13-10 victory where Cincinnati’s only touchdown came on cornerback Leon Hall’s pick-six. But the Bengals.com Media Roundtable projects the Bengals wining a much different game Sunday as Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton tries to take advantage of an aging Steelers defense prone to giving up the big play. Before the roundtable convened this week, Ed Bouchette of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette received a Paul Brown playbook in honor of his selection to the reporters’ wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame by virtue of winning the Bob McCann Award. Then Bouchette, who has covered the Steelers from Bubby to Ben, picked the Bengals because of the Steelers’ un-Canton defense.   Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, who played against Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain of the ‘70s and called the “Blitzburgh,” success of the ‘90s, notes the Bengals defense has been on a roll on the road and should get a boost at home. The versatile Gerry Dulac, who has covered everyone from Tigers Woods to Carnell Lake to Jason Worilds in the topography of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, agrees with his colleague and gives the nod to the Bengals passing game. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports sees the Bengals starting to regain its defense of old, but just an old Steelers defense and picks Cincinnati. Let’s go around The Table, starting with the Hall-of-Famer:    BOUCHETTE The big issue for the Steelers, and it’s a terrible issue going into this game, is they can’t stop the run. Not like they used to do it. And they don’t have a very good pass defense. That’s a lethal combination going into this game. They don’t get a lot of heat on the passer. Their secondary is struggling.  They’ve got old players and young players on defense, but the in between hasn’t been good either. Rush backer James Harrison is one of their better defensive players. Defensive end Cam Heyward has played well. Inside backer Lawrence Timmons has been decent. They’ll have a couple of young guys maybe come back and start playing, like linebackers Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones and those two guys haven’t played. Jarvis played the first three games and got hurt and Shazier has played two in the last nine. They’re just not very good on defense. They’ve had such a good defense for so long and they just all got old. At times they’re very good on offense. They weren’t very good in Jacksonville, they weren’t very good against the Jets, they weren’t very good last week against the Saints until garbage time. They scored two TDs in the final 2:30. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the first nine games was 22 TD passes and four interceptions and a 110.6 passer rating. In his last three, he’s had four TDs, five interceptions, and a 79.3 passer rating and they lost two of those three and they had to come back in the fourth quarter from 11 points down in Tennessee. That’s against three vulnerable teams. THE EDGE: Bengals 34, Steelers 17.  They’ve been giving up a lot of points and the Steelers offense hasn’t been very good on the road. It’s not like the old days when the Steelers have the Bengals number no matter what. We’re long past that. The Bengals won the division last year. The Steelers haven’t been to the playoffs the last two years. Maybe they split this year, but that won’t be good enough for the Steelers. DULAC The Steelers have to get back on track on offense even though they’re No. 2 in the league. They have to be more consistent. The quarterback has to be more consistent than he has been the last couple of weeks. Running back Le’Veon Bell saved them in Tennessee and Ben made a couple of big throws in the fourth quarter, but it was basically Bell. The Bengals are going to have to stop Bell and no team has been able to contain wide receiver Antonio Brown. They’re trying everything. Bracketing. Whatever. If you look at his numbers, he has that streak of 28 straight with five catches for 50 yards. That just speaks to his consistency. I think where the Bengals can hurt them is the Steelers don’t do a great job of stopping the run. They give up big pass plays. They’ve given up 12 of 40 yards or more, fourth most in the league, and they’ve given up some of those in the last three games. I think the Bengals can pick their poison. If they can set up the run to set up the deep pass, I think they can hit on those plays. If the Steelers can’t stop the run, they’ll have trouble stopping the Bengals and it will be back on the offense to produce. To me the biggest key in the game is stopping the Bengals run and then everything will fall into place after that. Or else it’s going to be a shootout and for the most part the Bengals defense doesn’t allow shootouts. They had that little hiccup about a month ago, but they’ve tightened things up. Yet we’ve seen the Steelers put up a lot of points against highly-rated defenses. Indy and Baltimore, 51 and 43, respectively. The Steelers defense is filled with young guys and new guys. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons is playing a new positon inside. They haven’t solved the nose tackle position since Casey Hampton left. Outside zone teams with a cut-back runner gives them the most trouble. They’re better off playing a power team. Even in the games they’ve allowed a lot of rushing yards, it’s usually because the other team is passing it on them. But I say that and they continue to move up the rankings and they’re 12th this week. You don’t see free safety Troy Polamalu in the middle of the field. If you do, it doesn’t matter because he’s a liability back there. He’s playing near the line of scrimmage and they brought in another safety, Mike Mitchell, to play in coverage. But when you’re playing with Troy Polamalu, you’re gambling every play. The deep middle of the field has been left open a lot because you’re effectively operating with one less safety. To guard against that they play a lot of nickel defenses. Teams aren’t passing for a lot yards against them. Last week Drew Brees had (257), but he had six pass plays of 20 yards or longer and three of 40 and longer and five TDs. I’m not comparing Dalton to Drew Brees, but I think he’s that kind of quarterback where he has the ability to make those plays with the guy he has, the people he has. Play-action hurts the Steelers. They’re aggressive, they try to run to the ball and in play action they get burned. Cornerbacks William Gay and Brice McCain have been starting, but both of those guys are nickel backs and yet those are the guys that have the three pick sixes. They’ve actually played pretty well on the edge. They’re not shut-down corners, they’re maintenance corners. They’ve been more than serviceable, but Mike Mitchell has bit on some underneath routes and been out of position on other deep balls. It’s not been one person, but it’s been a recurring theme. THE EDGE, Bengals, 30-20. You just don’t know what Steelers team is going to show up. The Bengals are the type of team that likes to run the ball and use play action and they have enough big-play capability with A.J. that that’s a pretty good prescription to set him up and their other outside receivers. Mohamed Sanu is a bigger guy. They won’t put Ike on Green. They leave the corners on the same side after they got beat a few times last year by Calvin Johnson and Josh Gordon. The Bengals have the ability to hit some big plays.  LAPHAM The Bengals need an exterminator for the Killer Bs. Ben, Bell, Brown. To me, Brown is the best in the league with the ball in his hands after the catch. They get him the ball in space, he splits guys. They’ll turn a shallow cross into a big TD play. You can’t give that guy a lot of space. You have to be around him at all times. Bell is having an unbelievable year. He’s the same type of runner as Jeremy Hill.  They’re patient, powerful. Whichever offensive line gives him more opportunity is going to decide it. I think one of the biggest signings the Steelers had in the offseason was adding Mike Munchak as their offensive line coach. Their line is playing better than it has in four, five years to my eye. And they’ve got three Pro Bowl players in Ben, Bell, and Brown. You usually think it’s going to be a slobber-knocker, but I don’t know. The Steelers can score if they don’t turn it over. If the Bengals defense can hold them to less than 20 points, that would be yeoman-like effort. They’re going to have to score points to beat the Steelers in this one.  I think it’s going to be a more high scoring game than your normal AFC North game. It will still be a slobber-knocker, but it will be a high-scoring slobber- knocker. Defensively, the Steelers give up a lot of big plays. Looking at tape, I think they’ve slipped appreciably. I don’t think they’re what they were. Everybody has scored at least (19) on them except Jacksonville and in multiple cases they’ve scored 30 on them. I think that’s going to be the story. Can the Bengals prevent big plays and offensively can they can create some? Andy has to stay away from the critical mistake and take advantage of the chances he’ll get to make the big play. The Bengals haven’t given up the big play this year. That’s a good matchup. We’ve seen it over and over again. When that big old guy gets out of pocket, he’s so strong with his arm. Usually when a guy rolls to his right you don’t have to worry about the left quadrant of the field. But he will be able to get the ball to the other sideline, accurately and with oomph on it. He’s so big and he can see the whole field, he can deliver the ball anywhere. I think Pittsburgh is as good as I’ve ever seen at the controlled chaos of it. They practice it. The scramble drill. The deep receivers come short, the short receivers go deep. The receivers on the right go to the left. It’s all orchestrated. It’s not a fire drill. If you’re in zone coverage, you have to convert to man. You have to plaster the guy in your area and if you don’t, Ben is going to find him. The Bengals haven’t faced a quarterback this year that can do it like Ben. It’s hard to get him on the ground. He’s a son of a gun out of the pocket. They can’t let him step up in the pocket. They can’t let him get out of the pocket. I don’t think the Bengals corners will drop coverage stupidly to try and make a play on Ben. If I’m in the secondary and Ben is running, I let Ben get his yards. You cannot leave your coverage to go up and get a highlight hit on Ben. That discipline in the back end is going to be huge. The Pittsburgh offense has been more consistently high scoring than the Bengals offense. But I like the Bengals defense in a massive test against Bell. The discipline in the back end and playing the run better, the defense is one of the bigger reasons they won three in a row on the road. Nobody rushed for more than 75 yards against them. I don’t think you can stop Bell, but you have to control him. These two guys, Brown and Bell, they can run all day. You have to take Bell out of it and if Ben’s having an off night, then Brown is out of it. If Bell gets off and Ben is on, then you’ve got a nightmare on your hands. In my mind Bell is the head of the snake.    And how many times do special teams impact this game, whether it’s a high-scoring game or no scoring? Every yard on special teams is million dollar real estate in these AFC North matchups. If they can continue to win the average drive start and avoid turnovers, that’s going to be a big deal in this one. Field position and ball security. THE EDGE, Bengals. The thing I like is they’re coming in after the offense struggled in Tampa against a good, solid defense.  When the Bengals offense has struggled this year, they’ve had a bounce back. They bounced back after the Cleveland game. They bounced back after the Indy game. It’s the perfect storm. Even though you won that game in Tampa, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson can light them up and he did. He lit them up at halftime and I’m sure he’s been lighting them up all week. I think they’ll bounce back. It’s a home game. I think they learned their lesson in the Cleveland debacle at home. They know you have to win your home division games. If they beat Pittsburgh, they’re basically eliminating them. If they beat Cleveland next week, they’re eliminating them, too. Pittsburgh is playing for their lives and that’s a club with a lot of history and tradition. But the Bengals are playing for a ton, too. I just think the home-field edge gives them a little more juice. PRISCO I think the Bengals defense is starting to look like the old defense. Getting middle linebacker Rey Maualuga back has helped. Nose tackle Domata Peko has been paying pretty well for himself in the last month. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is starting to look like Geno again. The whole secondary has had a good year. That group is solid all the way around. Safety Reggie Nelson is good. George Iloka has played pretty well there. I think the corners are feisty and tough and they don’t back down and they know what to do. The last three weeks have been very good for the defense. The Bengals have always done a good job on Antonio Brown, I always thought. They hold him to about five catches a game and not a lot of yards. They’ve made him a priority in past games and I think they’ll make him a priority here. Take him away and make the young guys beat you. The run defense wasn’t playing real well, but getting Maualuga back, I’m shocked by it, to be honest with you. I didn’t know he had it in him. He’s really played well vs.  the run. I thought in the Saints game he was terrific. Peko, too. I looked at that game in depth and both guys were key in getting them back to playing the run again. And the key is Geno looking like Geno. In the beginning of the year he was favoring that leg and he’s not favoring it any more. As long as Andy isn’t puking all over himself Saturday night he should have the opportunity to make some plays down the field. Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor had a problem last week with a double move and you can double move him a couple of times. It’s only his second game back since he broke his arm. The Steelers are so-so at best in coverage. The Bengals will get some shots. They can pound it with running back Jeremy Hill and running back Giovani Bernard can get all those yards out of the backfield. To me, that’s the difference. They’ve got a pounder and a guy who can be a third-down back who can go out in space and create problems in the passing game. The Steelers’ defense is old and they haven’t had any continuity on that side of the ball whatsoever. You take outside linebacker James Harrison off the scrap heap and he’s become one of your better pass rushers, that’s not a good sign. Losing right end Brett Keisel hurts and, again, they got him out of retirement. If you add that all up, that’s part of the problem with what they’re doing.  The thing about this passing offense is you haven’t seen them at full strength, either, the entire season. It started with wide receiver Marvin Jones going down, then Eifert went down, then right tackle Andre Smith went down. You haven’t really seen them at full strength. When you go on the road in the NFL and I don’t care who you’re playing, when you win three straight road games, that’s an accomplishment. THE EDGE: Bengals, 24-17. To be honest, the Steelers aren’t very good on defense. I think the Bengals offense can get matchup problems. If they win the next couple of games, they have a shot at the No. 1 seed as banged up as they’ve been. THE BOTTOM LINE Don’t be fooled by the moans and groans coming out of Pittsburgh. Big Ben is as dangerous as he’s ever been. The mind-boggling stats from earlier this season show that Brown, first in NFL receiving, and Bell, second in NFL rushing, make him as dynamic as any QB in the league. And while Charles Richard LeBeau has a transition on his hands as the Steelers defensive coordinator, at 77 years old he’s as deft as he’s ever been at drawing up those third-down blitzes that have stymied four decades of quarterbacks. Yes, the Steelers are giving up nearly 350 yards per game.  But what has the Bengals concerned this week is that the Steelers are also No. 4 in third-down efficiency. Want to guarantee an egg game where they look comatose? It’s always on third-down, where they were 1-for-13 vs. Indy and 3-for-17 against Cleveland. But they are 25-for-44 since the Browns game. Roethlisberger and LeBeau. They’ve kept the stomach of Bengaldom tied in knots since 2004 and they’ll make for another uneasy Sunday. But LeBeau has his own problems. He’s lost the heart of his defense, Keisel, and the soul, Polamalu, has been relegated to the box. He had to find his second-leading sacker, Harrison, in retirement and it’s doubtful he’ll play Sunday with a knee injury. Taylor, his best cover corner, is suddenly looking like he’s 34 and gave up a 69-yard TD last week off a double move, his first game back from a broken arm. They no longer put him on the best receiver. Their last two first-rounders, linebackers Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier, are going to get plenty of snaps Sunday after missing a combined 16 games this season. And for the first time since 2005 and Chris Perry, the Bengals can attack LeBeau with two dynamic running backs. The Bengals’ only 100-yard rushing game against LeBeau came in their first game against him, on Oct. 3, 2004 when Rudi Johnson hit it in a Steelers win. The last time the Bengals rushed for 100 against the Steelers at home was 14 years ago in the first season of PBS.   Read the rest: http://prod.www.bengals.clubs.nfl.com/news/article-1/Bengals-try-to-time-out-Big-Ben/46f1ff21-5c09-4113-b7b3-f9f77f8b249c
  19. http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Bengals-seek-to-answer-Bell/a1107ffd-3e3b-491a-bf82-38c61cf953ce   Bengals seek to answer Bell Posted 1 hour ago Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com Follow Me Blog     Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is hoping to prevent Le'Veon Bell from playing like an extra man. Last week, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, the 14th man on the field right behind head coach Marvin Lewis, kept his cool in the middle of that brouhaha in the final minute of Sunday’s victory in Tampa. As he prepares for this Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12), he may fee l like he’s dealing with another extra man in the person of Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Talk about Marshawn Lynch all you want, but the Real Beast lurks in the swamps of the AFC North as the 6-1, 244-pound Bell steams into Paul Brown Stadium off two of the biggest games in the history of his storied franchise. Last week against New Orleans he rushed for 95 yards and caught 154 more to become the first Steeler ever to have at least 150 yards receiving and 50 yards rushing, and the game  before that he ripped the Titans for 204 rushing yards. He’s right where you think he’d be. With 1,046 yards, only the Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray has more on the ground and only Murray has more yards from scrimmage in the NFL.   “He’s a different player than he was a year ago. I give him credit,” Guenther said after practice this week. “It looks like he’s lost some weight. He’s more of a pass threat.  They have him on the flank or run him out the backfield. Last year he was more a bigger style back. Now he’s more involved in the passing game.”   If last week was a chess match for Guenther with the injuries that forced Tampa into a formations stew, then this one is top-of-the-hour-SportsCenter-easy.   “It’s going to be a physical type game. We know that,” Guenther said.  “We know they’re going to come in and try and run the ball and take shots down the field. It’s no mystery.”   This isn’t CSI. This is schoolyard. If Bell gets off in the running game, then quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has his way on a very long day of weaving unscathed in and out of the pocket in his infuriating touch football way.   The Bengals have to make sure they have the run defense of the last three games, when they held foes to 3.1 yards per carry and 71 yards per game, rather than the mess of the previous four when then they gave up 145 yards per game.   (Is not one of the low points of the Marvin Lewis Era the last game of that streak when the Browns came into PBS and ran it 52 times?)   The difference? Other than just playing sounder and emphasizing it, the reasons abound from the return of middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, the additional snaps for tackle Brandon Thompson, and Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins’ improved play after a slow start coming off ACL surgery.   Maualuga missed the Fouled-up Four with a hamstring injury and Thompson was just getting back from a knee injury that took him out for a month. Thompson has played 65 snaps in the last three games, topped off by the 27 he worked last Sunday when nose tackle Domata Peko left with an elbow injury that isn’t expected to keep him out of this Sunday’s game.    In Bell they’ll be facing a patient runner that likes to hug his linemen and peek for the opening.   “You have to come downhill and attack blocks, shed, and get off and make him make the decision quicker than he wants to,” Guenther said. “He’ll get in behind the line, just wait for the vertical seam to open up and he’ll hit it. We have to do a good job of that.”   That is exactly what Maualuga has given them since he’s been back, a down-hill force clogging lanes. But he’ll also have to cover Bell in space, too, in the pass game and Maualuga’s  friends at profootballfocus.com have him rated as the 68th best cover inside backer in the league. This is a good time for Guenther to speak his piece about third party grades.   “He’s played fine against the passing game.  Everyone thinks since he’s such a hammer that he struggles (vs. the pass), but he’s fine,” Guenther said. “He broke up a big third down for us the other day. He’s been playing really good since he’s been back off the injury. He’s been a big lift to us.”   The Bengals outside backers, Emmanuel Lamur (33) and Vincent Rey (38) are in the middle of PFF’s coverage rankings, and they’ll be getting help against Bell from safeties Reggie Nelson and George Iloka. Nelson has been one of the Bengals’ surest tacklers, but he was flogging himself for missing Tampa Bay running back Bobby Rainey on a screen on the last drive that went for 29 yards.   “I missed a tackle and that can’t happen,” Nelson said. “I definitely don’t want to let the guys down around me and I felt like let them down and could have gave the game away. That’s just an individual act, I just have to tackle better period.”   Nelson has been the closer against the Steelers, securing the last two wins over Pittsburgh with late interceptions. Last week it took a little extra after the Bucs seemingly beat the Bengals with a 21-yard pass to wide receiver Louis Murphy to set them up for a winning field goal with 12 seconds left.   Even before the game when Guenther saw the Bucs inactive sheet included their tight ends, he knew something was up.   “I didn’t know what they were going to run,” Guenther said. “The big tight ends? Four receivers? So I told the coaches before the game, ‘This is going to be a thinking man’s game. We’ve got to figure out what they’re trying to do and make adjustments.’” They did, but when it turned into a 12-yard game in the last minute to prevent the winning field goal, things got harried as the Bucs kept changing personnel with each situation. It was compounded by them moving in and out of field-goal range with penalties.   “When they get a penalty and they’re out of field-goal range , now they put four  receivers on the field and it’s a pass,” Guenther said. “When they’re in field-goal range, they put big guys in. Now you have to defend the run. There were a lot of moving parts there the last 10 plays of the game where situationally, the guys have to understand what we’re defending.”   Everyone passed with flying colors. Both players and coaches realized what happened on that pass. Lamur ended up on Murphy, which never would have happened in 11 on 11.   “The big guy never got off the field. So they had four receivers and a big tight end, and when I called the next coverage, it was a matchup underneath coverage,” Guenther said. “We were matched up man-on-man on the two deep safeties. And when I saw our linebacker covering the receiver I knew something was wrong.”   Read the rest http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Bengals-seek-to-answer-Bell/a1107ffd-3e3b-491a-bf82-38c61cf953ce
  20. http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Friday-update-Peko-returns-Weather-check/d34fe5e6-a8a7-4239-969a-0dba49ec3377   Friday update: Peko returns; Weather check Posted 2 hours ago   Just five day after his career day last week in Tampa Bay, Bengals rookie wide receiver James Wright is in question for Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12) against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium after he didn’t practice again Friday morning.   But nose tackle Domata Peko (elbow) practiced for the first time this week, so it looks like he’ll make his 80th straight start, the longest on the club for regular season and postseason combined,   Wright (knee) hasn’t practiced since he had three catches for a game-high 59 catches last Sunday on a day featuring A.J. Green and Mike Evans. Two of his  three catches converted mega third downs in the second half. But head coach Marvin Lewis said after practice Wright could be able to bounce back quickly and play. "We'll see," he said.   Also not working this week were Pro Bowl middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee) and right end Margus Hunt (ankle). When Burfict had his arthroscopic knee surgery Oct. 29, head coach Marvin Lewis thought he might have a chance to play Nov. 16 against New Orleans, but he has yet to get back on the field. Hunt hasn’t played since getting injured in New Orleans.   Burfict, Hunt, and Wright figure to be on Sunday’s inactive list because they haven’t practiced. Right tackle Eric Winston, who signed Tuesday after not practicing since the preseason, may be able to go...   Read the rest here: http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Friday-update-Peko-returns-Weather-check/d34fe5e6-a8a7-4239-969a-0dba49ec3377
  21. Leon Hall had big pick-6 vs. Ben Roethlisberger in the 2012 Wild Wild Card Game.         BENGALS CBS TERENCE NEWMAN, LEON HALL AND ADAM JONES VS.                            STELERS WR ANTONIO BROWN The Bengals don’t give up big plays and the Steelers make them all the time and something has to give in the Bengals’ effort to effectively take Pittsburgh out of the AFC North race for the second time in three years Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12) at Paul Brown Stadium. The quicksilver 5-10, 185-pound Brown, a resident of the 21st century all-Bengals killer team inheriting the spot vacated by Hines Ward, leads the universe in receiving and yards receiving. (Brown may not have broken Kevin Huber’s jaw last year like Ward did to Keith Rivers in 2008, but Brown’s 67-yard punt return TD survived the illegal hit.) Four of Brown’s 11 touchdowns from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have come on plays of 25 yards or more and the Steelers have the second most completions of 25 yards or more in the NFL with 32. The Bengals’ three regular cornerbacks have allowed just six completions of at least 25 yards this season (according to ProFootballFocus.com) and no wide receiver has caught a ball of at least 25 yards against the Bengals in the last 17 quarters, dating back to Jacksonville rookie Allen Hurn’s 40-yard touchdown catch five minutes into the second half of the Nov. 2 victory over the Jaguars. In their 35-32 loss to the Saints’ last Sunday, the Steelers generated seven plays of at least 21 yards. The Bengals have allowed four plays of at least 21 yards in their last three games.  “That’s the easy part in my opinion, keeping the deep balls off you,” says Vance Joseph, the Bengals’ first-year cornerbacks coach. “It’s all situational. If you study and play good technique, the deep balls are low percentage. If you’re in good position and understand what we’re trying to accomplish, you can play deep balls well. When you don’t play deep balls, it’s probably recognition, it’s probably awareness, it’s probably technique and leverage.” Now they are pitted against the NFL’s leading receiver the league’s sixth best passer and the game’s greatest improvisational passer ever. “Oh man, you have to hold on to your chair, because there ain’t no telling what he’s going to do,” says safetyReggie Nelson of Roethlisberger. “That’s when we lean our D-line to get after him and the DBs, Terence, Leon, Pac, Dre (Kirkpatrick) the whole secondary get paid to cover and I think we’ve doing a good job of that this year.” Good job? They’ve allowed a league-low 11 touchdown passes, they are second in NFL defensive passer rating at 75.0, third in allowing yards per attempt, fifth in allowing completion percentage, and seventh in third-down efficiency. And if it’s anyone who knows what Big Ben is going to do, it’s Nelson, the guy that has secured the last two wins against Pittsburgh with late interceptions. “It starts up front. I think our D line does a good job of pressuring the quarterback and it trickles back up to the corners,” says Nelson of shutting down the big play. “I think me and (safety) George (Iloka) are doing a good job of protecting the corners over the top and just not getting too greedy and just doing our job.  “You definitely have to play within the scheme in this defense. You definitely don’t want to do much, just let your corners and D line do all the work for you and just do your job, stay back deep and protect.”  On Monday after the game, Hall turns 30, giving the Bengals secondary a rare trio of 30-year-old cornerbacks in one of the game’s most demanding positions. These guys are as vibrant as the first-round picks they once were, but bring a combined 371 games of NFL experience. For instance, Hall has been around long enough to sweep Big Ben in '09, one win spurred by fellow corner Johnathan Joseph's pick-6 and the other by Roethlisberger's 51.5 passer rating in the war of 18-12. And in the game both needed to go to the playoffs in 2012, Hall scored the game's only TD on a pick in a 13-10 victory. And, by the way, how well is the 36-year-old Newman playing? Last week, the NFL's hottest receiver, Tampa rookie Mike Evans, had five shots at him and he caught two balls for 31 yards after leading the NFL in receiving in November. The week before that the Texans'' big gun, wide receiver Andre Johnson, went after Newman six times and got blanked.  “It’s rare to have three corners in their 30s who played a lot of football as first-round picks,” Joseph says. “It’s rare because of the position. It’s for young, fast players. If you can get a corner his 30s who’s healthy and can still run that makes for a very smart player. With two guys behind them that we can win with (Kirkpatrick andDarqueze Dennard), we’re getting better as the weeks go by.  I think the communication is better. They know me better and what I expect them to do.” Study. Technique. Discipline.  It’s how big plays are plugged.  It’s the only way a defense can prevent Big Ben from clocking them with a scramble play. “He makes you cover for not only three seconds, but six seconds, eight seconds sometimes,” Hall says. “He’s big; he’s hard to take down. For some strange reason he’s pretty elusive. Guys have a hard time getting him down by the one arm or just one person. He’s able to extend that and the receivers know that, so even when they end their route, they’re still ready and they take a bead…. It’s kind of one of those things when you go into the game as a DB, you can’t  get mad because you’re covering six, eight seconds because that’s going to happen a few times.” Brown just had his NFL-record of 11 straight games with at least 80 yards broken last month, and he gets a lot of them after the catch, where he’s fourth in the league, according to profootballfocus.com. According to PFF, Hall, Newman, and Jones have combined to miss 15 tackles in the pass game. But the key Sunday is going to be tight coverage, which they do well. “I think Brown is special for what he’s doing at his size because he’s got big-man ball skills,” Joseph says. “All these small guys have quickness, they all have speed, but most of them can’t find the ball in traffic. But at 5-10, this guy finds the ball in traffic, and that’s rare for a little guy. “You have to get close to him and make him do those things,” Joseph says. “You make Ben find him. You don’t want to give him too much space. He’s too quick. No one can stay up with that quickness when you’re off of him.  It looks like basketball. If I want to cover the guy, I have to box him out. I better get close to him. We have to play up top with leverage and make sure we get close to this guy.” It could be any of the corners. For years the Bengals have played it straight. Hall on the right. Newman on the left. Jones on the right when Hall goes in the slot. It doesn’t matter where Brown lines up, and the Steelers move him all over. The Bengals will stick with their sides. “You get to see the offense from the same perspective,” Hall said. “Some teams, depending on the week, they run plays to the left and they run some plays to the right. Depending on the week you’re looking to that. Honestly either way has advantages, as far as matching up or doing it like we do staying left and right.” Hall and Newman weren’t even close to Brown the last time the clubs played, a 30-20 Steelers win in Pittsburgh. They watched it together eating dinner at The Precinct. Hall, out with a torn Achilles, and Newman, out with a sprained knee. But their memories are healthy. “It wasn’t fun to watch, but we watched it,” Hall says. “It’s not as fresh in my mind as I’m sure it is for the guys who were actually out there. But it was a tough one.”   http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Matchup-of-the-Game-Bengals-need-a-Brownout/079369d1-779e-4392-8a0e-949a8fe9981c  
  22. Marvin Lewis news conference transcript Posted 26 minutes ago   Comments about Toys for Tots...             “The first thing is this Sunday, at our game against the Steelers, the United States Marine Corps and the Bengals will team up again for the Toys for Tots toy drive. Representatives from the U.S. Marine Corps will be at all the entrances to collect new and unwrapped toys and cash donations. All contributions will benefit the less fortunate children in our community. The Bengals have hosted this event for more than 25 years. We want to remind all the fans that come out this week.”   Comments about game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers...             “Going back through the game, you can’t have 10 penalties in a  game and be successful very often. The three turnovers, and the tackling on defense, were also disappointing. All three areas are areas where we need to have a quick turnaround and an improvement. “It’s difficult to win games when you fall off in those three areas like that, so we really have to pay attention to that and get better. I thought offensively we were close to some plays, but we just need to be more consistent and not fall off. We’ve got to finish things better. “On defense, we continued the same thing, by flipping off the tackle, small gains became bigger gains, which played a part in the football game. We’ve got to be better at that. I thought defensively we did a better job, and we continue to get better at the four-man rush, continue to keep doing a better job of that. We’re doing a better job of dictating where the ball is going in the passing game. We have to continue on that trend. “Special teams-wise, we need to have more consistent play in coverage, better play in the return game, and continue to do a better job in certain areas of the return, particularly in holdup areas. We can’t have the penalties. Those things set us back, and we can’t have that in the kicking game. We’ve got to have great ball placement from our specialists all the time. That’s kind of my summation and review from yesterday.”   You haven’t given up a lot of big plays down the field in the passing game. How much of that is the corners, how much of that is what George Iloka does on the back end, or is it just all of it combined?             “It takes 11 guys combined in those situations all the time, no matter what. It’s whatever the coverage is, and making sure we’re playing the coverage to the best of our abilities, and everybody in the right spots. The rush has to work with the coverage, and the coverage has to work with the rush.”   When you talk about the four-man rush being better, that doesn’t always necessarily translate into sacks. How do they dictate where the ball goes?             “You want to dictate where the ball goes based on coverage. Each and every throw, we want to dictate where the ball goes. There’s a strength and weakness to every coverage we play, and we want to make sure we get the ball into the strength of the coverage and not the weakness.”   You talked about the tackling. For a lot of teams, does that become an issue this time of year because you’re so from removed from actually working in that regard?             “That’s not true. You’re not removed from that. Tackling is a one-two, and it’s a must, and it’s a have-to at this time of the year.”   How did Clint Boling look at his stint at the right tackle position after you had time to look at the tape?             “He did okay.”   How about the group as a whole? How did the offensive line do yesterday?             “Not good enough. Not as good as we need. We had a couple guys play pretty well, but as a group we didn’t play as well as we need to play. We need to play better.”   Mohamed Sanu has made a lot of big plays this year, but he’s had some drops. Is it something to focus on for him, is there one thing that he’s not doing?             “He’s got to catch the ball before he tries to run with it. We’ve got to continue to focus on making the big catch, the big play, rather than worry about what happens after the fact. You’ve got to make sure you focus in and see the ball all the way, and make the catch and put the ball away. But you’re right, he’s made some huge plays, and huge third-down conversions. He had another one yesterday. “But that was a big one that we let go down the middle of the field (on a Sanu drop). When you get those things, you’ve got the ball down in the weakness of the coverage, and that’s what you want. When you’ve got the ball in the weakness of the coverage you stand to make a very large play.”   A lot of the rookie draft class has played well. A guy that’s kind of been under the radar is James Wright. His role is expanding. Is your confidence growing in James Wright?             “Yeah, James with every opportunity has pretty much produced. He had a couple big plays in the football game yesterday: the big third down on the cross, the big third down on the boundary, the big run. He continues to block well. James’ contributions yesterday in the football game were big.”   The league is now saying they were about to buzz down anyway on the 12-man penalty. Have they called at all apologizing and explaining?             “No, I don’t need an apology or anything. I don’t know all that, but so be it. What’s done is done.”   It’s a good thing you did something, you don’t want to take a chance on them not stopping the play...             “Yeah, but I could have done it better.”   It’s Steelers week. Does this week feel any differently to you when it is Pittsburgh coming here?             “Since I’ve been here, I think Baltimore is a bigger rivalry, because that’s where I came from most recently. Cleveland is a rivalry. It’s a division game. I think for some reason fans make a bigger deal out of it than we do as a football team. All of our division games are important games, we know. This is a very, very important football team this week. It’s at home, so the fans will be out and excited big time and have a lot of fun on Sunday. It’s a really important game for us.”   You guys are 10-2 in your last 12 games in December. How different is December football?             “We keep talking and being repetitive about this, but all the work put in by the players since April, it now comes down to these four weeks, but most importantly this week. That’s big. All the plusses and minuses and all the good, it keeps going. It provides one opportunity, provides the next opportunity, so in December is very, very important that you play well. Obviously you want to play and continue through January, but we’ve got to take care of December first. We had a good September, not a very good October, a better November, and we need to have an even better December. That’ll be important.”   If you look what Andy Dalton has done on the road and in December, it seems like he doesn’t get a lot of credit for that...             “You earn credit and you earn opportunity every chance you get. Everything you do, it all comes out, whenever you do what people wish you would do, and then you have arrived.”   When you were decompressing after yesterday’s win, were you monitoring the Baltimore and San Diego game at all?             “I don’t have any idea who won or anything (Laughs). You guys think I lie up here, but I really don’t care what happens other than with us. After the game, do you think I have any time or any emotion left to spend on anyone else? (Laughs) I needed a cart to get from the sidelines (Laughs).”   Did you guys give Adam Jones some advice about fair catching?             “I did try to give him advice. Those aren’t kicks you can return. We’re going to get good field position, so don’t risk yourself getting injured over this thing that you don’t want to fair catch. That’s not smart. We want to play smart football. The other thing about December, let’s play smart. Lets be the smartest football team in December. Lets play smart football now down the stretch. If we do that, and we can execute and do it right, we’ve got good opportunities ahead.”   After beating Tampa Bay, you’ve now beaten every other NFL team. Does that mean anything to you?             “I knew there was one left. I actually remembered that this morning because Wallace Gilberry asked me Saturday evening, and I couldn’t remember what it was, and there we were in Tampa. That was ironic. Yeah, that’s good. I’ve been in the job too long (Laughs).”   Speaking of irony, did it strike you at all the game in Tampa in ’06 with the Justin Smith sack was the same exact spot on the field where their 12-man call was?             “Yeah that’s what (Andrew) Whitworth told me. It was his rookie year. It was the same score, right?”   Any update on Domata Peko?             “He was able to come back in the game. He felt basically after the game that he should be fine. He got in a situation where he wasn’t as comfortable as maybe the doctors were. We’ve got to go with how the player feels. They felt that he would be okay for this week.”   With respect to putting Jayson DiManche on IR, is that something you think you’ll be able to fill come Wednesday or so?             “We’ll see. There’s some options available, and we’ll see what’s best.”   Other than the normal bumps and bruises, nothing significant with anybody else in terms of injuries?             “We’ll see. It was a 14-13 game. There wasn’t a lot of margin for error. There was a lot of bumping going on, a lot of right-angle football, so you get some sore guys. We were sore all the way around, I think both teams were. For us it was really hot. That’s a game where you’d like to get out and get a little bit of a lead, but we didn’t. “Our guys were a little spent. We knew we would be. I talked about it all week, that we had to hydrate beginning early in the week and make sure we stay hydrated all the way down …  on Friday, on the plane, on Saturday and so forth, and before the game and everything. I thought our guys reacted and responded pretty well to that. I don’t think we needed an IV at halftime -- our quarterback had his couple before the game, which was good.”   Speaking of Andy Dalton, what do you think about what he did yesterday?             “I thought he did a great job coming back in the second half after having a very, very poor first half. He missed throws, he missed things that he’s supposed to do within the offense, and he heard about it at halftime. I thought he responded to it. We had two drops in the second half, we had a throwaway and a tipped ball. He came back and played a great second half.”   How close did you come to making a switch at QB?             “I did not come to that conclusion to switch. We were where we were in the football game. We had lived it. They got one field goal off of the three turnovers. We were in the football game. I was hopeful that he would continue to come around and feel better and he did.”   Vontaze Burfict was working on the field before the game. Do you have any sense that he’ll be able to practice this week?             “I don’t know. He’s kind of day-to-day, and we’ll see how he goes.”     http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Marvin-Lewis-news-conference-transcript/15d00980-fc04-486d-960e-a9a92c57538d  
  23. Prayers Answered On Mistake-Filled Day   Posted by Dan Hoard on December 1, 2014 – 6:11 pm   Let’s review some of the events of Sunday’s win at Tampa Bay shall we?     On the first play from scrimmage, the Bengals upchucking quarterback (no, not you Matt Scott), hurls the first of three first half interceptions. In the second quarter, a red zone sack by Geno Atkins that would have forced the Buccaneers to kick a field goal is negated by a face mask penalty. Two plays later, Tampa Bay scores a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead. Roughly five minutes after that, the puking passer tosses a cookie into double coverage that is picked off in the end zone. Near the end of the half after an interception by Terence Newman gives the Bengals the ball at the Tampa Bay 40-yard line, Cincinnati fans universally scream “CALL A TIMEOUT” before the Retching Rifle attempts to heave a pass out of bounds only to have it float into the hands of a Bucs defender. In the third quarter after finally taking the lead for the first time, the Bengals attempt an onside kick that fails miserably. Even if it had worked, they were penalized for being offsides. In the fourth quarter, the Rapidly-Recovering Rifle threads the needle between three defenders on third-and-16, only to see the ball dropped 20 yards downfield by the normally sure-handed Mohamed Sanu. With 1:28 left in the game, Bucs quarterback Josh McCown throws a screen pass to Bobby Rainey with Reggie Nelson in position to make the tackle for a two-yard loss. But Nelson fails to make the stop and Rainey races 29 yards to put Tampa Bay in position for a game-winning field goal. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, despite all of that the Bengals won. “It’s an ugly win but it goes in the win column,” said my broadcasting partner Dave Lapham. “When you look at the standings there’s no ‘UW’ for ugly win or ‘PL’ for pretty loss. It’s a win or a loss.” “At the end of the day all you need to win by is one point,” said Andy Dalton. “When you look back on it, it’s a win. This one was pretty crazy.”     And pretty gutsy – pun intended – for Dalton who wasn’t just a little under the weather. As Bengals.com editor Geoff Hobson described in great detail, the Bengals quarterback was seriously ill. But in the second half as he began to feel a little better, Andy went 12-for-16 for 114 yards, 1 touchdown, and a passer rating of 115.1. “I told him after the game – and I don’t even know if it registered because he was pretty sick – I was like, ‘Man, I just really appreciate the way you battled for us,’” said George Iloka. “I told him that Michael Jordan did it with the flu and you’re no different than him,” said Wallace Gilberry. “My hat goes off to him. He was throwing up before the game and you could look into his eyes and tell that he was not feeling right. He came out and did what he could do and it was up to us to uphold him and we did that.” With a huge assist from the 2-and-10 Bucs. Tampa Bay had the ball at the Cincinnati 31-yard line with 44 seconds and no time outs remaining. From there it would have been a 49-yard field goal attempt for Patrick Murray who is 4-for-5 from 50+ this season. But in an attempt to get a little closer, the Bucs tried a running play and center Garrett Gilkey was called for holding. That pushed the Bucs out of field goal range meaning Josh McCown had to pass. After an incompletion, McCown hit Louis Murphy for what appeared to be a back-breaking 21-yard gain, but Bengals players and coaches quickly realized that the Bucs had 12 men on the field. “We were having a hard time getting lined up on defense because of the 12th man,” said Marvin Lewis. “After the play, they still had 12 on the field,” said Carlos Dunlap. “We told the ref to count them and he counted up to 12 so he called the penalty on the current play. Then we asked him to review the last one because they didn’t sub anybody.” “I didn’t know they had too many players on the field until the coaches were coming off of our sideline talking about it,” said Leon Hall. “I was just basically hoping they were right.” Hall was not the only Cincinnati player that didn’t see the infraction. “To be honest with you, I had my eyes closed so I missed it,” said James Wright with a smile. “Closed because you were praying?” I asked. “It was in my thoughts,” Wright replied. “Your prayer was answered, but maybe not the way you were thinking,” I responded. “I don’t want to waste God’s time, but I’m happy that it happened like that,” Wright said. The prayers of Bengals Nation were soon answered when the Steelers, Ravens, and Browns all lost to fall a game-and-a-half back in the AFC North. Cincinnati’s brutal slate of December games begins on Sunday at home against Pittsburgh. “It’s the first time we’ve been home since the bad loss to Cleveland right?” said Iloka. “We owe our fans a good performance.” That would be nice. But we’ll all settle for another win.     http://blogs.bengals.com/2014/12/01/prayers-answered-on-mistake-filled-day/
  24. More road kill for defense Posted 4 hours ago Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com  Cornerback Adam Jones, shown here on a kick return Sunday, helped hold down Tampa Bay's receivers. TAMPA, Fla. _ If there is one thing the Mike Zimmer Era taught Bengaldom, good defense can make even a lot of warts look good. On Sunday Zimmer’s successor, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, dialed up a vintage stonewall effort to help the Bengals survive a torturous 14-13 victory over the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium. They allowed the punch-less Bucs 4.8 yards per play, three yards per rush, didn’t allow their second-third down conversion until 1:33 left in the game and gave up just their second touchdown in 12 straight road quarters. There were plenty of moments the defense could have wilted in the Florida heat with an offense turning it over three times in the first half. But it didn’t. And neither did the offense. “I’m just proud of the fact that through all the mistakes we made as a team, the guys weren’t yelling at each other,’ said safety George Iloka. “Guys weren’t jumping on each other. We were just positive. ‘Let’s go, let’s knuckle up.’ I was happy with the way the guys responded to the mistakes we made as a (team) and we were able to ignore that and play our type of football.” For a team that was overcome by adversity last month, they wallowed in it Sunday to win. “Given all the mistakes and we were still in the game, we were destined to win,” Iloka said. “Even if it came down to a field goal, he was going to miss it. That was my mindset. I was very positive all the way through. I don’t know why. How we came out as a team, you just say to yourself, ‘If we don’t win, we did this to ourselves.’” While the defense showed they can struggle in hockey-like-short-handed situations, they were tough to beat when it was 11-on-11 for the last three plays of the game. The Bucs, working from the Bengals 46, needed about 10 yards for a shot at a winning field goal but couldn’t get there in time. On second down quarterback Josh McCown was chased out of the pocket for an incompletion. On third down safety Reggie Nelson batted a pass away on the sidelines. On fourth down cornerback Leon Hall wrapped up red-hot rookie wide receiver Mike Evans after a 13-yard gain with a second left and seven yards shy of the first down. “It was a scramble play,” Hall said. “We practice it every day. Our quarterback scrambles and he gives us a good look so we learn to latch on to the receivers in our area and just guard him zone or man. That’s all you want to do. All that practice worked out.” It was another magnificent effort by the secondary. Evans came into the game with at least a touchdown in every game in November and was second in the NFL with 12 catches of at least 25 yards. He didn’t catch his longest, 23 yards, until 7:16 left in the game, and they kept him out of the end zone. “We talked about it all week. The challenge was on the outside,” Hall said. “George and Reggie have been doing their thing all year. We know they’re going to do their part. The front did well. It was a good game plan. We ran a bunch of our calls; we used a lot of our looks. Paulie did a good job with that and we took it from there.” With nose tackle Domata Peko (elbow) sidelined for the second half (he left the locker room in a sling but said it will be OK), defensive tackle Geno Atkins offered his best performance of the season with half a sack and two QB hits. The Bucs came into the game with the fourth worst running attack in the NFL and running back Doug Martin was averaging 2.8 yards per carry. After he had 55 yards on 12 carries at halftime, he got just three yards on six carries the rest of the way. “That’s good to hear,” Hall said of Atkins. “If he’s hitting his stride along with everybody else, that’s really going to help us in the last few games.” Despite his deft handling of Tampa’s critical 12-men on the field penalty that prevented a winning field goal try, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis had to handle a lot of questions about game management. Particularly his decision to try an on-sides kick right after the Bengals took the lead at 14-10 late in the third quarter. Even though the Bucs had done nothing on offense much of the day, scoring their field goal despite a drive of minus-five yards. The decision was compounded by the kick’s lack of execution (and an offsides penalty on linebacker Nico Johnson), which gave the Bucs the ball on the Bengals 31 and allowed them to cut the lead to 14-13. “We’re going to onside kick if we feel like it,” Lewis said. “We’re going to do anything like that in the kicking game if we feel like the look is there.  We had a couple of times to kickoff and the look was what we were looking for and they made a great play. “Anytime you do anything like that, you’ve seen what we perceive is an opportunity to do that. It’s not just we’re just going to do it. We’re going to do it because of the look. Good credit to (Tampa Bay linebacker Orie Lemon) because he did a great job. He came from the back-side and recovered the football.” When Bengals cornerback Terence Newman knifed in front of wide receiver Vincent Jackson for his first interception of the season with 46 seconds left in the first half at the Bucs 40, it highlighted just how dominantly the Cincinnati cornerbacks handled Tampa Bay’s monstrous wide receivers. Jackson finished with just two catches for 24 yards. It also gave the Bengals at least a shot to tie the game at 10-10 at halftime. But before Lewis could use the first of all three timeouts, Dalton threw an interception in what looked to be a harried hurryup. “We didn’t want to call timeout because we wanted to get the ball up and snapped and then have the timeouts to use if we get the drive extended,” Lewis said. “Obviously, we don’t want to throw an interception. There was no chaos. We just have to go. There was no chaos. I don’t want to give them the chance to line up. There are two reasons to use timeouts. We wanted to keep them on edge as well. We wanted to keep attacking.” But the 12th man made everything all right. Lewis, a member of the NFL competition committee, knew he couldn’t get a flag for throwing a challenge flag in the last two minutes because that rule had been changed recently. It just cost him a timeout, but it was worthy, although Dean Blandino, head of the officials, later tweeted the play would have been reviewed even without the challenge flag. Lewis said his coaches upstairs alerted him to the 12th man even before the snap. The Bucs had run their power run game with an extra tackle, Oniel Cousins, and he reported eligible 21 times. The 21st time was the play wide receiver Louis Murphy made a 21-yard catch to put the ball on the 20 with 12 seconds left. But no one left when Cousins reported. “When they got on the ball quick, they still had 12 men,” said left end Carlos Dunlap of the next sequence. But before they could snap the ball with 12 men again, Lewis had already stopped play by stepping on the field trying to get the officials’ attention. “They’d been doing it all day,” said defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry of the formation. “They must have just forgot.” “Someone is looking out for us,” Iloka said. Someone. And good defense.     http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/More-road-kill-for-defense/f8d30301-74e0-4937-af6b-a3f13e1f828d
  25. Gut check Posted 6 hours ago Geoff Hobson Editor Bengals.com        Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton stood tall against the elements Sunday. TAMPA, Fla. _ They gave him three large bags of I.V. fluids Sunday morning and by the time they got back to Cincinnati Sunday night the gag was maybe he would have thrown four interceptions if they had given him the fourth bag. But the joke was on the rest of the AFC North, because if “Andy 2.0,” showed up here Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, then Road Warrior Andy Dalton pushed him aside in the second half and put on one of the gutsiest displays in Bengals’ history during the 14-13 victory over the Buccaneers. Literally. “He didn’t say a word all morning,’ said left tackle Andrew Whitworth. “He was puking his guts out.” The 24-hour flu bug that suddenly invaded Dalton Saturday night kept him up virtually all night and took him out of the meetings and it had him feeling the worst he’s ever felt on the field. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu estimated he saw him vomit 20 times Sunday morning. As they went out on the field for the game, Whitworth noticed Dalton in another conversation with a trash can. “I didn’t puke on the field. Coming in from warmups (and) right before we went out there for the game, I tried to get everything out as much as I could,” Dalton said. On a remarkable day the crazy-quilted AFC North regurgitated, Dalton re-grouped from three first-half interceptions long enough to jack his career road record to 18-12 and put them in striking distance of their second straight division title that would make him just the second man in NFL history to make the post season in the first four seasons of his career. At 8-3-1 the Bengals still may not make the Wild Card round with 10 victories. But by the time the media informed them everybody else in the division had lost and were now 7-5 with four games left, the AFC North title looked very doable. If the Bengals split their four December games, the other teams are eliminated from title contention if they lose once. But isn’t this what Dalton does? Especially on the road? A wretched offensive performance. Curious clock management at the end of the first half. A mystifying failed on-sides kick in the third quarter. He finds a way. At least three players missed practice time last week with illness, but Dalton was fine until the bug bit just before the Saturday night meetings. “I told him after the game, ‘Way to battle through, man,’” said safety George Iloka. “A lot of guys have the bug in here. I don’t know what it is. Back up. Back up. He did a good job of sticking through it and putting us in position to win.” Dalton needed to throw four balls in the second half and he threw four strikes. The big one was a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Green turning into a muscle man in the slot when he went Hulk on cornerback Leonard Johnson and snatched the winning points with 2:04 left in the third quarter. In that same drive Dalton converted two third-and-sixes, one on a crossing route to rookie wide receiver James Wright and another to the inexhaustibly clutch Sanu when he made a 15-yard catch in traffic over the middle at the Bucs 15. (By the way, what more can Sanu do? He is now 5-for-5 in his career passing after he hit Green for an 11-yarder off a double pass and he took a direct snap for another first down on a 10-yard run.) Then with 2:37 left in the game Dalton leaned back in the pocket and gunned a gorgeous 30-yard strike to Wright running down the right sideline past Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner on third-and-11 that bought them a precious 28 seconds off the clock. “We felt as the game went on (if) we got that look, we were going to be able to get it to (Wright),” Dalton said. “He made a heck of a play at a big time and it was exactly what we needed to have happened to help us chew the clock. He made a big play at the right moment.” “Exact same route,’ said Wright of Dalton’s third interception in the last minute of the half that cost them a field goal. “He was squatting on the zone and I just ran around him and made a play…Perfect throw.” Wright made plenty of plays in what has become a terrific rookie year for the seventh-round pick. He now has huge third-down catches in the signature drives in the NFC South tie and wins against Carolina, New Orleans, and Tampa, and on Sunday he celebrated a career-high and team-best 59 yards on three catches. “All of the moments are pretty big to me,” Wright said. “Any time we win the game, they’re all equally as big, but I enjoy the victory.”   It was another example of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson emptying his depth chart and playbook. He gave Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau plenty to think about this week with Sanu’s double pass, his Wildcat formation, a reverse to Wright and a shovel pass to the tight end. Dalton, feeling a bit better in the post-game, could care less about his 60.6 passer rating, the second lowest of his career in a win. It was better only than the 58.8 in Pittsburgh, another vintage Dalton-esque grind job on the road in a win that put the Bengals in the 2012 playoffs. “Anytime you get a win, it’s big. Obviously, you want to play better but a win’s a win regardless of how you get it,” Dalton said. “I’ve got to play better, especially early on in the game. I thought we did some really good things in the second half but still can play better. We still left a lot out there, and we’ll watch the tape. We’ll look at it but at the end of the day, I’ve got to play better….I’m feeling a little bit better but that’s one of those things that would be a 24-hour thing and sweating helped.”        It certainly didn’t help their sweating supporters as they wondered exactly what the heck was going on out there. But this year just might be different. Running back Jeremy Hill, Wright’s LSU rookie bookend, ripped off a 12-yard run on the snap after Wright’s 30-yard catch for his fourth straight fourth-quarter contribution in a victory.  “(Dalton) is the leader of our team. No matter what he’s going to have to go out there and play well,” Hill said. “He didn’t get the start he liked, but I think his second-half performance goes to show what type of quarterback he can be. He kept us in the game, he didn’t turn it over and he finished the game strong.” One reason the Bengals offense struggled Sunday is they didn’t put together a consistent running game. Hill worked the first two series, finished with just 40 yards on 13 carries, and didn’t bust one until the end. Running back Giovani Bernard averaged 4.9 yards per attempt on 10 carries, but a tough Bucs defense anchored by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy made it tough as the Bengals could never get into a rhythm against the Tampa Two zone that usually invites more consistent running. “They game-planned it pretty well,” Hill said. “They brought a safety down. Whenever we caught them in a two-(safety)-high, we ran the ball pretty well. When Andy made his checks, they kind of brought the safety down.” There were gut checks all over the place on offense. In the first game since right tackle Andre Smith went on injured reserve, Marshall Newhouse played the bulk of the game there. But left guard Clint Boling moved out there in the second quarter and with Mike Pollak going to left guard they were in on the first touchdown drive. “Some guys are going to have to move around. We were getting ready for a worst-case scenario,’ said Boling after his first extended work at tackle in four NFL seasons.  “We’re trying to get some experience.” Dalton shook his head on the picks. One he threw in the end zone into double coverage. On the game’s first snap, he threw high and behind Green and said the timing wasn’t there. And he just didn’t get the third one out of bounds against the blitz in the last minute of the first half. He tried to chuck it over Wright’s head, but it only got as far as Verner. “I was just trying to throw it away,” Dalton said.  I’ve got to do whatever I can to get that ball out of bounds. I’ll have to look at it but that was just a bad play. I was just trying to throw the ball away. "I’m not going to make any excuses for the way things started out. It obviously isn’t something you want to deal with, but I’m not saying that’s the reason the way things came out the way they did.” Whitworth has seen plenty of games like this in his nine seasons where it just didn’t go their way. But there was something different about Sunday.   “Today for our quarterback to be as sick as he was, puking his guts all over the place and help get us a win, that’s huge,” Whitworth said. “Because what in the world are we here for?”     http://www.bengals.com/news/article-1/Gut-check/2d3ae2f1-e93a-411d-af63-353df7a4d578
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