Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis
“The Bills are playing really good football. Offensively, they’ve been impressive. They’ve really done a great job of not turning the football over. They’ve been very productive on third downs, which is key. They’ve converted 40 percent of their third downs. That’s what stands out. Obviously (Bills QB) Tyrod Taylor is doing a fine job. (Bills RB) LeSean McCoy is such a great runner. They have really good, sound people. Defensively, they’re very explosive up front. (Bills CB Tre’Davious White) is playing very well in the secondary, and the secondary is doing a great job of getting the ball in their hands. They’re converting interceptions off of tipped balls, overthrows, etc. – but they’re making the plays. They’re very close in coverage, and they do a great job with the guys up front providing pressure on the quarterback. It seems as if we get a carbon copy of these (stout defenses) every week. That’s life in the NFL.”
What is the Buffalo secondary doing that makes them so good?
“They’re just doing a nice job of being sound. They’re very well-coached, and it shows on tape.”
Offensively, they’ve only turned the ball over once. Are they just efficient and in a groove? What do you see there?
“They’re converting third downs, and (Tyrod Taylor) has probably run for half of their first downs. He delivers the ball on time when he’s in the pocket. And, when he’s out of the pocket, he’s been able to pick up the first down and keep them moving down the field. They’ve done a really good job of that.”
Even though they’ve had some coaching changes, does it help that this is the third year in a row you’ve seen the Bills?
“We know the quarterback, but I think everyone else – besides McCoy and (Bills TE) Charles Clay, who was there a year ago – is somewhat different. It’s a different scheme than they were doing a year ago.”
What types of different pressures does a quarterback like Taylor, who can use his legs, put on a defense?
“He extends the drives, so you have to be conscious of where he is all the time.”
Charles Clay is a bit of a different tight end. He isn’t as big as some of the others…
“He can run. He’s a strong, physical man, and his ability to block is a bit underrated from what I’ve seen on tape. He does a fine job. He was a good player in Miami, and now he’s come (to Buffalo) and done a great job. He’s an excellent receiver of the ball.”
With the passing game clicking as of late, how important is it to get the run game going?
“We have to continue to play productive offense. I can’t tell you what that’s going to be each week. We have to attack the defense the best way we see fit.”
Do you see it being difficult to run against this Buffalo defense?
“They’re doing a pretty good job. I mean, people have made runs (against them). They’re big and physical up front. The plan for them – and us – has to unfold on Sunday. If we could run (the ball) 70 times a game, I’d be happy. We probably wouldn’t have 70 snaps, but I’d be happy with that.”
It seems like you’ve been playing against Bills DT Kyle Williams for a while now…
“It’s like he’s in my back pocket. I wish he was on my side (laughs). He’s an excellent football player. Whenever you get him on tape – whether we’re getting ready to play them or I’m watching them play defense (to prepare for) someone else – he jumps off the tape. (It’s evident) how good of a football player he is.”
The Bills have two big defensive tackles in Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. Are they a good tandem?
“They are. They’re both really good athletes, which makes for (being) a good defensive player. They’re guys who can stay on their feet – they’re big, strong and physical. (Bills DE) Jerry Hughes is playing excellent football. Alexander (Bills LB Lorenzo Alexander) last year had a fine season, and he’s picked right up where he left off last year. They have the young player who was inactive last week – (Bills DE) Shaq Lawson from Clemson – who started out the year as the starting left end. They’re well-manned. I thought Adolphus (Bills DT Adolphus Washington) has played well when he’s been in there inside. They have some big, physical guys.”
Is there a possibility Tyler Eifert will play this week?
With Eifert having been out, how big is it that you’ve been able to rely on TE Tyler Kroft?
“Ever since we picked him, he’s been everything we expected. Of that group of tight ends that came out (in the 2015 NFL Draft), we felt really good about him. He was big and strong enough, and a really good receiver of the football. He’s smart, he does a really good job, he’s conscientious – he’s everything you want as a pro. He fits into the right spots and has been able to make the football plays when we’ve needed him to. And C.J. (Uzomah) has as well, when he was playing at the end of last year. He’s been a little bit banged up this year and hasn’t gotten the play time yet, but hopefully he’ll get going and get started.”
When you’re scouting for the NFL Draft and looking at tight ends, how important is it that the player is already established as a pass-catcher?
“That’s a skill that’s a little bit harder to teach, you know what I’m saying? We want them to have a certain knack as a receiver. We’ve been fortunate that the guys we’ve chosen (in the NFL Draft) have had that, yet they’re big men who are 6-5 and 6-6 and weigh 250 (pounds) or 260 or 270 at times, and that’s what you want.”
At what point did you realize the offense was getting into a rhythm?
“I think the first time was in the Green Bay game, when we went down and scored. It was a bit of a relief there, with obviously not scoring in the first two weeks. Going down and scoring that first touchdown it felt like ‘OK, we’re back to playing how we need to.’ I feel like we’ve improved, and we played a lot better this past week. We just need to keep making strides.”
Why have you guys been so streaky in the red zone?
“We’re getting positive plays early. Even on the third downs that we’ve been able to score off of, we’ve gotten good matchups and had a good plan against it. At the end of the day, I feel like we’re making the plays where we weren’t making them early on.”
Are you enjoying this up-tempo type of offense?
“Our tempo has been good. It’s not necessarily a no-huddle or anything like that, but it’s the way we’re getting plays in, and getting in and out of the huddle. We’ve done a good job of that, and it’s helped us.”
When Hue Jackson was offensive coordinator he gave you lots of responsibility. Do you feel like you’re getting back to that now?
“Ever since I’ve been here, they’ve put a lot on me and allowed me to do a lot. That’s part of how our offense works.”
The passing game has been good. Is the next progression to get the running game going?
“You want to hit on all cylinders. The pass game has been doing some good things — that can’t slow down. But we definitely need to run the ball better. Everybody understands that. It’s just finding ways to do that. We’ll practice this week. We’ve got a good plan, we just need to execute it.”
With the way you’re shuffling offensive linemen, is that a challenge for you?
“No, except for seeing who is in the huddle (laughs). It doesn’t matter to me. I expect every single one of them to get the job done. You see new faces in there, or some new way of organizing the line, but it doesn’t bother me.”
The Buffalo Bills look pretty good on tape. What have you seen from them?
“They’re playing really well. They’re sound, they play fast, they run the ball, they’re opportunistic, the ball is getting tipped in the air and they’re making interceptions. They’re playing really well.”
They put their hands on the ball on the backend, don’t they?
“The way they are playing is tight coverage. A lot of the throws are contested. You’ve got to make the tough catch.”
Are they as exotic as other defenses?
“They don’t do a ton of stuff, it’s just that they’re really good at what they do. There are some areas where you prepare, and you don’t know the plan half the time because they are moving around and doing different things. These guys are just sound and they are playing really well.”
What’s your comfort level with Tyler Kroft?
“Tyler has done a great job. Even going into this game, its one of those things, I was talking with some of the other guys and saying Tyler has been playing really well, and that he’s going to get an opportunity to really show what he can do. He proved that last week. You’ve got to keep getting better, and keep finding ways to get all our guys involved. He’s part of it, obviously, with the two touchdowns — and a great catch on that second one. He’s just been a guy who’s been solid.”
What does one win do for confidence?
“We wish it would’ve happened sooner, but it didn’t. We are where we are, but the feeling after a win feels a whole lot better just around the facility and locker room for everybody. The goal is to keep feeling that way.”
This isn’t necessarily a must-win game, but would you say it’s big?
“It’s important. For us to achieve what we think we can and what we’re trying to accomplish, we need to find a way to win this one. This one is important. Like you said, with a 2-3 record, you put yourself in a better position than 1-4.”
It has to be on everybody’s minds that this is finally another home game, especially coming off a big win.
“Hopefully the city comes out and supports us and gives us that advantage that we can have here. That’s what we expect when we play at home. We expect the fans to be into it and supporting you, and I think we will have that.”
You have had Giovani Bernard wide open for TDs in each of the last two weeks. What’s the play call for him this week?
“Both have been pretty short passes. Last week, he was pretty much wide open. This week, he had a long run. We’ll find a way to throw him a nice short one that he can take a long way.”
If a play doesn’t work early in the game, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor hasn’t necessarily given up on it for use later in the game. Is that a trend you’ve been seeing?
“There’s a lot that can go on if the play doesn’t work. If you feel like the play is still good — maybe one guy just missed it or missed a block, or whatever it may be — you can’t get away from it just because of one time. If you can go back and talk about it and get it corrected, the next time it could be big.”
It seems like Bill Lazor wants the play calls to be balanced. Would you agree?
“That’s what we want. If you look at the end of the Green Bay game, we’re close. If Joe (Mixon) doesn’t slip at the end, who knows what would’ve happened. But we were getting five, six yards a carry at the end of that game too. You want to be balanced, and you want to be in position where, at the end of the game, you need to run the ball to try and win it.”