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Coach Talk: Marvin Lewis talks finishing strong, locker room culture

We look at what was asked of Marvin Lewis this week and what it all means.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After what seemed like an eternity, the Bengals finally won a game in Week 13. It was a pretty strong effort by the Bengals in defeating the Eagles at home. This week, Marvin Lewis talked about that game and the upcoming game against the winless Browns in his weekly press conference. Let’s take a look at what he had to say, and then decipher it for ourselves, breaking through the nonsensical coach talk.

Question: Does the defense feed off a of a three-and-out on opening drives?

Lewis Comment: I don’t know if they know those things until people bring it to their attention. It’s good to get the three-and-out to start the game. When we choose to kick off like we do, we want to have the opportunity to pin the ball back and get the offense in good field position. We were able to do that.

Commentary: It’s kind of a bizarre question. Well, actually it’s a really bizarre question. By asking if the defense feeds off of three-and-outs on opening drives (plural), it implies that this is something the Bengals do frequently, and asks Lewis based on these frequent occurrences, how the team responds. The reality is that prior to Sunday’s win, the Bengals had not forced a three-and-out on an opening drive since their Week 3 loss to the Denver Broncos, so there certainly isn’t enough of a sample size for Lewis to give a good answer. And if one wants an answer, they can look at the 29 points the Bengals gave up to the Broncos despite the opening three-and-out.

Here are the Bengals’ defensive efforts on their opponent’s opening drive:

  • Eagles: three-and-out
  • Ravens: gave up a touchdown
  • Bills: gave up a touchdown
  • Giants: gave up a touchdown
  • Redskins: gave up a touchdown
  • Browns: six plays for 19 yards, then a punt
  • Patriots: gave up a field goal
  • Cowboys: gave up a touchdown
  • Dolphins: gave up a touchdown
  • Broncos: three-and-out (lost the game)
  • Steelers: three-and-out (lost the game)
  • Jets: gave up a touchdown

In seven out of 12 games, the Bengals have given up a touchdown on an opening drive, and have only three times held an opponent to a three-and-out at the start of the game.

Question: What is the key to finishing strong after a rough patch in the middle of a season?

Lewis Comment: In any season, finishing strong is a matter of continuing to play, execute and prepare well. We have to win the situations that occur on Sundays.

Commentary: Another way to ask this question would be why do Lewis’ teams win late in the year in seasons when they have been eliminated from playoff contention? And conversely, why do they lose late in the year in seasons when they are making a playoff push, eliminating any chance at a first round bye?

Question: Is there an extra level to it when you’re trying to overcome losses and figure things out?

Lewis Comment: It’s always pretty much the same. You’re always looking for the same things. That doesn’t change.

Commentary: What Lewis says is true. You are always looking for the same things - which are good players who execute and make good plays. But the frustration arises when the team seemingly refuses to replace players who don’t make good plays. You can only drop a bucket down an empty well so long before you try to get water from another well. I think fans would appreciate it if the team started to look at some other wells from time to time, when the current well only delivers arid dust.

Question: Does the locker room culture you’ve built bear its fruit now when you have to focus on staying the course?

Lewis Comment: It’s important that we continue to bring everybody forward in that situation all the time, and make sure they’re handling their responsibilities. You don’t want to let your teammate down.

Commentary: I’m not quite sure what course the question is referring to, but waiting until the team is practically eliminated from the playoffs seems like an odd time to start focusing. And if your locker room culture doesn’t bear any fruit until its too late, then perhaps you need a new culture. Because the culture should not let you get into that situation to begin with.

Question: Has there been anything notably different with the defense since the bye?

Lewis Comment: We continue to stress the execution on defense. I think the guys have done a good job of that. We’ve had our moments, like giving up the fourth-down touchdown yesterday, where we don’t execute right. We have to just stay consistent with that and avoid those errors. That’s big.

At times a team can strap some plays together and maybe drive the field. We have to do a good job and stop the drive when those opportunities arise. We had three more interceptions in our hands yesterday that we didn’t catch. We have to do those things. We also have to cause more fumbles, and when you have opportunities, to continue to catch the ball with those interceptions.

Commentary: The general consensus is that the Bengals’ defense has played better since the bye week. There is some truth to that, and with many saying their schedule was front-loaded, it makes sense that the team’s performances would get better as the competition got less formidable.

That being said, if you factor in that the game against the Redskins was a five-quarter game, the Bengals defense gave up 91.8 yards per quarter before the bye. They are giving up 85.2 yards per quarter after the bye. So that’s an improvement, but not exactly night and day. We will see if the momentum continues against a very bad Browns’ offense.

Question: It seemed you all dictated where you wanted Wentz to throw ...

Lewis Comment: He threw a couple of balls that they shouldn’t have opportunities to complete. Those were disappointing because we weren’t in the position we needed to be in. We have to be consistent and stay where we belong.

Commentary: Apparently the Bengals dictated that Wentz throw the ball to Vontaze Burfict.