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Bengals not letting up, out to crush Ravens…

If you thought for a moment that the Cincinnati Bengals might rest their regulars against the visiting Baltimore Ravens this Sunday, then think again…

It's a must-win game for the Ravens just to have a chance to qualify for a wild-card slot in the AFC playoffs….the Bengals have already locked up an AFC North Division title.

But Marvin Lewis, head coach of the Bengals, made it clear yesterday that he has no sympathy for the team that employed him as a defensive coordinator when the Ravens won their first Super Bowl back in the 2000 season.

Marvin Lewis’ statement wasn’t surprising considering all that will be on the line Sunday against Baltimore, but news nonetheless. He confirmed the Bengals will be playing all their starters full go against the Ravens in hopes of landing the No. 3 seed.

Other topics touched up on during his only press conference of the week were reasons for success in the red zone, offensive records falling, defensive depth, the play of Elvis Dumervil and maturity inside the locker room.

Here are the highlights:

Marvin Lewis on the reason for such success offensively in the red zone this year: 

“I think it’s everything. It’s execution, most definitely. That’s the biggest thing. You have to be efficient with the ball. You’ve got to good protection when you need it. You’ve got to be able to run it when you can. The field gets compressed down there so you’ve got to be quick and efficient with the ball and understand the defense. The 11 guys on the offense have to see the looks and the quarterback has to do an excellent job. The quarterback did a phenomenal job on Sunday of getting us in the right spot and delivering the ball where it needed to be. That was huge. Andy took all of the guess work out of things Sunday. I think that’s big. Throughout his three seasons here he’s done such a great job in the red zone and he continues to.”

On Andy Dalton closing in on franchise records for touchdowns and passing yards: 

“I think he keeps pressing forward. At 14 games this year I think his numbers were better than they were a year ago, and last year’s numbers were better than the first year. His touchdowns-to-interceptions, interceptions were exactly the same at 14 games as they were last year at 16 games and touchdowns were ahead. Those are the things. Now he’s moved ahead more. I think you have to keep on doing that. That’s the way quarterbacks are judged, that and wins. No doubt about that. Now he’s gotten his team into the playoffs three years in a row and now he’s got to push over that next hump, which is key. But he continues to do a great job, each and every challenge that comes at him he continues to be up to it and he just keeps pressing forward.”

On where the credit belongs in the defense handling injuries and ranking in the top 5: 

“It’s big to the coaching and the leadership of the defensive guys. Guys have stepped up and continue to mature. That’s great. The Michael Johnsons, who continue to put the team on their back. Peko. Domata goes down and its fourth-and-17 and he’s making sure the receiver is down. That’s a huge play for a defensive tackle who just rushed the passer and now on fourth-and-17 he’s the guy that’s finishing the receiver on the catch. Those are things that mean a lot and shows you what it means to those guys.”

On how the Ravens' Elvis Dumervil has played: 

“I think he’s done a good job. I think Elvis has done well. He’s fit right into their scheme and they’ve done a nice job of using him and utilizing his skills. I’ve been impressed with him. He had a brief period in Denver where they tried to go to the 3-4, the year Mike Nolan was out there, and then they flipped back from it but I think that Elvis has done a nice job. He’s showed he’s being a pro with his flexibility of doing things.”

On how maturity has kept celebration surrounding AFC North to a minimum: 

“We’re trying not to let anything change. The focus was winning the football game. That was it. That was all we could control and it comes down to the same thing again this week. If we win the football game, that’s all we can control and we keep moving on. We’ve been in that mode for awhile now and that’s all we can keep doing. I keep trying to say it, and I know that it sounds simplistic but it literally is that.”

On when he felt like he had the type of players that can handle success: 

“I think you gain maturity, you gain history – what’s the word? Battle scars, battle wounds as you go. I think you get guys that build upon that. We started out there this season with a trip down to Atlanta early and that’s part of that, to go down there and practice against a team that had been a perennial playoff team with high expectations and good players. It let our guys see what other good players look like day to day on the practice field and to compete against those guys down there with the Falcons. It was a great experience for us and we continue to grow from that. But it was great for our quarterback, great for our skill guys to go down there and compete against their guys. We continued to grow from that point. That was a good start for us. That’s what competition is. Every time somebody drops their hat in the ring we’ve got to be ready to go. That’s what we need to do.”

Well, the ball is clearly in the Ravens' court right now.  John Harbaugh has a streak of 5 straight playoff-year appearances on the line. That also includes 3 AFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl victory. Marvin Lewis intends to knock the Ravens out of contention for the first time in 6 years. This game has suddenly become personal….