JONATHAN GANNON: Okay, just to recap of the game. Good, hard-fought battle. Good to get a win. Obviously, we need to keep the points down a little bit; 33 points is a lot of points to give up. Our offense obviously put a lot of points on the board, and we won the game.
Some things to clean up. Did some good things in the game that I was pleased with, especially defending an offense like that, and we know where we need to get better and improve for this week moving forward.
Q. How significant a loss is S C.J. Gardner-Johnson? (EJ Smith)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, it’s tough to see that because he was in pain. That’s a tough injury. All injuries are tough, but really felt bad for him because he was hurting pretty good. He’s played really good football for us, and it’s going to be like, we’ve had some guys that have gone in and out of the lineup and we all have to pick up the slack and be able to function without him.
So that’s what we’ll do.
Q. What’s the biggest challenge with putting S Reed Blankenship in there as a rookie and trying to figure it out with him? (Dave Zangaro)
JONATHAN GANNON: I want to say this: Reed had a very good game. He came in there and that’s a tough spot. But our guys, like they’re psychologically prepped for that to happen. What I mean by that is everyone that has a jersey on game day, the head coach talks about roles, everyone has a role, but that can change like that [snapping fingers].
So those guys that are backups right now, they prepare like they’re going to be in and starting, so it’s really a feather in Reed’s hat. He prepared the correct way. It’s also really good coaches. Talk about D-Will [Defensive Passing Game Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach Dennard Wilson] and DK [Assistant Defensive Backs Coach D.K. McDonald]. For a guy to come in the game like that and play winning football, plus the trickle-down effect of the different packages you have. Going into the two minute we were saying, who is playing this spot, who is playing this spot. You always have a pair and a spare for each shot.
Obviously, you saw they did a really good job with him because he played well and then we could solve problems with other groups that we needed to have up. And then even then he got nicked I think, and [S] K’Von [Wallace] comes in has a PBU on third down in the red zone, which was a huge play.
So, it’s really kudos to the player and the coaches to be ready to go, but our guys know, man, your number can get called at any time and you can’t be the weak link when you go in.
I was proud of how that unfolded.
Q. In terms of how you utilize your safeties, we have seen more of S Marcus Epps in the box and more of S C.J. Gardner-Johnson in the post. S Reed Blankenship in college played more in the box than he did in the post. Does that change how you utilize… (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: We’re always going to look to deploy our guys to accentuate their skillset by call, but with doing that, you have to be aware of what the offense sees as well.
So, we’ll have a plan for that moving forward. I always talk about those safeties being mirrored positions and their skillsets have to be unique and well-rounded to do that, which all of our guys that play for us in the back end have those qualities.
We will have a plan moving forward, but I am not really too concerned about that.
Q. When you look at Tennessee on tape, what did the Bengals do to limit Titans RB Derrick Henry to 39 yards rushing? Was it scheme or just individual… (Merrill Reese)
JONATHAN GANNON: They played well as a unit together. You talk about they kind of bottled him up pretty good. Run defense, it’s all 11, and they were fitting very well together. I thought [Bengals Defensive Coordinator] Lou [Anarumo] did a good job of changing up the spacing, their defensive coordinator. They have a good front, just like us.
They controlled the line of scrimmage for the most part and didn’t let them get going. Then as you see, they possessed the ball on offense, so they kind of limited his touches there. It was really a low-possession type game that game, which Sunday night was a high-possession game. You just don’t know how the game is going to kick out.
I think they played complementary football, Cincinnati. Kept them off the field and had some extended drives, and when he did get his touches, they did a good job, all 11, to really bottle him up and control the line of scrimmage and tackle him.
I’ve played against this guy multiple times being in that division for three years with him, and he’s a tall order. He’s one the premier players in the world at his position, so we have our challenge cut out for us.
Q. How much do you think having the two new defensive tackles has helped DT Fletcher Cox? (Reuben Frank)
JONATHAN GANNON: I think it’s helped him with the workload. We talked about the one game where he played that many plays. I don’t love that, that we talked about. I think Fletch is such a unicorn because he can play anything you ask him to play from all the spacings, all the different positions in those spacings. He doesn’t have a weak spot in his game.
He can plug and play around when certain guys are in, but I think that has helped a little bit just because of his workload and to really put him — and it kind of freed us up a little bit to put him in some positions to really affect the game, which he did.
I don’t know if he knows — he’ll get a game ball. He was lights out on Sunday night.
Q. What about having those two guys, DT Linval Joseph and DT Ndamukong Suh, obviously with Titans RB Derrick Henry coming up, how big have they been in the run game for you guys? (Martin Frank)
JONATHAN GANNON: They’ve both played well in the run game for the last two games. Again, that’s all 11. Even my opening statement, the explosives have to come down, guys. That’s when you’re going to give up a lot of points. If you give explosives up, you’re going to be in the red zone and you have to fight them in the red zone, keep points off the board, but explosive plays lead to points typically in the run and pass game.
So, it’s not just those two guys. All 11 have to consistently do a good job in the run and pass game to not allow a team to go up and down the field and score.
I’m pleased where they are at and they’re going to play huge roles as we keep moving forward, and I think they’ll continue to get better and better just with our terminology, what we’re asking them to do. They’ve both been fantastic coming in here [and asking] what do we need to do to help the team win.
So they’ll continue to get better.
Q. On the subject of explosives, can you take us through the Packers RB AJ Dillon touchdown run and the Packers WR Christian Watson one? (Tim McManus)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, we lost gap integrity on the AJ Dillon one. [The Watson one was] too aggressive of a call by me honestly. At that point up in the game you’re up 14, nine minutes left, and the call I did not love and stressed our guys out, and that’s what happened.
So that one is on me. Like, come on, man, keep the ball in front of you there. The game is in your favor, and we let them back in the game because of really the call.
Q. You utilized a 4-2 front early in the game. You guys have kind of gone with that and have struggled in stopping that. Is that scheme related to call or is that execution? (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: A little bit of both. We were in that package because it was second and pass and you can’t sub versus them, so they completed the screen and then we’re in that next snap there.
So, it doesn’t matter — you know, our guys know this — like we have to do better in all our spacings. You’re looking for premium execution in whatever call you’re in. You are going to have to be able to lineup and stop people whoever is out there and whatever call you’re in.
I think that it’s just a couple adjustments here and there. I was excited walking down. We talked about some things that can help us. We talked with the head coach. He gave us a couple ideas that I like.
We’re not going to change anything we do, but just a couple minor adjustments with hands and footwork and things like that, or you build in a couple things off each front that can help in how teams are trying to attack us, combat that.
Q. With Reed Blankenship, can you elaborate what he has done over the course of the season when he wasn’t playing to earn that spot, and how much can you learn about a guy when he’s not playing? (Bo Wulf)
JONATHAN GANNON: That is honestly a better question for D-Will [Dennard Wilson] and DK [D.K. McDonald] because I am not in there with them all the time. I know this: The guy is a pro. Like he came in here as rookie and said, I know this is my role right now, but when I’m called upon, I need to be ready to play good football. You saw him in training camp.
What I can answer for your question, Bo, is I know that the guy takes elite notes. He asks a lot of questions. He doesn’t memorize or regurgitate. He understands. There is a difference between memorizing my adjustments and the defenses and understanding the why behind that.
He’s obviously very smart, like all those guys in that room are, and that’s a thinking position. He is a big, physical guy that can move. Once he gets comfortable, I think the more and more he plays, the better off he’ll play.
I think just his want-to and his attitude of getting himself ready to play whenever he was called upon, that’s what probably impressed me the most. A lot of guys [will say] I’ll just wait a year, two years. It’s not my year. Down the road I’m going to be a player.
No. You can’t have that attitude in this league. [Head Coach] Nick [Sirianni] honestly, the culture that he sets for this whole team, it isn’t that.
Q. That comfort factor you were just talking about with S Reed Blankenship, has that helped CB Josiah Scott as he continues to fill in for CB Avonte Maddox? (John McMullen)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, I mean, Josiah just the same way. He’s played good football with us, and that’s a tough position. I mean, they’re all tough positions, but the nickel position in our defense, we ask a lot of that guy. That’s why the other day when you guys asked, I feel very comfortable with Josiah in there playing good football for us.
He does a lot of things extremely well, what you’re looking for for the nickel to do, and he handles it mentally. He is extremely intelligent. He is physical. He is violent. He can cover.
So, he’s done a good job with us. The 11 that we have out there, I haven’t been weirded out once all year where I’m like, oh, boy, are we okay? I really haven’t.
So that’s a kudos to [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman] to get the right people in here and a kudos to the coaches to get those guys ready to play and ready to play winning football.
Q. You mentioned S K’Von Wallace. He has found himself in some high leverage snaps, even though his snaps have gone down. How has he handled his role change? (Reuben Frank)
JONATHAN GANNON: Third down, too. Those are high leverage snaps. You talk about, hey, let’s put this guy in on dime. Well, I tell guys all the time, okay, it might be play 27 and it’s third and 5. You need a huge stop, and this guy is going in for the first play. There is no rhythm to that.
So, I appreciate K’Von being able to do that because he can. He’s started football games for us. I feel very comfortable with K’Von and the job that he does. We put a lot on his plate too, because he’s backing up two positions — really four positions honestly when you talk about adding all the packages.
He’s always mentally ready to go. He practices his tail off out there. When we need him, he goes in there and plays well. So happy that he’s doing that.