The 3-1 Bengals are in first place in the AFC North in October for the first time under head coach Zac Taylor and he's there with his guys.
A look at the flip card from Thursday night's gut check of a 24-21 victory over the Jaguars at a packed Paul Brown Stadium teeming with angst and adrenaline shows that 41 of those 53 players on the card were brought in under his watch.
And four years ago when the Jags manhandled the Bengals on both lines in a 23-7 loss they rushed for just 29 yards while Jacksonville pounded for 149, only three players on offense (Joe Mixon, Trey Hopkins, C.J. Uzomah), one on defense (Jordan Evans ) and two specialists (Clark Harris and Kevin Huber) played in both that one and Thursday night. Slot receiver Tyler Boyd was inactive.
Uzomah, Thursday's quick-thinking hero and the coolest guy in America with matching suits and sneakers, has insisted Taylor has mixed together a unique brew in the locker room. Certainly different than the team he broke in with, the 2015 Bengals, the last Cincinnati team to go to the playoffs.
"This is just a new team. I honestly, it's like an afterthought. The past is the past right now," Uzomah said after he got a game ball. "I am just focused on this team and the culture and the people we have on this team are completely different than any team that I've had since I've been here so we just know. If it's a tight game we know in our heads we are going to win and we have to go out there and execute. We know we will.
After losing 12 one-score games in Taylor's first two seasons and winning one, the Bengals have won two at the gun in the first 18 days of the season. Uzomah seems to think this crew doesn't have guys that take it personally when they get coached.
"The culture in the locker room is huge. This isn't a job like, 'Oh, we're just going to work, play football. Go to these meetings.' We're the homies. We're brothers in there. We're grinding, having a good time talking to each other, chirping. When we chirp at practice it's not a knock. We're trying to make the other person better. That's the thing that is unique. Sometimes people take that personally and this year we're taking it as, maybe I'll just step up and do my job. The locker room and what the coaches have instilled in us is huge."
Taylor and the Bengals have dipped into free agency more than they ever have during the last two offseasons, so this isn't a playoff neophyte team like Marvin Lewis' 2005 Bengals or even his 2011 Bengals. Taylor has about a dozen players that have been in a postseason game elsewhere.
"You can't change overnight. When Coach Taylor and the staff come in and says this is who we are, this is what we are going to be, people have to understand it's very tough to say, all right we are flipping a switch this is how it's going to be," Uzomah said. "This being his third year now, all right cool, we've got some pieces, we got some guys in free agency which is something I hadn't really seen since I have been here either. We've got good culture guys who bought in and just good players. They are buying into the system and what we are trying to do. We've just got the pieces."
INJURY UPDATE: It usually seems like the injury news matches the news on the field. Taylor was upbeat that all the injured players, from running back Joe Mixon's nicked ankle on the last drive of the game to free safety Jessie Bates III's concerning neck injury that took him out of the first game of his career, have a chance to play against the Packers a week from Sunday at PBS.
Some may not play. But if they can't go then, it sounds like they're at least up for Detroit in two weeks.
"It's moving in a positive direction with every guy who's on the injury report right now," Taylor said. "That's Chido (Awuzie), that's Joe Mixon, that's Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jessie, and then Tee (Higgins) and Ricardo Allen. I think all those guys will have a chance. It just remains to be seen on Monday and Wednesday where all those guys are at."
COMPARING SEAMLES JOE, A-ROD: With Joe Burrow teeing it up against one of the all-time greats in Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, Elias offers a look at their first 14 starts and it can't be much closer.
Burrow has 22 touchdown passes, nine interceptions and a passer rating of 94.8. Rodgers has 23 TDs, 12 interceptions and a rating of 91.8. Burrow is completing 66.9 percent of his passes at 7.2 yards per throw. Rogers was 63.5 percent, 7.4 yards respectively. Burrow has a 5-8-1 record, Rodgers was 5-9.