The game plan in getting the ball out of Joe Burrow's hands was helpful today ...
"It was. Joe did a great job getting it out, the receivers did a great job creating separation, and hats off to our offensive line. It was a little unexpected, but no one batted an eye. They stuck together and provided a ton of energy for this team today."
You abused the Titans on third downs and red zones ...
"I think the bottom line is the players believe in each other. We're at the point now where you can give them a lot of calls, and they're going to work. A couple of times Joe extended the play, and those linemen blocked for as much as four, five, six, seven, eight seconds. The receivers kept working and Joe found them. That has nothing to do with me. That has everything to do with those guys finding a way to make it happen."
Does this win validate what you've been preaching?
"We don't need to validate it to anybody. For the guys in the locker room, this is the expectation. They're happy and excited. We earned this, and we needed it, especially going into the bye. These players have done everything we asked them to do. The reward hasn't been in the win column, but to say anybody is shocked would be untrue, because we know we've been capable of this all along."
What does it say about Quinton Spain getting up to speed, and what led to the decision to putting him in?
"Jim Turner and Ben Martin have done an unbelievable job. This offensive line has been underappreciated these last few weeks. Joe's been hit a few times on extending plays when he leaves the pocket, and he knows it. But these guys have been improving every single week and are buying into what Jim and Ben are telling them. You get a group of guys like Hakeem Adeniji, Billy Price, and Fred Johnson, who have been in that locker room for a while now. It's next man up. The expectation is that they'll play like a starter, and that's what they did. They were ready for their opportunity. None of them were nervous. Jim and Ben had them in the meeting room the second they got to the stadium. They were going through cadence, code words, and on-the-ball calls. We knew Quinton was going to be ready — he's been here for 24 hours, it's time to go play ball. They got him up to speed and he bought in. We got him in there earlier than anticipated, but we needed his presence — needed a big body. He did a great job. All of them did a great job. I couldn't be prouder of that entire room, starting with the coaching staff and ending with the players. It's awesome to watch those guys embody what the whole team is about: Next man up, everyone's ready, and everyone's buying in. When you get your opportunity, you make the most of it. I'm really proud of those guys."
Did the offensive line get the game ball?
"A game ball went to Jessie Bates for the turnover. Vonn Bell should have had one with the turnover. Billy Price got a game ball — he's about everything we want our players to be about. He's a guy who came in with expectations and never wavered from that. His opportunity hasn't always been exactly what he thought it would be, but he comes in with a smile on his face every day and goes to work. He encourages everybody, (saying) "What can I do to get better? Do you need me to play on the scout team? Do you need me to play guard?" His personality has never wavered for one second. I couldn't be happier for Billy because he's earned this opportunity. You never know how things are going to shake out, but I'm really proud of the person, the man, and the player he is. Our guys can learn a lot from Billy."
What does it say about two scrutinized units — defensive line and offensive line — playing so well today?
"They do their best not to listen to it. It's probably impossible. Bottom line, the message after the last game was, 'Stick together.' Our theme all along has been, 'It's about us.' We don't care about the people trying to attack us and break this thing apart. What we have in this locker room is stronger than anybody can know. If you're not in there, you just don't know. We keep believing in each other, and the defense stepped up big time. Our goal was to limit them to 3.9 yards per carry, and they got 7.5 yards per carry. Sometimes, it just doesn't play out the way you thought. They loaded up when you needed to. They created almost two turnovers and got some stops on critical third downs. They found other ways to get it done other than the way we planned on going into it. Great job by Lou Anarumo, the staff, and those guys to buy in and get it done."
What can you say about all of the wide receivers' contested catches?
"It's overdue. Tyler Boyd's play — we were owed that by the football gods, and it played out in our favor. And when you look at Auden Tate — I looked at the stat sheet last week, and Auden Tate had just four catches going into the game — and he plays such a critical role for us on special teams. He comes in here every day, just waiting for his opportunity just doing everything we ask him to do. And I told him on Wednesday; "I didn't realize you had only four catches. We have to get you more involved because you've earned every opportunity that you should be getting." And he goes out there and on the play of the game, makes the most difficult catch we've had all season and creates the first down that wins us the game. That just speaks to Auden, and what this team is going to be moving forward, with guys like that that just have the right stuff. When your opportunity comes, you have to be ready to make the most of it with a smile on your face. Auden, Billy, and guys like that, it's just tremendous to see them do that."
After Joe's interception, you went right back to him ...
"Yes. All of our receivers we trust to make those plays. It was Auden's moment right there. In terms of throwing it and not running it, there was 2:07 left, if I'm not mistaken. There were some clock management things we were talking through, and we felt comfortable throwing the ball there, and not really hurting ourselves."
How much can this win help the team turn the corner?
"It validates everything these guys our working toward. It doesn't surprise any of us, but you do need to see it right in front of your face that you've done it. Now we have to go do it again in the next game, and the next game. There is something to be said for that. This does mean a lot. It's going to do great things for us this season. We needed this win going into the bye, and it verifies everything these guys are working for and believing in. Now they have it in their memory —'We've done this.' And we can do it again. That's tremendous."
An offensive lineman's best friend is a quarterback that gets the ball out of his hands quickly, especially when that lineman hasn't played a lot. That was the case for your starters today. Was that part of the game plan?
"Yeah. We had to do that this week. We were in a unique circumstance with four new guys in there on the line. They played great, but we had to help them. We got the ball out fast, ran the ball efficiently and did what we needed to do."
The Titans had third-down and red-zone issues on defense coming into today's game. You guys were able to score two red-zone TDs on third down. What was it like to be able to exploit that to your advantage?
"That's really a four-point play. We talk about that all the time. If you don't get it, you kick a field goal. But if you get it, you score a touchdown. So we stole four points there."
You converted 10 of 15 third-down opportunities today. Why were you so efficient in that area?
"We have great guys on the outside that know what they're doing in zone coverage and are able to beat man (coverage). And the offensive line played great. We got the ball out of my hand fast, the guys fought for extra yardage and we got the job done."
Earlier, Zac Taylor said the team felt like you guys should be 4-2. Is the team that we saw today what he was referring to when he said that?
"Yeah. We know we were talking about it all week in practice. We don't feel like a 1-5 football team. One or two plays go our ways over the last couple weeks and we're 6-2 or 7-1, but we know that we didn't make those plays until today and it feels good to make them."
What does a win against a team with a record like this do for you guys, especially given the adversity in recent weeks?
"It gives us a lot of momentum going into the bye week — a much-needed bye week, by the way. We needed the win to feel good about ourselves, and so now we're able to enjoy these next couple of days."
Why is the bye week much needed?
"Injury-wise, body-wise — everyone just needs to get their mind right. We have a chance to rattle off a lot of wins in the last part of the season. It starts in Pittsburgh. That's going to be a big game, and I'm excited to play in that one. But I'm going to enjoy this bye week first."
What are you going to do during the bye week?
Can you believe the TD catch Tyler Boyd made where he spun around and the ball was right on him?
"That was an awesome play."
What did you see as you were throwing that pass?
"I saw him kind of ripping out of (the coverage) at the top, and so I was just going to put it over there in space and let him make the play. And he did. He got open for me, and he did the rest."
In the second quarter, Auden Tate fought hard to get a first down on a catch. What do plays like that do for you and the offense?
"Those are just winning plays with great players that play tough and play great when they're needed. I can't say enough good things about Auden. He comes to work every single day and doesn't get a lot of touches, but he blocks his tail off in the run game, does the dirty work, and makes plays like that on third down and the play at the end of the game that really sealed it."
The offensive line didn't give up a sack today and your mobility had a lot to do with that. What was going through your mind on the play early in the game where you were scrambling and breaking tackles in the backfield, and then ended up getting a completed pass?
"'Stay up. Get as many yards as I can.' It was a third-down play, so just get the first down if I can. On third downs, I try to extend it a little longer than I normally would. I was able to break out of some tackles and get a few yards."
Was that play an example of your maturation, where you recognize things like down and distance?
"It is. If we're close to field-goal range, you've got to get rid of the ball quick or throw it away if it's not there. If you're on the 15 or 20 and it's third down, you can extend the play a little longer."
You've spread the ball around to a lot of different receivers the last few weeks. It seems like you can spread it around to about anyone right now ...
"Yeah. That's what our offense does. We have a lot of great players who understand how to get open, so I'm going to throw it to the open guy when it calls for that. I'm never going to zero in on any one guy. Anyone can get the ball at any time."
Some of the Titans defenders seemed to be talking to you, but in a way that seemed more out of respect instead of trash talk. Is that kind of what happened?
"(Laughs) Yeah. Something like that."
What does it mean to have veteran players coming up to you and doing that?
"It feels good. Most of that came after those plays I extended that they didn't think I'd be able to do. That's something that has kind of happened throughout my career. People don't think of me as a guy that can wiggle in and out and extend plays and be an athletic guy, but that's a big part of my game."
What does Giovani Bernard mean to you guys?
"He's a great leader for us. He talks to us before every game, and he plays one of the most critical roles on our team. He ran hard today. You see, he had that touchdown catch. With the game on the line, Gio's going to make a play for you."
Your rapport with Tee Higgins seems to get better each week. What has led to that clicking more, especially recently?
"He's a great player, and we've had a couple months now to really understand each other. We have a couple great players on this team, and I'm excited for the future with Tee."
What does it mean to you when Giovani Bernard and Samaje Perine are sacrificing themselves in blitz pickup to give you an opportunity to make these plays?
"Yeah, that's the unsung part of being a running back. That's something you have to do, and those guys are the best at it. They understand what protection calls are made, and they understand the fronts, the blitzes, whose guy is theirs. And then they're physical with their block."