Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor
On the biggest takeaway from today's game:
"Just the fight of our guys. They really gave us an opportunity there in the second half. It was kind of a strange second half. The offense only had three possessions. Defense held them to seven points there. Our guys fought hard all the way through that onside kick. We had our opportunities. We didn't make the most of some of them, but I thought the guys that took the field today really gave us a lot of heart and effort, and gave us an opportunity to win. We just fell a little bit short."
On the regular season overall and thoughts on preparing for the postseason:
"The season is always full of its ups and downs. It really comes down to which teams can handle the adversity the best, and to never get too high and to never get too low. I thought our team did a great job of that. Responding in the face of some tough adversity and handling success and some moments well. We finished the season, aside from the loss today, on a really good note and with a lot of confidence. That really does matter in this league. To finish, going into mid-January in the playoffs, feeling like we're playing our best football and playing with a lot of confidence. Our guys really feel that right now. It's the biggest game that any of these players have ever had wearing a Bengals jersey, next week at our home stadium. We had tremendous crowds these last couple weeks when we were at home, and we're expecting our best one yet whenever we find out when we're playing and who we're playing. Our guys are excited for that opportunity."
On WR Ja'Marr Chase breaking the franchise record in his first season as a Bengal:
"Well, when we drafted him, he said he was going to break all the records and it was hard to know if that was going to be true or not. He's put himself in a position to do that, not just relying on his talent, but becoming a professional really since day one and in his consistency over the course of the season. That's one of the reasons why you want to play him in a game like this – for an opportunity to get a couple more yards, to put himself in a position to do something really special – because he is about what we want to be about. We want our best players to have the best work ethic and come to work every single day and be consistent with their demeanor and their actions. Ja'Marr has been that for us. Just really proud of him and the season that he's had."
On whether there is an expectation that guys will be off the COVID/Reserve list in time for the playoffs:
"I do [expect that guys will be off the reserve list]. Those guys have felt good, especially these last couple days. Their five days is up now. We expect to get those guys back and ready to go this week."
On whether there is a message he wants to convey to the team going into the playoff week:
"This is what we've been striving for all along to be quite honest with you. We've been on our guys to be consistent with how they practice every day and raise the standard so that when you get to this moment, we don't have to change what we're doing. I think that's why I've got a lot of confidence in the group of men in that locker room, because I don't need them to raise their standard of play and how they practice. They've been doing that all year and that's why we're in the position that we're in. That's going to serve us well. We'll see how it plays out, but our guys are going to be ready."
On having confidence in knowing that a loss today will not impact the momentum going into playoff week:
"You saw how these guys finished. They made a good play on the touchdown at the end of the game, but our defense had held up really strong for us over the course of the game. You saw the offense put together a 14-play drive when it had been a pretty tough day for us. They finished with a touchdown and put us in position. Then you watch the special teams almost recover an onside kick. That just tells you that winning the game was important to them. Giving their best effort was important. We're going to rely on a bunch of these guys going forward. They're going to have to be pulled up and play for us. Some guys are playing in a lot of heavy roles for us anyway. Disappointed in the loss, but certainly proud of the effort that these guys displayed today."
On whether WR Ja'Marr Chase lobbied himself to play in this game so that he could get the record:
"No. Not at all. He didn't for one second bring it up. I brought it up to him. I told him what the plan was for him. He was just appreciative, but again he didn't lobby for one second. I think if he was told you're out, you're not playing, like TB (WR Tyler Boyd) and (WR) Tee (Higgins), he would have been completely comfortable with that. He would just try to break it another year. Again, we just appreciate how he has gone about his business and the relationship he's had with his teammates and coaches has been superb."
View the best game action photos from the Bengals closing the 2021 regular season against the Cleveland Browns.
On whether the all-time record was discussed or if the franchise record was all they planned for this week:
"I told him he was going to have to put himself pretty close to be in a position to get another play there. It just wasn't quite there. Again, we don't want it to disrupt from trying to win the game. Sometimes you can get down that hole of trying to force something and disrupt it. Those were plays we were going to call early in the game anyway. We just put Ja'Marr in there. He didn't have to be the target on those plays. He just happened to be the guy that was open. Again, he made the most out of his opportunities today."
On the relief of breaking the record early so that Ja'Marr Chase wasn't in the game too long:
"It's nice. The health of the players is always something you think about. There is never a perfect way to play it out, but it worked out well. Again, he made some plays for us that put us in a good position there early on, especially with that explosive one he had there on the run alert. He helped put us in a good position."
On what his philosophy was on deciding to rest most of the starters:
"Again, no perfect decision there. Just felt like we need to be healthy – perfectly healthy – going into next week. There were so many things out of our control in terms of where the seeding was going to be, that we just felt it was best to rest some key guys."
On whether he was paying attention to the Tennessee/Houston game during the game:
"No. I saw a score at one point. I don't know what the final was."
On knowing that QB Joe Burrow will be at his best mental and physical state going into the playoffs:
"It's important. He is certainly a key player on our team. His approach has always been second to none. He's right though. There is a mental strain through the course of the season. He probably didn't even know what that felt like until it hit him that you're not preparing to go and beat the Cleveland Browns necessarily. You can slow your brain down a little bit. I'm expecting to get Joe's best next week. He'll be ready to go tomorrow."
On whether there was any player that stood out in terms of effort and focus:
"Sure. I mean the goal line – our defense had a couple plays down there in the low red zone. They had the turnover at the end of the half. That was enormous. They had the play where we caused the strip fumble and (S) Trayvon Henderson scored it from there. Then they had the big goal line stop to get the offense the ball back on the two-yard line. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it out of there. There was some really huge stuff from the defense. (HB) Chris Evans and the kick return unit had some good plays there to get us some good field position. Offensively I was just really proud of those guys in the second half. We got the ball three times. Had a 15-play drive, a 14-play drive, and then couldn't get it out of backed up, but for them to respond despite a tough first half for us, I thought was really impressive for that whole group."
On CB Mike Hilton playing and his injury status:
"He went back in there in the second half. He was in there because (CB) Vernon (Hargreaves III) was having an ankle issue."
On whether G Hakeem Adeniji was taken out for rest or injury:
"He was hobbled up there for a play. I don't know how significant that was or not."
On the advantages and disadvantages of having a relatively young team and coaching staff heading into the playoffs:
"There is a lot of confidence from this group. Sometimes they don't know what they don't know, and that can be a really good thing. You certainly can't avoid some of the narrative that surrounds us sometimes with our playoff experience, but again, these guys don't have that playoff experience. There are a lot of things they've done this year to change some of those things. This week will be no different. They don't feel that pressure. They don't think about that stuff at all. It's more just stories and people that maybe have been here longer than we have that talked about it. I can promise you that it doesn't have one effect on this football team and our approach going forward this week or how we'll be feeling on game day."
On what it would mean to bring Cincinnati its first playoff victory in 31 years:
"I just know what it's like to win a playoff game. These games are special. You've earned this opportunity. It's the best against the best. Everybody who is earning a spot on this AFC side is going to be a really dang good football team. It's going to be a battle just like we've had these last couple weeks. Our guys are going to be ready for it. We'll put our best foot forward and try to put ourselves in the best position to win this game."
On whether he is aware of the history of Cincinnati and the playoffs in the last 30 years and whether that motivates the team to change the narrative:
"No. Our motivation has always been to win divisional championships, put us in a position to go to the playoffs, and win the Super Bowl. That's it. There's a lot of steps you have to take along the way. Sometimes you can do them all at once. This team is the 2021 Bengals. That is all that matters. That's our approach all year and we've done some really good things to put ourselves in a position to play a home game in front of our fans and be able to take the next step."
Bengals QB Brandon Allen
On getting into the end zone on the final drive:
"All game they had been doing a good job of disguising some coverages, and we had a tough time finding anything and getting going early in the game. Then I think later we had a couple of play calls that were perfect for some of the coverages there that they were playing. We were able to hit them with (Bengals WR) Trent (Taylor) on the out-breaker and then one down that middle that was big for us to keep some momentum going for us on that drive."
On getting back into the rhythm of playing in games:
"I think there is always a slightly adjustment period. You do not want there to be, but I think it is hard for there not to be just getting back to the feel of a real game and seeing everything. Obviously, the speed. I see the speed from our defense in practice, but knowing that it is not practice, you are going to get hit again and that kind of thing, I think it did take a second, I wish it did not, but I think we were able to settle in a little later."
On being tied to Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase's franchise record today:
"I think that is an awesome achievement for him, and that is credit to a lot of people. That is not just Ja'Marr being a great player; it is (Bengals QB) Joe (Burrow) getting him the ball, the O line protecting and other guys running their routes and getting him open. Then obviously it is him being a very special player, as well, on top of all of those things. It is an incredible achievement, and it is pretty cool we were able to get him to that milestone."
On how much Chase's record was on his mind during today's game:
"(Bengals Head Coach) Zac (Taylor) told me earlier in the week that we are not trying to force anything to Ja'Marr and to go where the coverage takes it. If it gets to Ja'Marr naturally, then it does. I do not think it affected anything. He does a great job getting himself open and just being the mismatch that he is. I think we had a couple of plays designed that could get him the ball. I think I was able to get him the ball pretty quickly, and he does the rest from there."
On how exciting it is to finish the regular season and prepare for the playoffs:
"I think the entire locker room is excited. It has been a while since we have been to the playoffs. We know we are one of very few teams left still playing after this weekend so we do not take that for granted. We know that we have our biggest game of the year coming up next week, and we will prepare just that way."
On if the team is simply focusing on the 2021 Bengals and not focusing on the media narrative that the team has not won a playoff game in 31 years:
"Yeah, I think so. I do not think there has been any talk of that sort of thing and [how long since] winning a playoff game. We know what kind of team we have this year, and all of the teams in the past are not the same as this team. Like you said, we are the 2021 Bengals, and this is our chance to win a playoff game."
*On seeing the difference from the end of last season to now: *"Obviously, we are a much better team than we were last year. We have done a lot of great things to put ourselves in this position. I think today was obviously not a great showing for us on offense, but I think getting a lot of guys that do not get those reps to get those reps is going to do nothing but help everyone. It is obviously a much different feeling from this time last year walking off of the field knowing it was the offseason and we were done, and now, we are into this year and we are going into a playoff game, we can keep winning and keep playing, and that is what we are going to be trying to do."
On Bengals HB Chris Evans as a mismatch in the passing game:
"He is an extremely talented receiving back out of the backfield, and a lot of the time, he is getting covered by linebackers who really can't hang with him. He has done a great job all year of catching passes out of the backfield and being a mismatch in the pass game. He also runs the ball really well in the run game. I thought all of our backs did a great job. (Bengals RB) Trayveon (Williams) ran the ball really hard. I think we had a really good showing from those two guys today."
Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase
On his play in the game:
"It felt good having an opportunity to be in the game. Being able to execute and catch the pass - not from (QB) Joe Burrow, but I got to try and make a play on my feet. It was good being able to do it."
On when he found out he would be playing today from Head Coach Zac Taylor:
"He told me right before the game, actually. He told the plays he was going to run for me too. He just told me right before the game."
On if he knew anything about the Bengals all-time Receiving record:
"I was aware of it, but I did not get to go for that. It is cool though. I still got a chance to go for Ochocinco's record."
On what the significance of the chain was:
"(Bengals TE) CJ (Uzomah) asked me before the game. He liked my wrist jewelry, so he wanted to wear some of my wrist jewelry for the game. I told him I left it at home on purpose because I knew he wanted to wear it. So, today he asked if he could wear the chain. I told him he could wear it, but I want it back after I get this record."
On if he believed that he would break Bengals receiving records:
"I do, with 100%. That's why I said it."
On if it means something extra to him that he accomplished the goals he set:
"It is just saying that I can do anything I put my mind to. I came into this season trying to do exactly that and I achieved a lot of things I wanted to do this year. I still have a lot more to do. Hopefully I can break some playoff records."
On if any of his goals include specific playoff goals:
"No, I do not have anything that is exactly for the playoffs. The main thing that was on my mirror for the playoffs was to make it to the playoffs. That was the biggest thing that I hoped to turn around here, so I am glad that we are doing it."
On if there were any goals he set for himself that he did not accomplish:
"Yes, I am short a touchdown actually. I think I have 13, and I believe I legit had 14 on my mirror."
On how he came up with 14 touchdowns as the number he set:
"I think I had 18 in college if I'm not mistaken, so I just subtracted four from it. Just to stay close to it."
On how he feels about the team right now heading into the postseason:
"We feel good right now. Everyone is feeling good and getting back on their feet. Trying to get healthy and stay prepared, so we are just trying to get ready for this next game at home."
On what a playoff win would mean to the team:
"It would mean a lot to the organization and to the community too. Just having the opportunity to make it happen for the Bengals. They have not done it in a long time and that is all we constantly hear. Finally having everyone say the opposite of what they used to. That is what we are trying to do here. That is our goal."
On if he talks with Chad Ochocinco throughout the season:
"We do not really go back and forth throughout the season. He tries to catch me as much as he can. We chatted maybe a week ago. He hit me up here and there."
On if today's game felt like an exhibition game for him:
"I do not really go about it like that. I try to go into every game thinking the next game is the best game or the most important game. That is my way of going about it."
On why the team is so confident heading to the playoffs:
"The way we have handled ourselves. We have been making plays all year non-stop. We have a lot of leaders around us that are building us, making the younger cats better and living up to the hype that they have. It is being picked up by the older guys and making sure that we are straight. They keep confidence in us."
Bengals S Trayvon Henderson
On recovering the football and returning the fumble for a touchdown:
"Obviously I really did not know if it was a fumble or not. I was always taught as a defensive player to scoop the ball just in case. When I crossed the line, I honestly thought they were going to say that it was an incomplete pass, like he had his arm going forward. Then they said it was a touchdown. I was like, how did they review it that fast but it was a good feeling for sure."
On if he has ever had a touchdown at any level before today:
"Yeah, I thought I had one that was a blocked a field goal. I scooped and scored that one when I was like 16. But as far as the NFL goes, that was the first time."
On being elevated today and scoring a touchdown:
"Being on the practice squad, you've just got be ready. You really do not know what is going to happen. You might get called up the day of the game. You've really got be prepared. But that touchdown, it was just a combination of God and doing things right."
On if he had a flashback to three seasons ago having the pick against Indianapolis in the preseason finale:
"No, the one in Indy I got hurt. I did not like it."
On the touchdown being a sweet moment:
"Oh yeah, it definitely was. But like I said, I really did not know if it was going to be a touchdown or not until probably like 30 seconds afterwards, and that is when I really knew it. Having everyone come up to me and congratulate me, that is when the moment really started to sink in."
On seeing the identity of the defense change during his time with the Bengals:
"Every week, it really does not matter who is in or what the scheme is. The standard really does not change. We just prepare like we are starters because like I said, anything can happen on a week to week basis."
On the turnover in defensive players and how the mindset has shifted over the years:
"I think it is just chemistry, really. On the field and off the field, just building a stronger brotherhood. I think every year I have been here we have gotten stronger and stronger and we have the right guys in."
Bengals CB Mike Hilton
On how he is feeling after the game with his injury:
"I am all good. Someone kind of fell on me the wrong way after the pick, but I am all good."
On if he was surprised he got hit like that:
"After I went down, I pretty much gave myself up. He (Browns G Wyatt Teller) got a nice little lick on me. But like I said, I am all good. I'm ready to play."
On what it was like coming into the game in the 2*nd* quarter when he hadn't played yet:
"It was unexpected but being a professional, you have to be ready at all times. The coaches put me in there knowing that they felt comfortable with me being out there with whoever. It is about being ready for your moment, whether you are a starter or a backup."
On the biggest difference between regular season football and playoff football:
"It is cliché, but win or go home. There is no next week. Teams are going to break out their plays and schemes that they have been saving throughout the season just to have that advantage. We know that we have to play our best ball, and I feel like we still have not done that yet. We are hitting our stride though, and I like where our confidence is heading into the playoffs."
On the rest advantage some of the starters were able to get prior to the playoffs:
"It is big. The #1 seed only gets the bye, so when you have the opportunity to rest your starters, you take the advantage. That was big for us. I know that guys will be ready for us next week and we know a lot is on the line. We have to come prepared."
On why the team is so confident heading into the playoffs:
"It is the guys we got in this locker room. We know we are one of the most talented teams in the league and we have the opportunity to do that against the other most talented teams in the league. I feel like when the playoffs come, scheme can only take you so far. We know as players, you have to win those one-on-one matchups and have to make the big plays on both sides of the ball. We feel confident in the guys we have in this locker room, and are excited about the opportunity because a lot of them haven't been this far. I know they are looking forward to it and they know there is a lot on the line."