Best of the Zoom news conferences before the Bengals practiced Wednesday in the run-up to Saturday's AFC Divisional game (4:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) against the Titans in Tennessee.
BULLYING RUNNING BACKS
The Titans clinched the No. 1 seed with the help of their two big running backs, Derrick Henry and D'Onta Foreman. Bengals Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon is no slouch in the size department either and the three of them have inflicted their will on NFL defenses.
Mixon: "We all know what kind of back Derrick is. I think he's a very physical runner. He's got a crazy stiff arm and everybody is aware of that. He's a great running back and I would like to think that (the Titans) think (the same) down on the other side. We're to see what we've got going on in a game plan and may the best team win."
The bigger a running back is, the harder they are tackled.
Mixon: "Over time throughout the game, nobody wants to keep tackling a bigger guy, especially in the cold. Sometimes guys get worn out making those hard tackles and sometimes they do make them.
"You're going to make this play and if you don't, you'll see the consequences that come from that and Derrick, he does a great job with making people pay for, missing tackles."
Cornerback Mike Hilton: "(Henry) just wears on you. It might seem easy the first, second quarter, but towards the second half, just constantly tackling him, it definitely wears down on you. That's what (the Titans) thrive off of. Constantly running the football, trying to wear you down and just make it difficult for a defense to tackle them in the fourth quarter. We know as a defense, we've got to get a lot of heads to the football and gang tackle."
The majority of the Bengals roster's playoff experience stems from the game that they won last Saturday against the Las Vegas Raiders. But the team isn't devoid of playoff experience. Hilton is one of 14 players on the roster who came into the postseason with at least one playoff game.
Hilton: "Just stay locked in on your job. Everybody knows what's at stake. It's win or go home. At this point, everybody's bodies are feeling the same and, everybody's mentally drained, but it's just a team that really wants it the most. I've just been telling guys just stay focused and just worry about this one game, put your all into this one game and we'll see how it plays out.
"I'm confident in these guys in the locker room, we're excited about how far we made it, but we still got a lot more to accomplish. We know Saturday's another step to where we want to be and we've got to take care of business."
"I will say you have to take your week of practice a lot more serious than the regular season, because there is no tomorrow. You have to make sure every detail is perfect. Every, technique that you're working as up to par, you just have to bring your best A-game throughout the week and go out there and show it on game day. This week we know we have a lot that we need to get done and we'll be ready for Saturday."
Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, a free agent who has been a keystone in the Bengals secondary, is one of those playoff vets. Awuzie, who came from the Cowboys, has been named a Pro Football Focus second-teamer.
Hilton: "Chido's a number one corner. He takes his job seriously. He's probably the one in our room that asks the most questions, the one that's always trying to, really break down formations, just get any type of key from an offense to go make a play.
"We feel comfortable putting Chido out there on an island, knowing he's going to do his job and take care of business. He's a guy we've been excited about this whole year. We expect that to carry on."
At 5-3, the Bengals have been excellent on the road and the last loss came in Cleveland when the team rested the majority of its starters.
Mixon: "We try to pride ourselves on going out there and being real warriors, to be honest. We've been doing really well on the road against very good teams. We like to go out there (and handle) business and do whatever we can to always come out on top. We pretty much get prepared throughout the week, pretty much go ahead and do that."
The Bengals aren't worried about the franchise's 0-7 road playoff record.
Mixon: "We're here to win. We don't care about some theory that everybody (else is) worried about. We know what we've got in front of us, we know what we have to do in order to get where we want to be, we got the path laid out for us. At the same time, as we've been saying for these past I don't know how many weeks now, we control our own destiny and we just got to keep on pushing and keep on getting better each and every week.
"(We have to) pay attention to the, little details because, things don't matter until (they) matter. We've got to figure out, ways to play complete games. We have yet to do that. We're definitely getting better, on each side of the ball and also on special teams. I felt like we've yet to play our best football."
"And I think that within these next couple, you know, opportunities that we are able to have, I think that we're going to put it all together here shortly."
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase were teammates at LSU and they picked up where they left off in the NFL. The two connected for 1,455 yards (rookie and single-season franchise records) and 13 touchdowns on 81 catches. Their connection is most noticeable in one-on-one scenarios.
Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan: "When (Burrow) can get Ja'Marr one-on-one, he's going to take it all the time. What makes Ja'Marr so good at it is they're both on the same page … Ja'Marr is so strong into the boundary that when he gets a chance to release on a corner, if they try to squeeze him Ja'Marr doesn't get squeezed. He does a great job keeping his landmark. He's got great body control. He looks like a cat sometimes when he's out there moving around and using his body and he can get his feet down and twist and contort and find the ball."
Extending plays may be one of Burrow's best attributes as a quarterback but it can be a rollercoaster of emotions for a coach.
Callahan: "Two things, both one good, one bad, one is the same as Zac (Taylor). My eyes immediately go to the chase … he's got such a feel for it, but I'm always looking behind him to see what's coming. Not that I can do anything from where I'm at. It's just more of an 'Oh my God, please get this ball out of your hand and don't get hit and lose the ball'.
"The second one is what happens more often. My eyes go down the field as he gets out of the pocket and I just know that once he breaks contain, and that ball goes up, that it's likely going to be a completion when he gets a chance to get out there.
"That's sort of the same feeling I had when (I watched) Patrick Mahomes and that at the end of the half against us, he got out there at the numbers and all of a sudden his body language changed to one where he was just about to launch the ball down the field and you go 'Oh my God, where's this going? It's probably going to be a touchdown just because it usually is'.
"I have that same feeling when Joe gets out in the perimeter, when he gets out there and I can see his eyes downfield, and I see what's happening downfield I've got a whole lot of confidence that something really good is about to happen."
FUTURE HALL OF FAMER
The Bengals are well balanced on offense and the team has been riding the hot hand Burrow as of late.
Mixon on getting fewer carries: "You pretty much try to do whatever you can, to take over those opportunities. But, sometimes it's hard when we've got a future Hall of Fame quarterback throwing dimes all day. Zac pretty much leans on that. Everybody understands. I understand and (there is) going to be a time where I'm going to have to come in and deliver."
PRAISE FOR MIXON
Mixon is no longer under the radar after reaching his first Pro Bowl on career highs with 1,205 yards on 292 carries and 13 touchdowns.
Hilton: "Joe is the best back in the league. He just doesn't get the respect he deserves. You can tell just the impact he has on our team. One, he's a captain, he's always high energy, he's a lot of fun to be around.
"When he sets that tone on the field, the offense and those guys follow. Defensively, we like when that running back is lowering that shoulder … We know when two-eight has that ball in his hand, good things can happen."
'TIGHT END STOPPER'
Earlier in the season, cornerback Tre Flowers was picked up off waivers by the Bengals after being released by Seattle. The 6-3, 203-pound Flowers is a unique chess piece for defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo because of his size.
Hilton: "He's given us everything we asked for. He's kind of like our tight end stopper. If you really see how we use him, against some of the tight ends we've played, he's the guy that's matching those guys and he's been playing well against them. We're excited about every time he's on the field, because we expect him to make a play. He's the guy that we know can go out there and just do his job and help us win."