Best of the Zoom news conferences before the Bengals practiced on Friday ahead of their Super Bowl LVI berth against the Rams on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles at SoFi Stadium:
SUPERSTAR RAMS D
Up to this point, the Bengals have faced talented defenses in the postseason. But there may not be a defense that features more blue-chip names than the Rams. Just to name a few. Defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Von Miller and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Right tackle Isaiah Prince on Miller: "Von Miller compared to those other guys (Maxx Crosby of the Raiders and Harold Landry and Bud Dupree of the Titans) has been doing this for a long time. Extremely talented guy. I think that's the main difference. He's somebody who's been here before and that experience will play a huge part in this game."
Prince on Donald: "It's everything everybody speaks about. He plays with that aggression, the passion, his talent, his technique, his hands. He definitely stands out. He's always trying to make plays (by) playing hard, but I think our main focus is focusing on what we have to do as a group."
"They're pretty good up front. That's probably why they haven't (allowed) a lot of yards rushing. They're pretty good up front with Aaron Donald and Von Miller and the rest of those guys up there. I think the key for us is just not lunging, staying on our feet, playing with good technique, getting your hands on them and just finishing. Playing as hard as you can. Let them know that we're here to show up every play. "
TWO POINTS TO TIE
Wide receiver and punter returner Trent Taylor was called upon to tie the AFC championship game at 21 with a two-point conversion in the third quarter on his only snap of the postseason. It was Taylor's first time in the end zone since 2018, when he scored a touchdown for the 49ers. He was hurt later that season and was on injured reserve when the 49ers lost to the Chiefs the Super Bowl.
He broke down the play on Friday.
Taylor: "That was all set up and it happened exactly how we wanted it to. I was supposed to motion over. We were hoping that the nickel was not going to follow me and I was going to be matched up with the safety in the corner over there with Ja'Marr (Chase).
"We were hoping that they were going to do an in-and-out coverage. So once I lined up over there, you see them do the hand signals. They were like, 'In-and-out, in-and-out.' At that point, you knew it was coming. Everything happened the way that we wanted it to.
"I was tagged in a video. I'm pretty sure I saw (offensive coordinator Brian) Callahan up in the booth. Once they did that hand signal at DB, he was like up there celebrating before the ball was even snapped. It worked out perfectly, exactly how we drew it up."
More from Taylor: "Those are definitely some of the types of plays that I've run in San Francisco. They do that at the Rams. We've done similar plays like that here. Those types of routes are kind of like my specialty, my niche. Luckily, I earned enough trust to be able to go out there and do that for the game, we did that once in training camp against our defense and it worked out really well. I guess (the coaches) just kind of remembered that rep that I took and luckily we brought it up for the game.
"It was like a relief, honestly, because it's been a few years (since I had) seen the end zone. I think 2018 was my last touchdown. It was like more of a relief than anything because you put so much work in and so much effort to be able to get an opportunity like that and to like actually see it happen again … Knowing how much work I've put in to try to get back into that situation. I finally got to feel that feeling again. It was a pretty cool moment."
SECOND TIME IS A CHARM
Taylor now has a second shot at the Super Bowl with the Bengals in what has been a whirlwind six weeks. He was on the practice squad until Dec. 19 and was called up when the Bengals needed a reliable punt returner. Suddenly, he has a chance to become the first to return a punt for a touchdown in the Super Bowl, a feat never done in the 55 years of the game.
Taylor: "It means a lot. It's a huge deal for me personally. … Guys will play 12, 15 years and never get an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. So once I missed that first opportunity, I didn't know if it would ever come back. Just being here and being on this team with that next opportunity and actually playing in the game. It's going to be a huge deal for me. I'm 100 percent looking forward to it and just like so thankful for another opportunity at it.
"(I) definitely dreamed about it. Just playing in the Super Bowl in general, is something that I think probably all of us have dreamed about. Being able to be the punt returner on that stage, if I had the opportunity to make a game-changing play like (returning a punt for a touchdown) and if I can make that happen it would be tremendous.
"It's something that I've definitely started to envision in my own head leading up to the game now. You always dream of being in that big moment and you dream of having an opportunity to make a game-changing play. I'll have that opportunity at punt return. I'm looking forward to it for sure."
The offensive line has one job in pass protection and that's to keep quarterback Joe Burrow upright. They take it very seriously.
Prince: "Every time I go into the game I'm thinking about Joe, I'm thinking about protecting him not only as my job and my quarterback, but also as my brother. You want to stick up for your brothers. I think that's part of being a team and part of the relationship being so close, I do play hard for Joe too. Not only just the team, I think that's my brother and as far as everybody else, I think I play for all my brothers as well."
ON TO THE NEXT
The Bengals offensive line is a frequent talking point and it was especially so after they gave up nine sacks to the Titans in the AFC divisional round. Regardless, the big guys say they don't care what is said about them.
Prince: "I'm pretty sure we've played with a chip on our shoulders all season. That's what has brought us to this point. Tennessee, it happened, and we get back to film. We get back to the drawing board. We make the corrections and we move forward. It's not something we hang our heads about. I think we play with a chip on our shoulder every single game. "
The Bengals had one playoff game at home this season before they won their first ever two postseason road games and are 7-3 in road games this season. Although they're the designated home team, they have to face the Rams in their home stadium.
Prince: "The crowd noise is definitely challenging, but we have had a lot of practice from being on the road the whole playoffs. I think that getting those kinks out and working on our communication during those weeks, I think that definitely helped a lot."
TABLE FOR THE BENGALS
The Bengals feel like their locker room is as tight as it gets in the NFL and position groups like to break bread together after hours.
Taylor: "I would say the receiver group, especially. I think we bond pretty well together because every time we travel Ja'Marr gets us all food from a steakhouse. Wherever we're at, whatever city we're in he'll buy some steakhouse food for us all. Even after some home games, we'll all go to a steakhouse like Jeff Ruby's together. All on Ja'Marr Chase. He's taking care of us pretty well with his rookie dinners and everything. Having those times with everyone like that I think that goes a long way."
Prince: "Usually during the season the offensive line … grabbed dinner once a week. We picked turns between one person paying that week. We have it scheduled from oldest to youngest … That's usually our thing, we pick a steak house whether we're away or in town. We kind of do something similar (to the wide receivers)."
Prince and defensive tackle Josh Tupou were the two Bengals who opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID.
Prince: "During that time I went back to school, finished my undergrad at Ohio state. I did some boxing and I trained in Arizona with LeCharles Bentley. I think that time definitely helped prepare me for this moment and staying focused regardless of what's going on around me.
"I think that was a very challenging time in my life, but I still had to wake up every day and stay focused on the things that really needed my attention. I think that definitely plays a key part in right now with everything that's going on. It's just staying focused and controlling what you can control."
More from Prince: "I'm human. There were times I was wondering, 'How am I going to get back in?' But, like I said, I stayed faithful and kept believing in myself. … I was very hurt. I believe that was probably one of the most trying times in my life. Looking back at my career, I don't think I've ever really missed a game of practice, not in college. So for me missing my first season that was kind of devastating for me."
IN THE 'MIX'
Running back Joe Mixon has his offensive line to thank for his first Pro Bowl selection and the feeling is mutual. They stepped out after one of his touchdowns when Mixon led then in Temptations-styled choreography.
Prince: "I think we all love Joe Mixon. … That's part of the culture of our team. We're all-inclusive. We all love each other whether it's O-line, D-line running backs. We love each other. We love Joe. He (always) includes the offensive line. We love it."
Presented by Fifth Third Bank. Check out some of the best snapshots from the Bengals Friday practice as the team continues to prepare for Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams.