Best of the Zoom news conferences before the Bengals practiced on Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's (3 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) AFC championship game in Kansas City.
One of the hardest things about playing the Chiefs offense is its speed.
Safety Vonn Bell: "They've got speed. They've got (Mecole) Hardman and they've got (Byron) Pringle, they've got (Tyreek Hill). It brings a lot of problems because it stretches you vertically. (Because) you want to take away these vertical threats and everything underneath.
"You've got (Jerick) McKinnon, you got (Clyde Edwards-Helaire) back, you got Travis (Kelce) sitting underneath in the soft of the zone. It was just like, 'Man, everybody's back deep and he's just by himself.' That's how he creates explosives within his play. You've got to respect the speed, because it's like a roadrunner, we call them, and they just keep on rolling.
"But you've got to respect it. That's why this team is so dynamic. You got guys like Hardman and (Hill) that can line up anywhere, backfield, anywhere they could do punt returns and they can create explosives everywhere. It's a unique group that they have, and it's a challenge for sure. We rise up to it and we're ready to take it on for sure."
The Bengals defense limited tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill to a combined 11 catches and 65 yards in their first matchup at Paul Brown Stadium. The successful formula was created by defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.
Bell: "(Anarumo is) a scientist. He always has the method, always tries to put us in position to make plays and take away their strengths and make them play left-handed. Really take away the threats and that's what he does well. That and putting guys in position to make plays. He always has some formula in his head, and we try to diagnose that throughout the week and make it easier for us to play faster and put us in situations to make plays. Hats off to him."
Defensive tackle Josh Tupou, EDGE Cam Sample and wide receiver Stanley Morgan are attempting to come back from injury this week. Tupou has been nursing a knee injury from the regular-season finale. Sample aggravated his groin against Tennessee on Saturday. Morgan injured his hamstring in the week leading up to the Raiders game two weeks ago.
Head coach Zac Taylor: "Josh Tupou, Stanley Morgan, Cam Sample. Those are the guys that are limited or will rarely practice this week. I wouldn't rule any of them out at this point in the week. Those are the three really that are worth a conversation."
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow played at Ohio State before eventually transferring to LSU, but his time in Columbus was impactful. He was a backup and transferred to Baton Rouge after earning his Bachelor's in consumer and family finances.
Burrow: "I wouldn't be the same player that I am today without those trials and tribulations that I went through (at Ohio State).
"I loved my time there. I stay in contact with a lot of people from Ohio State. Like I said, I wouldn't be the same player. I think I am who I am because of the difficult times that I went through in my career. And if you look at all the quarterbacks that were in the playoffs, a lot of them have gone through a lot of adversity throughout their careers, whether it was early on in high school without offers or after college not getting drafted high or, having to go to a junior college or anything like that.
"I think part of what makes certain people great is the adversity that they've had to go through."
Tight end C.J. Uzomah mentioned on the Cris Collinsworth Podcast that Burrow had to call a few plays during the Titans game because of a headset failure.
Burrow: "I've never been in that position before, that was kind of exciting for me. Zac always kind of jokes that, 'Hey, don't pretend like the headset goes out so you can call your own plays'. Saturday the headset did go out and so I had to call three or four players on my own and all of them worked. So that was fun."
Taylor: "Yeah, absolutely. When we were in Miami (with the Dolphins), it felt like the headset went out all the time. So (quarterback Ryan) Tannehill would have to do that. You always have to be prepared for that.
"Joe did a really good job. There was probably a three or four play sequence there where he had to call his own plays because it went out and he did a great job managing that, finding completions for us. You really liked that because you get a window into his brain on what he really likes in that go-to moment and there were no surprises there.
"He found his completions. He helped us move the ball down the field. It's something we'll always be open to I think as he gets even more experienced in the league. That's something you want the quarterback to be able to go out there and call a four or five-play sequence and keep the defense on their heels. Let Joe assess what's going on defensively and get us into the right looks.
"You don't always want to do that because he's got to go through a physical play and you've got to be thinking, then you've got to process 'Okay, what's the down and distance and do we run or pass here.' I think it was good and the dose that he did it. It's certainly something in the future that he'll have the freedom to do and do for longer stretches than he's done at points this year."
MISSED MILE (S) MARKER
Before Chase and Burrow won the 2019 national championship at LSU, former LSU head coach Les Miles had a different role in mind for Chase.
Chase: "I can tell you, honestly, one of my best stories ever. Les Miles told me I couldn't play receiver when I was coming out of high school. That was something I had on my shoulders growing up. Les Miles told me he thought I could play cornerback. I wasn't really in full position at receiver yet. So I just kept working on my craft (in the) off-season, waking up early in the mornings to work out. I just kept focus."
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on Chase as a pro: "He's a heck of a football player, in the truest sense. I mean, he can do everything and he had a nice game against us for sure."
SHIRT OF APPROVAL
There are many fans of Burrow but his biggest supporters are his teammates. So much so that Boyd and Chase wore shirts with pictures of Burrow during pregame warmups against the Raiders in the Jan. 15 Wild Card game.
Chase: "It's just something that we (did to) support him. (We were) on his side. We believe in him, it was just making sure his confidence is always high like he wants ours to be."
The Bengals feature arguably the best wide receiver room in the NFL. But Tyler Boyd, Chase and Tee Higgins don't care who gets the ball.
Burrow: That's what makes our receiving room great. Not only is every single person in that room able to have a game like that, but they don't get upset if they're not the guy with that game. Ja'Marr can go for zero yards and Tee and TB combine for 300 and Ja'Marr will be just as happy as if he had a 250 yard game. That's very unique to us, and I don't know if a lot of receiving rooms in the league have that. That's what makes those guys great."
Taylor: "I think that's really the beauty of Joe Burrow and really just how we organized the offense. We don't feel like we have to force the ball to anybody. The ball goes to where the coverage dictates with the concept. Over the course of the year, each of those guys have had their big games and their big moments and there's been games maybe they've had two or three catches, but they were critical for us.
"That's why it's key to have such an unselfish group of receivers, where they all know they're going to have their moment. There can be days where one guy maybe gets 15 targets, the other guys don't, but when the balls do come their way, they've got to make the most of it. That's just kind of a great picture of an entire locker room. It's just that receiver room and how unselfish those guys are and how much they pull for each other."
FANS IN THE MIX
Running back Joe Mixon has a pregame tradition of playing catch with fans in the stands, but his connection with fans goes beyond the walls of The Jungle.
Taylor: "Joe has always been tremendous with the interactions he's had with the community. I don't really pay much attention to pregame. I know it happens, but it's not something I paid a lot of attention to. But my kids go to his summer camp, those ProCamps they put on, and he always does such a tremendous job with those kids.
"That's kind of my window into him, interacting with the community and a bunch of younger kids that really look up to him. Any interaction he's ever had with my two boys has been awesome. They've got Joe Mixon Fatheads and posters all over the room. That's as good of an indicator as anything of how the Taylor household views him. It's usually a pretty good window into how the rest of the community looks at him as well."
'I'VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN'
Some of Burrow's college teammates are with him here and they know all about his levelheadedness. Chase is, allegedly, the only person that can grind Burrow's gears.
Burrow: "As far as Ja'Marr goes, we've been together for a long time, so he kind of knows how to get under my skin every now and then."
Burrow has come on strong in the latter half of the season because of the rehab of his knee injury
Burrow: "I wouldn't say that I had less confidence on it earlier. I would say that I wasn't able to do certain things that I had been able to do in the past, like make people miss in the pocket and extend plays. I really couldn't do that until after the bye week. That's when I started to finally feel like myself. I think that's when I started to play my best football."
Taylor: "He really has overcome it and that's been significant. I'm sure there was a lot of uncertainty on his end as well on how he was going to respond. He wanted to respond the right way, but he'd never been through something like that before. I think it has been impressive, the way he's played this last stretch of the season, particularly now that he's felt fully healthy.
"We never take him for granted, but there's a lot of really impressive things he does that maybe aren't as impressive to us anymore because we're just used to it. That's kind of his standard, his greatness. But we need to step back and always take a moment to appreciate what we've got there at that quarterback position."