Final look back. Best of news conferences from the podiums after the Bengals' 23-20 loss to the Rams in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
Despite the loss, the Bengals underlined the importance of basking in the moment.
Linebacker Logan Wilson: "Obviously it's a tough loss. We're going to cherish the good that we had from the season. We grew a lot as a team. The plan would be to come back here next year."
Kicker Evan McPherson: "I had the most fun playing football that I ever have this year and I think that just kind of speaks highly of my teammates and the coaches that we had around us."
Tight end C.J. Uzomah: "This team is super close-knit. Just times in practice, messing around with one another. It was a good year. It's a shame we didn't get it done tonight, but I love these guys. I love the culture we've built and we're building."
Cornerback Mike Hilton: "This is just a steppingstone for us. Like I said, nobody expected us to be in this position and we knew with the guys and coaches that we have in the locker room that we can compete for years to come. It hurts but it's going to stick in our minds and it's going to bring us back stronger for next year."
FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST
Quarterback Joe Burrow: "It hurts. (We) put a lot of work into going out there and executing and performing well and it didn't turn out the way we want it. So it's disappointing.
"I was disappointed in my performance overall. I thought I could've played better. Give us a better chance to win, but you live and you learn.
Burrow on playoff experience: "I think it's going to propel us into the next year and we're going to have a really good offseason. We have a lot of hard workers in that locker room that are going to attack this off-season like they did last year. … We're not satisfied with what we did this year. We're going to keep getting better and attack next year with the same intensity."
Uzomah: "We just weren't really able to execute well enough. I think they did make some adjustments and they brought a little bit of pressure. But they kind of stuck to their base things. We just didn't get it done.
Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie: "We fought. We got down to the red zone on third down and Logan (Wilson) made a hell of a play, I thought, on Cooper Kupp and the penalty flag (comes) out. I'm not a ref. I don't know what happened on that play. … I think everybody on (our) team believed that … no matter how much they give us, a blade of grass, we were going to defend it. It's just unfortunate, but our heads are still up high for sure."
Defensive end Trey Hendrickson: "(Zac Taylor said he was) proud of this team, proud of where we came from. Proud of the culture that was created on the inside of the locker room. Tears you up watching him, but it's football. One team's going to win, one team's going to lose. As football players, this is what we do. … It's tough, but it is what we do. When you sign up for it, you know, one team is going to be at the end and clearly everybody in this locker room believed we could do it. I have a lot of faith moving forward in our quarterback, in this defense and these coaches."
McPherson: "This season was definitely special. This team is special and we fought until the end. Unfortunately we just didn't capitalize there at the end. I'm so proud of this team and how they fought. We're just going to build off of this and kind of take it into the next season. This is going to be the goal of what we're working for.
"I think it makes this moment a little better just to know this team is so young and we've got so much talent that's going to be around next year. I feel like we're not really going to skip a beat and coming into next year to be ready to come back."
Defensive end Sam Hubbard: "They did a lot of things that we practiced in. We did a lot of things we've been doing all season and it really just came down to playing our ball and squaring off and they came out ahead of us."
Defensive tackle D.J. Reader: "We don't celebrate moral victories, but we're glad we're out here. There's a bunch of guys on this team have won championships and want to win. So I think this just gives us fuel to go back next year and get back to the drawing board. Team will be different, guys will be different but it would be the same goal."
RAMS HALL OF FAME PRESSURE
The game was decided by the Rams relentless pass rush that tied a Super Bowl record seven sacks:
Taylor: "That's the problem. They hit every single quarterback almost on every single snap and so, it's a challenge. I thought our guys did a tremendous job early in the game managing that. As the game gets on, they did a good job creating that pressure. So, when we had some negative plays on first-and-10 -- you know running the ball on second-and-13 can be pretty tough. It was just being more efficient in the second half on first-and-10 would have helped us."
With the AFC North title and the AFC championship, the Bengals believe they set a new standard this season.
Free safety Jessie Bates III: "This group is a special group and we know it. It's tough that every year there's a new team. … Next year is going to look different. Our standard is our standard. I think we set a standard here in Cincinnati that is going to continue for a long time. Even the guys that (are) not going to be here. That's a standard that they can take to another team or, go be a dad. Whatever it is in life. The standard that we built this year was something special."
The Bengals savored the support from the fans that they saw in L.A. and Cincy.
Hubbard: "I think it means a lot. I think (we) made a lot of people happy. We came up short, but I think people really enjoyed cheering for us this year. The support that we felt, I felt from them was amazing and all I want to do is just keep playing hard for them and take that next step."
PRAISE FOR BURROW
Burrow was sacked seven times, limped off the field with 11:38 left with a right knee injury and came back.
Awuzie: "That's expected of him. He's a warrior. A pure warrior. He's a stone-cold killer. We all know that and I think the whole world is starting to understand that. There's one quarterback that I love to play for and it's him. We have his back, he has our back. You could tell he wants to win. … It's going to come. "
Reader: "Joe Burrow is a warrior. He's the toughest guy that I know. …. Of course, I want to keep him upright but he's the toughest player (and) person I've ever met in my life. He doesn't complain. Doesn't say anything. He just gets up time after time after time after time after time, again. It is what it is, he's a ballplayer. You don't meet very many people like that He's definitely a generational player. He's going to be special."
McPherson: "I think it just shows Joe's toughness and his willingness to never give up. I think that kind of shows that we are going to be back here if it's not next year, then it's the next, or maybe a couple of years. With him leading our team I know that we have a really good chance of winning football games."
Hubbard: "Joe is one of the toughest guys I know. When he comes off limping there's no question in my mind that he's going to go back out there and try and win the game. So it's just football and I wouldn't want to go out there with anybody else."
Uzomah: "He's the guy. He immediately makes our team better when he's in the huddle. When he's calling plays, when he's in meeting rooms, when he's in practice telling us how to run things, telling us how he wants things ran."
Uzomah is a free agent and they'd like to bring him back. He has an idea of the offseason priority:
Uzomah: "You don't want your quarterback to get hit one time, let alone how many times it was, not even counting the things that weren't sacks but just hits in general. It has been tough. You don't want to see your franchise quarterback get hit as many times as he did. That is probably going to be a point of emphasis coming up."
Taylor: "I feel really great about the future, but you know, like I mentioned, we can't just assume because we had a great 2021 it's going to be easy next year. Every year is its own entity, right now we just have to do a great job of appreciating what we had together for this 2021 season and get back and ready to fight for next season."