In his weekly discussion with Bengals.com senior writer Geoff Hobson, head coach Zac Taylor talks about his confidence as a play-caller, the need for flexibility and keeping it light with Joe Burrow.
GH: It looked like not only was your team confident, but so were you Sunday in Houston. Anything you dialed up was productive.
ZT: It was a fun game to be a part of. We felt like we were in a good rhythm on offense. The players kept feeding off that and giving us momentum. It makes it easy on a play-caller.
GH: It helps when your quarterback completes almost 80 percent of his passes.
ZT: He's protecting me as a play-caller. He's not taking all the shots that you call. He's doing a good job taking his check downs when he realizes it's not the best coverage for the play call. That allows you to take more shots when you know the quarterback is going to protect you like that.
GH: But you didn't have your leading rusher, passer or receiver and you had 540 yards. That has to give you confidence.
ZT: It makes it fun. They executed at such a high level. I promise you I'm not lacking for confidence. Right or wrong. I don't need that validation. We know the plan we put in and things that are going to help us be successful. It's obviously encouraging when you see guys execute to the level they executed on Sunday. But I'm not looking for any reason to boost my confidence.
GH: Is it a validation for your scheme that you can score points with backups?
ZT: No. We're not looking for validation, we're just looking for ways to win. Each week is a different challenge with your opponent. Schemes on defense change each week. The fronts you face, the talent level you face, some of the pressure challenges on first and second down that cause you to do certain things. We always have to be flexible and creative and also at the same time balance what we hang our hat on so that our players have confidence in what we're doing. There's that balance each week of finding those things that have been good for us all season, but also finding those wrinkles that challenge the team we're playing.
GH: How about ending the season with Baltimore? They probably gave you the toughest time defensively. More than Pittsburgh. Is this a litmus test to see how far the offensive system has come along?
ZT: I don't think so. We're a different team than we were when we played them back then. Different players. Just a lot of things have changed over the course of the season. It's a divisional game in week 17. You always want to end the season on a good note. You always want to do well against divisional teams. You always want to play well at home. There's a lot of things on the table this week that we've got plenty to play for.
GH: What are one or two things that you have to focus on this week that didn't happen the last time you played Baltimore? Is it recognizing the blitz or is it more than that?
ZT: No. It's taking care of the football. We had some key turnovers in that game that really hurt us and sometimes it can be as simple as that.
GH: Pittsburgh is similar to Baltimore in that they give you a lot of pressures, a lot of blitzes.
ZT: Their schemes are not similar, though. I'm looking at six defensive linemen sitting on the film right now for Baltimore. I haven't seen a team that's played six defensive linemen against us in 11 personnel all year. I'd say they're structured differently. They're obviously two physical teams that are hell bent on getting pressure on the quarterback. But they do a lot of things differently structurally.
GH: I'm assuming you're going to go with the same offensive line for the third straight week?
GH: How have they played since they've been together?
ZT: I think they've done a good job playing together. We're counting on them to do that again this Sunday, but those guys have done a nice job the last two weeks.
GH: The Joe Burrow video where he's walking around was big news this week, but I imagine you're probably talking to him nearly every day. Any sense of what his frame of mind is?
ZT: He seems great. We don't get into, hey, are you going to ready to play on August first? That's so far down the road. Everything seems to be going positively right now and we keep it pretty light for the moment.
GH: Joe Mixon seems to understand you guys were being safe rather sorry when it came to playing him with his foot injury.
ZT: We're on the same page with that. We just want what's best for Joe. We need him to get healthy and be ready to roll next year.