Head coach Zac Taylor talked virtual meetings, the rise of rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins and how coaches have to think next man up, too, in his weekly discussion with Bengals.com senior writer Geoff Hobson.
GH: You have to meet virtually this week, but you did that last week, too. I imagine you learn something new every Zoom to improve on it.
ZT: We're going to be that way this week at least. We have to make the most of it. We have to do our best to re-create what we would normally be getting in the meeting room and make sure we're not missing a beat.
GH: What is the toughest thing about meeting virtually as opposed to meeting in a room?
ZT: Guys are muted and just talking to the room when you're face to face with people and talking virtually is always going to be different. At the end of the day you have to put forth the same results on Sunday. We just have to keeping being flexible there.
GH: How tough is it to wake up Sunday morning and find out you don't have three assistant coaches on defense and you have to re-assign game day coaching duties?
ZT: You have to make sure you communicate with the players. Making sure you're not losing players and, secondly, making sure they're aware before they get to the stadium their position coach is out so they're not caught off guard there. I thought our guys handled that process well.
GH: People shrugged it off, but that's not a small thing
ZT: You rather it happen on a Thursday or Friday than on Sunday, but you don't get to control the situation.
GH: You've got a guy like Jordan Kovacs (defensive quality control coach) coaching a position for the first time in a game and it looks like the linebackers did a good job.
ZT: Everybody is into the fact it could happen. A guy like Jordan Kovacs does a great job. He's in those meetings. He understands. He's a good coach and does a great job. You just never know when your opportunity is going to come. It's like we say with these offensive linemen and DBs. Same with the coaching staff.
GH: You're getting a big rookie year from wide receiver Tee Higgins. He's not playing like a rookie. Kind of like quarterback Joe Burrow.
ZT: I feel like every week he's just become better and better. More consistent. Now he's not thinking. He's just going out there and runs and plays and catches. He and Joe have developed a great chemistry together. And now he's done it enough times on tape against really good defenses. His confidence is through the roof. He can do it against anybody and he has done it.
GH: Hakeem Adeniji and Quinton Spain have done nothing to lose their jobs. But I imagine you go back to your starting tackles when healthy?
ZT: We just see where the health is as the week goes. You take that into account. Sometimes there is no decision to be made because we aren't healthy enough. We'll just get through Monday and Tuesday to see how it looks Wednesday.
GH: It looked like when you went to emergency right tackle, you went with Spain because you wanted to keep that interior intact with center Trey Hopkins and left guard Michael Jordan, two potential stop-gap tackles.
ZT: It was a chance to see how (Spain) could do and I thought he responded to it really well, considering he's only been in the system for a couple of days. He fought his tail off and did a nice job.
GH: Did you think your rookie quarterback was a little too hard on himself Sunday? Joe said he was terrible in the second half.
ZT: That's what we want from our leaders when we lose a game like that. Everyone feels they could have done more and take accountability with it. I think that's an important step for this team.
GH: I'm not a trainer, but if you look at Joe's numbers before getting pushed into the bench Sunday and after getting pushed into the bench … could he not put his weight on his back foot?
ZT: I don't think that was the issue. I think all the way around we just didn't do a good enough job in the second half.
GH: They seemed to take away the intermediate stuff, which has been his strength.
ZT: They're first in a lot of categories for a reason. This isn't the first time they've done this. I thought we would come out a little stronger and be able to finish better. We have to learn from it and move on.
GH: You guys had been so good on third down in the last three games going in. Almost 60 percent and to not convert any Sunday had to be a shock.
ZT: It was everything. A play call here. An inaccurate throw here. Not making a contested catch here. Lack of detail on that route here. It was a different thing on every play and it makes for a bad recipe for third-down success when you're in third and eight pluses against a team that rushes the passer as well as any in the league.
GH: Do you think this team is built for the AFC North?
ZT: I'm not concerned about that. We know the things we have to clean up to do a better job. I don't feel that way at all.
GH: You guys did play the AFC North game when you stopped their running game as well as any Bengals defense has stopped a Steelers run game and you ran it about as well as any Bengals run game against Pittsburgh.
ZT: You can't lose the turnover battle. You can't lose the penalties. You can't lose the field position. Those are the things that turned the game like they did. It was 12 -7 and we had our opportunities. We just kind of wasted them and they ran away with it.
GH: It seems like whenever you make a mistake, the Steelers never miss a chance to turn it into points.
ZT: That's what New England does. That's what Pittsburgh does. That's what Baltimore does. That's the way it goes.