Bengals head coach Zac Taylor reflects with Bengals.com senior writer Geoff Hobson about a strangely silent opener and the communication skills of a rookie quarterback that proved his mettle despite the loss.
GH: If someone told you your defense would hold them to 16 points and you lose, I'm sure you'd be stunned.
ZT: That should be enough to win the game if your defense gives you a performance like that.
GH: A lot of the stuff we were talking about after the game, timing of throws, is that stuff that could have been ironed out in a spring and four pre-season games? Or is it other stuff?
ZT: I thought, overall, there were a couple we didn't connect on, but the times we had time, I thought we were accurate and the receivers were where they needed to be. There were a couple down the field that we didn't connect on that come to mind. A lot of the incompletions were throwaways or trying to get the ball to check down while we were engaged with somebody else.
GH: Was it more like an opener in the regular season or preseason after watching the tape?
ZT: It felt pretty real to me. I know when you're missing the crowd noise you don't get the reactions because I always can't see what is necessarily happening on the other side of the field. So that part is a little different, but you certainly feel the urgency of having to go and score points and get a stop. None of that changed from years past.
GH: Did you notice the crowd was not there or were you just dialed in?
ZT: You do. You absolutely do know they're not there. I could hear the opposing sidelines. You can hear pretty much everything.
GH: Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said he was worried about the Bengals hearing what he was saying. Did you have the same fear?
ZT: I think that's a product of it. If somebody shouts something, you could hear it, but there's not a ton of that.
GH: The league sent a memo telling coaches to do better wearing masks. It looked like you were keeping it on for the most part. How were you on the last drive? Was it maybe off for those three minutes?
ZT: Maybe. Very maybe.
GH: That's tied into communication and you're a communication guy. How do you think it went with a rookie quarterback?
ZT: I thought it went well. He masters the game plan, so by the time you start to give the initial part of the play he typically knows what's coming. Communicate it. An error on my part when we just made a modification during the game. I did not communicate it clearly and had to burn a timeout one time. But that was just on me.
GH: You'll always get criticized for not having any timeouts left, but I guess, like you said after the game, better safe than sorry.
ZT: It's something I think about long and hard after the game. Two them we felt like were critical third downs. One was third-and-two where we're in field-goal range and we needed to score a touchdown. We didn't like the defense that we got on the play and instead of just giving up on third down, you've got to take the timeout. On the second one it was a communication error. About six minutes left in the game and we felt we couldn't afford to miss that opportunity and so burned that timeout.
GH: Is that something you would have done with a veteran quarterback or would you have done it with anyone in that situation?
ZT: We were in a personnel grouping (three tight ends) where there was no getting us out of it. I just felt like we needed to give ourselves a better opportunity.
GH: On third-and-two, when you went from triple tight ends before the timeout, to three wides after, Joe Burrow said you made a great call. You must have seen something you liked because he went deep to A.J. Green one-on-one.
ZT: We did. It just didn't work out for us.
GH: That's a play where Joe maybe leads him more or maybe A.J. jumps a little sooner or boxes him out some more. Isn't that just rust?
ZT: It's two great players. That why we give them the opportunity on third and two and go make that play for us and more times than not, they make that play.
GH: I would daresay in three weeks they will make that play after getting some of the rust off.
ZT: Let's hope this week.
GH: Was there any play that Burrow made or call that he made make you stand up and take notice even more than usual?
ZT: Nothing we didn't anticipating happening. He obviously had great patience on the quarterback draw for the touchdown, letting Trey (Hopkins) get in front of him to make that block and set that up. He kept in some manageable situations in the second half. That's key for a play-caller when you can trust what maybe the play is vs. the coverage. The quarterback can find you a way to get three, four, five yards on first and ten and that keeps you on schedule. I thought he did a great job of doing that.
GH: Even though he took some shots, it looked like was bouncing on his toes in the pocket at the end.
ZT: He did do a nice job in the pocket. That's always been a strength of his.
He certainly proved his toughness. He hadn't been hit in front of this crew and took some violent shots and he got right back up and never complained about it. And that certainly earns you some credibility in that O-line room.
GH: It looks like one of the things you adopted from LSU were the five receivers and the five-man protections. Do you think that could be a staple or can you just not live on that in the NFL?
ZT: We've got seven great receivers and we look for opportunities to stress the defense. Some weeks it will make sense and some weeks it may not. But we have to use all the weapons that are at our disposal.
GH: I guess the down sides are not getting the tight ends on the field and sometimes pass pro is shaky keeping just five guys in to block.
ZT: It limits you in what you're able to do. We had a decent amount of reps of in it, but we can do it in 21 personnel and 12 personnel, whatever it is we can do to a lot of different things.
GH: What did you think of the rookie linebackers? Jessie Bates III thought they held up very well when it came to checks and getting people in the right place.
ZT: I did. It's hard to be perfect on that first week of NFL live action, but I thought they showed that the longer they were there the better they got and they're only going to get better as each week passes.