Bengals.com senior writer Geoff Hobson caught up with head coach Zac Taylor as he prepped for Sunday's 4:25 p.m. game against the 49ers at Paul Brown Stadium. They talked the finger, resiliency and consistency.
GH: Could Joe Burrow play without practicing this week with a dislocated throwing pinky?
ZT: He's got to get a sense for how it feels. We'll just take it day-to-day. It's hard to predict. He's never had a pinky injury on his throwing hand and none of us know how it will react. So the best thing to do is just lay low a little bit, let it rest and then pick the ball up and see where we're at?
GH: Is there any shot he might not play?
ZT: I'm certainly very optimistic and we'll see where it goes.
GH: Isn't the pinky finger a wild card for a quarterback? Some use it, some don't, right? Was it important for you?
ZT: Yeah. It was important for me. I had small hands and needed every millimeter I could get. I thought he really toughed it out and made some really impressive throws over the last half, in particular, that put us in position to get a win. He did a really nice job managing it and just allowing me to keep calling the game the way wanted to call it.
I think his stance is, "I'm playing the game, so just keep calling it.' He didn't want me to worry about it. So I just called it. I didn't change one thing how I was going to call it.
GH: How did you think the defense responded when middle linebacker Logan Wilson, your leading tackler and signal caller, went down in the second quarter?
ZT: I thought they did a good job. New voices in there and they got the calls relayed. We really steadied the fort down there, 24-0, and got it to 24-22. A fumble for a touchdown is what broke it open. That's not on the defense. I thought after those initial 24 points where they scored four times in the first four possessions, they really calmed down and just allowed the extra score at the end.
GH: Germaine Pratt really stepped up when Logan Wilson went down. He's a starter and he's quietly had a nice year, but he was really big with both a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the rally.
ZT: I think Pratt is one of these guys that's really respected by the guys around him and the coaching staff. He takes the ball out to a whole new level. He's consistent with it in practice. He's consistent with it during the course of a season of games. He knows how important it is to our success to be able to knock the ball out. He's constantly trying to get that done.
GH: A week after doing that number on Pittsburgh and then all of a sudden being down so far by so quickly the next week, have you thought about preparation? "Do I have to change routine? Do I have to change something?"
ZT: No, no. I think every phase had a hand in it early in the game. And every phase had a hand getting us back into it. If we could just wipe out that first quarter, our guys did a nice job settling down getting us back in the game. When a turnover goes for seven points, that puts a pretty big hole in what you're trying to get done. I thought there were some positives to draw from, but we have to learn most importantly from the negatives that we can't turn the ball over four times.
GH: Chicago, the Jets. You keep learning. Is it, indeed, growing pains of an up-and-coming team, or is it more sinister than that?
ZT: No. I think it's just a bump in the road. We have to be able to put it behind us and move on. That overall performance isn't who we are as a team. I've got a lot of confidence that this team is going to be able to put that behind us and move forward right away.
GH: When you're down 24-0 and your quarterback has a dislocated finger, you would think the game plan goes wayward. But you hung with it, didn't you?
ZT: We didn't change anything. We stuck with it. There were still nine minutes left in the second quarter. We knew if we could get one score at a time then we were going to be OK. That was our approach. We scored on the next two possessions and that put us in striking distance at the half. So after the first possession of the third quarter, it's a one score game, so there we are.
GH: It looked like the game plan was to run it and you looked like you were lining up heavy in the fourth quarter looking to mash them before running back Joe Mixon's fumble turned into a touchdown in the first two minutes of the fourth.
ZT: We had some good 13 (three tight ends) personnel runs there back-to-back, second-and-two and felt like have a shot there. It just didn't work out for us. We have to learn from it and move on.
GH: Is there anything you learned from that game? You were pretty vocal in the postgame that you didn't have a good day, either.
ZT: I just have to be better situationally. At the end of the half and the two-point conversion early in the game where there were two spots. There's always something to be learned. One thing I learned is this team has a lot of resilience, fight. Down 24-0 and by no means was the game over. The way we look at it we were in position to win despite all that. If there's one thing I need to learn from this game is this team has the fight I thought they did. That's going to serve us well in the future.
GH: Do you put those situations in the back of your mind so you can use later? What do you do to learn from it?
ZT: Internally, things that I have to throw away into the memory bank and be better next time around.
GH: Is that a live and learn thing?
ZT: It is. You've got be better in every situation you face and figure out ways to make improvements and not make the same mistake twice. That's what we ask of our players and that's what I have to expect of myself as well.
GH: You said it would hurt when you went back to look at it. Did it? It seems like we say this every week. It was an odd game.
ZT: It was. I think every position group is going to look at something they could have done better to help put us in a better position and that's what our guys are taking from it. We're made of the right stuff. Guys will put it behind them and be able to move on.
GH: What do you think of trying to get wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase going with the coverages kind of rotating to him? Do you think he's pressing?
ZT: No, I don't. The beautiful thing is we can call a lot of different plays and it's got an opportunity for the ball to fly down the field to Ja'Marr or Tee (Higgins) or TB (Tyler Boyd) or the ball can go underneath. You can just call plays and trust Joe is going to put it in right spot. He's not going to press. We don't have to have our receivers press. We've got plenty of talent there to go around. We can just take advantage of what the defense gives us.
GH: You've been saying it all year. Consistency. The last thing you want to be known as is a Jekyll and Hyde team. Do you wonder which team is going to show up? How do you control that?
ZT: I think broadly you can just look around the league and see the balance this year and that contributes to us and everybody going through the exact same thing. We're worried about us. First and foremost. But you can also see there's really good balance in the league right now and it leads to being difficult to keep the momentum and it takes a lot of focus and poise. We're looking to start a new winning streak and be able to capitalize on that at the right time.