BENGALS POSTGAME QUOTES, SEPT. 30, 2021
JACKSONVILLE AT CINCINNATI
ZAC TAYLOR, Head coach
Initial comments ...
"Let me start by saying we didn't give them much to cheer for in the first half. The crowd was electric, and if we can get that for every home game, it would be such an advantage for us. Our players thrive off of that. It makes it difficult for the opposing team's quarterback, so we need that effort every game. That's the standard for our team. That's the standard for our fans. It was tough sledding there in the first half — not a lot to cheer about — but that was awesome to see. Really, the first time that I've been here ... last year was COVID, and the first year we weren't really good. We're going to give the fans something to cheer about and we need them to have our backs. That was tremendous for this entire team."
What changed offensively in the second half that got things going?
"We felt good on the first drive. The offensive pass interference set us back, and we missed a field goal, but we felt good starting. We just can't find our rhythm with three-and-outs, four-and-outs. That's what was tough. We feel confident in our two-minute (offense). We got pinned down there on the inch-yard line and just made sure we got to half because we knew we were going to get the ball back. We kept preaching to our guys that, in Chicago, we scored two touchdowns in about three minutes, so 14-0 is nothing to us. That's why you play four quarters, and you don't panic. There's plenty of time left in the game, and that's just what our players did."
Was that as impressed as you've been with Joe Burrow, what you saw in the second half?
"Yeah, it's not surprising. When the line gives him time like they did, he's going to be really tough to deal with. We have a lot of weapons, and we're missing a big one tonight in Tee (Higgins). We count on everybody to step up. He hit Samaje (Perine) for a huge first down in empty. So, again, Joe is just seeing the field really well right now, and you put it in his hands and let him go."
It looked like you wanted to enforce the run game at the start of the second half ...
"It was really good. We just needed to get the run game going. We were doing a couple of different schemes and they were doing a nice job on defense, so we just needed to find that one little crease to get going and 13 personnel was what that was for us today. That kind of opens it up, and then you get back to 11 personnel and run the ball a little bit. We just needed that confidence up front to get moving. They gave us the looks we expected, so that helped us get it going."
That goal-line stand right before halftime, was that the turning point of the game?
"I'm glad you said that. It was the turning point of the game. It was about to be 21-0 right before the half. That is a tough hole to dig out of. We believe we could do it, but you certainly don't want that going into halftime and them getting the momentum. It felt like the momentum came back in our favor. Our defense finally got the chance to rest because the offense was leaving them out there. They had 15 first downs right out the gate and the defense was gassed with a short week — that all factors into it for both teams. We hung them out to dry on offense, so that was huge for them to bow up and stop it. Our entire red zone defense has been tremendous through the first four games. That's big. Keeping points off the board is critical.
If it does go 21-0, do you have that luxury of committing to the run in the second half?
"Yeah, we do. We scored quick, within the first two minutes. It's not easy. It's hard to do. I don't want to put us in that situation. If I am, I'll answer that question. We were in good shape down 14."
With so much attention on Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins, can you emphasize just how important Tyler Boyd is in this offense?
"No, I can't because I'll understate it. Tyler Boyd's leadership and consistency as he walks in this building every single day ... We define a Bengal as P.H.A.T. (Physical Hungry Accountable Teammate), who is willing to get the job done. And that's Tyler Boyd. The run game, protection when we ask him to, the pass game, leading. He doesn't care about his touches. He's happy when his teammates get it done. He cheers on the defense. He's just a tremendous example of what we want to be all about."
How about the way C.J. Uzomah has come along this year?
"The same things I say about Tyler Boyd. The way the guy comes in the building, and the kind of consistent person he is. He never knows when his opportunities are coming. They've been limited this year. Again, when his number is called, he just steps up and makes key plays. He caught a key one for a touchdown, he caught a scramble drill for a touchdown, he caught a jailbreak screen that I promise you that we've never worked in practice to C.J. He just knew what to do, ran it correctly, and got us into field goal range. That's just the chemistry of our offense right now. We can call anything, and the guys know what to do because their football I.Q. is so high, and they work hard at it and they study on their own. I couldn't be happier for him to have the type of game he had."
Was that jailbreak screen called due to what you saw?
"Zero-blitz. We better have an answer for zero-blitz. Joe handled it well and calmly, got us in the right check and executed."
Was C.J. out there because you guys were banged up at the position or because he happened to be lined up?
"That wasn't the play we called. That was a check from Joe. We put those guys everywhere in empty, they can line up anywhere and that just happened to be where he was on that play and they zero-blitzed us. I don't know how many empty plays we ran, but it was a lot. I don't know if the ball ever hit the ground. They had to try something different. They zeroed us and Joe was ready for it."
The off-script touchdown where Joe rolls — that's got to be the ideal scenario of the quarterback making a play when it opens up ...
"We've been preaching to our guys that we're going to score in a scramble drill. We have to. We throw the ball enough in empty so it's going to happen. We don't have a ton of reps in practice, so we try to manufacture what we can. When it pops up into a game, they have to be ready. C.J., like all the things that I said, he just knows what to do in those situations. I thought he was wide open to start and I saw the video replay where a defender dropped underneath him and so Joe couldn't see him. C.J. just stayed in phase with him like we practiced, and it paid off. It was a huge play by C.J. and Joe, and the linemen to keep him alive and give Joe an opportunity there."
What was your message at halftime, and was there a player that said anything to the team?
"The message was that they beat us in all three phases. We had not played great football. They genuinely beat us in all three phases. I don't know if it was their best shot, but it sure felt like it and we were not playing good football. We had a whole second half to play, so there was no reason to panic and nobody did. Everybody was calm and collected. They knew they were going to get the ball to start the half, and we're usually pretty efficient in that. They just trusted that we were going to come together ... this team is so connected right now. The brotherhood is so tight and it's so awesome to watch these guys celebrate with each other. They believe in each other. We've done it a lot of different ways at this point through three victories. That's going to help us as the season moves on."
Why do you think your guys are able to stay calm and not panic?
"It's just a different feel for this team right now. The football character is through the roof. What I mean that is that guys just love football. It's important to them. We had so many guys that were hurt that were dying to play today. They were begging me to let them play, but we couldn't let them play on a short week. That just shows where we've come as our guys are desperate to get on the field when they're injured ... guys got worn down today. They were worn out from Sunday, just like Jacksonville, but they just kept fighting and making plays to win today."
That last drive wasn't the way you drew it up ...
"You overcome adversity in this league and that's what our guys did. You don't know what it's going to look like, whether it's 14-0 at half or a goal line stand or a penalty or a zero-blitz, our guys were ready for it and I couldn't be more proud of them."
Trevor Lawrence hurt you with his legs in the first half plus hitting a throw to Shenault. What changed in the second half to limit that?
"They ran some zone reads on those third-and-shorts that really hurt us. They did a good job. I thought our defense held up and made some plays. I'm proud of our guys for adjusting and handling that. He's a really good athlete. I think last week there was an RPO where he pulled down and made a guy miss in space, and that was all you need to see to know this guy is really dynamic. He's quicker than you think he is. He's a strong runner. I could sense that we were going to have our work cut out for us on the perimeter. You knew this was a good team. They've had a lot of turnovers, but if you eliminate those turnovers then you see a good football team on tape. We saw a good quarterback with a ton of potential who was going to hit his stride sooner or later. We saw a really solid defense and special teams unit, so we knew we were going to have a battle on our hands and that's the way it turned out today."
Are there things you can look at and see where the short week and the emotion of last week impacted the way your guys played today?
"I think if we had a better rhythm coming out on offense it would have solved a lot of our problems. It would have solved the defenses problems because they played twice as many snaps as they did on Sunday, so the offense was a little fresher. They obviously sustained some drives today. I really put that on me as far as the offense in the first half not finding that rhythm to get the defense off the field and that would have solved a lot of our problems. I thought we had a tremendous week of practice. Going into this game, I didn't think we could have handled it any better as they were focused and dialed in. The first half we just have to do a better job of finding our rhythm on offense."
Do you have an update on Joe Mixon at the end of the game?
"I think it's a minor ankle injury, I believe. I would have to confirm, but he was moving around on it coming off the field. I had no idea what the diagnosis or timeline was."
Did you feel as though you needed this game tonight given what the slate looks like ahead?
"There's no question. This was the first quarter of the season and right now we're up 7-0. It's a long game, it's a long season. This is a very small part of it. It is critical to get this momentum going into a 10-day work week against an opponent that has been in the last two NFC championship games. It was critical to get the momentum going into this, and we just finished the first phase of the season and that's a very small part of what happens.
"Game balls went to Joe Burrow, Tyler Boyd, and C.J. Uzomah."
Zac Taylor said you audibled and checked into that last play. What made you decide you wanted to do that?
"Yeah, you guys have heard me talking about having the playbook in the back of my head and seeing looks that I can take advantage of. That just comes with experience. They gave me a 'zero' look, and so all week I knew the defensive coordinator had a Baltimore background. They showed some 'zero' on film — I knew I'd have to be ready for it in a big spot. I had C.J. (TE C.J. Uzomah) out there — that's not exactly the personnel we usually throw those jailbreak screens to — but he really took advantage of the opportunity. I had those plays in the back of my head expecting 'zero,' and I just got to it and didn't really think about it."
You're a little out of breath right now. That's not usually the case. Why is that the case right now?
"I just ran from another interview, that's why (laughs)."
What was the personnel?
"We were going to run it, but it was just that C.J. was out wide. And I was trying to figure out if I wanted to get to the boundary or to the field. I just figured there was more room to the field. I had C.J. out there, and I knew he'd take advantage of it."
Early on, were you getting flashbacks to the Baltimore game last season? Was this an example of you learning from that loss?
"It's a different structure of defense, but the same premise — they bring 'zero,' and they pop guys out when they're blocked. It's a good rep to get and put in your back pocket for later."
Compared to previous years, how different is the way this team reacted this year when you were down 14-0 and feeling like it's going the wrong way?
"There's no panic in the locker room. We knew we didn't play great in the first half. It is what it is. But we had all the faith in the world that we were going to come out and play well in the second half. We've been a second-half team. We're going to have to keep that finish, and we're going to have to play better in the first half on offense, but I'm proud of the way we fought back."
With the goal-line stand at the end of the first half, you went down only 14-0 as opposed to 21-0. That had to be a big reset...
"Yeah, it's a big hidden play. Honestly, I kind of forgot about it too. There's a lot of hidden plays like that throughout the game that help you win a game like this. And that's a big one."
That last drive of the game, you had shrapnel all over the place — Mixon goes out hurt, a false start, a hold, a zero blitz on empty. It's not exactly the way you drew it up, is it?
"Yeah, that's football though. That's the NFL — it's not going to be perfect. You're going to have to find ways to win when everything's against you and your back's against the wall, and that's what we did today. I'm proud of the way we fought."
Zac Taylor said you never practiced that screen that you ran to Uzomah on the last drive. How many times did you rep that during the offseason?
"We repped it a lot in camp. That's a 'zero' check that I can get to when I see that. I knew our guys would be ready for it."
But never to C.J. though?
"No, not to C.J. I don't know if we've thrown one to C.J."
On the second-half touchdown to C.J., you extended the play with your feet. Can you go through that play real quick?
"We haven't really been great in scramble situations the last two years. That's something that I wanted to make a big emphasis on going into this season, and Zac (Taylor) did too. You see across the league the big plays that come are off-schedule. You can only draw up so many plays, and sometimes your guys just have to make plays. So we talked about it a lot this week, and I'm feeling more and more comfortable doing that kind of stuff. My knee's feeling really good. I'm putting in the work in my rehab to be confident in that. That's a big play going forward."
Do you feel a sense of ease on third down knowing that you have WR Tyler Boyd out there?
"Yeah. We do our work on third down and preparation knowing what coverages and blitzes we're going to get, and we try to put TB (Boyd) in situations to go win on guys when we think it's a good matchup. He did a great job today, and he's really a security blanket for me."
What does it say about C.J. Uzomah that he's caught probably the two biggest passes of the season?
"That's who C.J. is. He works really, really hard, and he's coming off an injury too — a lot of people forget that. He put in a lot of hard work for that as well, and he works hard for his opportunities. At tight end you don't get a lot of them, but when his come he makes the most of them."
On that scramble on the throw to C.J., it looked like you were motioning ...
"We had a 'man (coverage)' kind of 'rub play' called to the field, and they kind of busted. Two of them ran with TB on the wheel route, and left C.J. And then they dropped an end right where I wanted to throw the ball to C.J., so I was just trying to maneuver him where I wanted him. They only rushed three guys, and the offensive line did a great job securing those guys and allowing me to work."
Zac Taylor talked a lot about the importance of the crowd, especially in the second half, and it seemed like something that inspired the long pass to Ja'Marr Chase. Can you take us through that play and what you sensed after that play happened?
"The fans are a big part of this thing. I talked about wanting to put a great product out on the field for them, because we have great fans. We just need to give them something to root for. And I think we're doing that this year. As far as Ja'Marr goes, at some point they're going to have to stop single-covering him, because he's just going to keep running past people."
On the third-and-six to Boyd on the last touchdown drive, was he open?
"Oh yeah. There was 'two-man' (coverage). That's just what TB does on third down — he makes plays, and I find him."
You're now a quarter of the way though the season. How would you grade your performance so far, what do you like about what you've done, and what do you want to improve?
"I think I've gotten better and better each week. Last week, the defense played so well that I didn't have to do a lot. Tonight, there's going to be games like that where you have to step up and make plays. I'm really happy with my performance tonight, and I'm going to build on that and keep getting better and better."
You guys have showed a lot of resiliency this year. Is there a commonality as to why you've been so resilient?
"I think our experiences last year have brought us to this point. We took a lot of tough losses last year. We were in games late, and we just ended up losing them. We brought in some guys from winning teams that have won before, and who really understand how to do it. That's a big part of it as well."
You mentioned the deep ball to Ja'Marr Chase last week, and how that was something Ja'Marr saw. Was it a similar situation this week, or what did you see on that deep pass to him in the third quarter?
"Yeah, I saw single-coverage, and when I get single-coverage with Ja'Marr, we're going to take it. He's just going to keep making those plays. Really, the last couple weeks it has been a big play by Ja'Marr that's sparked our offense, so he's just going to keep making plays. That's what he does."
On the first touchdown to C.J., it seemed like Josh Allen was right on top of you. Did you expect him to be there?
"Yeah. We had run some keepers early in the game, so I knew to get my head around fast because I think they weren't really expecting it coming in. We ran some early, and I expected him to be there."
To keep your postseason hopes alive, did you guys feel like you had to take care of business early in the season to keep that momentum for later in the year?
"You always want to start strong. We're 3-1 — we're in a good spot. Obviously we had the one setback that we didn't play very well in Chicago, but we played pretty well the other three games. We're just going to keep building on it. I'm excited to have a bye weekend. It's going to be fun to watch some football, and kind of relax and get a head start on Green Bay."
Can you run through the goal-line stand on fourth-and-one at the end of the second quarter? Were you surprised they didn't kick the field goal?
"I don't know if I was surprised they didn't kick a field goal. They'd shown previously that they like to pull the ball and run with (Jaguars quarterback) Trevor (Lawrence). We got our backs put against the wall and just made a stop."
Did Lawrence remind you of anyone you faced before?
"I don't know. He's a very athletic, mobile quarterback, obviously. He makes plays and that's always tough to go against guys that are more than pocket passers. He's definitely going to be a great quarterback in this league. Obviously, there were some signs of that tonight."
What is it like for you when the defense stopped Jacksonville on its last drive in the fourth quarter and Joe Burrow led the offense out onto the field with five minutes remaining knowing what he can do?
"He's calm, cool and collected. That's what he is and that's what he's shown ever since I met him and have been here with him. We have all the confidence in the world he's going to get the job done."
What led to the defense having difficulty stopping Jacksonville running the ball in the first half of the game?
"They were doing some things that were effective against what we were running. Sometimes that's the nature of this game. We faced some adversity in the first half. That's the nature of football. Your back's against the wall and you have to just rebound and move on from it. You can't keep letting plays defeat you more than once and like I said, we faced adversity. But like I said last week, we believe in each other and came out in the second half and got the win."
What is the biggest difference in this defense this year?
"The biggest difference is we've got guys who trust in each other and we're playing hard. When you've got guys flying to the ball and trying to make plays on the ball, that's effective. We're all believing in (defensive coordinator) Lou (Anarumo's) system and sometimes, people are going to make plays. We've got guys that never back down no matter what happens and keep fighting. That's something we can definitely work with."
This is the second time in a game you've had a pivotal play that you didn't rep in practice. Can you talk about how that play worked out tonight?
"I'll be honest, I had to (do a) double take on that one. Tyler Boyd was looking at me, too, like 'What did he just call?' It was Cover Zero and we knew going in that this (defensive coordinator) was coming in from the (Baltimore) Ravens and that's what they like to do — run Cover Zero in critical situations — and Joey Franchise is just back there dealing dots out there knowing and understanding what the defense is doing. He called that play up and just made something happen. Boyd had a huge block on that one, Trenton (Irwin) came out and had a big block. (Burrow) gave me a wink after I caught it and I was like 'This guy here, he's reckless (laughs)!"
He was able to recognize what they were doing in the moment?
"Yeah. For him, he is the smartest person out there at all times. I was fortunate enough to get brought into the quarterbacks' Jeopardy game ... The questions, I was like 'What the hell is this — I don't know anything!' and (Burrow) is just like 'Can I steal this one? Can I steal this one?' and I was like 'If you want to — I don't know the answer!' He's just Joey Franchise."
On the second touchdown you caught, it looked like he pointed at you to cross the route ...
"Yeah, on that one ... He saw the zone read the way they played Tyler Boyd, they overplayed that and Josh Allen I'm pretty sure dropped back into coverage and once I got past him, there was going to be one person behind me and I had some room. Once I took off, I saw him take off and we were on the same page and he threw another dot to me. I'll turn upfield, hopefully score and I did."
What were you thinking when you got the ball with 5:40 left in the game?
"I knew we were going to score. I didn't think anything. I went back on the field like 'Oh, we won. We're going to score a touchdown or a field goal, but obviously we won this game.' Especially, how we played in the second half.
"We came out unbelievably slow. That's not a knock on Jacksonville; they're a good team — their record isn't indicative of who they are. But we knew we were shooting ourselves in the foot. We weren't performing the way that we should have performed and we came in at halftime — first of all, the defense had an incredible stop at the end of the half. To go in 21 to 0 in comparison to 14 to 0 is huge. We all stepped up, said some things in the locker room at halftime and came out and executed."
A win like this can do a lot in terms of confidence but the team is showing personality after wins. Do you think there's something to this team's personality this year that is resulting in success?
"The culture in the locker room is huge. I think this isn't a job where we're like 'Oh, we're going to work. We're going to play football.' It's like we're the homies. We're brothers in (the locker room), having a good time, talking to each other. When we're chirping at each other at practice, it's not a knock (on someone). We're trying to make sure that that person is getting better and that's something that is unique. Sometimes, people take that personally and this year, we're taking it as 'Maybe I should just step up and do my job.' The locker room and what the coaches have instilled in us, it's huge."
Top shots from the Bengals hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season.
Did you catch that third down ball with your ear or what was going on there?
"Oh man, all I could think about was just winning. It's third down — got to make a play — we've got to stay on the field. There was a little P.I. — he grabbed my hand. Still managed to take the contact and make the play. There was no serious injury after that — just hit my funny bone."
Was that the most impressed you've been with Joe Burrow?
"Uh, nah. Like I've been preaching, he gets better and better as pressure comes on. As games go later and later, he gets better and better. We feed off that and we feel it. So that means we've got to be on point because we know he's coming on point."
What was going through your mind when they took a 14-0 lead?
"We've got to step up. I knew we had the guys and the group to do it, we just weren't executing. We came back in the locker room, recollected ourselves, and we weren't panicking or anything like that, we just had to maintain our game plan. We knew we got the ball at half, so we just wanted to go out there and just strike first, and bring some energy, and change the momentum."
How different had it have been if it got to 21-0 without the goal-line stand?
"Man, the defense really held it down. They didn't score, and we got the ball back at the one because we had an outstanding stop. That was the difference in the game for sure. That stop really got us going, because the game probably would have went a whole different way if they would've punched it in. So I take my hat off to our defense."
Did anybody say anything at halftime?
"Yeah, we all go in there and try and get guys going. Like myself, I'm a captain, so I've got to come in and bring energy. I feel like I can get guys going, so it wasn't anything stressful in there, we weren't fighting about anything — we knew. And once we came out there in the second half we scored every time we touched the ball."
How much can you put a game like this in the bank for later in the season knowing that you're down, not playing well, and still find a way in the second half to win?
"Yeah, I mean, we know our potential. We know what offense we have, with the exception of Tee (Higgins). Imagine once Tee Higgins gets back in the mix. Like I said, all we've got to do is execute our plays, and if they're sound, I honestly feel like no team can stop us. It's hard to match to us. So as long as we go out there and do what the coaches set the game plan to, then you can't stop us."