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What The Bengals Said After The Overtime Thriller At Miami

191222-Taylor-Zac_news_conference_road (AP)

Cincinnati Head Coach Zac Taylor

(Opening Statement)

"I'm not real sure where to start there. That's the full range of emotions. Six minutes left in the game, we're down I think 23 points. I think as a team, at that point you're frustrated because we hadn't done enough to give ourselves an opportunity and then all of a sudden this thing came to life. The energy on the sidelines, everybody came to life. We come from down 23 in the fourth quarter because of offense, defense, special teams, everyone in it together. So we get those points and the energy is what the energy has got to be on every single drive we've got during the season because that energy is irreplaceable — what we had there. We knew we were going to win that game. Obviously it didn't go our way. We had DBs, we had receivers, starters playing special teams at the end. We were down bodies. Guys hurt, guys playing hurt, fighting through all sorts of bad feelings that they had and giving us an opportunity to go win that game. Of course, they made one more play than we did in that overtime. Certainly the whole range of emotions there. You're frustrated that we come out flat. We lose a ton of one-on-ones in the first half. We're not making any plays on defense. We're giving up the one-on-ones, missing tackles, getting late hits on the quarterback, all the things that frustrate you and all of a sudden this thing comes to life and these guys kind of prove what we see in the locker room every single day that there's no quit in these guys and that they're playing for each other, they're still connected. Here we are in Week 16, on the road, and it doesn't appear that you got much to play for, but these guys play for each other. That's the foundation that we're trying to build here. It's going to pay off for us. It didn't pay off today. We've got one more shot at this thing. A divisional game at home in front of our fans, and we've got to go out the right way. It's going to start with the preparation this week. There's a lot of emotion right now obviously when you fight back like that and you don't win. There's a lot of emotion; but we love these guys for what they're giving us and we need it for one more week."

You said emotion. We could heard you through that door just how loudly and passionate you were talking to these guys. What message do you want to get across to that group after a game like that?

"There's a lot of things you want to say there in the middle of the fourth quarter as you're thinking through it. But, of course, they show the character that they've shown for me and the staff all season. They believed we were going to get it done. They did their best to get it done. Again, we came up short. When you've got a group of guys that play like that through 16 weeks for you, it's about us. That's what we say: it's about each other and just trying to help your brother out to the left and right and I saw that today in fourth quarter, overtime, everyone giving everything they've got — literally everything they've got — and we saw that. Here we are the middle of late December. In that way, I'll always appreciate that from those guys."

How much did you get out of RB Joe Mixon? He was clearly sick.

"They set out —a great plan by Miami. They set out and said, 'You're not going to run the football.' We saw that from the first snap of the game what their plan was. Good job by them. (They) made it difficult. You're going to have to win some one-on-ones in the pass game and beat man coverage on first, second and third down. At times, we were not nearly good enough up front in the protection with errors or just missing some one-on-ones. There were plenty of times when we had a one-on-one opportunity down the field and we've got to make the play, whether it's by better technique, creating separation or just catching the ball. Late in the game, guys stepped up and made those plays. It was a crazy game."

What happened with RB Joe Mixon? Was he healthy?

"He's just a little under the weather. But it was the same thing Jessie (Bates) dealt with last week. These guys, they had a bug yesterday and they fight through it today and are ready to go and do everything they can to put themselves in position. Again, we've pot a lot of guys that have a fighter's mentality. You know when you hear something like that, that they're going to play. They've worked too hard and I appreciate that from them."

In your mind, what changed from the first half to the second half?

"We started to win a lot more one-on-ones. Literally it's up front, one-on-one pass protection, a guy going the wrong way in pass protection, not creating separation in the pass game, not making a play down the field. That's on offense. On defense, losing one-on-ones in the pass game. They were making plenty of completions where it's truly one-on-one, they make the play and we didn't get that done. There really in the second half, late third quarter, fourth quarter, guys started stepping up, calming down a little bit, not putting so much pressure on themselves. Just let the plays come to them instead of trying to press too much. Those are things we talked about at halftime. The guys, really, for the most part, did a pretty good job second half."

You had new guys up front. You were playing OT/G Freddie Johnson at left a little bit. You had G/C Billy Price in at right guard. Did that affect the protection?

"The plan was to get Fred some work in there at left tackle throughout the game. Then we were playing Billy Price and John Jerry at times there at right guard. We'll watch the tape and evaluate and see how those guys did."

Was there a point in the fourth quarter where you were down 23 where it was not, "Let's win this game just make it respectable?"

"Sadly we've been in those moments enough to where we know how we pot to score and when we've pot to kick our onside kicks. Guys executed where they needed to. There's not been a time this year when we've unfortunately found ourselves in these holes where the thought is ever, 'Let's make it close.' Every decision we made is, 'If there's an outside chance that we can win this game, what is it that we have to do?' That's the decision we made every simple game we've been in, whether it's the Baltimore game, the San Francisco game early in the year. Those decisions have always been, 'We're going to make these plays to put ourselves in position to win.' This is actually the first time we did it, but that's always been the thought process."

You clinched the No. 1 overall pick with this. Do you have any thoughts on that situation?

"No, because I think you see a team that doesn't care about that right now, a team that's just trying to win. We fight too hard, we work too hard. If there's any competitive juices in you whatsoever, you can't go out on a field not trying your best to win the game. That's what you saw from these players, these coaches, this organization. Those are thing that we handle in the offseason. Right now, we're just trying to win football games because we put in too much work to not give every effort. I'm proud of the group for still charging hard here at the very end."

Can you talk about QB Andy Dalton specifically as a leader down the stretch there?

"He was as fiery as you've probably ever seen him. He's frustrated when guys aren't doing their job. I thought he hung in there and really gave us a chance. He's always great on the sidelines dealing with me and (Quarterbacks Coach) Alex (Van Pelt), making sure we're all on the same page. He's another coach out there, to be honest with you. He sees it right from the quarterback's vantage point. We always value things he has to say. In this game he did a great job really getting us from plays that probably weren't going to be great to better plays in the run game because they were truly challenging us some of the fronts they were playing. He has complete control like he always had."

I know you downplayed it basically all season, but how challenging was it when you have a lot of the fan base that wants you all to lose this game? What kind of challenge is that keeping the team locked in and preparing for a season like this?

"No challenge. No challenge. If you've pot any competitive juices in your system, you play to win. There's no challenge. Some people don't understand that, I understand. Maybe they haven't been in the position that these guys are in, but it's not hard for us."

The last onside kick worked out so well. How much did you guys work on that? It worked to perfection.

"They worked on it. Credit to (Special Teams Coordinator) Darrin (Simmons). Credit to Randy (Bullock). We've tried a variation in practice. It's not like we totally scrapped it and we did something new this week. There's different things we've done. The percentages of recovering one are extreme, less than 6 percent I think at this point with the new rules. It was a great kick by Randy right there. So last week, we're just trying to do anything we can to give ourselves a chance. Obviously it didn't work out. Much better execution this week. It sure led to an exciting finish."

The touchdown to TE Tyler Eifert at the end, when you're out on the field are you thinking, "Let's run a Hail Mary type play?" Or are you thinking, "Am I doing something more regular shot?"

"You've got a shot. We were probably in the 20s, somewhere in there, right? High 20s. You really don't need a Hail Mary, you don't need everybody all jumping up there. You've got some time to drive it like he did. That's really a gray area right there. You don't have great play calls there. It's just let's get five guys in the end zone, be ready to throw it on the line, go make a play. Eifert, if I remember it correctly, caught it above his head. That's great chemistry between those two being on the same page over the course of the years. You could have called that play, just run five guys in the end zone and go get it. I'm not trying to sell you short there. I know you've got great play calls. (laughter) That was a good play by them."

Those two missed field goals and then K Randy Bullock gets a third chance and nails a 57-yarder, which I think is the longest for the Bengals.

"He did that on purpose (laughter)."

It turns out that was a huge play.

"It was, absolutely. At the end of the half there, it was 57 yards, I think. I'm proud of Randy (Bullock) for stepping up and making that kick. That's as long as I've seen from him. I've never kicked, so to pet two kicks like that, I don't know if that helps you or hurts you when you're kicking that long. I'm proud of the way that he stepped up and responded after missing two. I'm sure mentally that affects you a little bit. He stepped up and drilled that one. It gave us a little bit of momentum coming into half there, which was good."

Given the effort and the way you looked, you all were down 23 to this team. At some point were you concerned that you all had basically thrown in the towel on the season and everybody checked out?

"No, I never saw it. Up until even yesterday, we were facing adversity just in the travel out here. I didn't see any hint of that from the guys. They were going to be in it to play. For whatever reason, we started pretty flat. It didn't look good at halftime. Really there were times in the third quarter obviously where it was disappointing. Again, it's a four-quarter game. Our guys stepped up and played for that full 60 minutes."

Is this game kind of a metaphor for the whole season?

"You're not far off. It really is. We put ourselves in a hole, guys don't quit, they fight back. Obviously the wins have been hard to come by for us. There will be a point where the stuff serves us well in the future. We know the character. We've been stripped down to the bare bones here. We're 1-14. That's as low as you're going to pet. It gives you a chance to see the character of everybody in the building. That's shown through in a really positive way."

The two-pointer to tie it, what was that play supposed to be before QB Andy Dalton ran it in? Was there a primary target there?

"I feel like we ran a lot of plays down there on their goal line, so I've pot to remember which one you were talking about. Yeah, there was a primary. It was on the left side with two tight ends, I believe, if we were in 12 personnel. Probably (Tyler) Eifert if I remember it correctly. It was Eifert, C.J. (Uzomah), over the ball and we had John Ross around the back and Andy just felt the void and scrambled it in. We ran that play a couple times in those situations."

Was that the first one?

"We ran it a couple times. I'm going to have to check back to see what order we ran them in. But we ran that play a few times."

OB Andy Dalton

You've been in this league a long time and experienced a lot of different games. Is this as wild of a game as you've seen? It's something about coming down here, I think.

"Yeah, I mean shoot the last time it ended on a safety. This time, the way we were able to come back and score as many points as we did in the fourth quarter — late in the fourth quarter — and recover the onside kick. We had what —29 seconds to pet down there and score a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. We were able to do a lot in this game. It was definitely a wild game, for sure."

Can you talk about what sparked that rally? Was it something you said in the huddle that really energized you guys? What really was the turnaround point there?

"I think we just started making the plays that we needed to. One thing I was saying was 'Okay, we just need two touchdowns. Two drives, two touchdowns. That's all we've got to worry about. Worry about this drive. Worry about scoring.' Then we did that. Obviously we gave ourselves a chance to win in overtime and weren't able to pet it done."

When you spiked the ball on that 2-point conversion, you were really fired up. What were your emotions like when you ran it in?

"I was happy. We just tied the game. It was just one of those things that's like — the way the game had gone early on to being in that position, it was like a big relief. It was like, 'Alright, we did it. Let's go win this game now."'

What was that play? Was it the same play as the one to TE Tyler Eifert? A similar one?

"It's similar, yeah. It just wasn't there, so I got out of the pocket and was lucky there was a lane for me to run."

You were looking for your tight end?

"Yeah, they were part of it. They were part of the progression but I was able to pet out of the pocket and pet in the end zone."

What were you thinking on the touchdown to TE Tyler Eifert? It wasn't really a Hail Mary, but kind of in between. What was it?

"In my head, I was thinking, 'All right, I'm just going to buy as much time as I can and try to give Tyler a chance. The way they played it, I mean, they left a lane for him. As soon as I let it out of my hand, I was like, 'get it there as quick as it can.' Tyler made a great play. Those are fun moments in games. You need to make a play like that. Again, then having to make the 2-point conversion, that's stuff that you can build on, for sure."

We just saw a little bit in this game, but can you just describe the fight this team still has going into the last game of the season here?

"Yeah, I mean, just with the position we're in — the circumstances, the way this season has gone — to play all the way to the end of regulation like we did, then to have a chance in overtime, I think it just shows the heart of this time. It shows what (Head Coach) Zac (Taylor) has been preaching to everybody: staying together and fighting all the way to the end. I'm proud of everybody on this team. It's very easy you could give up with the position we're in, but there hasn't been that. The guys are fighting for each other, and that's what you have to have."

Some fans say they wanted you guys to lose this game to get the No. 1 overall pick. As a player, that's an offensive thought. What do you say to fans who look at the game that way and is that even possible as a player to even view anything that way?

"You don't view that. None of those people are — those types of fans, they aren't true fans. If you're a fan of the team, you want them to win, you want them to be successful. Every time you're out there, you want to win. Every time a player steps on the field, they're not thinking about anything else but trying to win the game, trying to give their best effort and win. That's what you need to be a fan of."

People forgot the fourth-down play for the touchdown — WR Tyler Boyd barely gets in. Was he like your third option there or was he your first option?

"Tyler made a great play on that one. There were times in this game where he was petting doubled. The moments that he wasn't, he came up big for us. Not only the touchdown, but then the play before we scored Tyler's touchdown, right at the end. For him to go up and make that catch and get a big chunk there, that gave us an opportunity to be down there. That was huge. 'T.B.' played really well."

How emotional was this game? The way you guys came out kind of flat and then I see you spiked the ball right in front of that — I can tell you don't care about the record, you don't care how the season has gone. This meant a lot to you — it felt like it meant a lot to this team to just fight like that till the end.

"Yeah, we're going to fight to the end. This game is — you have to ride the wave. There's times where things are going to be going really well, there's times where it's not. You've got to stay the course. We were able to do that today. Obviously we weren't able to pet the win. That's the most important thing we want to do. There was a lot of good things that happened today. I think a lot of guys' characters showed."

There were 35 points put up by the offense today, the most all season. Was this the kind of offensive performance that you guys have kind of been seeking after?

"Scoring-wise, yes. We feel like that's been our issue, especially getting down in the red zone. It happened early in the game. We were down in the red zone, we weren't able to put it in. That has hurt us. Finally, at the end of this game, we were able to do some good things and score touchdowns. I think that's the biggest takeaway from today is we were able to get in the end zone and score touchdowns when we needed

Back to the No. 1 pick question, I know you guys don't think about that, but how do you block it out when it is something that ESPN's talking about and fans are talking about on Twitter? How do you block it out when that's the main headline going into a game, but I know you just want to win?

"Yeah, I mean, you're not worried about the draft while you're playing this game. You shouldn't be worried about the draft. Nobody's worried about the draft. Everybody is worried about going what they can do to win a game."

WR Tyler Boyd

It took a little bit to get on track but once you got on track, it was like a steam roller. What was the trigger? What got you guys going to the point where you got going in that second half down the stretch of the game?

"Just guys makinp plays. Just makinp plays whenever your number's called. Once you see that, you want to be the next guy up to make that play to continue to keep the chains movinp and/or score. We did a preat job of just playing for each other."

Take us through the two touchdown catches as you saw them. Take us through what took place out there.

"We just pame planned it very well. We just executed the plays and I think I ran a great route and I executed my assignment. As a team, we did everything solid to allow Andy (Dalton) to throw the ball."

OB Andy Dalton threw the ball 56 times. Almost 400 yards throwing. He had 396 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and then he runs for that 2-point conversation and the game goes into overtime. At that point, you guys, everybody was as high as a kite. It had to be tough that overtime didn't go your way.

"Again, we just — I think Andy played a great game. We had to pass obviously that much because we were down, so we had to put the ball in the air, we had to try to score as fast as possible. I think he made great decisions with the ball. He threw it to the right people when he needed to and it showed. He was the bright spot and he ran in the 2-point conversion for us. We just know that the guy is playing, the guy is around and will never quit."

LB Jordan Evans

What happened on the onside kick from your perspective?

"Honestly right before the kick, (Special Teams Coordinator) Darrin (Simmons) had talked to me and made a little adjustment on my angle. I'm pretty sure 'Stan' (Stanley Morgan) was the one that made the play. Stanley Morgan came up limp from it. The ball popped up right to me and I secured it and gave the team an opportunity to go down there and score."

It was the first onside kick the Bengals have pulled off since 2010. On that play, are you looking specifically for a bounce back, are you trying to be a few yards behind where the ball is?

"It's just an onside kick, so everyone is looking for the ball. From the alignment obviously, I'm going to get there a little later. But yeah, God pot me and it went our way; but the poal wasn't just to make the onside kick. The goal was to win the game and we came up a little short, so it is what it is."

You rallied from 23 down in the fourth quarter to get to overtime.

"I feel like that's a testament to a lot of the guys on the team not quitting. I feel like a lot of teams, especially in our position, one (win) and whatever our record is, they probably would've folded and quit, and a lot of guys on this team really are not like that. Obviously it's a cool comeback but it's not a comeback unless you win."

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was really hot in the first half. It seems like you guys made enough plays, including an interception by CB Darius Phillips, to give the offense the chance to come back into the game.

"Yeah, offense, defense, and special teams, we all work together. Our Goal isn't just to stop putting points on the board but also to give the ball back to them, so the turnover helped. But like I said, we still fell short."

TE C.J. Uzomah

You were down two scores, 29 seconds, you have to convert, you have to get the onside kick, you have to make both conversions. What was it like to be out there and know that you had to do all those things right just to get into overtime?) — "Kind of wild, just a little. No, it was crazy. Like you said, we were down 23. We scored two touchdowns, got an onside kick. 'Ty' (Tyler Eifert) make an unbelievable play. Andy (Dalton) made unbelievable plays. We had to pet those 2-point conversions and that was a very just crazy ending to a game to be completely honest, just to put ourselves in position to get it into OT; so, yeah."

How do you describe the contrast, because Head Coach Zac Taylor just said you guys were flat  in the first half. You scored two field goals and then suddenly in a little over six minutes, you guys came back and tied the game?

"Yeah, I don't really know the answer to that one particularly. Like you said, we were flat — not just as an offense but in all facets of the ball. I think that on special teams, we came out somewhat flat too, just thinking about kickoff return and punt, so I don't know. I think we just kicked it into a second gear towards the end, maybe, of the third (quarter); but really just at the beginning of the fourth (quarter) we just hit our stride."

What's it like knowing that if you lose this game you're guaranteed the No. 1 pick so the fans are saying 'don't do that, don't make that, don't get the two point conversion,' and then you guys are playing your hearts out?

"Yeah. Look, I love our fans. I respect them. But respectfully, I don't really care about any of that. I'm here to win and we're here to win and we want to win for these coaches, we want to win for the brothers that have put their blood, sweat and tears into being in this position and we're given God-given abilities for a reason and we have to use them. We're not just going to go out there and lay an egg or lay down or any of that. We're here to compete and that's what we're trying to show and so yeah, all of that outside noise is outside noise and I respect the heck out of every simple person in here who played their hearts out."