BENGALS POSTGAME QUOTES, NOV. 7, 2021, CLEVELAND AT CINCINNATI
ZAC TAYLOR, Head coach
Initial comments ...
"We just feel like we let an opportunity slip through our hands today. We didn't deserve to win, Cleveland did. They beat us, plain and simple. We had two turnovers in the first half that led to 10 points. We gave up two explosive plays, one in the first half, one in the second half for touchdowns that gave them 14 (points). When you're playing a team that's built the way they are with the running game and you give them a big lead — a two-score lead or a three-score lead — that's where they're going to be at their best. So it's disappointing, but that's the outcome today. We're 5-4 at the bye, and now these guys get a chance to regroup. You're going to see a good football team after this bye. We've got a lot of season left in front of us, and we just told our guys we're going to learn from this, move on, and be a team to be reckoned with here in November and December."
You said that this will be a good football team after the bye. After the last two weeks, what would make you or the fans believe that?
"We believe it. It doesn't really matter what people outside this building believe. That's what we know we're made of. It's plain and simple: When you have the turnovers that we had — really, a 14 point swing on the first possession of the game, and we have the other fumble and we're trying to get some momentum there and they punch it in for three points. That put us in a hole. But at halftime, we weren't defeated. We felt like we were going to have great opportunities. Myles Garrett, he made a nice sack there on our offense's first possession, then the defense got momentum and they just finished it off from there. So, credit to them. I don't think there's any magic formula, we just made some pretty simple mistakes. We had more dropped passes than I've seen from our group. It was just a day where we needed to be pretty dang good, and we weren't. It's as simple as that."
What did you see out of Joe Burrow today, especially regarding the drops and the turnovers?
"Everybody's going to look at themselves and say this wasn't their best performance, myself included. The bye probably comes at a right time for us. We wish we had a little momentum going into it, but we don't. This is a chance for us to step back, get physically healthy, get mentally ready for what this back half of the season is going to bring. I don't think anybody's going to watch the tape today and be pleased with what we put out there."
Burrow's interception on the goal line — was it just a late throw?
"It's hard. That's one I'm going to need to see. Denzel (Browns CB Denzel Ward) obviously made a great play, but he's a great corner. He made a great play. We'll have to check the location and timing of the throw and those things. We run that play a lot. We ran it last week for a pretty good play too. It may have just come down to him making a play. We'll just see where the throw was at when we check the tape."
You decided to make a change at right guard in the starting lineup. What went into that decision, and might we see any other changes in the starting offensive line given how much Burrow was hit today?
"Two sacks came from the (running) backs not being on top of their protection, so we'll start with that. That's usually put upon the offensive line, but it's really disappointing when those set drives back because we're not on top of details in protection. We'll see how the team played. I have confidence in our offensive line, so I'm not going to make any knee-jerk reactions after this game. But we'll have a chance to revisit it after the bye."
Did anything they do on defense catch you off-guard?
"I feel like we moved the ball up and down the field the whole first half, and we left some points on the board. Those two turnovers really hurt us. We had the fourth down — I felt we should have converted one of those two plays on third down or fourth down. We look inwardly at ourselves, particularly in the first half there. It felt like we left a lot of points on the board and had some great opportunities."
There was a lot of talk after last week's loss about the defense's tackling issues. And it seemed like that was an issue again today ...
"We've got to be better there. We're facing a team that's the number one rushing team in the NFL. That's kind of been their bread and butter. Chubb (Browns RB Nick Chubb) is a fantastic running back, and they've got a really good offensive line and a tight end that blocks really well for them. We've got our work cut out for us, because they've that's what they've shown each game that they've played the last two years. One of the things you've got to do is be where you're supposed to be, and be able to put the back on the ground when you've got the opportunities. I did see a couple times when we had some opportunities and missed tackles. We'll see if it was a consistent thing of the same play over and over, or if it was one play — I don't know the answer to that yet, but it's something we'll have to watch."
You've been fairly aggressive offensively at the end of the first half, but you let time run off the clock toward the end of the half today. Why?
"We wanted to end with points there at the buzzer. We did that. It's fourth down, so I don't know what else we could have done there."
Ja'Marr Chase had not looked like a rookie all season, but he had a rough game today. What are some things you want to tell him following this game?
"We have a lot of confidence in him. And like I said earlier, we have a lot of guys who will look back and see plays that were in their grasp that we normally make but didn't. Why those? I don't know. We needed those plays in this game, and we just didn't make them. We'll watch the tape, we'll talk to the guys about what the issues were, and we'll put them behind us and move on."
Has there been a sense of sharpness that you had early in the season but have been missing these last two weeks?
"That's probably easy to say when you have the two losses back-to-back like that. You look at today, and it's very simple: We had two turnovers, and then really on one play we gave up a 60-yard post route for a touchdown. That's typically not on all 11 guys, it's just a coverage issue. I know he (Mayfield) got hit as soon as he released that ball, so we were right there. That play could have gone the other way had it been a half-second later. Again, we're going to make sure that we react accordingly with how we feel our guys did and what we could do adjustment-wise on both sides of the ball. We'll just see what this tape tells us."
There were plenty of targets for Chase and Tee Higgins today, but not as many for Tyler Boyd. Is that something you thought might happen as part of the game plan, or is that something where you think, 'Maybe we messed up on that one?'
"No, I wouldn't have thought that going in. They've played pretty soft on the corners, so you had a chance to attack there. I thought we were pretty efficient at that. At halftime, it felt like the only incompletions were in the red zone — I could be wrong on that. I felt like we completed every other ball we threw. When you go in with that mindset at halftime, we feel pretty good about our rhythm there. And then that sack on the first drive (of the second half) set us back, and they went back and scored, which was tough. I could be mistaken there. But Tyler is a big part of what we do, and it may have been a mistake on my part to not have him more involved. He could have gotten a lot of targets; sometimes the other guys were open and got the ball and got the targets. That's just the way it went, but we've got a ton of confidence in him, and it was unintentional."
What's the trend with the defense that's the most concerning over the last two weeks? And how is it correctable?
"It's two different performances, really. Last week, there weren't very many explosive plays. This week, explosives really hurt us. It's kind of a different issue each week. I think people are going to try to paint a picture of overreaction when you lose two games in a row. We're not. We're going to correct those things that we need to correct and use this bye week to get our bodies back and make sure we're healthy going into the back half of the season. This isn't unusual for teams to lose two games in a row in this league. It feels awful — trust me — to sit here after two consecutive losses. It's important we're consistent with our approach throughout. We know we've done some good things over these first nine games of the season. We'll make the corrections that we need to make so we're focused and come out strong after the bye. There are very few teams in the history of the league that haven't had to overcome two consecutive losses, and we'll be one of those teams that overcomes. Again, our focus will be on the right things — getting our guys healthy and playing good football."
JOE BURROW, Quarterback
What are your overall thoughts on today's game?
"I didn't play very well. If I play better we're in that game, we have a chance to win that game. I just didn't play well. That's all there is too it."
On the Pick Six interception, were you late with the throw or did he just make a good play on it?
"He made a good play. I left it inside a bit. If you do that to Denzel (Ward), he's going to make you pay."
Was the Pick Six a tough hurdle to overcome?
"No. I thought we came out well in the first half. We had a lot of yards in that first half. We were playing well, we we're in rhythm. I turned it over twice, we had a fumble and in this league, you can't overcome those kind of turnovers."
(Bengals head coach) Zac Taylor said you're going to see a better team coming out of the bye. What gives you confidence as a group you're going to be able to keep this from snowballing into a multiple loss type of thing?
"I know the guys we have in that locker room. We've got tough, resilient guys that are excited to come back to work. Today's a tough day. We didn't play very well and it showed on the field. We're halfway through the season, so we've still got a long ways to go. Everything is still in front of us and we're going to come back to work ready to go."
What happened on the second interception?
"Denzel made another good play. He tipped it. They played 11 Lurk we call it, and there's a safety inside so I tried to kind of stop Ja'Marr (Chase) with the ball and Denzel was right there and made a good play, tipped the ball. A credit to him and I've got to do a better job taking care of the ball."
Is there anything the Browns did defensively that made it tough on you?
"You know, credit to them. They kept everything in front of them and eliminated the big plays, and they've got two big freak-a-zoids on the edge that make it tough. You've got to give credit to them."
It seemed like Tyler Boyd wasn't really involved a lot in the offense today. Why wasn't he involved?
"We'll go back and watch the film and see what other concepts we could have run and all that stuff. It's tough to say right now."
You were hit 12 times and sacked five times. What are your thoughts on the way the offensive line played today?
"I thought the whole line played really well. In the first half they were really controlling the line of scrimmage and then if you get behind against those guys, that's when they tee off. You can't put the o-line in that position. We've got to jump out early so we can run the ball better. I thought they played great. They did."
What is the message you have for the team after two straight losses?
"We've still got everything in front of us. There's no panicking. We've lost two in a row — so what? We've got eight games and still a chance to win the division and make the playoffs. So, that's our focus moving forward."
With the interceptions you've thrown this season, what is your mindset there? Do you feel they even out over the course of the season?
"Today the interceptions were frustrating. Over the course of the season, there's been some that were my fault, some good plays by the defense. The ones that I can control I need to limit, and that's that."
It was a weird first half with you moving the ball down the field, but not getting points ...
"We just turned the ball over. I've got to take care of the ball better — we've all got to take care of the ball better. When we were rolling in the first half, we just kept turning the ball over, and that was killing us. You can't do that."
How do you look at the first half of the season as to where you are as a team?
"We still have a really good team. We're 5-4. We're excited about where we're at going forward. We're going to come back to work ready to go. We've got a tough, resilient team, and we're going to come back to work, get better each day and focus on the next one."
Do you think it was a good decision to throw to Ja'Marr Chase on the Pick Six?
"It's tough to say. I haven't watched the film, but obviously, I'd like to have that one back."
SAM HUBBARD, Defensive end
How do the leaders on defense make sure things don't snowball into multiple losses?
"Just come to work, do what you've been doing, don't let it change your demeanor, how you go about your business. You've got to think about the next opponent and get to work."
You were a part of the 2018 team that started out hot and didn't end so well. Can you draw on that and not let that happen again?
"No. I think we're in a totally different position, totally different locker room, and different situation. What I saw in 2018, I have no indication that's the direction we're heading at all. So, no comparison."
A loss like this can shake confidence. Why are you so confident that it won't shake the confidence of the team?
"Just because of the way that we looked at each other in the eyes throughout the game, throughout the adversity and after the game, how we handled every situation. You can tell. I've played football a long time and been a part of locker rooms. You can feel in your locker room when things are going toxic and guys are pointing fingers at each other, and there's none of that."
What gives you the confidence you can rally after the bye week and continue on where you were at the start of the year?
"Just the guys we've got. This means a lot to them. This is their lives. Everything that a lot of us do revolves around coming and trying to win football games. It means the world to us. I know there's a lot of people like me on this team, so that gives me confidence."
JOE MIXON, Halfback
What was going through your mind on the sidelines once the game got down closer to the end?
"Have to get better — just have to get better. A lot of growing is going to come from that, a lot of lessons to be learned, and just have to be better with everything. It's a disappointment for us. That isn't our standard. We have to get better, that's all it is. Keep everybody together."
Aside from getting better, what's the biggest lesson you need to take away from this moving forward?
"We just have to come out faster. Come out faster and play with more intensity. We just have to play Bengals football, and these last two games we haven't been able to do that. It's a lot of frustration, but at the same time we've got to keep everyone together, just have to keep building and keep learning. We've got to prepare better as players — take it upon ourselves — we just have to do better."
There has been a consistent message from the guys who came in this room before you about remaining confident. If you share that sentiment, can you share why you remain confident in this team?
"We remain confident just because of the people that we have in our locker room. Like I said, for us, we know what we're capable of, everybody knows what we're capable of. But like I said, we have to come out better, we have to execute, and we did not do that today. There's a lot of things involved, but we just have to bounce back and figure out a way. It's still early — we're at halftime right now. We come back from the bye, have to have great practice, great intensity with everything, and we just have to do what we can to keep pushing and moving forward to Las Vegas."
It looked like you guys were committed to the run, and it was working, but you just couldn't get past the turnover and it kind of got out of hand a little ...
"We were definitely trying to do what we could to keep the ball rolling with the run — it was definitely working — but we just have a lot of things we have to overcome. And we have to put the ball in the air, and things just really didn't go our way. We just have to get better, we have to take care of the football, and for the most part we just have to execute with little things, and that's what it comes down to, and that's what it came down to, the little things in execution. We have to take it upon ourselves and players, and look ourselves in the eye, and have a come to reality moment, look in the mirror, and have to learn from it and get better."
Your optimism is based on the fact that these appear to be physical mistakes, and not mental. Is the mentality of the locker room in the right place?
"I mean, to be honest, it's all about the mentality that we've got up in here. We know the players that we have, we know the talent that we've got, and sometimes you can get carried away with everything being so big, and you just forget about the little things, and that's kind of what it came down to today. We missed out on an opportunity. We just have to do the little things better, and we have to play better. We've got a lot of time to bounce back — this one stung a little bit for sure, but we'll be better. We'll be better."
You talked about the lack of intensity the past couple of weeks. Do you feel like the team got too complacent after the Baltimore game?
"Nah, not at all. We went up in there, and we went to go take that game. Last game, we started slow, we didn't really execute how we should've. We were in the game, but they came out with the W. And this game, we just had turnovers early, and we were trying to fight back, you know, stay focused, and do a lot of the little things that we could. It was just hard to overcome those turnovers, and we couldn't get the stops that we needed at the time — or the turnovers that we needed — but it was just hard to overcome the turnovers. We've got to take initiative as players, and the focus is ball security, because if you've got the ball security and you're winning the turnover battle you're going to win. It's a proven fact and it shows. We just have to dial in with the little things and get better."
C.J. UZOMAH, Tight end
What's been the most frustrating thing over these last couple weeks for you?
"That we lost. We didn't do enough to win offensively, defensively, special teams, we just didn't play well enough. I think the most frustrating part is us as leaders of the team just have to make sure that we get on track, and get this taste out of our mouth, and go on to the bye, come back and have that revitalized mentality that we still have everything in front of us that we want to attain. But yeah, the frustrating part is just that we didn't win. Point blank."
Did the issues this week feel similar to the issues last week or was there a common thread?
"Turnovers. We can't turn the ball over, we can't give their defensive ends opportunities to pin their ears back late in the game because we're behind. I think that really is the main factor of that. We had some miscues and turnovers, and we're not going to be able to win football games if we do that."
Can you put your finger on what the difference is between the last couple of weeks compared to the first seven?
"I don't think there's one thing. There definitely isn't one thing, I think it's an accumulation of multiple things, and that's why football is beautiful — it's 11 players on each side of the ball and every play counts. I don't think it's one thing, I think there's a multitude of miscues and turnovers, and obviously I'm just speaking offensively here. Just things that cost us, and that we can't do if we're expecting to go out there and win."
What gives you so much hope with the guys in the locker room that this isn't going to snowball, and come Las Vegas that there's going to be a whole new attitude?
"The people that you just talked to before me, and myself, and other leaders on the team. I've said it a lot of times, but this is a different locker room — straight up. I talked to Ja'Marr (Chase) because he was the closest to me on the sideline for a little bit, and in the shower we had a little conversation about the culture of the locker room, and you know, it's different. I don't want to blow out of proportion things from the past, but we come in and everyone is pointing the finger at themselves. Ja'Marr's like 'I did this, this and this during the game,' and I'm like 'Dude, you don't even know what I did during the game, because you're only focused on the things that you did.' And he's like 'I get that, but I'm taking the onus on myself,' and I'm taking the onus on myself. And every person that you talk to is like 'Okay, I need to do this better.' I think that's something that's unique, okay nice, he's saying that, so I'm picking him up. I say something to him, and he's like 'Yeah bro, but you did this, this and this.' I don't know, I think that aspect is unique. We know that we didn't play well enough, and we know that we expect so much more out of each other. But again, we know what we have in that locker room, and we know what we're able to achieve when we put our minds to it and we execute to the best of our abilities. To be honest, the stress level in the locker room, we're pissed, because we just lost in a bad way in front of our home crowd, but the stress level and the panic level, there's none. We know what we have, we know what we can still achieve, we just have to go out there and do it."
The accountability you just mentioned there, what's that like compared to the alternative that probably you maybe experienced?
"(Absolutely) great, are you kidding? (Laughs). It's a sign of maturity of a team, and again, I keep preaching this culture, and it is a sign of the culture. I talk about how in practice people are on each other. We're like 'Hey, this is what we need to do,' but after the game everyone is like 'I need to do this better, I need to do this better.' As opposed to 'You need to do this better, or if only you did this, or whatever.' It really is — it's good. That's a sign of a good culture, a good locker room, and just good vibes in the locker room, and around the program and the organization. It's a sign of maturity in us as an organization."
Joe Burrow talked about the lack of details and that being some of the biggest things of the last couple weeks and why you struggled. Why do those details kind of slip from week to week or what are some things you can do better to make sure that those details don't slip?
"I think certain things in film study...I wouldn't even say film study, it's not really film study, it's just when a game starts going a certain way a little bit earlier than you'd want, people —including myself — are like 'I have to rush, I have to do this, this and this. We're against the clock, we're against the Browns right now, time's not really on our side, I'm going to speed this route up. I'm going to speed up the way I set up on somebody, I'm going to speed up this block, I'm going to speed up the run,' whatever the case is, we speed up something maybe. Or we try to overcompensate, whatever the case is, mentally it's like 'Maybe I'm going to change the way I'm doing this because that didn't work last time,' when in all reality it may not have been you that was messing up, or had a miscue early on if we're running the same play, but mentally you're like 'Nice, let me put the onus on myself, and let me try to speed this up.' And that's a timing issue. I think this week that's what I'm taking out of it, because I know that I did it a little bit in this game. I can't speak for everybody else, but just being on the field that's something that played into the details."