Zac Taylor, Bengals Head Coach
Coach, obviously having minus two ratio in the turnover department and going 0-for-13 on 3rd down are two things you couldn't afford to do against this Pittsburgh Steeler team.
No chance. You lose the turnover battle, especially early on. We got a big stop on defense to start the game and then turned it over and started to get some momentum on offense at that point, turned it over. Those were killers in the first half, and then to go 0 for 13 or whatever it ended up being on offense, you're not going to -- you've got no chance. There's no chance.
We were not good enough in any area today, offense, defense, special teams, and we really weren't good enough coaching, and that is with me 100 percent. I feel like I let these guys down today, so it all starts with me.
Defensively it looked like you played the run pretty well, but it looked like the thought was to rush Ben with three, no more than four and play coverage and make him earn it, don't give up any explosive plays, make him earn it, but he more than earned it, I guess.
Yeah, he does a great job. I mean, he extended some plays. We got some rush on him, got outside the pocket and completed some balls like he does, and sometimes the coverage was there and guys were pursuing him outside the pocket and he just made some plays. He did a nice job.
Have you ever been a part of a game where you did not convert a single 3rd down, and what was the reason behind you guys' struggles in that part of the game?
We just never found a rhythm, and that starts with me, getting us into a better place to be quite honest with you. They did a nice job; you've got to give them credit. The defense is obviously playing well when you go 0 and 13. But that just starts with me. I've got to do a better job with some of those play calls.
What was Joe's physical situation? It looked like he was hot in the second quarter, he got pushed out of bounds, looked like something happened to his ankle and he was never really right. Do you think that's an issue going forward?
I mean, it looked like he got hit out of bounds into the bench and shook it off at halftime and then came back and I thought it was affecting him the second half health-wise.
Is he okay? I know he limped off there at the end.
I think he'll be fine.
What was the thought process leaving Joe in that last drive? He took a couple of hits. You're down 36-7 or whatever. Do you think about taking him out?
You know, we tried to manage it some with the runs. We wanted to get some points, get some momentum going, to be honest with you, and we left him in there
How do you balance that in that situation because obviously you want to get Joe reps against a division rival in that situation and maybe build some confidence moving forward, but at the same time his physical status, all of those things, how do you take that into consideration and balance it?
Well, it's just we want to move the ball and put some points on the board, and we felt like we shot ourselves in the foot a lot. Obviously they did some great things, but we just felt like we kept shooting ourselves in the foot. We could get some drives together put some points on the board, get some momentum going, it just didn't turn out that way.
It seemed like in the bye week there was a lot of confidence in what you guys had done against Tennessee. How do you make sure this isn't a game that shakes everybody's confidence back to square one?
Yeah, we just talked about it in the locker room. We don't overreact to this. It was not our best performance. We went on the road. We didn't really win in any phase, any statistical category in terms of the turnovers, the penalties, the explosive plays. We didn't win any of them. So you go on the road, there's no way you're going to win a football game doing that way against a good football team, so we know what the reasons were. We know that we could have played better, and we've got to put this game behind us quite frankly and move on. That's the biggest key because we've still got seven games left, a big one next week at Washington. We can't let Pittsburgh beat us twice. That's the biggest key. And again, it's disappointing because this isn't how we thought we were going to come out and play, but it's what happened, so we've just got to take it like a man and move on and go focus on the next game.
This game has always been seen as kind of a measuring stick for this franchise. Given what happened today, where in your opinion is this franchise now in relation to where you'd like it to be?
I think we're still creating momentum. We felt good these last couple weeks about the direction we were heading but we've got to turn them into wins, and you've got to beat good football teams on the road ultimately to get where we want to be, so today was an opportunity to do that, and we didn't get it done. But again, I don't sit there on the sidelines looking at the score the way it was and think, man, we're a terrible football team. They're this much better than us. That's not how we feel. That's not how we feel in the locker room. We feel like we didn't do the things that we need to do to win a road divisional game like that, and we've just got to make those corrections and focus forward and move on.
How worried are you about Joe's confidence?
Not -- that's the last thing I would ever worry about is Joe Burrow's confidence. I can tell you that.
He looked like he uncharacteristically struggled today; what do you attribute to that?
I don't think any of us were in a rhythm, quite frankly, on offense. Just me as a play caller, guys making plays when they had the opportunity. Just we were off today, and that starts with me.
You said earlier that you felt like coaching was where it started. What specifically do you feel like you could have done better?
Me getting us in a rhythm and just managing the game a lot better. Early in the game when it was 12-0 and then 12-7 and they go score and we got a chance to kick a field goal at the end of the half, and I put us in a tough spot, we took a sack. That was me. And so again, I've just got to improve myself to put us in a better positions because when you're in a hole like that on the road in the first half, you've got to do the things that get you back in the game and create some momentum when you know you're going to get the ball back to start the second half, and I failed today in that aspect.
What was the thinking going with Spain at right tackle? It looked like Adeniji and Spain, they held up okay. What was the thinking going with Spain? I don't think he'd ever played right tackle before.
If you have another right tackle, let me know. We didn't have Jonah today. Jonah wasn't ready to go, and so it was next man up. Quinton was ready for it, felt confident doing it. I thought overall those guys did a nice job. I know some hits come. When you play teams like that and they get a lead on you and you're throwing the ball trying to get back in it, there's going to be some hits to come, but I know early on in the first half we gave up one on a 3rd and 12 where they did great job in coverage and we had to hold the ball for a while, and then another one came up in that two-minute -- I think it was the two we gave up in the first half, but I thought overall those guys did a good job protecting him, and then we got in the once second half, those guys got a couple hits there late.
How tough was it at cornerback when Mackensie Alexander left the football game due to the concussion? How tough was it on that back end?
Next man up. Those guys don't make excuses, they go up and play. Tony Brown, Jalen Davis, they wanted an opportunity and they got an opportunity today.
With the fake punt, is that an absolute yes or no depending on the look you get? Was there any thought to waiting to unveil that in a game that's a little closer?
I mean, every game is different in terms of some of the specialty plays that you run in that aspect. There were no concerns.
Special teams overall, it seems like field position turnovers were a factor but so was field position. You guys were in long field a ton and they had a lot of short fields. That had to be disappointing.
Yeah, it certainly wasn't our best effort in any phase. Like I said, it was just a disappointing day overall. It's frustrating. Guys are hurt for the right reasons. You look in the locker room and there's nobody selfish, there's nobody pointing a finger. Everyone knows that they're accountable for a day like today. That's the big positive I do see. You just feel the energy in that locker room and it does feel like, okay, the guys are going to own up to having a down day and we're going to put it behind us because we're a mature football team and move forward, and again, like I said earlier, not let this team beat us twice.
Obviously y'all were down four assistant coaches today because of COVID-19 protocols. What kind of effect did that have, and when do you expect to get these assistants back? Do you have a timeline on what's going to happen?
It's just part of the adversity you've got to handle in this league. It can come at you any hour of the night. You know, the guys that have COVID, players, coaches, would be out 10 days and if you're close contact it's five days.
Joe Burrow, Quarterback
Joe, it looked like Pittsburgh decided to rush three and four and play more coverage seven and eight in the early stages of the football game. They rushed four a lot, very rarely rushed five, maybe just a couple times in the second half. Did you guys expect that? Did you expect them to play as much coverage as they did, and did they do a lot of different things in terms of coverage or just do a few things well?
They did a few things well. They're a really good defense, and that's what the great defenses do, they play one or two things and they're really, really good at them. We were moving the ball in the first half after we were three-and-out three straight times, and then I thought we hit our groove, and then I just played terrible in the second half. A missed a lot of throws that I usually make. That was the game. I missed a lot of throws in the second half.
To go 0 for 13 on 3rd down, I think it might have been 0 for 13, something like that, obviously that's not going to win you football games. What was the biggest reason in your mind that it worked out that way?
I missed throws. That's all it came down to. You're not going to be able to win football games against a team like the Steelers as good as they are when your quarterback plays like I did in the second half.
Joe, you said you were terrible in the second half. Why in your mind do you think you played so poorly in the second half?
I just missed throws, throws I always make. I'm not really sure. I'm excited to get back to practice and get that fixed.
What happened on the play before halftime when you got thrown into the bench? Did you lose momentum or get tripped up? How did that play out?
I just rolled my ankle.
Did you get pushed from behind or did you feel like it was clean and all good?
I mean, it wasn't a hit or anything. He might have pushed me a little weight, but it wasn't a hit. I just -- he gave me a little extra boost and I ended up rolling my ankle on the sideline.
Were you still feeling it in the second half there?
It doesn't matter.
Why aren't you getting some of those late hit calls? What do you think?
I didn't think there were too many today. I think Pittsburgh did a good job of not hitting me too late, and if they did, they kind of held me up and didn't fall on me, so I don't think there were too many late hit calls today.
The Ravens and now the Steelers beat you guys pretty handily. Do you view these two teams as like measuring stick games?
Absolutely. They're the two best teams in the division, teams that we're striving to be, teams that are really, really good year in and year out, and that's what we're chasing. I think you never want it to happen, but in my mind we got two of those out of the way. Now I've played them one time, and I'm excited to play them the next time.
Was there anything coverage wise that they were doing that kind of made things a little bit more difficult for you than you anticipated?
No, they just have really good players and have a really good plan. They do what we expected them to do. They played we call it two carry and 3D and they're really, really good at it. They have good players, they have good rush, and we moved the ball for three or four straight drives there in the first half. Like I said, I thought we got our rhythm and then we came out in the second half flat and I didn't play very well. If I played better in the second half, I think we'd have a chance at the end. I missed a throw down the sideline there on the double move. That was a big play. I needed to hit that one. And then I missed TB on the sail route on the sideline that we ended up challenging, and he kind of bobbled it but that was a terrible throw from me that TB almost made a great play on. If I hit those two, I think the game is a little different.
Were there any discussions of you coming out late in the fourth quarter? Did you lobby to stay in the game?
No discussions like that.
Do you like the idea of staying in there in even what looks like a futile situation and finishing the game off?
Yeah, I'm not a quitter. I'm not going out of the game. Doesn't matter if we're down 100, down 10, down 20. I'm not going out.
The way the game started with two turnovers in the early stages of the football game, the one thing you really probably didn't want to have happen, how deflating was that?
I think we responded well. That's going to happen sometimes. We had a special teams one and then we had one while we were driving, but we responded well in the first half. Went down and scored, cut it to one score. I think it was 12-7 or 13-7, something like that, and then they went down and scored, and I take that sack in the two-minute drill that I can't take, and if that doesn't happen we have points. So there was just a lot of mistakes for me after that first quarter and half.
What are the value of games like that and games against the Ravens where clearly there are things you can take away from it?
Yeah, it's never good to lose like this, but it's always a good learning experience. I was talking on the sideline, and I think we're in that game if I don't suck in the second half and I'm not going to suck a lot. We're going to come back to work every day, and I'm excited to go back to practice on Wednesday and start getting these kinks worked out and move on to Washington.
It looked like the two tackles played really good, Adeniji and Spain. Spain never played tackle before. It looked like they were doing all right.
I thought they played really well, considering the circumstances. I thought they did an awesome job in the first half. That sack in the two-minute drill I can't take. That one's on me. They did awesome all game. They really did.
You had talked about basically taking your lumps and knowing those were going to come throughout your rookie year. Are these games today kind of what you anticipated you were going to have to deal with as you were going through your rookie season?
I hoped not. This is not fun, obviously, but there's no -- it's not demoralizing in the locker room. We knew we had a chance in that game if I play better, if we play better in a couple spots. We're in that game until the end. So you hear me talk and I'm not too down in the dumps because I know I'm not going to play like that very often. I might play like that hopefully never again but maybe once a year. There's no -- we're not down in the dumps or anything like that. I'm excited to get back to work.