BENGALS POSTGAME QUOTES | SEPT. 12, 2021
MINNESOTA AT CINCINNATI
ZAC TAYLOR, Head coach
What are your overall thoughts on today's game?
"Found a way to win — found a way to win in all three phases. I told the team, there were times today it looked pretty dark, and I think you guys would probably agree with me there. But, we created the turnover to win the turnover battle in Week 1. I don't know who did it but somebody did — Germaine (Pratt) I think was involved in that. On offense, we made the play when we needed to on fourth-and-one. Probably the play I should have called on fourth-and-one the first time. You know, they made it work. Trust me that play was not perfect but Joe (Burrow) and C.J. (Uzomah) found a way to make it work and the protection held up and then a rookie kicker (Evan McPherson), special teams stepped up. First game, I don't care how far that field goal is, that's an intense situation and he was nails as we expected him to be. I remember that coming up on draft night, somebody stood up on the table for him and said this guy is going to win us games and here we are, 1-0."
Did Joe Burrow check to that play on fourth-and-one or was that the call all along?
"No, there were two plays, two plays in the huddle."
Where was your heartbeat when the ball was in the air?
"Pretty good. I mean that play has a high success rate for us. We hit Gio (Bernard) on the goal line against Cleveland, we hit Drew (Sample) against Cleveland at their place last year on third-and-one."
What kind of confidence does that show in Joe Burrow that you gave him two plays and gave him full authority go with whichever one he wanted?
"I think Joe would tell you it's not a complex two-play call there. But again, we trust Joe with everything that we're about. There's a lot higher responsibility that on his plate that that exact same situation with those play calls. Joe does a lot with this offense and that doesn't go unnoticed by our staff."
Can you talk about the defensive front and how important they were today?
"Absolutely. That's why you invest in your defense. Those guys stepped up. There's a lot of things we can clean up all over the map for the whole team. But when it mattered, those guys collapsed the pocked and put pressure on the quarterback, and a lot of that that stems with coverage as well. Those guys had sticky coverage. I've got a lot of respect for the tight end that played, (Tyler) Conklin. Those receivers are as good as any group. Then you've got Dalvin Cook coming out of the backfield too. Kirk Cousins has been high level for a long time. They had a really good plan. This was just a good old-school NFL football game. We won 27-24. The Minnesota Vikings are going to win a lot of football games. That's a tough one out of the gate. We earned that win. They're going to win a lot of theirs too. I'm glad we got that one out of the way because that's a physical team, they cause all sorts of protection issues on the other side of the ball, and they've got a really good football team."
Talk about how physical you were today with Dalvin Cook ...
"Yeah, I mean as many weapons as they have it starts with Dalvin Cook and it starts with that run game, so our guys just drove into the ball to send them a message early. They've got a good offensive line, but at the same time we know it's really the first time they're playing against each other. We have a veteran group out there and we felt that we really had to go win that battle. I missed what the total yardage was, but I know that for a good bit we did a good job against the run game. They had a lot of passing yards, but again, it's hard to take away the run game from Minnesota and it put us in a position to win."
Did you make a change in the offense to become more conservative early in the game?
"No, we just couldn't get that first first down. That's where the whole thing starts. We had a protection miscommunication early on that gave us a sack early in the second drive. Just getting that first first down gets you into a rhythm and lets you open it up a little bit more and compliment the things you would. So early on, you're calling your base runs and you're waiting to compliment them but you have to get into a flow before you can do it. That happens a lot of times in this league where you feel like you start slow and the dam breaks a little bit and you get the offense that you want, so we just knew that we had to be patient."
You had a lot of tough decisions today, starting obviously with fourth down on your end of the field. What were you thinking there?
"It's fourth-and-one, I felt like we could go steal a victory right there. We're up 21-7 and if we can just bang home the momentum right there with a fourth-and-one. I should have had a better play call. They loaded up that front pretty good, made some substitutions. Not our best call there. Our players tried to execute it, we were out-manned pretty good at the point of attack. Tough call. Really, if we could do it backwards, I would have called what we called later in the game there. I was kicking myself. They got some momentum there, obviously. We zero blitzed them on fourth down, which I loved, and they made the play. (Adam) Thielen ran a great choice route, and that's going to be tough to defend if you give it that extra tick of a second and they scored. Great players do that, that's going to happen. I just told our team we're going to be aggressive, man. We're going to go for it on fourth-and-one and try to take the game and we're going to be aggressive on defense and try and send a message and end it right there too. I take don't back any decisions, maybe my play calls specifically."
Any thought late in the game to go for it instead of punting?
"I thought we could get the stop, and that's just where we were. It started right there with that one because if you don't get that one there right there in field goal range, and that overrides that decision."
Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase hooked up today. Chase took some heat for his comments about that ball and the stripes. Were you surprised at all?
"No. I tried to tell everybody that there was no concern on our end. Again, it's a guy that's working his way through training camp. Those weren't real games we were playing. You get a chance to work out all the kinks with all these rookies, all these new players. Now, the Ja'Marr that we've seen — the confidence, the meetings and his approach — I would been concerned if his approach wasn't the right way and he was sleeping in meetings and showing up late, then I would have been concerned, but it was the exact opposite. That's really the standard that T.B. (Tyler Boyd), and Tee (Higgins), and Auden (Tate), and Mike (Thomas) and Stanley (Morgan) have set in that room over the last couple of years. They've set that standard and Troy Walters and Brad Kragthorpe hammer it home, and so we get a rookie like Ja'Marr that steps in, and you've got to live up to the standard immediately and that's what he's done. He a made a great play and some game-changing plays."
Talk about the battle against the Minnesota defense ...
"That was a bloody game on both sides of the ball. They've invested in their defensive line, we've invested in our offensive line, we invested in our other side of the ball as well, so it's going to be bloody, you've got to stay the course. It doesn't always look pretty. They're going to win some, you're going to win some. At the end of the day, you've just got to find a way to win 27-24 and stick with it. They caused a lot of protection — that's really what (Eric) Kendricks and Harrison Smith do. They're coaches on the field and they know exactly with (Mike) Zimmer wants and they can communicate it on the fly, and they can stretch your protections and often times you can't be right. I've seen some great teams that play that team a lot and they have some free runners coming in. That's why you can look at it as conservative at some points, but we're just trying to be smart and protect our quarterback and sticking with the run-game because it was working."
How is Burrow? He came off hobbling once, and holding his shoulder another time. What were your thoughts?
"He's going to be out there. I just try to look away and pretend I didn't see anything. The next series came up, and he ran out there. I really don't know anything other than that. He played pretty good."
Did you check in with the trainers?
"No, not at all. I have the trainers go back in the tunnel after that point."
On the fourth-and-one, how much of that is faith in your offense to get it, and faith in your defense to have your back if it doesn't?
"We believe in all three of our phases. That's just the message we send our team. We're going to be aggressive. We're not going to sit back and just hope the other team gives it to us. Sometimes it's not really pretty. Sometimes people are not going to be happy with the call, and each game is different. But today we just wanted to be aggressive and go take a win in the first game and send a message for the rest of the season. I feel that we did that."
You came out with a different style and were under center a lot more than last year. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo put on a lot of pressure, which he didn't last year. You threw some wrinkles out there. Is that what you planned in the offseason to shake it up?
"Start with the defense. I've got a lot of faith in those guys. When you add guys like Hilton (CB Mike Hilton) — Mike's one of the best pressure nickels in the league. Vonn Bell can bring it. Jessie (S Jessie Bates) can bring it. All of the linebackers are very disciplined. So you feel good about that. Again, each game is going to be a little different. On offense, we felt we needed to get under center and see what front they were going to play and stay with the running game. They changed up the front, so over the course of that game, a lot of stuff they hadn't shown as much in the preseason — some of that odd stuff — we just had to kind of get our bearings straight. It took away a little of what we wanted to do in the pass game under center, but we just had to adjust to the moment."
Have you ever had a more agonizing replay review wait than you did at the end?
"I just convinced myself that we were going to get it. The ruling on the field was fumble, and just from what I was hearing upstairs, there wasn't enough to show any different than that. Had it gone the other way, it would have been a different story."
Who got the game ball?
"Evan (K Evan McPherson). You know, he's a rookie. Yeah, he's done it all training camp. Yeah, he's done it all preseason games. But it's different when you're in Week 1 against a really good football team. You've still got to hit that pressure-packed kick there, and he did it. There's a lot of guys we could have given it to, but it went to Evan."
How satisfied are you with the way the offense played?
"That might be one of the best defenses we're going to play all year. The best coordinated, the best talent, the best experience — they make things really, really hard on you. I'm glad that one's over. Our guys held up there. It's not always going to look pretty. You've got to make some plays, which our guys did. Joe hung in there and made some big-time throws. They might not have appeared to be big-time throws, but in the moment it was based on the looks he had to manage. People ask if Week 1 is different. Week 1 is different. As we walked off the field, it is different because we waited so long for this one opponent. You get a chance to think and over, 'What if they do this,' and all that stuff. Now it's passed, and you're just on that six-day work week and go get ready for the Chicago Bears. I'm thankful to turn the page."
JOE BURROW, Quarterback
Was it pretty gratifying to see what Ja'Marr Chase can do on the field?
"Yeah. I had a couple guys come up to me and say, 'I hope Ja'Marr comes to play today.' And I said, 'Don't worry. It's Sunday. It's game day. He's going to come here to play.'"
Did you hurt your shoulder late in the game?
"No. I didn't hurt the shoulder. I feel good."
Zac Taylor told us there were two play calls on that fourth down in overtime where you connected with Uzomah. What was the other option?
"(Laughs) We'll keep that to ourselves."
That play seemed to not be the greatest option. What did you like that led you to say to yourself that you could go to Uzomah on that play?
"We ran a QB sneaker earlier in the game, so they put a guy over center and then set two shading over the guards. It was going to be tough to run the ball up the middle, so we had a second play called, and that's what I got to. We've run that play multiple times over the last couple of years, and I don't think we've thrown it to C.J. one time. He was ready for it, and I think over the last few years we've hit everybody on that play. It's a good play for us."
Uzomah said that in practice you ran the play and you didn't like it. What didn't you like that made you want to re-run that play?
"I threw it to C.J. this week in practice, actually, simply because I didn't see Drew (TE Drew Sample). So I threw it to C.J. and kind of overthrew him out the back of the end zone. He wasn't really ready for the throw, so we re-ran it and he got that same look in practice, and I hit it. So I'm glad we got that rep in practice, because it ended up helping win us the game."
Is a moment like that one you relish in a game?
"Yeah. When the game is on the line and I have the ball in my hands, I think I'm prepared to put myself in those positions, and I'm always ready for them."
What was the reason drives were stalling out in the fourth quarter?
"They were playing really well on defense . They were really giving us problems in protections. They have guys that have been playing in that scheme for a long time. They're going to read center points and go away from them. They're a good defense. We pulled it out today, but they're going to win a lot of games."
Were you surprised when Zac said you guys were going for it on fourth-and-one from your own 30-yard line?
"It's not my job to be surprised. It's my job to execute. We didn't get it done on that one, but luckily our defense pulled up there at the end. They had their backs up against the wall. I don't think we win that game last year. I think that's the difference."
Can you talk about the mechanical changes to your deep ball — did that factor into your deep ball to Chase?
"Yeah, it really was. Ja'Marr caught me on the sideline and said he was glad I didn't overthrow him. And I said, 'Come on, man. How many times have we done this? We've done it over and over again.'"
How much confidence does that give you when Zac goes for it on fourth-and-inches not once but twice?
"We all wanted to do it. We only got it done one out of two times, so we've got to work on that and get that first one."
How big was it to score at the end of the first half and then drive in the third quarter?
"It's something we talk about all the time. That's why you defer at the coin toss, because then you have a chance to get the ball twice without them having the ball. That's what the (New England) Patriots have done for so long. They score before the (end of the first) half, and then they get the ball back (to begin the second half) and go down score again. You get the opportunity to get two scores unanswered. So that was pretty big."
Can you run through your long completion to Chase? Did they send pressure on that one?
"No, they didn't send pressure on that one. It was a two-minute drill, and they were playing soft (coverage) the first couple of plays. We were kind of dinking-and-dunking our way up the field, so I knew we were kind of going to be a little more aggressive once we crossed the 50 yard line. I knew that Breeland (Vikings CB Bashaud Breeland) was the more aggressive corner, so I was going to take that matchup. I had a feeling he was going to sit on a short route and that's what he did."
How impressed were you with your defense and how often they gave you the ball right back?
"They played great. We've got to do a better job in staying on the field in certain situations and allow them to get some rest. But they really stepped up today, especially early in the game and in overtime when it really counted. They knew our backs were up against the wall, and they made a great play for us."
Do you think using double-TE sets threw them off on defense?
"It probably did. We were really running the ball well in certain situations. I think we went over 100 yards — and it was really a team game. We threw the ball well, we ran the ball well, and overall the defense played great."
What type of impact could winning a game like this have on the season?
"Remember earlier in the week when you guys asked me how important winning the first game was, and I shorted you out? The first game's really important (laughs). You need momentum early in the season to gain more and more momentum — it keeps snowballing. We felt giving up a big lead, coming back and winning the game and making big plays when they count, it's going to serve us well going forward."
This is your first home game with this many fans. How much of a factor did they play today, and how much did you enjoy winning in this type of environment?
"The Vikings were going on their normal cadence — they weren't going on silent at the beginning of the game, and they false started three, four, five times. That's strictly because of the fans. That's why they give us such a big advantage. We're going to keep winning, they're going to keep coming and it's going to get louder and louder and louder. That's a big part."
Is this how you expected to play in your first game back?
"I think I could have played a little better, but it's great to get the win in Game 1. I played decent, but there's always areas where you can improve."
Was it good to get those first hits out of the way? Was that something you were anxious about?
"Yeah, it felt good. I was excited to get out there and get hit a little bit."
It seemed like you limped off after a sack and got right on the bicycle on the sidelines. Were you trying to literally ride that pain out?
"I just got rolled up on a little bit. Then my adrenaline kicked in and I felt great. I just got on the bike, looked at pictures (of the plays), and was good to go after that."
How helpless is the feeling to be on the sidelines and not have the ball in your hands when the game is on the line, and you're not sure if you'll get the ball back?
"Very, very helpless. I always like basketball because you don't need as much help in basketball. You can go make a play yourself. Football is the ultimate team game where if you all aren't doing your job, it can be catastrophic. That's why you need great players and great coaches to trust to keep playing."
Did you tweak your ankle? Was it your ankle that got rolled up on?
EVAN McPHERSON, Kicker
What are you going to do with the game ball? Are you going to keep it or give it to someone?
"I think I'll share it with Clark (Harris) and Kevin (Huber). They're a big part in my success for sure."
Was there a yard line you were trying to get to that you were ready to kick at?
"Yeah, so coach Simmons comes up when we got the fumble, and we talked about it, and we said the 42 was going to be the yard line that we had to make it to. But Joe made a great throw to C.J. (Uzomah) and made it a lot shorter for me."
What were you thinking when you saw the ball going through the air on fourth down on the way C.J. ...
"Honestly I thought we were going to run a QB sneak, or Joe Mixon up the middle or something."
Join the club (laughs) ...
"Yeah, I'm glad to see that C.J. broke off his defender and Joe made a great throw, and that also made it a lot easier for me — super excited about that."
Have you ever been carried off the field before?
"No. That was actually my first kind of walk-off field goal. It was super exciting, and I'm glad I got to do it for this team. They worked so hard for this game. All of us want to succeed this season, make the playoffs, and make a run for the Super Bowl, and this is where that started. I'm super happy that I could give the team what we wanted, and that's a win."
On that game-winning kick, did you do anything different routine-wise, or just go through the normal routine and treat it like a normal kick?
"Yeah, I mean every kick's the same. It was a PAT. That's kind of what was going through my mind — it was 33 yards. Already did it three times that game — nothing new — just kind of hit it cleanly, and I knew it was going to go in."
You say every kick's the same but did it feel different?
"Honestly, over the minicamp, training camp, and leading up to this first game I've been working on controlling my heart rate, and making sure it stays low, and I don't get too antsy or nervous. I think I've done a great job of controlling it, and I'm able to stay calm in those moments a lot better than I used to."
When they called the time out to ice you, what do you do?
"I had an idea I guess. I knew they had two timeouts. Our process is the same — if they call a timeout, we go ahead and do a practice kick, and I think the practice kick helps you more than it hurts you, and you learn from it, and you hit the ball pretty good, so you're pretty confident going into the next one."
I know this is your first regular-season game with Joe Burrow, but Zac Taylor said anytime he takes the field, the Bengals have a chance. Did you feel like going into that last offensive series, are you in your head saying, 'He's going to get this, so I need to be ready?'
"Yeah, no problem. I mean, I thought it was no problem. I thought we'd go down and score pretty easily, but we make a good long play, and we just kind set up for the field goal. We ran a run play right up the middle to kind of drain the clock, and spike it, and that's what went into it. But I thought we were going to go down there and score, and we get the kickoff to start overtime."
Trying to control your breathing, your heart rate and all that stuff — did it go up at all?
"I don't really think so. Like I said, I've really been working on controlling I, whether it's in practice or preseason games. I think I've done a great job controlling it and keeping it low."
How much did it help, even though you had the extra points, to have the long field goal — to at least see one go through as opposed to that last one being your first field goal?
"Seeing one go through the uprights is always a confidence booster. I was just super happy that I got good operation and good protection on the 53. I knew just put the ball up in the air, strike it clean, and I knew it was going to go through — just like the PATs. But yeah, to answer your question, I think it is a good feeling to see those balls go through the uprights, and know that I've done it before, so I can do it now."
You said you learn something when they ice you. Did you learn something today when they iced you?
"I learned that I struck that one well, and I was going to strike the next one well. It's just like a practice kick, and that's kind of how I treat it, and nothing really changed."
When you control your heart rate, is it slow, deep breaths, or are you thinking happy thoughts. What's your technique?
"I would say it's a lot of breathing — deep breaths. It has helped me a lot."
What was your heart rate when you saw the throw?
"I mean I got super excited because I thought he was going to score. (C.J. Uzomah is) going to have to work on his speed (laughs). C.J. makes my job a lot easier, so I appreciate him for it."
C.J. Uzomah, Tight end
Just walk us through that fourth down play. What was the initial play call, and what did you see that made you check?
"Definitely not talking to you about the call, but we checked into something that we saw. That was a perfect look for that play we had. I've gotten the ball once on that play in three years, and it was this week in practice against air, because you'll only have to run it against air. And so yeah, it was a little surprising the ball was in the air, but it honestly was the perfect look for it. We had a little miscue on the practice field, but it worked out (here)."
What made Joe Burrow want to run that look this week in practice? Did you guys talk about why you wanted to do that this week?
"No, we had to re-do it because of something I did, actually. I was supposed to do something a little intricate with how I was kind of leaking out, and we ran it back, and it really is like serendipitous, the fact that I caught that, because we had to run it back. And again — three years, (and) I've never gotten the ball — so it's good we did it again."
That was not the same play as the "F-Yeah" play from training camp?
"No, it was not the same play (laughs). But this was another "F-Yeah" play for sure. I was screaming that. But it was a little different."
When it's a slow, arching ball like that as opposed to the way you're normally catching it, do you even have time to think?
"Well in that situation, and in all honestly, sometimes you just want the ball to get down. But in that situation it's perfect because of what I'm doing, and because of how I'm running the route, and then having time. So Joe (Burrow) threw it perfectly for me to be able to track him and make a little something happen and get down the field. So yeah, that was a beautiful ball. He was dropping dimes today, so that was just another one of them."
How much did you guys feed off of what Ja'Marr Chase was able to do early on?
"Yeah, that was huge. We were struggling a little bit. Really, I think our energy came from our defense. Our defense played super hard, and we put them in pretty tough situations — both three-and-out and not really being able to move the ball — I think really had an effect. That go ball that Ja'Marr had — that dime that franchise threw to him — and that kind of gave us a little spark as well. I was happy with how he performed, and came out, and it was his first game, and he's been getting a lot of slack. He's a rookie, and he's a high draft pick, and he's supposed to do certain things, but he put the nerves aside today for sure."
This team hasn't won in September in three years. With this kind of win this early in the season, what do you think that says about this team?
"It's huge. That's the thing we were talking about a little this week. Our coaches came in, and coach Pitch (quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher) came in and he was like, 'I could throw this stat up from last year, I could throw what they've done last year up as well, but we're not that team. We're a different team, they're a different team, the teams that we're coming up against this year are different teams as well. This is a new team, this is a new locker room, a new culture that we're building in there that everyone's buying into. It's always a good thing to notch the first one under your belt, and we're just going to feed off of that, build off of that brick by brick until we get where we want to get."
You just run what's called, but when Zac goes for it on fourth-and-one on your own 30, does that do anything for you guys?
"Yeah, it means he has confidence in us. I have confidence in him to make the calls when necessary. He went for it on fourth-and-short twice, which means he has confidence in us, and we have to go out there and make the play. We should've made the play the first time, and we didn't. And so he had confidence in us to doing it again, and we snuck out and got one on them. I think that builds a relationship and a trust that he has in us, and that we need to have in him. If he's going to call that play, we have to go out and execute because he's putting it all on us."
The decision to throw it 30 yards down field, on fourth-and-a-centimeter, with less than a minute to go, in OT...what words would you use to describe that?
"Ballsy (laughs). I have to say that's some big cojones there by him, and fortunately we practiced that one, because it usually goes a lot shorter than 30, and we just get the sticks. But again, that's the trust he has in us, and Joe (Burrow) has in me to loft it up and go get it."
GERMAINE PRATT, Linebacker
Can you describe the play where you got the fumble?
"Yeah, we needed a play, and we'd all been preaching about getting the ball, getting the turnover, and winning the turnover battle. It was an opportunity going against one of the best backs — you know he had five fumbles last year — so I thought it was great opportunity to take the ball away."
What was that wait like when they were reviewing it for so long?
"Oh, I knew I had it. There was no doubt in my mind."
How do you feel the defense played overall today? It seemed like you guys started really strong ...
"We played solid, we did. We held one of the top running backs in the league to like 65 yards, which you always want to do — holding one of the best, Dalvin Cook, under 100 (yards). Sometimes they were catching the ball, but as a whole, we did great. We can build on it, and keep stacking days, and get better for next week."
How much of a physical attitude did you guys bring to this game? It was pretty apparent that you were laying the helmet on Dalvin Cook pretty early ...
"Yeah, when you're going against one of the top running backs, you know who you've got to stop. Their game plan was to run the ball with Dalvin (Cook) and do some play action boots to move the ball like that. So it was huge to set the tone, and give them different things that they hadn't seen, and we shut down the running game, and they couldn't do anything."
Do you guys think you were more aggressive on defense this year with the blitzing and everything than you were last year?
"I think everyone's more aggressive. I mean, coach called going for it on fourth-and-one on the 30-yard line. That's aggressive. That's the head coach making decisions, and telling us that we came to win. We're letting our bullets go this year — we ain't holding back nothing."
It seemed like you guys were doing that on defense too with what Lou Anarumo was dialing up ...
This is the kind of game that slipped away the last few years. What does it say that you all were able to squeak out and get a win?
"I mean, it's kind of like how tight we are as a whole, from top to bottom. Everybody trusts each other and we're trying to win. That's what we're talking about starting a whole new culture here — win. We ain't sitting back and talking about nobody else, we want to win."
Do you feel like with previous teams that you might have folded with the way that fourth quarter went?
"It's a new year, you know what I mean? We're not worried about last year. We're worried about this year. We set the tone. We ain't holding back, like I said. Coach is being aggressive, we're trying to be aggressive."
You haven't played more than 12 snaps in over nine months. It's overtime, it's 87 degrees, how challenging was that there at the end of the game?
"Ain't nothing challenging, you know what I mean? It's football, it's hot, whatever. It's the game of football, ain't nothing challenging. It's an opportunity to play the game you love each and every day with your brothers. We come to win. We ain't trying to lose nothing. We just come to win."
JA'MARR CHASE, Wide receiver
There's been talk about your pre-season drops leading into today's game. How good did it feel to get that first touchdown and shut everyone up about those?
"I knew I was going to do it. It was just a matter of time. I just had to play my game and focus on what I came here to do, and that's what I did."
Was your touchdown the called play?
"That was the play."
Did that talk about your drops motivate you at all? Did you hear it this week?
"I've been hearing that. That's just trash talk (to me). I was just focused on catching passes. That's all I'm supposed to do."
You had a jersey exchange at the end of the game with one of your former LSU teammates. What was it like lining up against each other for a change?
"It was fun lining up against his team — lining up against his defense. We came out on top today and got the win, though."
Did it feel like old times with Joe Burrow today?
"It did feel like old times, to be honest."
What did you see on the throw to Uzomah in overtime?
"I actually called that play earlier in the game. I thought we were going to run it on another fourth down, but we saved it for the end of the game. It just so happened that we ended up calling it at a perfect time. C.J. made a perfect play and got open — a little seam route — and they were just both on the same page to make it work, get the first down and set up the game-winning field goal."
C.J. said you guys actually ran that play in practice this week?
"That same play he caught? Yeah. If Joe doesn't like what he's getting at practice, of course he wants to run it again because he wants things to be perfect. We still had a couple of mess-ups today, so we've got to go back and practice and work on it again."
What it's like when your quarterback has that level of drive and dedication?
"That's the expectation. We've got Joe Burrow at quarterback. That's a real quarterback. We've got nothing to do but lean on Joe and have Joe tell us what to do and vice-versa. We're one team — one unit — and (we've) got to get the job done."
On your touchdown, were you guys trying to put a hammer down and get something going before the half?
"Honestly, we were just trying to get the ball in the end zone. We try to capitalize every time the defense gets us the ball, whether it's a turnover or a conversion. So any time we've got the ball, we're just trying to go out there and get points and capitalize on every down we've had."
There's been talk about setting a new tone. To get a win like this, how important is that to start the season?
"It's a great win, first off. This whole team, this whole offense, the defense — it just shows the guys how tough we are, especially in crunch time. It doesn't matter if we mess up. Sometimes, we just have to learn what to correct when we mess up. We've just got to get back to work, and we're on to Chicago."
Do you even remember what it's like to lose? It's been a while for you ...
"It has been a while. I don't want to know."
For all the talk about the drops, you had a couple catches before your 50-yard reception. How much did those help you to relax and say, "I'll get that first one out of the way?"
"I was excited. I saw the ball in the air and was pretty excited. That same play, we've worked on in practice, and I knew the audible was coming, so it felt like practice out there ..."
Did you keep the ball, and if so, what are you going to do with it?
"I didn't keep it, but they have it (in the equipment room). I'm going to grab it before I leave today. I'll probably put it in a case and hang it up in my game room somewhere."
When your head coach was aggressive as he was he was throughout the entirety of today's game, what kind of message does it send to the offense when you're out there on fourth down?
"That means he wants us to convert. It doesn't matter what he calls, he expects a big play every time he calls a play. That's just the outlook he has on the receivers we have, the running back, the quarterback, the whole offense. He just wants us to capitalize when he calls the plays for us."
JOE MIXON, Running back
Earlier this week, you said you were going to put the team on your back. How good did it feel to play in front of a full crowd today?
"Man, it felt great. I don't know if you all felt it, but I thought it was electric out there. The atmosphere, it was crazy. I'm just very pleased that we got the win. We worked real hard. We worked real hard, all off season. We've been working hard to try and get the chemistry going, and we were really good at making it happen. I'm just really happy we got the 'W.'"
It looks like you guys hung with the running game, which got better as the game went on. Did you feel like that was the case?
"In the first quarter, it was pretty much a run, pass, pass, run (play calling). I thought (Bengals head coach) Zac (Taylor) did a great job with balancing out the run and the pass today because the play-action (plays) were hitting. Even in the quick game with dropbacks, receivers were getting open. For the run, it was basically completing the pass. I thought we did a hell of a job today.
"At the same time, the other runs were hitting, too. We had a variety of them. The linemen were blocking their asses off, everybody on the perimeter was blocking, and the tight ends were doing their thing, too. It was great."
How fearless do you think Zac is as a play caller, especially with the calls on fourth down and in overtime today?
"I mean, he's very fearless. At the end of the day, that's what I think what moves us as players is he actually wants to go for things like that. That was definitely a gutsy call. Zac — he's just out there doing whatever he can to put us in great position (to succeed). Joe Burrow made plays, C.J. (Uzomah) made a play, and I thought it was a hell of a play call when they connected there in overtime. Those boys have been fighting hard, clawing, scratching, doing whatever they can to deliver."
You touched on this earlier, but earlier this week you said 'We want to win for Zach.' Over the last two years, what has sparked that vibe among the team?
"You know, Zac, you can just tell how bad he wants it. Zac, for the last few years, he's dealt with a lot of things, on the field, off the field, a lot of distractions and whatnot. You can just tell. (You can) look him in his eyes, and you can just tell he means what he says when he wants to win and how he wants things to go. To be honest, everybody in this locker room, especially the new guys that we brought in (via) free agency and the draft picks, everybody's all bought in. That's one thing we've prided ourselves on this offseason — everybody buying in, and it shows.
"On offense, we complemented the defense well. And at the end of the day, the defense did the same thing, (with) everybody doing their thing. It was a great victory. Special teams — they did a hell of a job as well. As I said, it was great complimentary football today. I'm just glad we got the 'W.'"
What is the difference with Joe Burrow this year as far as his leadership?
"There's definitely a difference. You can see it sometimes in practice when he takes the huddle. (It's) mainly in practice (where) we see it a lot. In the game, you can just tell. For me, on the sidelines, I feel like he's vocal and when everybody takes the field, it's either me, him or Tyler Boyd that are vocal in the huddle. For us, we're doing our things as captains. Everyone's looking up to us and then we just go out there and make plays. We did that today and we've just got to keep on making them."
What were you thinking when the Vikings were out there driving the ball in overtime? It couldn't have felt like it was going to go well ...
"To be honest, I was over there and I was very confident our defense was going to get a stop, (be it via) a turnover, strip which we got or interception. You could just feel it in the crowd with the momentum and the way things were going. Even though we had to punt that previous drive and when they were driving, you could just feel the energy from the crowd. I even heard somebody in the crowd (say), 'Come on you all — we have to stay in this thing' and everybody just rallying around each other. I thought that was big because as a player like me, we call out the fans to come out here and see the show. I felt like it was great for us to come out there and put on (a good show) for them and get the win. I know everyone is happy around the city and all the Bengals fans are happy, and the players are as well. We've just got to keep going — going one week at a time, one team at a time, and keep us preparing hard and make things happen."
Is that as loud as you've ever heard it here?
"Either (this game), or that Thursday Night (Football) matchup (we had) my second year against Baltimore, but I felt like today was very hostile (towards Minnesota), especially that first quarter, the fourth quarter and overtime. It was a great atmosphere. The crowd was just screaming and yelling. And the players — we were doing everything we could to come out with the 'W,' which we did, so I'm just happy for everybody."
What type of impact does it have on a team when your quarterback has such high standards for how things should look?
"Whether he has high standards for himself or other people have high standards for him, at the end of the day, he's his own man and he deals with whatever he deals with in terms of that. It's probably personal, (but) I don't think he feels any standard or pressure from the outside world. I feel (like) he puts all that pressure on himself, and even in the fourth quarter and overtime, I was telling him 'Come on, bro — you've got to lead us. It's that time. It's what you're made for. This is what you are (a leader). You came in here to make plays.' And he led us. Everybody's excited. He was excited, and I was happy for him. He delivered. And a shout out to Evan McPherson for that field goal."
I may have phrased that question wrong. I meant to say he has high standards for how things should be working on and around the team. How does that rub off on everybody in the building?
"To be honest, I think everybody on the team has high standards for each other. The offense — we've got high standards at making plays. At the end of the day, you saw how (once) one person made a play, it was just infectious and everybody started making plays. The runs started hitting, the passes started going, Joe Burrow is having a hell of a time making throws, and the linemen were blocking their asses off. The defense, they were going hard and it was really physical out there. Our defensive line — they did a great job whether it was sacking the quarterback or making those guys jump off sides or shutting down (Vikings running back Dalvin) Cook. At the end of the day, to be honest, the crowd played a big part in it with their guys jumping offsides. It was a great thing (with) a great atmosphere, and I was happy for them."
What are your thoughts on outplaying Cook?
"At the end of the day, I think he's a great running back. He's one of the greatest running backs in the league to me. I thought our defense did a great job keeping us on the field, and I was just trying to deliver when my number was called. Like I said, it was a team sport and a team effort. The linemen did a hell of a job blocking on the edges and up the middle, and I thought the receivers did a hell of a job on the outside. No matter if I outrushed him, I wouldn't compare (our days today). I was just trying to be my best me. By me being the best (version of myself) out there, that's what our team needs. I just have to keep leading by example, keep getting those yards and keep helping out the run. And our receivers, because they're going to deliver for me, I've got to deliver for them."
What did you like about the way Ja'Marr Chase played in his first regular-season game?
"He did a hell of a job. First game, (and) he went over 100 yards (receiving). It was a real one. I thought he played his ass off. He made plays. He was getting us hyped up, and he delivered. That's what we picked him for. He took the top off, and that's going to be great for the running game. And Tee (Higgins) was doing his thing. Tyler was trying to do his thing, too. You see the defense has to play honest — they can't stack the box no more. If they do stack the box, we'll hit them over the top like we did. Like I said, our players came through and delivered, and we got the 'W.'"
Some people would use the term "gutsy;" others would use a word we can't print .... What would you call that fourth-and-one play?