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Taylor-Made Takes: Identifying Identity After First Month

Zac Taylor , (left) with defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, raves about his defense.
Zac Taylor , (left) with defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, raves about his defense.

Heading into Sunday night's game in Baltimore (8:20 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5), head coach Zac Taylor chatted with senior writer Geoff Hobson

GH: Not just your team, but there are plenty of others that seem to be getting into a grove that wasn't there at the beginning of the season. With the way the offseason and preseason are limited, is September the new August?

ZT: It's hard for me to say. There's always a feeling-out process early in the season, I think whether you played preseason games with your starters or not. It's always when the real games happen and you get a sense of your team, and you work through some grind things sometimes and you get to where you need to be once the season gets rolling, and I've got confidence that that's the direction we're headed.

GH: Now that you're a month in, does this team have a different identity from last season?

ZT: I think our identity is we're a connected group of guys. Playing for each other, playing for the coaches and players, you don't want to let the guy next to you down. I think that's our identity, and that serves you well when you've got talent, you've got good coaches and you've got an opportunity. That can kind of serve as the glue for everything to come together.

GH: Do you think the offense has an identity?

ZT: Our identity, we just want to score as many points as possible, however that looks. That's what we work on as we go through the week and formulate our plan. Different defenses are going to play us differently, the scripts are never going to look the same. We just try to score as many points as we can and take the pressure off our defense.

GH: Is it "pick your poison?' You've had three different 100-yard receivers in the first month.

ZT: Yeah, we don't have an ego about how it looks. It doesn't matter if we pass for 400 and win the game or rush for 200 and win the game. We don't really care at the end of the day what it looks like. We just want to get the job done.

GH: How are teams playing the Bengals differently in the first part of this season compared to last year?

ZT: We've played different teams, so the first two teams played a ton of Tampa 2 and the next teams mix it in a little, but that's not really their identity. Teams are going to play true to themselves and they're not going to create stuff just for us typically. They're going to maybe tweak how they do things just to put somebody over to help Ja'Marr (Chase) or maybe to help Tee (Higgins) or double T.B. (Tyler Boyd), or whatever it is. I think our coaches have done a good job sorting it out as the game goes on, especially these last two weeks how teams are trying to play us.

GH: Miami, a signature zero blitz team, did it maybe twice, right, in a big departure from what they do>

ZT: One-and-a-half, yeah.

GH: So, you had to be ready for something else.

ZT: Yeah, we had to have a lot of answers ready. It worked, but we only saw it one time.

GH: What has jumped off the page to you about the defense?

ZT: Their bend but don't break mindset. They've given up maybe a big play that puts the other team in the red zone or inside the five but then they hold strong down there or hold them to three points. If our offense has given them a short field for whatever reason, they've held the team to three points. They've really done a great job of keeping teams out of the end zone. Ultimately, that's the objective.

You're not going to shut out every team you play. We would hope to do that but we understand that's not always in the cards. But these guys have done a great job of just going out and overcoming maybe a play that has happened that some teams can let the drive finish in the end zone, but our guys refuse to do that. That's a big deal for us.

GH: Sam Hubbard says it's not about the calls on defense, but it's about the guys.

ZT: If you get 11 guys on the same page that believe in what you're doing, then they're going to make it work. Especially with the way that our guys communicate and play off each other, I certainly believe that."

GH: Is there a smarter secondary in the league than this one?

ZT: I would take ours against anybody. I can't speak to every other secondary, but I feel pretty good about ours and wouldn't trade them.

GH: Running back Joe Mixon is out front preaching patience about the run game. Do you think its close?

ZT: "I do. Yeah, I do … He's got the right attitude about it and he knows that we've just got to keep turning away at it and great things can come of it.

GH: Still, you converted five straight third-and-ones Thursday.

ZT: It's just going to kill your (rushing) average, though. Those one-yard runs and those short yardage runs kill your average and that's all anyone cares about.

GH: But they get first downs …

ZT: Trust me, you're preaching to the choir. That's why I don't pay any attention, that's all anybody wants to talk about.

GH: You had some tough sledding on the goal line even after Mixon converted three of the five third-and-ones.

ZT: We had two efficient runs and then got down there to the one-yard line and just weren't able to punch it in. That's three weeks in a row that they've (the Dolphins) stopped teams at the one-yard line. They did it to Baltimore and they did it to Buffalo. It's a tough going defense. We weren't able to get in the first time, but we did the second time, so we were able to make some adjustments and get in there."

GH: You have to figure Ja'Marr is due for a big game, although he's quietly in the top 15 with 293 yards.

ZT: We're going to continue to be creative and get the ball in his hands … You're talking about an unselfish guy who at times has created double teams so that other guys can deliver. That doesn't mean we're going to not throw the ball to Ja'Marr, we're always looking for ways to get the ball in his hands because he's so dynamic and explosive. Whether it's putting him in the backfield or putting him in the slot or putting him outside, we're going to continue to be creative and try to make it as hard as possible on defenses to combat that."

GH: With all due respect to Teddy Karras, I thought Thursday night was the classic 'Joey B' game. Quarterback Joe Burrow didn't make all the throws, just everyone when you needed it.

ZT: I thought he played really well. He came through for us in a lot of big moments and did what we needed to do. He completed the passes that were there. It's just kind of what he does. He makes the plays that are there and creates a couple times when he needs to. (He) found the matchups when they were doubling guys, he went to guys that had the one-on-ones that he trusted to win, and I thought that was good stuff."

GH: What did you think about record Paycor Stadium crowd?

ZT: I thought our fans showed tremendous support and brought a lot of energy to our team. I thought our team fed off of that. I know that our expectation when we play here at home is that we're going to have the best crowd in all of football and our guys really appreciate that and we don't take it for granted.