On a three-game winning streak heading into Sunday's game at Paycor Stadium against the Chiefs (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12), head coach Zac Taylor spoke with Bengals.com senior writer Geoff Hobson.
GH: Another home game where it feels like you haven't been here forever. After going through the run last season, it seems like Paycor Stadium has a special aura about it when it comes to big games late in the season. Like against the Chiefs and Ravens and then Vegas in the playoffs.
ZT: Yeah, I think the fans feel that we need them. They're stepping up to the challenge, and that's been the case. Obviously, every game at this point is a big game. I don't even have to ask. I know our fans are going to show up and give us everything they can to give us an advantage.
GH: The fans certainly traveled well last week down to Nashville. They were all over the place.
ZT: And you feel that. That's not the first game I've felt that. We felt that at Pittsburgh. We've got a great fan base that's willing to do everything they can to help give us an edge.
GH: Tyler Boyd has compared Joe Burrow vs. Patrick Mahomes with Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Were you a Peyton guy or a Brady guy growing up?
ZT: I was a Manning guy. In sixth grade, my cousin went to go play baseball at Rhodes College in Memphis. He bought me a Peyton Manning No. 16 Tennessee jersey because that's what he wore in college. I wore that Tennessee jersey every day, my whole sixth grade year maybe, it felt like. I was a Peyton Manning fan from when he was in college.
GH: Did you watch a few of those Brady-Manning matchups?
ZT: Yeah. You know, being from Oklahoma you're not big (into) the NFL. It's more about a player. My dad had coached with Dave McGinnis, who was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals for a while, so I remember loosely following the Arizona Cardinals only for that reason. He was friends with the strength coach at the Chicago Bears, Russ Riederer, so I followed the Bears. Those are the kind of reasons why I followed teams. I wouldn't say I would be devastated if the Indianapolis Colts lost a game. It was more about just watching a great player.
GH: Who would be Brady and who would be Manning?
ZT: It's not my job to make those comparisons. I do have the awareness though that (Burrow) is the perfect quarterback for us. Whatever that means, that's what that means. That's all we really care about.
GH: I heard somebody somewhere on national radio say Burrow played OK but didn't have a great game and I'm, thinking, hey, wait a minute, he played as well if not better than when he goes for 480. Some huge third-down throws and took care of the ball on the road against a tough defense. What more do you want?
ZT: That just sounds like people who didn't watch the game, because his incompletions mostly were covered. They were really impossible completions. That's what Tennessee does. They do a great job of mixing and matching their coverages. They had some of our concepts pretty wired. They did a good job of that. That's why they haven't given up 20 points in regulation since week two against the Raiders. He was smart sometimes and burned the ball when he needed to burn the ball, and that's just the way it was.
GH: The thing about Joe to me is he can play so many different styles. He can be a game manager and a fireworks guy and everything else in between.
ZT: think it's worthwhile to look at. You can say 'game manager.' It was more 'completion play mindset.' But the times we asked him to throw the ball over 15 yards, I can't think of one incompletion that we had. The opportunities that were there, he took them. And he was perfect when he went after it that way. That's what we needed to be able to get those chunks moving the ball. He came through for us.
GH: What do you mean by completion play mindset?
ZT: Completion play mindset. They make their, 'Hey, I'm not giving up explosives.' It's not a game where you get to bomb the ball down the field like some times we like to do, but when the opportunities presented themselves, he took advantage of it and was perfect.
GH: To go 3-1 without Ja'Marr Chase, does that say something about the building as a whole?
ZT: Yeah, it speaks to everybody believing that even without some of our best players, we still are going to be in a position to win. It's a credit to everybody that brings in the players, that we've identified the right guys that can step up to fill the role when needed. Whether that's Trayveon Williams or Jay Tufele or Trenton Irwin, all these guys. They're here for a reason and people stood on the table for them at one time or another, and they're here helping us win games.
GH: If there's one thing that comes out of November, it's that this team has shown it has depth, don't you think? P.J. Combs (director of media relations) saw a great NFL Network graphic before last Sunday's game. At that point last season after ten games, you had the same record and pretty much the same points per game and points allowed per game and passer rating to nearly the decimal point. Has the biggest difference this year been the play of the bench?
ZT: I think so, and I think it's just guys having one more year in our system that are playing in those backup roles. We've probably had a couple more injuries maybe than we had last year, so guys were called to step up. But, yeah, I agree. We're in a good place with the 69-man roster. You add the practice squad as part of your roster, that's different than in years past because of the standard elevations. We feel comfortable calling on any of them.
These guys will probably be called upon in some way, shape or form at some point. The moment won't be too big for them because they've already kind of gotten that part out of the way of playing on the big stage. I'm just really excited about dealing with all the depth that we have.
GH: Has Drue Chrisman won the punting job?
ZT: We have a lot of confidence in him. We'll just keep taking it week-to-week right now. We've got one more week where we can standard elevate him, and that'll be the plan for this week.
GH: What is it like going against Chiefs head coach Andy Reid?
ZT: I have a ton of respect for him. He's always been a fun coach to watch and he's put great offenses on the field for a long, long time. He worked with my father-in-law (Mike Sherman) in Green Bay, so there's always been that relationship between those two. A lot of respect for him and the job that he continues to do.
GH: What do you think makes Reid such a good coach?
ZT: He's creative. He always seems to get the most out of his players. Players really enjoy playing for him. They believe in what he's asked them to do. He's done a great job with the locker rooms. It's not as much what happens on the field, but you can just tell from guys I know that have been there. You can just tell that culture that they have there, where people like playing there. They do a good job.
GH: Do you ever pick Mike Sherman's brain about Reid?
ZT: No, I think enough time has been removed there where he's in a whole different system now.
GH: I thought it was interesting that in the locker room after the game last Sunday, some of the guys were watching the Jags beat the Ravens and it was kind of casual, like, hey, there's still six games left. I know you were watching because your brother Press is Jacksonville's offensive coordinator.
ZT: It's too early to be dialed in on that and again, our focus has been to control what we can control and don't worry about what's happening outside of our building. We know we got a big game ahead and we've just got to do everything we can to win it and take it one week at a time that way. It's not a Week 18 deal. I didn't even see any of that, I was kind of in my own little area over there. I was just happy for Press and the job he's done.
GH: You made it a point after the game to tell them they became the first Bengals team to go undefeated in November since 1982. You've been reminding them about the calendar lately.
ZT: Somebody gave me that stat. Still, that's a month that gives you some momentum going into December. You certainly don't want to go into the final quarter of the season on a downturn where you're trying to motivate guys and lift them up. It's good to go in there with some wins and some positive momentum as you get into this last stretch. That's why I thought it was worthwhile mentioning it to those guys.
GH: When you beat a division leader like the Titans in late November to give you five of the last six, that has to give you some juice.
ZT: Those are wins you've really got to earn. You've got to play your best football when you're going on the road to play a team like that that's been so successful over the years. We don't take that for granted. It was a complete performance by our guys and one that's really appreciated by me and our coaching staff.