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Everything Zac Taylor Had To Say After Beating the Browns

Head Coach Zac Taylor talks to the team after the Bengals beats the Browns 23-10 in Week 14 of the 2022 season at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Head Coach Zac Taylor talks to the team after the Bengals beats the Browns 23-10 in Week 14 of the 2022 season at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Head coach

How important was it mentally to overcome the rough few series that you had in the first five to six minutes of the game?

       "This team just kept finding a way. I've got confidence here that these players are just going to step up. We really lost Tee (Higgins) in warmups. We lost Tyler Boyd on the second play of the game, offensively. Guys just stepped up. There had to be a lot of modifications, but we settled in and found a way to move the ball, and that's really because our defense allowed us to. They gave us the time by limiting the points off the board to let our offense to find a way take that route there. (Overall, it was a) really good team effort of finding a way to win in December and finish the game."

Did Tee Higgins get worse as the week went on?

       "Tee was good. He practiced every day. It was really in pre-warmups, he felt (the injury) and so, he was questionable to play. He found his way in there a couple of times because there were some things we were going to utilize him to do even though we didn't — some short area stuff — but ultimately, we just kept him out and we don't want that to turn into something worse where he's going to miss more games, so we'll just see where it goes."

Do you have any update on Boyd?

       "He dislocated his finger, and that's all the information I have right now."

Tee played only that first snap of the game. What feedback did you get after that, letting you know he couldn't go today?

       "We didn't want him in on that first snap. He found his way onto the field. We had him dressed up we in case we did some stuff, but Tee did not want to be held out of the game. He wanted to play, but (with) some of the information I got in pregame, we did not want that to turn into something worse.

       "So again, he wanted to play. I appreciate that. He found his way out there the way some guys do when they want to play (when) they're a competitor, but ultimately, we did not want him out there."

With Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase executing the way they did despite the loss of Boyd and Higgins, how much can you take from this game? It just feels like you guys keep finding ways to win.

       "There's not much we're taking from it at this point. We're just going from week to week in December, and we're trying to find ways to win. This team, obviously — we've played so many games at this point, we know that it can work any different way, and we've just have confidence someone is going to step up and make plays.

       "Today, we have plenty of guys throughout the team that did that defensively, with the rushing totals they had in the second half. (It was) just amazing. Jessie Bates III had a huge turnover. ... They all did a great job."

Did you see something that showed Cleveland biting hard on running plays that made that flea flicker for the touchdown the right time to call that play?

       "You carry those because you think they're going to work, and they've done a great job. They're a fast defense, they come downhill (well and) they're good against the run, and sometimes those plays pop up. Sometimes they work, (and) sometimes you run a reverse later in the game, and they don't work. It can be hit or miss. We understand that you're rolling the dice sometimes, but we felt good about the look we might get, and it worked out well."

On the play that went to Ja'Marr, was he looking to throw the ball downfield or did something happen to prevent that?

       "Well, there's no throw involved there. That was a reverse all the way. We had some mechanical issues in even getting the play off the ground, so it didn't work."

Feel-wise when you call the flea flicker, did you think, 'This is a good time to take a shot'?

       "We have a grouping of plays going into the drive. Sometimes it's a skill thing. As you get going, you feel like you're gaining advantage in certain ways and can run the ball well and do can do some things play-action wise to complement it. That's basically play--action in a sense. It worked out for us."

How nice was it to have Joe Mixon back today?

       "That was good. I thought Joe had a heck of a run that put us in a great position there. We put the tackle on the toss play (and they did) a great job. So, just a combination of him and Samaje (Perine) is going to be a great deal for us going forward."

Were there any major adjustments made for their first couple of series after the Higgins and Boyd injuries?

       "(We had an) offensive staff meeting at 12 o'clock on the dot because we went into the game with two tight ends, and that affects us and things you're going to do with multiple receivers. To lose two receivers right out of the gate, third down became a challenge. I thought our coaching staff did a did a really good job.

       "First and foremost, I'll start with (quarterbacks coach) Dan Pitcher and (offensive coordinator) Brian Callahan getting third down right. (Wide receivers coach) Troy (Walters did outstanding work for) red zone (plans, along with tight ends coach) James (Casey) and (running backs coach) Justin (Hill) being on alert, both with things that they had to deal with in that game — James had only two tight ends (active). I just thought it was a really good a team effort by players and coaches to solve the problems."

How do you have Chase still be so productive after losing Higgins and Boyd, along with the defensive attention they would command leaving them to seemingly be able to focus on stopping him?

       "Yeah, he's a smart player, first of all, because he is able to handle playing all three positions ... He's got all sorts of motions. He's got a lot of things he's got to remember — which side he's on, what part of the concept he's involved in — but that allows us to just have so much freedom to move him around and find ways to get in the ball because of his understanding of the alternative opposition in his communication with Joe (Burrow)."

How much more did Chase's performance impress you today with Higgins and Boyd out?

       "I'm always impressed by what Ja'Marr is able to do with the ball in his hands. If you could just find a way to get him the ball, he is going to be productive and that's what he wants to do."

Is there any significance of beating a team that's gotten the best of you the last five meetings?

       "No. We really just look at the next week and don't focus so much on that. Obviously, we looked at that game (earlier this year in Cleveland) and the reasons why it didn't go well for us. We're fully aware of the style of game we're going to play. (The Browns are) a really good football team. They are. That was a really good one for us today. Again, it wasn't always pretty, but we'll take it, and I'm really happy with our players overcame some adversity."

Joe Burrow had a very tight window to complete his pass to Tee Higgins last week for a critical first down to seal the game, but his pass today to Chase in the end zone might have been even tighter. Would you agree?

       "That's what you get for just running plays over and over and over. We've thrown touchdowns on that play before. Tee's caught touchdowns on a similar route, and that's just timing and rhythm of the quarterback and the receiver being where he's supposed to be. You feel the safety just give you enough right before the snap and you know the ball's going to a great place to Ja'Marr there. Again, that's the red zone. That's a point we've worked since training camp. It doesn't always get called, but you still invest the reps in it every Friday so then, when that moment comes in big game like this, those guys are ready to make that play."

What can you say about your defense, particularly in stopping the run today since Browns running back Nick Chubb only had 34 yards on 14 carries?

       "It was awesome. I think more importantly in the second half, it was maybe six yards. That's the information I have. That's just entire-team defense. I could go one-by-one and press those guys up front, but that's a great plan by (defensive coordinator) Lou (Anarumo) and all the defensive staff. (I'm) really, really proud of the defense today. They gave us our best chance to win it, and then the offense found a way to overcome that adversity and score some points. But it really started with our defense."

How happy have you been seeing DJ Reader swat more passes on the defensive line, and Sam Hubbard's ascension as a player this year?

       "You've got to praise all those guys. DJ definitely stands out. He gets his hands on balls, eliminate downs, is great on run defense. He and BJ (Hill) complement each other well."

Why not rule Higgins out with an hour until kickoff instead of dressing him and seeing how he feels?

       "We already had five inactives. And again, we didn't want him to open up and run. That doesn't mean he couldn't run a fade (route) on a one yard post. I didn't see any reason to do that. He obviously felt the decoy. There were some plays we still had highlighted for him. I was hoping that the game would go in our favor to where he would not be used. That was really my hope that we could get a lead and not feel the need to put him in there to do some of the whole red zone stuff we're going to do. So, again, he felt good. He felt good enough to play, I should say, and so that's the position we were in."

How much did Boyd going down alter your offensive game plan today?

       "It was a constant conversation for four quarters in how that affects the game plan. Again, that's why (I'm thankful we've) got great coaches on staff. I gotta focus on the game, I've got to focus on calling plays, and guys are feeding me calls as we get in different situations based on their problem-solving taking place behind the scenes.

       "I speak a lot about the offensive staff because they've do a great job. But defensively, our coaching staff, when you look at Lou Anarumo, (defensive line coach) Marion Hobby and (linebackers coach) James Bettcher, (secondary/safeties coach) Rob Livingston, (secondary/cornerbacks coach) Chuck Burks, (assistant linebackers coach), Jordan Kovacs, (defensive quality control coach) Louie Cioffi and (senior defensive assistant) Mark Duffner — they got these guys ready to play on defense, and these guys played lights out. It gives you a great chance to win the game, and I'm really proud of the staff and the players (today)."