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Everything Zac Taylor Had To Say After Beating The Falcons

What did you think of Joe Burrow's performance today?

       "What else can you do different? Got a lot of respect for them, but I thought our guys on offense really stepped. Offensive line gave outstanding protection, so that Joe was able to do what he was able to do with all the skill guys that we have. Those three sacks were some different looks — one of them was a cadence issue, one of them was one of the best bluffs I've ever seen in my life. Hats off to him for that one, we ain't winning on that one. Then there's a third one there. I thought the amount of times we threw the ball, the efficiency we had, how good our offensive line did today — hats off to them. There were a lot of drop-back passes — it wasn't under center, it wasn't play-action; it wasn't nakeds, it wasn't a lot of screens, it wasn't runs to take the pressure off. It was drop-back-and-protect, and our guys answered the bell today. And, of course, our skill guys stepped up as well."

How did it feel to get off to a good start and play well the entire game?

       "It was going to be critical against this team. You saw they had a 10-minute drive in the second quarter. When they've been able to hang around or play with leads, they suck the air out of the clock like they did there, and you can feel how they play ball. They do a great job with it; they're really efficient doing it. They regained the momentum there. We had about the worst 30-second stretch we could have there in the second quarter. But, our guys took a deep breath at halftime, the defense came out and responded like they always do and got us a stop at the start of the half. (It was the) seventh consecutive game with no touchdowns allowed in the second half. It's just unbelievable to have that level of consistency. So, they got us started, and the offense was able to score some points there and put the game on ice."

How important was the defense's response to begin the second half?

       "It's big, because there was a little bit of a momentum shift there. When you took a deep breath, it was really just a one-play strike and a clock issue, and that was really it. So, to get a chance to step back and really isolate it — 'We've played good football, let's not let them run away with the momentum here. Let's get back to what we've done well.' The defense had played well, and that's what they did."

This team has won four out of five games. How important has this bounce-back been?

       "I hope you all listened to me when I got up here at 0-2 and said, 'Just be patient, this season is very young, we know what type of team we have, I know the faith that I have in these players and coaches.' And that's what they've done. This season is still in its infancy stages. Today gave us a chance to separate a little bit, and that's what we need, but we know what's on task next week: Monday Night Football at Cleveland — that's a big game for us. Guys will be amped up and ready to go. It gives us an extra day to get healthy, and our guys are ready for the challenge."

What made Tyler Boyd so effective at getting open?

       "We've really gotten back to the basics in our passing game to be quite honest with you. Just cornbread and butter stuff that allows the ball to be split around, and just let T.B. (Tyler Boyd) — let us give it to Boyd there. They're trying to help on Ja'Marr (Chase) and Tee (Higgins) as well on the outsides, so it opens it up for guys like Hayden (Hurst) and T.B. T.B.'s a special player, he's a special locker room guy, and he makes the most of his opportunities. On cue, when the ball goes to T.B., he makes a play for us. I'm still mad at him for missing third-and-one and not getting us that first down on second down — he knows it. But he did a great job today. It was awesome to see him step up and play like we expected him to."

Did you choose to receive the kickoff due to the Falcons' ability to sustain long drives?

       "Yeah. We wanted to put them away early, and that's why it was important. You can swing and miss there and it can play against you, because they can start the second half with the ball. We had a lot of confidence in what our offense was going to be able to do today, and they stepped up and did it."

Did you feel that the defense took over the game in the second half?

       "Really, they played well. They gave up the long, 10-minute drive for the touchdown, and the one-strike play in the two-minute. Aside from that, I thought they did a great job in the first half. Like you said, in the second half, two three-and-outs to start. It really gave us the momentum, and gave the offense (the opportunity) to regain our footing, because we went there and had a turnover on downs there. The defense really stepped up and gave us great opportunities."

What went into the decision to bring La'el Collins back into the game after his injury?

       "I didn't directly talk to him. I just knew it was a quick ankle, and felt that he could come back and be effective for us, so that's what we did."

As a play caller, what is it like when Joe Burrow plays as well as he did today?

       "Got a lot of confidence that he's going to find the right answers to the coverages. We saw a lot of different coverage looks, especially kind of similar to what they did to Tampa. A lot of different coverage looks early in the game, so the quarterback's got to be on top and deliver the ball to the openings and hand the ball off when he needs to. It puts my mind at ease to know I can just quickly give him a call and let him operate — do what he does best. When he gets in a rhythm, watch out, because it's tough to stop."

What went into the decision to substitute Eli Apple for Cam Taylor-Britt at cornerback? Any update on Trey Hendrickson's injury?

       "The starting point was that we wanted to work Cam in there. He's a player who, when he's practiced for us, he's done a really good job, made a strong impression, and it's time to start working him in on special teams and some on defense as well. We'll watch the tape to see how well he did there, but the plan was to get him in there, work in there a little bit. Trey Hendrickson's neck — we don't know yet. We'll get some more information on that one."

Did you say anything to Tyler Boyd with reference to when he came up short on the third-and-one?

       "He knows, he knows. Let's get first-and-10s to stay out of those short-yardage situations. It's something I really harp on a lot. I didn't say anything — he came up and apologized to me. I say it lightheartedly, but we also know, when we can stay out of those situations, let's do it. Aim for that first down, don't lose yardage. He knows my feelings on that overall the last four years, and so he came up and we had a brief conversation."

When you brought in Cam Taylor-Britt, were you looking for a better option at that point in the game?

       "No, we planned on playing him in the game. We'll talk through who got the ball over the course of the game, but the plan was to get him snaps in this game."

What does the stabilization of the offensive line open up offensively?

       "I wouldn't look at it that way. I've had confidence in these guys since coming out of training camp, to be quite honest with you. Their communication, their professionalism, their talent level, and taking that talent and chemistry to develop the cohesiveness that these guys have together — I can't put words into it how confident it makes me. So that's a credit to Frank Pollack and Derek Frazier of keeping these guys on the same page and letting the chemistry take over. These guys go to dinner together, they're talking ball all the time, they're lifting together — it's exactly what you want from your O-line room. These guys have really taken that to heart, and it's fun to watch these guys."

What do you mean when you say that the 'passing game is back to basics'?

       "That's a little bit overstated from what I said. I said that — I'm not saying you didn't quote me right. Just mixing in more bread and butter stuff that's really been efficient for us the last couple weeks, not overcomplicating it. Some good scheme stuff that we like that we've maybe dialed up against the pass. We're just saying, 'Let's get back to the things that are tried and true in our system.' It doesn't mean that we score on a scheme play on the fifth play of the game or whatever it was, but it's just things that guys know well and can operate with extreme confidence."

There were a lot of big plays. Which was the biggest for positive momentum moving forward?

       "The shot early in the game. That was one we were locked in on early. Ted Karras last night was a guest in the quarterback meeting room and he picked that as the first touchdown of the game, so credit to him for having that foresight. That's just further what our offensive linemen understand about this offense. They hear us talk, they hear stuff in the pass game that really they have no concern about, but really they're just that aware about how the game is going to be played out, and it's pretty fun for me to see as a play caller."

What gave you so much confidence in that play?

       "It's a chance to be aggressive. When we call those shots, (Joe) Burrow checks them down if it's not there. He's really good. We've called plenty of plays like that where if we don't get one of those coverages we want, Burrow just gives it to the tight end or the back which gets us to a second-and-five and lets us come back to the play maybe later. It just so happened that the shot was there."

How valuable has Sam Hubbard been?

       "Incredibly valuable. He steps up and continues to make key plays. In the run game, he doesn't always get credit because he might not always get the tackles, but I promise that if you run to the right, you feel his presence. We do it all training camp, teams feel it in the preseason, and as you get to the regular season he's just been a force over there. And, he affects the quarterback and protections, with that big sack he had this game. Really cannot say enough about Sam Hubbard and the role he plays for me as the head coach, this team in the locker room and fan base. To be able to cheer on a hometown hero like him — just can't say enough good things about Sam Hubbard?

How would you assess the play of the linebackers?

       "I think they did a really good job of settling down in the second half. Really there was just the one (drive) in the second quarter, but other than that, I thought that they played really solid. So that's good for the linebackers all the way around. This team has driven the ball, they've won time of possession, they've driven the ball the length of the field, we gave up the one drive. Aside from that, I really thought the defense was excellent."

How important was the play of the defensive tackles today, given injuries on the defensive line?

       "They've taken advantage of the opportunities they're given. Jay Tufele is a guy who was just acquired at the cut-down, has been in-and-out of being inactive, never knows when his opportunity is coming. And he finds himself in a role and takes advantage of it. Same with Zach Carter. Zach was used in different roles early in the season, and now with Josh (Tupou) and D.J. (Reader) being down, he's had to step up as well. Just very pleased with the job that Marion (Hobby) has done with those guys and how they've stepped up to the plate."

Who received game balls?

       "A lot of game balls. The defense for what they've done over the last seven weeks, not allowing a second-half touchdown. The skill guys on offense led by our quarterback. It's a big no-no to give them to the offensive line — they don't want that. The three skill receivers. Hayden Hurst has been a big burst of energy for us every time he's touched the ball going against his former team, he made the most of his opportunities. And then Burrow, obviously."