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Everything Zac Taylor Had To Say After The Bengals Beat The Vikings


Head coach

What are your overall thoughts on the game today?

        "It took everybody — players, coaches (and the) crowd. It took everybody, and we found a way to regain the momentum in the fourth quarter. That was as hard-fought a game as I've ever had at home, but our guys found a way at the end, and you just couldn't help but think about on the fourth-and-one where the ball was at — that was the same situation we were in against them a couple of years ago. (The defense) created a turnover — we got a turnover on downs — and the offense found a way to hit a big play and keep it moving. Evan (McPherson), just like he did in his first career game-winner against the Minnesota Vikings (in 2021), found a way to do it again.

        "I just couldn't be more proud of everybody involved in this whole thing. (For) anyone that represents the Bengals, this is a good day."

Do you anticipate Ja'Marr Chase and D.J. Reader being able to finish the season after going out of today's game with injuries?

        "D.J., I don't think D.J. ... I have more information, but I don't think it's a positive (outcome). I'm not sure about Ja'Marr."

What more information do you have about D.J.?

        "I don't want to ... it's not great. I don't want to be definitive (yet right now)."

How appropriate is it with D.J. out of the game, the one spot the Vikings run the ball to on a critical down is where he would have been and other Bengals players step up to create a stop?

        "It took everybody. I'm really proud of how our defense played the whole game and got us some big stops. In the first half, they kept us in (the game) to be quite frank, because we didn't have much momentum on offense outside of that first drive. They got those two takeaways in the red zone, and so that game, really — it could have been up or down.

        "It could have been similar to the Tennessee game in Week 4 when they got the ball to start the second half and then scored a bunch of points. This time, our defense just bowed up, and the offense was able to find some momentum in the second half. Again, it was a collective effort in all three phases."

What changed in the fourth quarter that got the offense going?

        "I really think it was the whole second half. It felt good — we had a turnover on the first drive. I don't know if — did we score on every drive since then? — I could be wrong on that ... but it felt like we were finally able to get some first downs and get some momentum. In the first half, we had a holding penalty that put us in a second-and-long, and it's tough to overcome that against those guys. They're a hell of a team, and they make it really hard for you. They put us in some tough spots, and we were able to overcome them."

What makes Jake Browning able to deliver in such big moments?

        "Jake's just so steady, you know? He really is. He doesn't get rattled by a negative play. He doesn't overreact to it. The interception is just a great example. In his fourth-ever career start, he throws a pick — I think it was cover two and the cornerback just played games with him to try and bait him to throw it over the top — and the next play, he came right back the next drive and throws a touchdown. That's what you want to see from your quarterback — a guy who doesn't get too high or too low. He's able to move on, and that's exactly what he did.

        "Trust me, the protection plan, (our offensive coordinator) Brian Callahan does an excellent job. Those guys buy into it. Every snap might not have been perfect — (Vikings linebacker) Harrison Smith is a heck of a player; he makes life really, really, really, really, really, really hard on you and again — credit to those guys. But I thought our guys stepped up when they needed to and were able to give Jake some time to do what he needed to do."

Are there some plays where you just have to throw it up and trust your guys to come down with the ball like Tee Higgins did on his second touchdown catch to send the game into overtime?

        "Yeah. When you have great players — players make plays. I think it was cover-zero and Jake just launched one up to Tee, and Tee went up and got it and scored a touchdown. That's the one area of the field I can't see (from my vantage point), so I still don't know what exactly happened, but I'm just proud ... I can list names of guys all day that stepped up, (and) guys who maybe faced some adversity at some point in the game — maybe a play didn't go their way and then they put their head down — and then just came right back up and made some big plays for us down the stretch."

Was the game today, with the adversity early on before the big catches, a microcosm of Tee Higgins' season?

        "All I can say is we always count on Tee Higgins. Tee stepped up big for us, and those were two big touchdowns that he scored for us at the end of the game, and he also made some bigger catches across the middle at other points. So again, we're always counting on Tee, and he came up big for us."

With the game literally coming down to a matter of inches today over and over again, what does it say about the fight in the locker room when you have wins like the one today?

        "It's an emotional game. That thing was a roller coaster. That's kind of like the season a little bit. You just have to be able to stay composed and not panic. Just like when you're down in the season, you're down in this game and our guys just — there's no fear, there's no 'Oh, here we go.' It's just, 'Who's going to step up and makes the play that keeps us in this thing?'

        "I remember being down 14 I think, at the end of the third quarter if I'm not mistaken, and just feeling like, 'We're in this. We just have to score, our defense will get a stop and we don't have to start throwing the ball every play because it's a two score game.' It didn't feel like that, and it in fact, that came true for us."

After the game, a lot of guys coming off the field screamed out one word as they were heading into the locker room: "Believe." Is that something the coaching staff has been preaching to the players?

        "That's not coming from me. Maybe those guys watch 'Ted Lasso' (laughs). The guys do believe, you know? ... We've talked a lot about how we have to be our strongest here in December and January. Just kind of reflecting back over the last couple of years, everything we do is geared towards (the) offseason training camp (and during) regular seasons, to being at our best now. And these last few weeks, we've been pretty dang good. So, we just have to keep that moving. We've got a big one next week. We know that. We've got to get our minds right, (and) get rested. It's going to be a physical game. Guys are going to be worn out. (So now), they've got to get their minds right, and come back in here on Tuesday ready to work."

Why has Jake Browning been so good at situation football during these last two games?

        "We talk about it. We meet every week as a team. (Myself, secondary/cornerbacks coach) Charles Burks, (assistant linebackers coach) Jordan Kovacs — they're situation masters this season. They've done a great job educating the guys in situations that don't come up that often. When you've got great veterans that understand these moments, there's no panic. They do a really good job staying composed and making plays."

Are these the type of games that give you confidence this is a playoff team?

        "That's not how I think about it. Now, I'm just able to think about Pittsburgh and what we need to do. It's really too much to think about down the road all week (as we need to) control what we do these last three weeks. You don't have to worry about everybody else. I'm confident if we just win this next one, then we're in control of what we can control. That's really the message to the guys: Just focus on Pittsburgh, and don't worry about anything else right now."