What was the difference in this game down the stretch?
"I thought the way their defense was playing; we needed to keep that two-score lead. Kicking that field goal, you felt it would put us in a big position. They're an explosive offense, and I was happy our offense was able to go and finish it out. That was a big run by Joe Mixon in the last play of the game. We have to pride ourselves in finishing with the ball, and we did that today."
Was the plan all along to have the tight ends be as involved as they were?
"That's where the ball went. Buffalo did a great job; they don't make it easy on you. Their defense played really well and made things difficult, we had to earn everything. I thought our tight ends responded the right way. That's why we gave the game ball to James Casey. He gets those guys ready; they know every single detail of this offense. They're always prepared. We make a lot of in-game adjustments with the tight ends that they have to be able to handle. There are a lot of things they did — not even when the ball came their way — to help us be successful."
Irv Smith Jr responding was important …
"Not surprising at all, the way Irv prepares. He puts himself in positions to be successful. Days like today aren't surprising for that. Drew Sample does all the nasty things for us. For him to make that play for a touchdown was special. Tanner Hudson came in and made the plays that came his way the way we were expecting him to. Mitch Wilcox has a role too, always. You can't say enough about that room, can't say enough about (tight ends coach) James Casey, who sets the right attitude for that room. They respond the right way and make plays when their number is called."
Was Drew Sample's touchdown by design? Was there any element of improvisation to it?
"It's great awareness. That's Joe Burrow trusting him and having an understanding. It's a loose check down they got on the same page on. Drew feels it as Joe feels it, and there's something to be said about that type of connection. And for him to finish it off was awesome."
The defense has been forcing more and more turnovers lately, it seems …
"We preach it nonstop. Our guys that have been here know that's how you win these close games. Germaine Pratt is a big driving force in that, and he forced the fumble there. No surprise there. That's just one of the many things he does well for this team."
How pleased were you to see Tee Higgins bounce back?
"Again, another guy I'm not surprised about. He's a victim of circumstances the way his season has gone with injuries. He stepped up big time, won a lot of one-on-ones, made big plays. That slant route he won that got us into the red zone before the field goal, was big by Tee."
What's made this team so good at rising up in prime time moments like these?
"The character of the team, these are the stages they want to be on. They don't shy away from it. That confidence is earned, it's not anything phony. They've worked for this and they trust their teammates to be next to them making those winning plays. The team was ready, the fans were ready for the environment. It was the second biggest crowd in Bengals history. We could feel them — when Buffalo had the ball, they were loud and created some issues for them. That energy certainly fueled us today. I like the stripe sections too, that was pretty cool."
With all these drives that ended in plus territory, did you get more aggressive with the play calling after that?
"As the game goes, you have to evolve. You're on field goal fringe a couple of times, and we went for it on the fourth and five. That's one we'll talk through to make sure I made the right decision. Our defense is playing well, so if you punt, you pin them deep. I think it was a 55-yard field goal, so there were a lot of decisions to be made there. That's one we'll talk through and see how we land on it, or if we do something different."
So you were originally more conservative but became more aggressive because of that?
"There were some times earlier where we were going to be aggressive and the next play didn't happen that way. We didn't have to make that decision then. There were some we either converted or didn't gain enough. We were ready to be attacking in a game like that."
Were you going to go for it if you didn't convert on third down at the end of the game?
"We were in field goal range at that point. That would have been a field goal there to ice it for us."
Do you feel the team is a championship contender again?
"We don't need to worry about that right now. We have a team we trust and believe in. We have a huge game next week against the Houston Texans, and that's all we're worried about. We're not even at the midway point of the season yet. The only thing we can focus on is getting ready for Houston, and I know our guys will do that."
How important is it to win a game like this in prime time?
"We have to prove it every single week. It doesn't matter who we play. There are a lot of great teams on our schedule that are coming at us, the Houston Texans being one of them. We focus no whoever's in front of us. We have to put in six great days of work and put our best effort out there."
You've had three straight games with opening drive touchdowns …
"It's proven if we can start fast and get a lead, our defense pins their ears back and gets after the quarterback, and creates turnovers. It's easier to call the game with a lead as well. Our guys responded the right way to that."
Was that more important tonight, when you took the ball on the won toss?
"It's a great way to start; put pressure on the team in a road environment. I trusted our offense to go down and score."
What was the experience like with Damar Hamlin in the stadium?
"It's great the way it all played out. A lot of good has come from it. It brought two communities close together that maybe otherwise wouldn't have a reason for that. It's great to see that he's doing well."
Any thoughts on Cam Taylor-Britt?
"He creates turnovers, that are what it's about. He has great ball skills. Every time the ball is in his hands, he's going to find a way to make that pick."