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Everything Zac Taylor Had To Say After the Bengals Beat the Ravens in the Wild Card Round

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Head coach

What do you make of Sam Hubbard's 98-yard touchdown run that gave you the go-ahead score?

       "That's why you never give up on a drive, even when it's down there inside the two-yard line. It's what our defense — the whole red zone, the last couple years, it's been awesome from our defense and today is no different. For Logan (Wilson) to knock that ball out and Sam to finish (the play) off 98 yards later, it really changed the momentum of the game because you're looking at a 14-point swing right there, going down seven (points) and then being up seven. It was a challenge on offense, certainly. It's one of the better defenses we face all year. We knew that going in. Our defense really carried us in the fourth quarter. We really needed that."

With the injury to Jonah Williams today, how would you assess the state of the offensive line right now?

       "Fighting. I'd asses them as, they're fighting and giving us a chance."

I know you often mention it's a "next man up" mentality, but when you lose three starters on the offensive line, how much does that take away from your playbook?

       "That's the most challenging part to get reps in there because a guy like Jackson (Carman) has got to represent both sides. That's the going forward — we'll see who's available and do our best to rep them and get them going."

What is it about this defense that makes them so special as a group, not only Hubbard's touchdown but all the stops?

       "Just the second half in general this entire year, that's really been the story line for our defense, is rising up and really just not allowing the (opposing) offense to have anything. For our offense to go and get into a rhythm and be able to score points, but our defense in the second half, which has been fantastic — today was no different. It's good to see that they brought that type of defense into the playoffs."

Have you ever seen a Ravens defense play the way they did today with not allowing anything except underneath?

       "They did a good job. They've got a lot of help with guys up front, the (line)backers are rotating through there and they're good at every level of defense. They make you earn it. You're not going to get off any explosive (plays). That's the biggest thing — that's why our drives were so long with so many plays because all three times we played them, all of our drives have been over 10-play drives. It was a strange game. You get three possessions in the first half. We got our third possession with four minutes left in the half and it felt like that's just the way it is. Every possession is so critical because those two turnovers we got on defense — you win the turnover battle two-to-one and you win the game in a game like that. There's no secret sauce there."

It seemed like one of the critical sequences in the game was when Jonah Williams went down, then you hold the Ravens to a field goal right before the half for them to have a one-point lead. Then in the third quarter, they get the ball and you stop them and then you go down and score a touchdown. Can you talk about with everything swirling around the team, how critical that stretch was to the overall victory?

       "That's a critical stretch right there because they stole those points before halftime, and they were going to get the ball first (in the third quarter). It was so big for our defense to come out with a stop and then for our offense to immediately respond with a touchdown drive. Really, that's what allowed us to regain the momentum — we had lost that momentum before that last turnover there that Sam (Hubbard) recovered. But that was big to have that momentum going in the second half to know that we would have only 10 possessions."

Was the team deflated at all at halftime?

       "No. I mean, it was three possessions (for) each (team at that point). It may seem strange, but it's not because that's how it was the first time we played them, but I think everyone at halftime knew that's not an unexpected way for that game to be at 10-9 at halftime."

What did you see on Akeem Davis-Gaither's interception? It seems like he's always around the ball.

       "He was in great position there. He just secured the ball. I didn't see how he finished (the play because) they ruled him down so far back, but when they throw it to you, you've got to catch it and I thought he did a great job there."

The defense led the way, but you would have liked to close this out on offense with three opportunities to do so. Any concern or frustration that you weren't able to put them away the way you wanted?

       "You want to be able to help the defense out more and even if it's not putting points on the board like you want, you want to put them in better field position and not have them be able to return a kick and with a penalty be beyond the 50 (yard line). There were different reasons some of those drives stalled out. One of them was a holding penalty that put us way back on the 10 (yard line). Other ones, we were close and just didn't quite get it done. But again, all that matters at this point is winning. We'll fix it this week and move forward."

Do you remember what you said to Sam Hubbard after his touchdown return?

       "I couldn't find him. I think Sam was the last one I found. I just congratulated everybody."

The TV cameras caught a great shot of you yelling during Sam Hubbard's return. What was going through your mind at that moment?

       "(I was) yelling at all those people to just block somebody. It looked like Mark Andrews was going to run him down and we had a whole caravan of people. That's what was going through my mind — 'Run faster.' It's tough; you consider what Sam went through in that drive and now you're down there in a goal-line situation and that's why you do all the summer conditioning he probably did at Ohio State and at Moeller (High School). All those reps, that's why you do them, for moments like that to be able to finish strong like he did. That was awesome for the hometown kid to finish it that way."

You started a new tradition of taking game balls around the city after wins last year. Will that continue this year and if so, do you have any spots in mind already?

       "I know I'm continuing that tradition. That tradition is never going to die. That includes tonight. You guys keep holding me up — I don't know what time the bars close here, but we'll find one. We've got a good thing going and I'm not going to reveal that right now, but we will include as many people as possible."

Thoughts on Joe Burrow's performance given the offensive line situation?

       "Some of the plays that people aren't going to (recognize the importance of include) the third-and-one play on when we were on the 30 (yard line), we got zone coverage and the play was just a disaster. For him to sprint out and reverse course and get us the first down is really a play that should get more storylines than some realize because that play (came) versus a bad look and he just kind of willed it to happen. Again, I don't have the stats in front of me, but that was probably the possession we scored on during that third quarter. That got us started on that third-and-one, when he scrambled for that. If we don't get that drive, who knows how the game goes from there. It's a three-and-out and we're punting, but he just makes plays like that to will us to victory. He did a great job on the third-down (pass) to Hayden (Hurst) that got us down to the one-yard line. That was great. He took a play, made an adjustment and that's why he was able to hit Hayden. He recognized the coverage. He just makes special plays like that, and that's what you need when it's playoff time."

How big was that drive you described in the third quarter for the rest of the game?

       "Our defense got us that stop and we got that possession and took over with five minutes (remaining) in the third quarter. It was a pretty-time consuming possession and that gives you a feeling like you're in decent control there. It was a big possession."

What is the difference if any this year versus last year winning a playoff game given the previous history and last year's Super Bowl run?

       "It's special. There's such a tremendous history here. You don't take anything for granted in this league. At this point, it really doesn't matter what seed you are. Every game is going to be a dogfight, and we knew that, and we were going to get their best shot and we knew that. Our guys found a way to win. Is it different than last year? Winning's just fun. We work so hard and this season is so long. You go through all the peaks and valleys with all the people in this room. You're here every step of the way — to get to the playoffs and it can all be over in a heartbeat. Our guys didn't want that to happen, so they found a way to move on."

How special does it feel to now face the Bills given what happened and not being able to finish the regular-season game this year?

       "It feels like two deserving teams (are facing each other). Buffalo is one of the greatest environments to play in in all of football. I've been there many, many times and it's a fun environment. It's a worthy playoff environment, and so our guys are going to be juiced up and ready to go. It should be a heck of a game."