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Taylor-Made Takes:  'It's On Us To Keep Our Wits About Us' 

Head coach Zac Taylor on the prowl.
Head coach Zac Taylor on the prowl.

Looking ahead to Sunday's game in New Orleans (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), head coach Zac Taylor had his weekly talk with senior writer Geoff Hobson.

GH: Can you draw on last season when looking at this point in this season?

ZT: I think there are moments when you can reflect on (how) we've been in these positions before. It's always good to take a snapshot at the right moments around the league. That's what we did last year before we played the Raiders.

We lost two in a row and I just put up there what the conference standings were and that, 'Hey, this team is at the top; they lost three games in a row. This team's second; they lost two games in a row, then they regrouped.'

Everyone goes through what you go through. It's who handles it the best over the stretch of the season because the team that gets hot late goes to the playoffs and has a chance to go make a run. That's ultimately what everyone's trying to do.

GH: Have you done that snapshot yet?

ZT: No, it's so early. It's so early. We always know what the narrative is going to be when you lose and that's the reality of this league. It's on us to keep our wits about us and quickly refocus and find a way to get that winning feeling back."

GH: When does the urgency to the season start to kick in?

ZT:  I think before the bye, you have to find a way to create momentum, going into that bye week. We've got four games up before the bye, but we need to focus on this win. Create momentum with this one road win and keep moving from there as you go into a bye week. You've just got to have very short-term vision here and take care of business this week. We know what it feels like on a Monday after a win, we know what it feels like on Monday after a loss, when in reality maybe one play was different in each of those games.

GH: Can you compare the way this season has gone to last year?

ZT: I'm sure there were plenty of times we were left on the side of the road for dead. Even in December, losing some of those games, we lost two games here in December. So did a lot of teams in the league. Again, you've got to capitalize on the moments where you get hot and you get some momentum and win a couple games. I've got full confidence this team's able to do that. We had a two-game winning streak and almost made it three, but we didn't. Now we've just got to regroup and start over."

GH: How has this year's team responded to tough losses?

ZT: These guys have the right attitude. They watch the tape; they can see how close we are. It's hard to go on the road in this division and pull off a win and we were really close to doing it. Now, we have to quickly refocus and get ready to go on the road again at another tough environment."

GH: It seems like y*ou've built your team in the locker room with the idea of overcoming adversity, like a 2-3 start, right?*

ZT: It's an early part of the season. We are still right in the thick of it. There's no question we still control our own destiny here in the early segment of the season. It's just the way pro football works. You're going to play good teams every week and it's going to come down to one play, here or there. I've got full confidence that we'll be able to make those plays when we need to.

GH: Your defense has been so good. How would you characterize it?

ZT: Stubborn. They've been stubborn in terms of not letting teams get in the end zone. We only had the one play (Sunday), but they're working at it. There's a couple where we got (the ball) out after the whistle that eventually will pay off for us the way those guys are working at it. I think they're doing a nice job.

There's a couple forward progresses where they got the ball out, but it was ruled forward progress. Eventually at some point, those balls come out a tick sooner and create some turnovers. They're working at it.

GH: What did you take from the play of the offense in the second half at Baltimore?

ZT: I think there is confidence with this group that we can find a really good rhythm and be hard to stop regardless of what the teams are going to try to do to us, coverage wise. I think this team's got confidence that way, the offense is particularly that way."

GH: Are the defenses you've faced playing you differently than you expected?

ZT: No. It's an easy recipe. We've just got to be more efficient on first down in the first quarter. That's been the one thing that's kind of bit us. We've been efficient over a course of a game and put us in a good position. In the first quarter we've got to be better on those first downs.

GH: Is part of the plan to be aggressive and come out throwing to get ahead? Then run it?

ZT: It's different. There are RPO's that are being thrown, so those will go down as passes when really, we're trying to take advantage of what the defense is giving us. There's a balance there. We're able to pass with quick screens and it's really just an extension of the running game.

First play of (last Sunday's) game, we've got the ball on the perimeter and let the linemen go get it in space. It goes down as a pass when it was a behind the line of scrimmage throw. We don't look at it as let's throw the ball early, let's run the ball early. It's just how can we be efficient early and sometimes we've been good at it and sometimes we haven't.

GH: How do you prepare to come out and be efficient to start the game?

ZT: That is what we try to do every week. Try to score seven points on our first drive and when we don't, we're disappointed. You can get into a rush of excuses on why it doesn't happen and it's just part of football to be able to move on. It feels like around the league, for whatever reason, so much is made of slow starts this year more than any other year I've been around. Not just us but with every team. That's what every coach is answering. I don't know, it just seems like a theme of the year maybe.

GH: Was the decision to go for it on fourth-and-two based on analytics?

ZT: No, we had a 17-play drive and felt like we had some momentum there. We feel good about the call. It didn't work out. In hindsight, do you want to say kick the field goal? Well, the way the game ended, yeah. But in the moment, you just have a different call. It's a great way to create some momentum on the road to go up, 17-13. Our defense has kept the other teams out of the end zone all but once out of the last 23 drives, so you feel good that 17-13 might win you the game if they can't get in the end zone. And then, if they stop you, the other team's got to dig themselves out of a hole, so there's a lot of things.

The Ravens went through this last week. They did the same thing and they got second-guessed on it, that's just life. That's what we signed up for and I'm completely comfortable living that life."

GH: I guess you can look at a guy like Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. He was getting hammered all week for not taking the field goal in the Buffalo loss and comes back with a win.

ZT: You're always going to get hammered when the decision doesn't work out. That's just the nature of working in this profession.

GH: The tough thing is everyone loves a trick play until it doesn't work.

ZT: Yeah, everybody loves the call during the week … They're happy that we're doing something creative. When it doesn't go your way, then it was a terrible call. That's the life as a play-caller.

GH: Did you have any good one-on-ones with team leaders on Monday about the task at hand?

ZT: Yeah, that's something that always takes place on Monday, wins or losses. Just dealing with different people and making sure you're not missing anything. It's always different people. I just want to make sure I'm connected with everybody on the team. That's just the way it goes.

GH: Do you typically talk with somebody on offense, defense and special teams?

ZT: Yeah, depends on the day. There are plenty of guys to go around.