With his team preparing for Sunday's game in New York against the Jets (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12), head coach Zac Taylor spoke with Bengals.com senior writer Geoff Hobson.
GH: Your first two teams went 0-2. But it seems to be light years from 2019 and 2020.
ZT: Totally different team. There's a confidence here that you can't just manufacture. It's an earned confidence and our guys know that we'll get back on the right track."
GH: Is it a difference in make-up or talent?
ZT: I think it's a mixture of both, to be quite honest with you. We know that we've got great players. We know that the character is where it needs to be, a lot of the leadership. Guys understand what our issues have been and how solvable they are, and that we just need to go forward and put together a better, complete game. I feel really good that everyone's on the same page and we'll work in that direction.
GH: What are the different challenges between this season and last season?
ZT: I think in the early stages of any season you've got to adjust and you start to get into your groove. That's going to come for us as a team, I'm very confident in that. So far through two games, we just haven't complemented each phase the way that we need to, but its two games into a long season. I'm confident that we're going to get there in very short order.
GH: You're not seeing as many man defenses, that's for sure.
ZT:No, you're probably not going to see a lot of man, but at the same time we've opened the door for them to play how they want to play because the holes we've put ourselves in early these two games. Who knows how they were planning on playing us had we been up 14-7 in the second quarter?
But so far, we've seen us down 17-6 and down 17-3, so we know how teams are going to play us that way because that's how any NFL team wants to play football. Again, it's a very small sample size early in the year that we put ourselves in those holes and now we've got to do a better job of managing our team early in the year.
GH: *The last couple of years there has been a school of thought around the league that given the work rules, it takes a couple of weeks into the regular season to find a groove. A year ago this September you also had a game decided on the last play of overtime and another one on the last play of regulation. *
ZT: I think that's impossible to know that. Again, had two plays gone differently, we'd be 2-0 and we wouldn't be having that conversation. I don't know that that has any bearing on it whatsoever, but we've just got to settle in. I think we've got great chemistry in the locker room, great chemistry as a team. Part of that forms as you start to play games where that chemistry really takes over on the field as well.
(I'm) very confident in our guys; they enjoy playing against each other, they love each other, they communicate to each other. Now, we just get a chance to hit our groove early in a game and capitalize on the momentum that it can give you. A big play early in a game in any phase can really catapult your team to a really fast start and that's what we're looking for here in the future.
GH: The defense has been very good in giving up just 43 points in the first two games.
.ZT: On Sunday they buckled down after the first two drives and played really, really well. They gave us a chance to win the game coming up with the huge turnover. For the most part they've been lights out for us.
GH: Can you put a finger on the slow offensive starts?
ZT: If I could, then we'd have it fixed, we'd be scoring points the first drive of every game. It's something we really do put a lot of emphasis on and we're not afraid to change up our routine or do anything that has substance to it to help us get off to a faster start. The first quarter, we had one drive that resulted in a field goal, and again, people are always going to focus on the lack of a fast start.
Through two games we've deferred and not taken the ball, and so Sunday we had three possessions, and had we had six possessions and scored 14 points, would this be less of a conversation than when we only had three? That's just the nature of it. You have to take advantage of the early opportunities you're going to get to kind of set the tone for the game, and we didn't do that (in Dallas). So, we've got to improve there.
GH: Getting down quickly makes it hard to not let the defense dictate.
ZT: You're giving them an advantage, but the second part of it is there's still plenty of time left in the game. You've got an opportunity to be patient. You have to adjust to, 'Okay, they have a lead and now here's how they're going to play it until they don't have the lead,' but you've got plenty of time to be able to manage that. I think we've proven that. Unfortunately, we've put ourselves in some holes. We come back and we always give ourselves an opportunity to win. We just haven't kind of punched the ball across the goal line yet to be able to capitalize in either one of these first two games."
GH: Is some of the pressure on quarterback Joe Burrow because the offensive line has not worked together for long?
ZT: It's a combination of a lot of things. I think there's some things that the offensive line did really, really well (Sunday). That's a focus for us, just to continue to grow as a unit. We talk about being complementary as a team, we've got to do a better job of being complementary.
Guys staying onside, not putting us at first-and-15, and not lining up right, not getting an illegal formation on first-and-10. There are just simple things that then lead to us dropping back and throwing the ball versus really good fronts. Those situations you're trying to design to stay out of, and you put yourself there with some unforced errors. Again, I know this is all stuff we can clean up.
GH: How do you think Burrow has played?
ZT: I think he's been good. You look at these drives he put together to tie football games for us and put us in a position to win. He went down the field against Pittsburgh and threw a touchdown pass with two seconds left, and then took us down in overtime and put us in field goal range which unfortunately didn't work out. In this game, in the second half I think we scored in three-of-our-five possessions, which is pretty good. Everyone's focusing on a first half that had limited plays and that's just part of it."
GH: D.J. Reader talked about guys watching video on the plane ride home and staying later Monday. What are you seeing?
ZT: At the end of the day, if a play goes different in the first game and a play (goes different) in the second game, we're 2-0. We're the same team. We'd still be focusing on cleaning up the same things. The attitude outside the building would probably be a lot different but it wouldn't change the football team that we are had one play in each game gone differently. At the end of the day, we're the same football team. We just have to focus on improving each week and I know our guys are going to do that.