Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor (1.9.22)

On the biggest takeaway from today’s game:

“Just the fight of our guys. They really gave us an opportunity there in the second half. It was kind of a strange second half. The offense only had three possessions. Defense held them to seven points there. Our guys fought hard all the way through that onside kick. We had our opportunities. We didn’t make the most of some of them, but I thought the guys that took the field today really gave us a lot of heart and effort, and gave us an opportunity to win. We just fell a little bit short.”


On the regular season overall and thoughts on preparing for the postseason:

“The season is always full of its ups and downs. It really comes down to which teams can handle the adversity the best, and to never get too high and to never get too low. I thought our team did a great job of that. Responding in the face of some tough adversity and handling success and some moments well. We finished the season, aside from the loss today, on a really good note and with a lot of confidence. That really does matter in this league. To finish, going into mid-January in the playoffs, feeling like we’re playing our best football and playing with a lot of confidence. Our guys really feel that right now. It’s the biggest game that any of these players have ever had wearing a Bengals jersey, next week at our home stadium. We had tremendous crowds these last couple weeks when we were at home, and we’re expecting our best one yet whenever we find out when we’re playing and who we’re playing. Our guys are excited for that opportunity.”


On WR Ja’Marr Chase breaking the franchise record in his first season as a Bengal:

“Well, when we drafted him, he said he was going to break all the records and it was hard to know if that was going to be true or not. He’s put himself in a position to do that, not just relying on his talent, but becoming a professional really since day one and in his consistency over the course of the season. That’s one of the reasons why you want to play him in a game like this – for an opportunity to get a couple more yards, to put himself in a position to do something really special – because he is about what we want to be about. We want our best players to have the best work ethic and come to work every single day and be consistent with their demeanor and their actions. Ja’Marr has been that for us. Just really proud of him and the season that he’s had.”


On whether there is an expectation that guys will be off the COVID/Reserve list in time for the playoffs:

“I do [expect that guys will be off the reserve list]. Those guys have felt good, especially these last couple days. Their five days is up now. We expect to get those guys back and ready to go this week.”


On whether there is a message he wants to convey to the team going into the playoff week:

“This is what we’ve been striving for all along to be quite honest with you. We’ve been on our guys to be consistent with how they practice every day and raise the standard so that when you get to this moment, we don’t have to change what we’re doing. I think that’s why I’ve got a lot of confidence in the group of men in that locker room, because I don’t need them to raise their standard of play and how they practice. They’ve been doing that all year and that’s why we’re in the position that we’re in. That’s going to serve us well. We’ll see how it plays out, but our guys are going to be ready.”


On having confidence in knowing that a loss today will not impact the momentum going into playoff week:

“You saw how these guys finished. They made a good play on the touchdown at the end of the game, but our defense had held up really strong for us over the course of the game. You saw the offense put together a 14-play drive when it had been a pretty tough day for us. They finished with a touchdown and put us in position. Then you watch the special teams almost recover an onside kick. That just tells you that winning the game was important to them. Giving their best effort was important. We’re going to rely on a bunch of these guys going forward. They’re going to have to be pulled up and play for us. Some guys are playing in a lot of heavy roles for us anyway. Disappointed in the loss, but certainly proud of the effort that these guys displayed today.”


On whether WR Ja’Marr Chase lobbied himself to play in this game so that he could get the record:

“No. Not at all. He didn’t for one second bring it up. I brought it up to him. I told him what the plan was for him. He was just appreciative, but again he didn’t lobby for one second. I think if he was told you’re out, you’re not playing, like TB (WR Tyler Boyd)  and (WR) Tee (Higgins), he would have been completely comfortable with that. He would just try to break it another year. Again, we just appreciate how he has gone about his business and the relationship he’s had with his teammates and coaches has been superb.”


On whether the all-time record was discussed or if the franchise record was all they planned for this week:

“I told him he was going to have to put himself pretty close to be in a position to get another play there. It just wasn’t quite there. Again, we don’t want it to disrupt from trying to win the game. Sometimes you can get down that hole of trying to force something and disrupt it. Those were plays we were going to call early in the game anyway. We just put Ja’Marr in there. He didn’t have to be the target on those plays. He just happened to be the guy that was open. Again, he made the most out of his opportunities today.”


On the relief of breaking the record early so that Ja’Marr Chase wasn’t in the game too long:

“It’s nice. The health of the players is always something you think about. There is never a perfect way to play it out, but it worked out well. Again, he made some plays for us that put us in a good position there early on, especially with that explosive one he had there on the run alert. He helped put us in a good position.”


On what his philosophy was on deciding to rest most of the starters:

“Again, no perfect decision there. Just felt like we need to be healthy – perfectly healthy – going into next week. There were so many things out of our control in terms of where the seeding was going to be, that we just felt it was best to rest some key guys.”


On whether he was paying attention to the Tennessee/Houston game during the game:

“No. I saw a score at one point. I don’t know what the final was.”


On knowing that QB Joe Burrow will be at his best mental and physical state going into the playoffs:

“It’s important. He is certainly a key player on our team. His approach has always been second to none. He’s right though. There is a mental strain through the course of the season. He probably didn’t even know what that felt like until it hit him that you’re not preparing to go and beat the Cleveland Browns necessarily. You can slow your brain down a little bit. I’m expecting to get Joe’s best next week. He’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”


On whether there was any player that stood out in terms of effort and focus:

“Sure. I mean the goal line – our defense had a couple plays down there in the low red zone. They had the turnover at the end of the half. That was enormous. They had the play where we caused the strip fumble and (S) Trayvon Henderson scored it from there. Then they had the big goal line stop to get the offense the ball back on the two-yard line. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it out of there. There was some really huge stuff from the defense. (HB) Chris Evans and the kick return unit had some good plays there to get us some good field position. Offensively I was just really proud of those guys in the second half. We got the ball three times. Had a 15-play drive, a 14-play drive, and then couldn’t get it out of backed up, but for them to respond despite a tough first half for us, I thought was really impressive for that whole group.”


On CB Mike Hilton playing and his injury status:

“He went back in there in the second half. He was in there because (CB) Vernon (Hargreaves III) was having an ankle issue.”


On whether G Hakeem Adeniji was taken out for rest or injury:

“He was hobbled up there for a play. I don’t know how significant that was or not.”


On the advantages and disadvantages of having a relatively young team and coaching staff heading into the playoffs:

“There is a lot of confidence from this group. Sometimes they don’t know what they don’t know, and that can be a really good thing. You certainly can’t avoid some of the narrative that surrounds us sometimes with our playoff experience, but again, these guys don’t have that playoff experience. There are a lot of things they’ve done this year to change some of those things. This week will be no different. They don’t feel that pressure. They don’t think about that stuff at all. It’s more just stories and people that maybe have been here longer than we have that talked about it. I can promise you that it doesn’t have one effect on this football team and our approach going forward this week or how we’ll be feeling on game day.”


On what it would mean to bring Cincinnati its first playoff victory in 31 years:

“I just know what it’s like to win a playoff game. These games are special. You’ve earned this opportunity. It’s the best against the best. Everybody who is earning a spot on this AFC side is going to be a really dang good football team. It’s going to be a battle just like we’ve had these last couple weeks. Our guys are going to be ready for it. We’ll put our best foot forward and try to put ourselves in the best position to win this game.”


On whether he is aware of the history of Cincinnati and the playoffs in the last 30 years and whether that motivates the team to change the narrative:

“No. Our motivation has always been to win divisional championships, put us in a position to go to the playoffs, and win the Super Bowl. That’s it. There’s a lot of steps you have to take along the way. Sometimes you can do them all at once. This team is the 2021 Bengals. That is all that matters. That’s our approach all year and we’ve done some really good things to put ourselves in a position to play a home game in front of our fans and be able to take the next step.”


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