The Cincinnati Bengals no longer must answer questions about their long playoff drought.
Their victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in a wild card contest last Saturday was their first postseason victory in 31 years. It also earned them a trip to Nashville for a matchup with the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round.
So, for the last several days coach Zac Taylor, quarterback Joe Burrow and others were quizzed about the challenge they will face this Saturday at Nissan Stadium.
Here is a roundup of some of what they had to say.
On the game …
• Running back Joe Mixon: “We're here to win. We don't care about some theory that everybody (else is) worried about. We know what we've got in front of us, we know what we have to do in order to get where we want to be, we got the path laid out for us.”
• Cornerback Mike Hilton: “Everybody knows what's at stake. It's win or go home. At this point, everybody's bodies are feeling the same and, everybody's mentally drained, but it's just a team that really wants it the most. I've just been telling guys just stay focused and just worry about this one game, put your all into this one game and we'll see how it plays out.”
On Ryan Tannehill …
• Coach Zac Taylor: "It's no surprise he's helped that team get into the position they've been in these last couple of years. He really executes that offense at a high level and he can make your defense pay if you let him. They've got the right quarterback on board there."
On Mike Vrabel …
• Quarterback Joe Burrow: "I know (Vrabel) was one of my favorite players growing up. He played both sides of the ball so, that was always fun to see when I was young. You didn't see that a lot in the NFL. He's been a great coach. He was at Ohio State right before I got there. I think he recruited Sam (Hubbard) when he was at Ohio State. It's been fun to see him go from that, to where he's at now."
Defensive lineman D.J. Reader: “Coach Vrabel was a good coach. He was a great player in this league for a long time. He's a tough guy. I played for him. I love him to death. He's a guy you want to run through the wall for."
On the Titans’ offense …
Taylor: “They’ve got everything. They’ve got a lot of concepts that people steal around the league. It does start with the run. They’ve got a great offensive line. The receivers are willing blockers. The quarterback has to be able to get them into the right plays. … They run all the keepers, all the play-actions, all the screens, Tannehill is great in all the drop-back stuff. So, it presents a really big challenge for your defense.”
On Tennessee’s defense …
• Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan: “They do a great job with their front. Jeffery Simmons is one of the more powerful, disruptive interior D-linemen that we played this year. He’s really, really good. They’ve got two really solid edge rushers with [Bud] Dupree and [Harold] Landry, guys that present a pretty good challenge.”
• Burrow: “They’re kind of unique. They play the same coverages as a lot of teams, but they play it in kind of different ways. And they’re really, really good at disguising what they’re going to be in whether they’re blitzing or playing Cover 3 or Cover 4. So, they’re unique in that way.”
On the Titans’ run game and running backs …
• Taylor: "They've got a really good stable of running backs that really picked up the steam when Henry got hurt.
• Reader: “I was with (D’Onta Foreman) in Houston and things weren't quite going his way. He's a really good player still, things just weren't going his way. (It is) a blessing to see him get a new opportunity and things kind of go his way a little bit this year."
• Linebacker Logan Wilson: "(Derrick Henry) has obviously got one of the best stiff arms, probably the best stiff arms in the league. You've got to understand that when he puts it up, (you have to use) swipe on-swipe off techniques to try to get it off of you as fast as you can and try to get with him, to grab him and bring him down."
• Mixon: "We all know what kind of back Derrick is. I think he's a very physical runner. He's got a crazy stiff arm and everybody is aware of that. He's a great running back and I would like to think that (the Titans) think (the same) down on the other side. We're to see what we've got going on in a game plan and may the best team win."
• Hilton: “(Henry) just wears on you. It might seem easy the first, second quarter, but towards the second half, just constantly tackling him, it definitely wears down on you. That's what (the Titans) thrive off of. Constantly running the football, trying to wear you down and just make it difficult for a defense to tackle them in the fourth quarter.”