Wed, 18 May 2022

Playoff Quote Board: Team Defense; A Rookie Vet; Cincy Made

Cincinnati Bengals
28 Jan 2022, 20:58 GMT+10

Jake Rice

Best of the Zoom news conferences before the Bengals practiced on Thursday in preparation for Sunday's (3 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) AFC championship game in Kansas City.

MAGICIANS UNDER CENTER

The ability of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to extend plays are among Sunday's major factors.

Defensive end Sam Hubbard: "It's a quarterback-driven league. It's amazing what these guys can do on the field for their team, for their franchise. We're really lucky to have a great one in Joe. He drives the ship and we go as he goes and we're very fortunate to have someone that can compete at that level.

"You just see the extension of plays and what quarterbacks can (do). You do everything right on defense, and then they make spectacular plays by getting out of the pocket and extending plays. It's really tough on the defense to reset and get them back in third and long.

"So being able to do that and just allowing the guys in the back end to do their job and not have to plaster for however many seconds (Mahomes is) running around. It's really a challenge and he's the best (with) his pocket awareness and his scrambling ability. So that's really where the benefit comes from."

Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie: "There's a lot of mobile quarterbacks in today's league. When the first play is over we call it the second play. Now when the quarterback has to move around, wants to scramble, a lot of receivers start to go upfield, go sideways. Every team has their specific way to scramble and the Chiefs are one of the best teams that do it. We're going to be practicing that all week and trying to stay on top of them as best as possible."

RED ALERT IN THE RED ZONE

The Bengals defense embodies the 'bend not break' ideology and it has allowed them to be stout in the red zone. In the postseason they've allowed just two touchdowns in eight red-zone trips.

Hubbard: "In the red zone, it just comes down to playing team football. You're asked to do certain things in the red zone that typically, you're not asked to do out on the field. Whether it's, covering backs, more cage rush mentality, double teaming guys.

"It's just selfless defense, (that is how) I view it. Once you get down in the red zone, everybody's working together to bow up and get the job done. Get off the field with three points. I think our team defensively really embodies that collective defensive mentality. It allows us to play really well together when it comes down to crunch time in the red zone."

PREVENTING A POTENT OFFENSE

Safety Vonn Bell noted on Wednesday that the Chiefs offense is one the league's best because of their speed. Awuzie echoed that and more.

Awuzie on the Jan. 2 win over the Chiefs: "That was really a team effort. We had great calls and great coverages to try to eliminate their playmakers. Those are great players, no matter what, they're a threat. Whether they're getting the ball, they're not going the ball they're a threat.

"Just knowing where they are every play. (Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce), especially, and the running back and then the other guys as well. Just trying to understand their locations and everything, and then (having) great communication. We want to know where those guys are at because that is going to dictate a lot of our coverages.

"If you look at Mahomes' career, he's relatively young, but throughout his career they do what they do. That's what they do and they do it pretty well. So I think just the consistent group of guys that they've had, being able to work off each other and have that chemistry with the quarterback. They know how to freestyle too. Again, that second play.

"I think they have a lot of great chemistry where Mahomes knows where certain guys are going to be, especially on that second part of the play. They've experienced all different types of coverages, people trying to stop them. Even though they're relatively young, they are a very experienced group."

A THREE-MAN BAND

Burrow alluded to the team-first mentality that wide receivers room had on Wednesday and slot receiver Tyler Boyd explained why.

Boyd: "(It's) because we all know how good we are as a group. We all have great friendships and we all care for each other. We all know our value in the league and on this team. So some games every guy can't get their rocks off when they want. Even when (there are) times where they probably have been open a few times and the ball is not coming their way.

"But at the end of the day, we all trust Joe to throw it to the guy that's open or he feels like he has the best chance on that specific play. I'm all about winning now. I didn't have a 1,000 yard receiving season. (I) did everything I could do early in my career. But now at this point, I just want to win. I'm trying to get to and achieve the milestones that I've been wanting to reach early in my career.

"Guys are coming in now like Ja'Marr Chase and all the other guys that are stepping foot into this organization. I think at the end of the day, (Joe Mixon and I) and the other guys that have been here are replaying that voice in people's heads of what we want to be as a team. As a team perspective and not just single individual goals.

"Every guy here is on board with our leadership and how we want this team to be recognized."

MCPHERSON IS NO LAUGHING MATTER

The Bengals went against the draft consensus by taking rookie kicker Evan McPherson in the fifth round and his new teammates wanted to see what he was made of.

Hubbard: "I was giving him a hard time, always messing with him (in) OTAs and preseason, just trying to throw him off. Talk to him, mess with him and see if he would be rattled. He would talk right back to me, talking trash back and forth. I was like, 'Okay, this dude's got some personality, he's got some confidence.'

"Then he goes out in camp and just starts making kicks. I was always impressed with him just from his confidence and inability to rattle him from day one because I was like, 'Fifth-round draft pick for a kicker? What is he doing?' He's really proved me wrong."

Awuzie: "When he first came here, we were trying to get in his head a little bit. We would say certain things, but you can tell that kid is way past that. He operates like a vet, we treat him like a vet. We need him and he's been one of our best players, truly one of our best players and most clutch players. A lot of our wins have been because of him. All the credit to him and, you know, we don't treat him like a rookie around here."

THE 'NATURAL'

Hubbard knew about Burrow's potential before he became his Bengals teammate from their Ohio State days.

Hubbard: "I'll speak from another guy's perspective just because I've been friends with Joe for a long time. When he walked into the building, I had guys tell me that he doesn't carry himself like a rookie. Anything that Joe ever did from day one never seemed like it was forced. It was always natural. His leadership and the way he carries himself. So I think from day one, when he walked in the building, people could tell that this was our franchise quarterback."

TENURED TYLER

Boyd has played in 89 games as a Bengal, making him one of their most experienced offensive players. He's been through it all by trying to win it all.

Boyd: "I think it feels great. With all the hard work and all the teams and different things that I've been through. I've fought a lot of adversity throughout my career and dealing with injuries and a lot of things. Now to say that we are (collectively a) great unit all around. It feels good to me knowing that we have a superior team now. We can go out there and beat any team.

"I think in my lifetime (the Super Bowl) would probably be the biggest milestone for me. It would probably be the best achievement in my whole sports career.

"Like I said, that's the reason why I've been playing. I have been through a heck of a roller coaster ride, ups and downs and injuries and things like that. It's just like a dream come true. It's like a dream. You wake up, then you're playing in the Super Bowl and you win and you talk Disney World and you have your kids and your family on the field.

"It's kind of a surreal feeling that I would love and want to go through. It (would) just make me feel so good inside and make me feel like everything I've done in my life, not just on the field and just everything I've done, making the right decisions, the right choices and staying out of trouble. For me to even be a part of playing in some historic game, it would mean everything."

MADE IN CINCINNATI

Hubbard's football career has also been stationed in Ohio and he carries his state pride on the field.

Hubbard: "I'm sure later on it'll all really sink in. But at this moment I'm really just trying to focus, week to week and get this next win. That's really what's gotten us here as a team and I'm just trying to continue that mentality. But obviously seeing the energy in the city, seeing the energy among the fans and knowing what this means, it motivates me every day.

"I just sat in for the last minute of (Boyd's) interview and everything (he said) is so true. These guys that are here today have been through so much and to experience it with them is special because throughout the losing seasons. We all handled ourselves, (we) treated each other with respect and did things the right way all trusting that one day we'd get this breakthrough season and to never looked back. To have it happen is special for all of us.

"I've heard from a lot of people reaching out. It's really cool how many people have thanked me for the relief they felt, the time that they had watching the games, the great memories they've had from these wins this year.

"Everyone's been really respectful with my family and friends giving me just some distance trying to focus and keep this thing going. (Allowing) me to focus on the next game at hand and I'm sure whenever it ends and I'll reflect back and enjoy it. But, at this moment I'm really just focused on beating the Kansas City Chiefs."

ARROWHEAD HEADACHE

Arrowhead Stadium is one of the loudest venues in the NFL but a welcome challenge for the Bengals.

Boyd: "It's really tough. I think a lot of the guys and specifically Joe (Burrow) are kind of ready for that. Because guys like him and Chase and guys who played in the SEC, played against opponents where there were hundreds of thousands of fans in the stadium. (We're) just going to have to be perfect on our hand signals and with the communication.

"We've got to stay locked in and keep eyes on the quarterback and he'll just get us in the right calls and we'll know will be doing"

PITTSBURGH TIES

Boyd is a native of the Pittsburgh area and is close with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Both Boyd and Donald played college ball together at Pitt.

Boyd: "It's really tough. I think a lot of the guys and specifically Joe (Burrow) are kind of ready for that. Because guys like him and Chase and guys who played in the SEC, played against opponents where there were hundreds of thousands of fans in the stadium. (We're) just going to have to be perfect on our hand signals and with the communication.

"We got to stay locked in and keep eyes on the quarterback and he'll just get us in the right calls and we'll know will be doing."

PITTSBURGH TIES

Boyd is a native of the Pittsburgh area and is close with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Both Boyd and Donald played college ball together at Pitt.

Boyd: "That's one of my guys, one of my closest friends. Just seeing him prosper and being the best player in the league. Seeing him compete in for Super Bowls and things like that made me want to get to that position. I know how hard he worked at how to get there. Now that all my hard work and everything that I'm applying to this team is starting to pay off.

"I'm very excited. Hopefully we can win this one out and then we can play against them. Hopefully he plays well, I always want him to play well. That would be really good to play against a former teammate."

Boyd also mentioned 49ers cornerback K'Waun Williams is another former college teammate he could potentially face in the Super Bowl.

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