Taylor: ‘There’s still plenty on the line’ for Bengals

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor seemed to be a little more emotional coming off the field after the win at Jacksonville on Monday, but he said there was no added meaning behind that.

The Bengals kept their playoff hopes alive with the 34-31 win over the Jaguars, and now they head into a stretch of games against opponents just ahead of them in the AFC standings or in a similar position with their record.

That starts with Sunday’s home game against the Indianapolis Colts (7-5), who are riding a four-game winning streak. Taylor was pleased Monday the team was able to put itself in a position to potentially still control its own destiny.

“I was happy for our guys to give what they’ve given us every day in practice, every day in the meetings, the attention, just really happy for them,” Taylor said Wednesday. “There was appreciation for the fans that were down there. I felt that in Arizona. I felt that in San Francisco. We have had fans that have really supported us. We like to reward them with good games. … Also just happy for our players that they got to feel that winning feeling again after all the work that they put in that we asked them to do and felt most excited for those guys.”

The Bengals (6-6) ended a three-game skid and are among several AFC teams sitting at 6-6 or 7-5. They are further back in the AFC playoff rankings (11th) because of tiebreakers. Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Cleveland are all 7-5 and currently hold the last spots into the playoffs.

Taylor said the important thing is still having their goals ahead of them.

“There’s still plenty on the line for us,” Taylor said. “We’re in a position, just the way things are shaking out around the league, that we keep preaching about controlling our own destiny. And to an extent, we really do. We get an opportunity to play some teams that are in slightly more favorable standing that we are right now. But again, that’s part of controlling it. You go out there and play good football against Indy and you put yourself right in the race and knock them down a peg. And then you’ve got that tiebreaker over a team that’s in a very similar position.”

Heading into Monday’s game, it seemed unlikely Cincinnati could stay in the hunt, though.

Jacksonville was 8-3, the Bengals hadn’t won a road Monday Night Football game since 1990, and they were without their franchise quarterback, relying on a guy who had only been on practice squads until this year. Asked if they have changed the narrative as Taylor had said would be possible, he quipped that “it doesn’t really matter.”

“We just want to win games and create a path to postseason play for ourselves,” Taylor said. “That’s all we really care about. I kick myself for using the word narrative, because who cares. Just go out there and let’s play good football. We’ve put in the work and there’s a lot of confidence from the players that they’re prepared for it. It’s not false confidence that they’re just projecting. We generally see them put in the work and they’re ready to go play. We don’t need to really worry about the narrative. That’s more just to say week to week in the NFL things can be so fluid. That’s not anything we need to concern ourselves with.”

Indianapolis enters with the eighth-highest scoring offense behind backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, and the Bengals are going to once again be down a starter on defense after putting Cam Taylor-Britt on injured reserve Saturday. Rookie DJ Turner started in his place and will get at least a few more opportunities, but Taylor said the hope is Taylor-Britt only misses the minimum four weeks.

Taylor-Britt was just coming back from a quad injury when he hurt his ankle in practice last week.

“Very hopeful,” Taylor said. “There was conversation how it would play out over the next four weeks and ultimately thought it was the best thing to make sure it fully heals and he is not rushed back from it. It’s always impossible to predict when it’s that kind of time frame, but optimistic that we’ll have a chance to get him back for the regular season.”

Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, who has been trying to get back to form following a 2022 ACL tear, played one of his best games of the season Monday and has hopefully turned a corner for good. He made eight combined tackles against the Jaguars and had three stops.

“You just see so much confidence and seeing concepts and understanding the scheme of the defense and the communication aspect of things,” Taylor said. “Those are all things he’s tremendous at and he just continues to improve physically to my eye. It really is amazing that he came back to play so quickly as a DB off of an ACL. Continue to see really good things from Chido. Always have the utmost confidence in him getting out there and helping us.”


Colts at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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