The New England Patriots are difficult enough to prepare for during a normal week, but Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor won’t let the distraction of a possible scandal deter his team.
Taylor continued to decline comment Wednesday on anything related to the NFL’s investigation of why the Patriots were filming the Bengals’ sideline during last week’s game in Cleveland. Cincinnati (1-12) hosts New England (10-3) on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. When asked whether he has to change anything this week because of the incident, Taylor said the Bengals are preparing as they would facing any other opponent.
However, the Patriots aren’t just any opponent. They are the defending Super Bowl champions, led by a future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, and have one of the league’s top defenses. Bill Belichick is in his 45th season as an NFL coach and 20th with New England, a team he has guided to 19 straight winning seasons, six Super Bowl championships, nine conference titles, 16 division crowns and 30 playoff victories, while posting an overall record of 255-89.
»BELICHICK: Video of Bengals sideline not a football issue
“They’ve obviously had a lot of success, but we just have to look at what they’ve done this year,” Taylor said. “It’s this opponent. You can’t worry about all the achievements they’ve had years ago — last year, even. You just have to look at, ‘What are we facing this week? What gives us the best chance to win?’ You can’t worry about all the things that come with the Patriots. You just need to attack them. They’re another opponent. We have them here at home. Our guys are ready and eager to get back in the win column. We tasted it two weeks ago, so we need to do everything we can to give ourselves the chance to win this game.”
As a first-year head coach facing a proven coach like Belichick, Taylor said he doesn’t look at it as a personal challenge necessarily. He has a lot of respect for the team because of its past success, and a win Sunday would be a great accomplishment for the Bengals, especially as they try to build some momentum for next year.
“Any time you get an opportunity against a team that is as successful as they have been this year, certainly is something to be excited about, but it’s going to take a lot of work from our guys and they understand that,” Taylor said. “These guys, it’s a very, very sound, disciplined football team. They do all the little things very well, so it’s not just, ‘Let’s go out and play hard and win the game.’ We have to be sound in all our areas, and we’ve really got to be dialed in and detailed to the things we are asking our guys to do this week.”
Second-year defensive end Sam Hubbard, who missed last week with a knee injury but practiced Wednesday, said it’s surreal to get a chance to face a quarterback like Brady, whom he watched as a kid: “To go against the best to ever do it is a great opportunity.”
Bengals running back Joe Mixon indicated there would be a greater sense of pride in beating a team like New England.
“Just testing where you are as a player and a person, playing this caliber of team like this, they are the defending Super Bowl champion, so we know what they bring to the table, and that’s the best,” he said. “At the end of the day, I look forward to seeing how they are going to line up and their style of football. They are very different from a lot of teams, and that’s what makes them who they are. We just have to go out and play our game and don’t let them dictate how they want to control the game.”
Taylor said he even goes back to last year’s Super Bowl tape to study the Patriots. He was the Los Angeles Rams’ quarterbacks coach then, and much of his own offense now came from what he learned under Sean McVay. The Patriots beat the Rams 13-3.
Teams have to study as much game film of the Patriots against different opponents to get an idea what to expect because of how versatile they are, especially on defense. New England leads the league in turnover differential (plus-19), points allowed (12.9) and total defense (264.8 yards).
“They always have a great plan in place, and that’s what makes them difficult,” Taylor said. “You can’t look at what they did against the Chiefs, or two weeks ago, or whatever it was and say, ‘OK, that’s what they do.’ They do a great job of evolving, because they’ve been together for so long. … What I learned in the Super Bowl – no surprises. They all adapt to their opponent and give themselves the best chance to win.”
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