Bengals: Zac Taylor is here to stay and deserves his praise

Cincinnati Bengals, Joe Burrow, Zac Taylor - Mandatory Credit: Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Bengals, Joe Burrow, Zac Taylor - Mandatory Credit: Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports /

Zac Taylor, the Cincinnati Bengals‘ Head Coach, has been on the receiving end of criticism for years now, even earlier in the season. Being the play-caller of the offense, Taylor has been hounded at times this season with complaints about his play-calling and decision-making.

After the 41-17 imposing win over the Ravens, taking the Bengals to 5-2, Taylor needs his credit.

This is not simply Taylor needs credit since he is ultimately the coach of a 5-2 team taking the NFL by storm. Taylor put on a coaching clinic against one of the best coaches in the league in John Harbaugh. Cincinnati’s Taylor outcoached the Ravens without a doubt, especially in the second half.

What made Zac Taylor’s game plan so great on Sunday?

With Taylor being the offensive play-caller, the offense is going to be the main focus. Taylor does not have a ton to do with the defense in terms of game planning and play calls, that is Lou Anarumo’s defense.

First off, the Bengals have featured the run far too much on first down for most of the season. How conservative Cincinnati was on early downs was the main reason Taylor was hearing so much criticism.

Typically, Cincy has opened it up in the second half somewhat in every game this season, being far less conservative. While Taylor has started games conservative, his halftime adjustments have been fantastic in nearly every game.

Against the Ravens, Taylor gave Joe Burrow the green light right away. Instead of featuring Joe Mixon and the run game heavily in the first quarter, Cincinnati came out throwing the ball over and over again. The Bengals’ offense was far less predictable in the first half in Baltimore, especially in the second quarter.

The foundation of the stripes’ offense of course was the same for the most part against the Ravens, but Taylor showed he can be versatile as a play-caller and can break possible tendencies.

Another area that deserves huge applause is the protection plan the Bengals had for Sunday. The Ravens are known as a zero-blitz team that sends heat frequently. That trend continued in the divisional clash, but Taylor was ready for it.

Burrow threw for 244 yards with a good completion percentage and had an extremely impressive passer rating against Baltimore’s blitz.

Now, Burrow has been great versus the blitz all year, he is actually the top QB in the NFL against the blitz according to PFF. With that said, some of Burrow’s dominance against the blitz is because he is playing at an elite level. Still, Taylor needs his credit for the protection game plan.

On several occasions, the Bengals kept extra protection by keeping tight ends and running backs in the backfield to block. This was giving Burrow just enough time, or even plenty of time, to find an open man. Taylor had a philosophy of our guys are better than your guys in terms of Bengals’ receivers versus Baltimore’s secondary. He believed Cincy’s receivers would get open, and boy was that true.

Another area where Taylor’s play-calling was receiving criticism was the depth of routes in the passing game. Cincinnati was not using the intermediate and deep parts of the field near as much as they should with their weapons. That was not the case at all in Week 7.

Even against the blitz, the Bengals consistently targeted the intermediate and deep parts of the field, leading to tons of big plays — For instance, Ja’Marr Chase’s 82-yard touchdown or C.J. Uzomah’s 55-yard and 32-yard touchdowns. This is the explosive passing game Cincinnati has been looking for.

Furthermore, it felt like every part of the route tree was used Sunday. Chase has been show-stopping all season, but his routes have not been near as versatile as they were against the Ravens. Seam routes with Uzomah worked to perfection, Chase burnt Baltimore on slants and comebacks, and Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd worked the short and intermediate field.

There is not much to complain about in regards to Taylor’s play-calling versus the Ravens. Taylor has received his criticisms as a play-caller, and man did he make a statement Sunday afternoon.

Zac Taylor has changed the culture in Cincinnati

Early in the year, some of the concerns about Taylor’s play-calling were understandable. Outside of that, what else was the problem with Taylor? There wasn’t one.

Players have vocally let everyone know all season they love Taylor. He has won these players over and the Bengals believe in him, that means a lot. With that in mind, Taylor is certainly part of the reason Cincy has burst onto the scene.

The very culture of this organization is changing and Taylor is a driving force in that. That is further proven by Taylor’s comments after the huge win in Baltimore.

Another area some are forgetting is Taylor is a former QBs coach. There is no way Taylor is not somewhat responsible for Burrow’s absurd leap in year two.

Myself included, there have been many Taylor doubters out there for a while now. It is time to take a breath and give him the credit he deserves. Who realistically thought the Bengals were going to be atop of the entire AFC seven weeks into the season at 5-2? Hardly anyone, that is for sure.

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There is a long way to go with 10 regular-season games remaining on the schedule, and with that Taylor has more work to do. But for now, Taylor has done a masterful job and should be in contention for Coach of the Year in the NFL this season.