In 2007, current Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor was in the middle of a pre-draft interview with the Houston Texans. Quarterbacks coach Kyle Shanahan, now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, grilled Taylor on a decision he made as quarterback on Oct. 21 in a 22-20 loss to Texas.
With Taylor starting for Nebraska in a game played in the snow, he attempted a post route to wide receiver Maurice Purify. Before the throw, Taylor took a hitch with his throwing motion.
Shanahan recognized that the hitch wasn’t a part of the play, so he asked Taylor why he did it.
“You feel like you are making an excuse, but it was really cold,” Taylor said. “The ball was hard and slick, and I needed another grip for a hitch to be able to get that ball out. You have to be used to throwing in those conditions. You have to be used to how the ball feels in your hands.”
Taylor’s experience from 15 years ago ties back to one advantage that the Bengals feel that they’ll have on Saturday against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Bengals practice outside in the cold weather all season. The Raiders play in a dome and haven't played well in the cold over the last few seasons.
On Saturday, the temperature at kickoff is projected to be below freezing. With a high of 30 degrees and a low of 21 degrees, the Bengals will play in their coldest game of the year.
Taylor has mentioned the weather all week in meetings with the players, and the coaching staff sees the cold temperature as an advantage.
“We're (always) practicing outside in the stuff,” Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said. “We don't have an indoor facility, so the added benefit for us is we practice in this type of weather every day. And so I think that It certainly gives us a leg up.”
The Bengals have practiced in as low as 11 degree weather over the last two weeks, and Taylor said he has been wearing four long sleeve shirts under his sweatshirt. Taylor said he never considered moving practices this week to the Cincinnati Bearcats indoor facility, and Taylor made the point to conduct a practice in the snow last week.
Taylor said the football can feel slicker in the cold, and tackling usually stings a little more. The Bengals have been dealing with those elements all winter.
“Ideal football weather for an (offensive) lineman is definitely colder,” Bengals left tackle Jonah Williams said. “Honestly, this December, January weather has been great. This is exciting for us to be able to assert our will and make people uncomfortable.”
OLD CONNECTION: Before Brian Callahan became the Bengals offensive coordinator in 2019, he was the Raiders quarterbacks coach and worked with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
Callahan called Carr one of the most “natural” quarterbacks he has ever been around.
“He’s really accurate and he sees everything,” Callahan said. “He has years of experience now underneath his belt, and this is the first time he’ll play in a playoff game. That’s exciting for him and the Raiders. He was a fantastic quarterback when I was there, and I knew they were going to be a good team.”
INJURY REPORT: Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins popped up on the injury report this week with a foot injury, but Taylor said the issue had an extremely limited impact on Higgins’ week of preparation. Higgins is set to play on Sunday, and Taylor said that Higgins missed only one-or-two practice reps.
Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou is week-to-week with an MCL injury. If Tupou misses Saturday’s game, then practice squad defensive tackle Mike Daniels would likely fill that role on the depth chart.