Brady’s comments motivated Bengal defense


TAMPA, Fla. — The greatest quarterback of all time may not have meant for his words to give incentive to the Bengals defense, but it sure did.

Earlier in the week, Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady said that Cincinnati had a “fairly tough defense.”

He may have a different opinion after the Bengals clobbered him and forced five turnovers on five straight Buccaneer possessions — all in the second half.

Tampa Bay had a 17-point lead in the first half but lost to the Bengals 34-23.

Fairly tough defense, Tom?

C’mon man.

It was the first time Brady dropped a game in 23 years when leading by at least 17 points.

Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow said he didn’t think Brady meant anything negative by the comments, nor intended to disrespect the Bengals defensive unit.

But Bengals defensive players D.J. Reader, Germaine Pratt, Eli Apple, Joseph Ossai et. al didn’t like the comments from the G.O.A.T.

“We’re pretty good for a ‘fairly good’ defense,” Reader shouted as he walked off the field. “A ‘fairly good defense’ just won the game.”

The “fairly good” defense caused five second -Buccaneer turnovers – FIVE!

The Who-Dey defense was everywhere.

They gave Burrow and the offense short fields to work with.

As a result, points were put on the board in a hurry.

Tre Flowers picked off Brady.

Ossai forced a fumble and recovered two.

Pratt landed an interception.

It went on and on.

Everywhere Brady looked, he saw Orange and Black flashes.

Brady was under pressure all second half – by design.

That’s because everything went Brady’s way in the first half.

But things changed in the locker room.

“We got to get that old man tap dancing, man,” Apple said after the game. “Have to get him out of that pocket. Had to get him uncomfortable.”

Mission accomplished.

“You just can’t win football games with that many turnovers,” Brady said. “We gave them the ball and they have a really good offense. They took advantage of them all.”

Bengals cornerback Dax Hill, who was in for the injured Mike Hilton, said the defense has been underrated all season.

“Your mean that ‘fairly tough defense’ won?” Hill said with a sarcastic tone. “Nobody wants to acknowledge what we’re doing on defense in this six-game stretch. We know what the difference has been. We just have to keep it going.”

For the last two quarters, Brady was ineffective.

He was invisible.

He was frustrated.

He was not the G.O.A.T. at all.

He was off on his timing and some of his passes, according to him, “were just terrible throws.”

“I just thought they did a great job stepping up in the second half,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said of his defense. “All the guys. I saw Jay Tufele in the backfield. Tre Flowers picking off passes. I saw Akeem Davis-Gaither making plays, Eli Apple, D.J. – guys stepped up at every position and this is the type of year where you’re going to lose some guys. Guys need to step up and keep the team going and I saw a lot of that across the board from a lot our players through all three phases.”

Defensive lineman Trey Hendrickson and cornerback Mike Hilton did not play on Sunday.

But during the game, the Bengals also lost Sam Hubbard and Cam Taylor-Britt.

There was no immediate update after the game.

Last week my column focused on how good the Bengals really are — even without some of their key offensive targets.

During the last few weeks, they played – and won – without Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon.

They are back – (except tight end Hayden Hurst) but now the defense is without Hendrickson and Hilton.

And the status of Hubbard and Taylor-Britt is not clear.

Just imagine how good they will be when the entire team is healthy.

The defense made Brady look like a scared rookie.

I say that with all the respect in the world for Brady.

But he was not effective at all because of the ‘fairly good’ defense.

“We didn’t execute and turned the ball over,” Brady said. “It’s hard to win when that happens.”

There was a reason the Tampa offense did not execute.

It was harassed.

It was outplayed.

It was much more than a “fairly good defense.”

Reader said the defense proved a point on Sunday.

They are much more than a ‘fairly good’ defense.

“This defense is solid,” said Bengals safety Jessie Bates. “We have confidence in ourselves. We know how to play. We stick together and we know we can stop to players. You just saw that.”

The win, combined with the Baltimore loss at Cleveland on Saturday, puts Cincinnati atop the AFC North at 10-4.

I still stand by my preseason prediction of 12-5.

Up next, the Bengals travel to New England and come home to face Buffalo on MNF football, then close out the regular season with Baltimore.

Maybe I should amend my earlier prediction.

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