Bengals Can't Tuck In Steelers

The fans help up Tyler Boyd to celebrate his TD.
The fans help up Tyler Boyd to celebrate his TD.

If there was ever going to be a guy that enjoyed this win, it was going to be Tyler Boyd, the Bengals' hardscrabble 1,000-yard wide receiver who grew up hard and hard by the Steeler legend in Clairton, Pa.

"Everybody knew we had it. From the fans. The owner. We believe," said Boyd, gripping a towel around the back of his neck, his voice slightly hoarse with the emotion of the day. "Our defense did a great job. It just comes down to the turnovers and I let one get away from me and it cost us."

Even Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made sure he caught up with Boyd after his fourth-quarter fumble opened the door for the Steelers' rather absurd 16-10 victory at Paul Brown Stadium.

"Same message," said Boyd, who's used to Tomlin checking in before and after these games because "he appreciates my game."

"He just told me to keep my head up," Boyd said.

This is just how crazy this 10-game losing streak has been for the Bengals against the Steelers. Here was Boyd taking the blame and he was the reason they even had a shot. His two catches for 62 yards and a touchdown in the final belches of the first half virtually doubled what had come before that and gave the Bengals their third half-time of the season at 7-3.

This is how crazy this 10-game losing streak to Pittsburgh has been.

The Andy Dalton broken thumb. The Jeremy Hill fumble. The Vontaze Burfict flag. The Joey Porter visit. The A.J. Green Monday night touchdown bomb wiped out by a hold. The zero blitz Antonio Brown winning 30-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left.

Now the Boyd fumble in a game the Steelers can't cover him while he caught five balls for 101 yards. And six days after he proclaimed he needed the ball, unable to fathom no yards for one catch on three targets like he did last week in Oakland

"Yeah," said Boyd when asked if this was the weirdest game he had ever played. "This is the first game this year I felt like I could determine a win or a loss."

Boyd took the blame, but he was far from the only culprit in the Bengals' record 13th straight loss on a day they became the first team in franchise history to go 0-11 to start a season.

For instance, on the day they not only get Mason Rudolph as a quarterback, but also someone named Devlin "Duck," Hodges, instead of Big Ben, and that's the day the Bengals secondary can't stay on its feet.

And rookie quarterback Ryan Finley continues to struggle. Enough that head coach Zac Taylor is getting Andy Dalton questions. After three Finley starts, the Bengals have yet to score more than one touchdown in a game, he's completed just 47 percent of his passes that need a more consistent zip, converted 30 percent of his third downs and on Sunday he lost another fumble and oversaw eight three-and-outs.

And even on Boyd's fumble, if maybe Finley had led him ever so slightly more and a tad further away from rookie linebacker Devin Bush, maybe?

But Boyd, back on a 1,000-yard pace (1,016), took the blame and yet before that there was this:

Just before his 47-yard catch with 2:37 left in the first half that was too insane even for the circus, the Bengals had done nothing.

They had no points. Running back Joe Mixon had 15 yards rushing. Finley, who looked like he was tipping the Bengals to the Jake Dolegala Era, had just 39 yards passing.

But on second-and-three Finley took a shot deep down the middle and Boyd somehow CPRed this team with an inexplicable one-handed catch he made with the wrong hand as he disengaged from safety Terrell Edmunds long enough to stick out that left hand.

"And pin it with his left. While (Edmunds) is holding his right arm," said wide receiver Auden Tate. "And how fast that has to go through your mind."

Only another wide receiver can explain it.

"That was a crazy catch," Tate said.

"I was surprised they didn't give me the (penalty) flag," Boyd said. "If I had dropped it, I would have been real hurt. At the end of the day, I keep preaching it. One-on-one, balls in the air; I'm going to come down with it. If I'm not coming down with it, nobody' going to come down with it."

He did the same thing on the next snap from the Steelers 15. Boyd headed to the right corner trying to deke cornerback Joe Haden with a double move and the 10-year pro from Florida didn't move.

"It was great coverage," Boyd said. "He didn't even bite on the slant. I had to take it from him."

So Boyd bodied him up, boxed him out and went up over Haden to high point Finley's pass. Barely had he spiked the ball in relief that he made his second best move of the day and sprinted to the closest end zone seats and leaped into the stands with a little help from the fans.

"We owe them. We owe them a win," Boyd said.

Boyd said the Bengals didn't owe him anything after his comments last Monday. He was just letting them know. On Sunday he showed why you've always got to try and involve him.

"I didn't mean give it to me 20 times. Give it to me ten," Boyd said. "Finley gave me great chances. He gave me some chances one-on-one. I can't be mad. You can't build an offense around one guy and you have to see the whole offense. I'll try to make my plays. Nobody is perfect."

As he found out with 8:45 left in the game and the Bengals down, 13-10. Finley went play-action to suddenly hot Joe Mixon. Boyd went running right to left through a zone that has been more like the NFL's Bermuda Triangle this season. There was Bush, leading the NFL in forced fumbles, and there was safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, he of the two pick-sixes among his five interceptions.

Bush, who has struggled in pass coverage, let Boyd get behind him and Boyd had to wait ever so slightly as Finley floated it to him. Just to call a play to get their best receiver that open in such a big part of the game caught Boyd's attention.

"Zac called a great call," Boyd said. "He'd been making great calls the whole game. We were out-executing those guys. I just let one get away."

Boyd caught it and started to tuck it as he turned at the Steelers 8. He took a step and Bush popped it out as he tackled him and the ball trickled to Fitzpatrick. 

"I didn't tuck it. He made a great play," Boyd said. "I've got to secure the catch and reel it in. Tuck it into my body. We've been preaching that all year.

"At the end of the day, he just tackled me. I don't feel like he was going for the ball. Bad things happen when you don't tuck it."

That's how crazy this series has been the last ten games. On a day the Bengals had Big Ben (and John Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster and Stephon Tuitt) on the sidelines, they couldn't tuck it away.

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