Tyler Boyd's main man surfaced at Paul Brown Stadium Monday morning and when he saw rookie franchise quarterback Joe Burrow coping with his season-ending injury it made him feel glad and bad.
"He's a true leader and he's a guy I know that's going to get us to a Super Bowl," Boyd said in Media Zoom. "It was tough, especially to lose our quarterback, our leader. Just seeing the play and actually seeing how it happened, kind of felt sorry for him because I know how much he wants to win. I know how much he dedicates himself to this game.
"So we all felt it during the game. It kind of turned quickly after that. But he's still been positive. I've seen him in the facility today. His spirits are up. He's not walking around with his head down. He's a true believer and he knows he'll be back ready and better than ever."
Boyd and another young team leader, free safety Jessie Bates III, vowed to fill Burrow's massive leadership void and Bates called on his defense to take it to the next level. He knows that a team riding an offense that in Burrow's last 14 full quarters had been in the red zone 17 times has been changed out.
And Bates knows that the locker room is watching to see who responds and who doesn't.
"Unfortunately, it's tough for us to get in the playoff run right now. But I don't think your mindset changes," Bates said in his Zoom. "This is where the leaders of this team will lead. The guys that are going to be here for a while will step up and make sure that guys don't check out. Because it's going to be easy to check out. These next six weeks it's going to be easy. It's going to be cold outside. Nobody wants to do that hard part during the week. And it's up to the leaders -- myself and other guys on the team that consider themselves as leaders -- to step up."
Make no mistake. When Burrow went down in such an abrupt and ugly way with 11:35 left in the third quarter, the Bengals' 9-7 lead felt lost right there after Burrow stepped up in the pocket and got rid of it as defensive tackle Jonathan Allen fell on the left knee. The Bengals could only manage 17 more yards the rest of the way while allowing 200 in a 20-9 loss.
The usually simmering and stoic Boyd admitted watching what happened to Burrow "was devastating."
"You could just sense it on the field after he got hurt. It just kind of tore everybody apart how it all went about," Boyd said. "Even the Washington guys felt it was kind devastating. It kind of hurt me actually to see it."
But Boyd, whose team-leading 85 yards on Sunday put him over 700 for the season, says he'll be doing more all the way around.
"I think I've got to ramp it up a little bit again because it's a devastating loss," Boyd said of his leadership. "I have to continue to be more vocal and push guys to help make plays. The more we make plays for Ryan (Finley), the more confident, the more solidified he'll feel at the position. I've got to a good job of rallying guys up and motivating guys to make plays for us and not put all the pressure on Finley."
In order to take pressure off Finley, Bates, who came up with his team-leading third interception on Sunday to tie a career high, is looking to a defense that has kept them in games the past month to start winning them.
"The standard for the defense just has to raise 10 times more with that part being out. That's something that's not a secret," Bates said. "Something we have to address in the room, we are going to win games because of our defense these next couple weeks."