Here come the Tom Brady stories.
With the 9-4 Bengals headed to 6-7 Tampa Bay Sunday (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) off Sunday's 23-10 win over Cleveland that put them on the threshold of a second straight playoff berth, they meet for the ninth time in Brady's first game as a Buccaneer. And for third time the Bengals come in with a better record than the GOAT and riding a winning streak.
The Bengals broke to 3-0 in 2006 under Carson Palmer and 2014 under Andy Dalton and in each season Brady's Patriots gave them their first loss. Now it's Brady's first game against Joe Burrow and the Bengals are on a five-game winning streak that's their longest in-season skein since 2011.
"The confidence is the biggest one," said Bengals right guard Alex Cappa of the similarities of his Bucs team that won it all under Brady in 2020 and this Bengals team.
"We definitely have that at a high and that comes to the preparation. We know we are prepared and ready to play. We are definitely have a confident group that has a lot of fun. Those are good things for us."
The Bengals have opened seasons 8-0 (2015) and 6-0 twice (1975 and 1988) and now they're looking for their longest in-season winning streak since head Paul Brown's teams won the last six games of 1973 and the last seven of 1970.
Playoff teams all.
"Every week is different, honestly," Cappa said. "So, it's not really about a streak on anything like that. I'd say the Monday you come in; the vibes are definitely based on the game the day before. But the rest of it is just business as usual. It's the day after the game that really sets the vibes. The rest of the week is just work. No matter what you have the rest of the week, it's just about getting ready."
When they were coaching with the Dolphins, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor went 3-5 and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo 4-8 against Brady in AFC East matchups.
The Bengals played the first game against the defending champion Bucs when they opened the 2021 preseason in Tampa (rookie Joseph Ossai sacked him) and on Monday Anarumo recalled talking to Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich on the field.
"I said, I can't believe in warmups, I couldn't believe how the ball was still jumping out of his hand," Anarumo said. "And he looked like it was (2012), whenever the first time I saw him. And just amazing really the speed that the ball comes out of his hand and accuracy he's always had. He's Tom Brady. So I see the best quarterback that's ever played the game in my opinion."
Taylor, the Miami quarterbacks coach, marveled from the other side of the field.
"How fast he plays to coach on the field, you know as a quarterback coach you could see when they get into a formation you're like, "oh no," because you can see some of the matchups that have been created," Taylor said, "and why he's utilizing them.
"He's just one of the greatest to ever do it. Anybody that's won that many championships, he can always pull it out. The game is never over with him, I think they've proven that this year often times … It seems like every time they're on (prime time) they've found a way to win and that's due in large part because they have a great coaching staff and great players but it's also because he's the quarterback and those moments are when he shines brightest."
Anarumo once had a rookie cornerback face Brady and he warned the kid that Brady would "lick his fingers and then throw the ball at you. It's coming. And it did."
And as well as rookie cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt played Sunday against the Browns, Anarumo has to figure Brady is still licking his fingers.
"Probably. Probably," Anarumo said. "He does have a Hall of Fame receiver on one side, maybe another one on the other side. Two great players, Julio Jones and Mike Evans. So there's talent everywhere."
MORE BRADY-BURROW: Burrow heads into his 40th NFL start against the GOAT with far bigger numbers in his first 39 starts compared to Brady. For a while, not for long, but early on, anyway, Brady was the caretaker of Bill Belichick's defensive factory. Burrow heads to Tampa with 74 touchdown passes, 10,984 yards and 28 interceptions. Going into his 40th start 19 years ago, Brady had 57 TDs, 8,442 yards and 34 interceptions. He was 27-12 and Burrow is 21-17-1.
Brady went 4-0 in his first four playoff games with two touchdowns a pick and 773 yards. Burrow went 4-1 with five TDs, two interceptions and 1,105 yards.
Anarumo was asked the inevitable if-he-sees-any—connection-with Burrow-and-Brady when it comes to style.
"I'll let Joe answer that one," Anarumo said. "I just see how they are on the field. And their approach, I think, is probably similar. Just all about football, all about winning, all about doing the things that it takes to win. Both great players."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Three technique B.J. Hill has already played 659 snaps this year after playing 502 all last year in what was a career year. But the more the merrier. He's having another big year and got a game ball Sunday for teaming with nose tackle D.J. Reader to stop Cleveland's No. 3 run game on 71 yards.
"I feel great,' Hill said Monday. "I know Coach Hobby (defensive line coach Marion) and the coaches take care of me during the week, even in the game. Zach Carter comes in and he's very productive as well. I love taking this role. I love taking a high number of snaps. I love making plays. I love running around with my teammates. I love everything about it." …
Taylor is ruling no one out of the game. It was reported sack ace Trey Hendrickson finished the game with a broken wrist and Taylor confirmed he had a "wrist issue," but is not going on injured reserve and Ossai is dealing with a shoulder problem …
Taylor said slot receiver Tyler Boyd's dislocated finger is "a painful deal, but we'll see where he's at through the week." …
Taylor also said things remain to be seen on wide receiver Tee Higgins and tight end Hayden Hurst (calf).
"Tee's hamstring popped up in pregame and it just got to crunch time and I thought the best decision was to keep him out," Taylor said. "So we'll see where he's at this week as well. We've got two more days of player day off and we'll see where he's at."