On his 24th birthday Sunday in front of 66,385 crazed Paycor Stadium party-goers, Bengals second-year cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt didn't let the bully from Seattle spoil the bash.
Taylor-Britt showed why the Bengals have let him travel with the opposition's best receiver this season during the numbing 17-13 victory over the Seahawks, where he had his second interception in as many games, added a touchdown-saving pass defensed, and corralled the monstrous 6-4, 235-pound DK Metcalf on four catches for 69 yards despite ten targets during a game he was rudely thrown to the turf long after the play by one of the league's best receivers.
"The bullies get bullied," said slot cornerback Mike Hilton, who had a huge red-zone pick. "We know that's Metcalf's type of game. He wants to get in corners' heads. But we knew once we put 29 (Taylor-Britt) on him, all that was dead. He's not used to guys pushing back and getting physical with him, Once the game plan was for Cam to follow 14 (Metcalf), we knew what time it was."
What time it is, Hilton said, is Taylor-Britt "is slowly becoming one of the top young corners in the game." When Metcalf threw Taylor-Britt to the ground in the first half, he drew a 15-yard roughing flag and a rebuke from Taylor-Britt.
"Stop crying," is what CTB said he told Metcalf. "I don't get rattled. If I do, you don't see it and it's just to give myself motivation. Other players can't really get to me. I played the game he wanted to play. The physical game, which is my game. Most definitely (it surprised him)."
On the one play Metcalf made, a 30-yard deep ball running past him with five minutes left, Taylor-Britt says he grabbed his collar to make it happen.
"That wasn't going to happen," CTB said.
What also wasn't going to happen with two-and-a-half minutes left in the third quarter is that slot receiver supreme Tyler Lockett wasn't going to get behind him on third-and-five from the Bengals 5 and the Bengals leading, 14-10.
Like Hilton's pick of Geno Smith at the Bengals 3 earlier in the quarter, this huge pass defensed was courtesy of film study.
"You have to understand the differences in their routes," said Taylor-Britt of Metcalf and Lockett. "(Lockett) is more of a shifty guy. He's not the jump-ball guy, he's not the jump-over guy. Totally different receiver. We had seen on film earlier in the week with him just going outside and doing a lot of shaking. And then running the come-back. I just got a feel for it. I know that he wasn't trying to force me to run past him. I just waited for him to come back and the ball was there."
Right at the front pylon. So was CTB and he reached around Lockett to bat the ball away.
IN B.J. HILL WE TRUST: It has to go down as one of the more inspiring Bengals defensive efforts of recent vintage. In the second half, Seattle drove four times into the red zone in the second half and three times came away with nothing. Zilch. 0.0. Zero. Crabs in ice water.
The Bengals pointed to communication and the sheer will for their stunning red-zone success.
"We know yards don't equal points," Taylor-Britt said.
Communication? As Bengals left end Sam Hubbard held court with the media, his Bash Brother on the right end, Trey Hendrickson, kept flashing five fingers and mouthing, "Five quarterback hits."
That's exactly what Hubbard had as he and Hendrickson were possessed on a defense that was already maniacal in the red zone with three minutes left. Hendrickson racked up his seventh sack of what has been a Pro Bowl season and Hubbard then delivered a fourth-down sack at the Cincinnati 14 with 2:03 left.
Here's where trust comes in. With 41 seconds left, the game was there on the Cincy 8 on fourth down.
"I felt like I was able to beat my guy," said Hubbard, who did all fourth quarter.
So when tackle B.J. Hill suggested to Hubbard before the play that they pull a stunt with Hubbard going around Hill inside instead of going right to the quarterback, Hubbard wasn't sure about that. He just had a fourth-down sack racing past the tackle.
"Trust me," said Hill. He did and they both ended up on top of Geno Smith as he threw an incompletion to end it.
BURROW VOW: Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow got another win to keep them in the hunt at 3-3 going into the bye week, raising his record to 27-20-1 and 15-8 at Paycor. Happy with the win, but not with the offense after he sifted Seattle for 143 yards in the first half and then threw for 42 in the second, when they converted one third down.
"There were definitely opportunities that we had that we didn't capitalize on, but we got the win. It's a lot easier to fix things when you're 3-3 than if you had lost this one. So, I'm never going to apologize for a win," Burrow said. "Not where we want to be (offensively), not where we want to be. We've had moments, but we just have to put it all together. So, we'll evaluate this week and go from there."
The Bengals had 214 total yards, the fewest in a Burrow win. Not pretty, but think Denver two years ago when they got a huge hardscrabble 15-10 win with Burrow throwing for 157 yards in a game that vaulted them on a Super Bowl run.
"We'll take it. Any way we can find a win, we're going to do it and we're going to be happy about it," said head coach Zac Taylor. "And that doesn't mean that there's not a lot we can improve on offense. I'm sure there's going to be some things that we're going to improve on defense as well. But it's a lot easier to make those improvements after you win."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Off his endorsement from 7-11, Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase had 80 yards on six catches, all but one in the first half. After shouting out to his new partner, he gave a glimpse of what the Bengals offense is going to be focused on during the bye.
"It's not disappointing," Chase said. "We just hold ourselves to a standard and we've got to execute. As good of an offense as we have, we just have to stay on top of that and not have mental errors like we did today. I think we had a couple of those. I know I had one today. Simple things like that will take us a long way." …
Bengals running back Joe Mixon had a season-low 38 yards on 12 carries, but he's now the third-leading rusher in Bengals history as he moved past Rudi Johnson behind Corey Dillon and James Brooks. Also Sunday, he moved past Pete Johnson and now has the third most carries in club history behind Dillon and Rudi Johnson …
Two gamers played Sunday even though they were hurting. Wide receiver Tee Higgins (rib) had four targets, two catches, and 20 yards. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie didn't start in a game rookie DJ Turner started and appeared to take the bulk of the reps.
"It's tough. Chido just managed through the week. He repped as much as he could," Taylor said. "And so, then it's still unknown. It's still bothersome. He really played through something today. As did Tee. To both those guys, I'm appreciative of what they decided to do for us. A lot of guys could have just said, 'No, I'm going to wait through the bye week,' and Chido and Tee are two of our most competitive guys we've got. And so really, really thankful we've got guys like that that that helped contribute to the win." …
Taylor's not sure of the severity of Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.'s groin injury that kept him out of most of the second half when Cody Ford took his place …
BIRTHDAY BASH II: Bengals rookie wide receiver Andrei Iosivas also had a 24th birthday to remember when his first NFL touchdown catch way back in the second quarter ended up being the winner when Evan McPherson converted the PAT 18 minutes into the game for a 14-7 lead.
After Burrow drilled the three-yard touchdown pass, he went one better and ran into the end zone to grab the ball so he could give it to Iosivas. Of course, it wasn't cut and dried for the sixth-rounder from Princeton. A flag flew on the play, so Iosivas disposed of the ball before realizing the penalty was on Seattle safety Jamal Adams for holding. That's when Burrow went into the end zone looking.
"That was super nice of him. I'm going to have to re-pay him some time," said Iosivas, who celebrated with a dance he and wide receiver Tee Higgins found on TikTok.
While the Bengals defense would teach a memorable low red zone moment in the second half, Burrow pulled one of his vintage show-of-the-goal-posts plays. He went play-action on a fake to running back Joe Mixon, let the play develop slowly as he drifted to his left, and danced while waiting for something and got Iosivas breaking from across the middle to his left as he ran out of bounds.
"Now that he's got his legs back, he can extend plays in the red zone," Iosivas said. "It's so condensed down there, sometimes you need that kind of stuff to score touchdowns. I was supposed to get the ball earlier, but I broke it off. I was supposed to block (Adams), shed him, get the ball. It was a scramble drill, so no one knows who has who."
But Burrow knew he had the ball.
"He said, 'Here you go bro,'" Iosivas said. "It was a great gesture."