TAMPA, Fla. — In the middle of the third quarter, on third and and 8 from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 17-yard line, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd was between Ja’Marr Chase, two defensive backs and the first-down line.
It had only been seven days since a bone popped out of one of Boyd’s fingers. Just one week after he had surgery, Boyd was feeling a sharp pain every time he used that hand. And still, he put his head down, blocked a Buccaneers cornerback down the field and paved the way for Chase as the Bengals got the first down.
"At the end of the day, I've got to do whatever it takes to help this team win," Boyd said. "The pain would have been temporary."
He showed the grit, sacrifice and resilience that have defined the 2022 Bengals. On Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, the Bengals came back from a three-score deficit to beat the Buccaneers, 34-23. The Bengals took sole possession of first place in the AFC North and improved to 10-4, and the Bengals are in this position because of the effort they're getting from a veteran in Boyd all the way to the rookie cornerback who got called up from the practice squad.
NFL standings:Cincinnati in sole possession of AFC North first place with win vs. Tampa, Baltimore loss
Bengals come back from down 17 to Tampa Bay
Late in the second quarter, the Buccaneers had a 17-point lead and nearly 200 more total yards than the Bengals. At one point, it looked like the Bengals wouldn’t be able to stop Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, especially with the Bengals' two best pass rushers and two best cornerbacks out with injuries.
But just like they’ve done all season, the Bengals bounced back from adversity and rattled off 34 straight points.
"We had no rhythm on either side of the ball, and our guys at halftime took a deep breath and said that we can take over this game," Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. "Just an awesome team effort. It was one of those games we needed, to be quite honest with you. To be smacked in the mouth in the first half and respond the right way."
Joe Burrow’s left pinky was bent and bleeding. One of Boyd’s fingers was in a cast. Sam Hubbard was sitting on the bench all by himself with a calf injury. Mike Hilton was wearing a black long sleeve t-shirt and cheering his teammates on from the sideline. Trey Hendrickson, Hayden Hurst and Chidobe Awuzie were out with injuries.
Bengals winning streak at six games following win over Buccaneers
It looked like that would finally be too much adversity for the Bengals to overcome. Instead, they extended their winning streak to six games. The No. 1 seed is still well within their grasp, and there’s no hotter team in the conference than the Bengals.
"It was an exciting game, but an ugly one that we were able to pull out," Burrow said. "Teams like we have find ways to win games. Guys just keep stepping up and making big time plays for us."
With 13 minutes left in the third quarter, the Bengals were down by 14 points. On fourth and 1 from deep in their own territory, the Buccaneers tried a fake punt, botched it and turned the ball over on downs. That left the door just ajar for the Bengals, and Burrow smashed the door down with four touchdown passes in the second half.
The Bengals made it an 11-point game with a field goal. On the following drive, the Bengals forced another turnover. For the first time all year, a Bengals cornerback recorded an interception. And it was Tre Flowers, whose role had been dwindling all season.
At the start of the year, Flowers was the first cornerback off the bench for the Bengals. Since then, he slid behind rookies Cam Taylor-Britt, Dax Hill and Allan George on the depth chart. Now, Flowers only plays a few snaps per game, in specialty third-down packages where he usually guards tight ends.
When Brady attempted a third-down pass to tight end Cameron Brate, Flowers jumped the route, got in front of Brate and picked off the greatest quarterback of all time. It was the first of four straight takeaways by the Bengals defense in the second half.
Bengals 'tough as nails' defense vs. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
"We heard from the old savvy vet that we’re a 'fairly tough' defense," said Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt, who picked off a pass. "Four turnovers, I’d say we’re tough as nails."
Three minutes after Flowers' interception, Boyd paved the way for Chase’s first down. One play after that, Burrow threw a touchdown to wide receiver Tee Higgins. Then Bengals defensive tackle DJ Reader forced a fumble, got the Bengals the ball again and set up a touchdown throw to Boyd.
Playing through the injury, Boyd ran a perfect route, using his hands to get open as he sprinted to the far-right sideline. Running one of his signature option routes in the slot, Boyd reeled in the touchdown as he fell to the ground to give the Bengals their first lead of the game. The Buccaneers were double-teaming Chase and Higgins, and Boyd won his one-on-one matchup to get the Bengals a 20-17 lead.
"That's a leader who really stepped up with his presence of being out there," Taylor said. "(Boyd) always rises to the challenge. That was a really physically and mentally tough game that he played today."
Burrow was his MVP-caliber self in the second half. On both of his touchdowns during the Bengals’ comeback in the third quarter, Burrow found a minuscule window on the sideline, and each of his star receivers scored a touchdown.
Bengals defense forced Tom Brady, Tampa Bay turnovers in second half
The Bengals defense responded to its worst stretch of the season. For the entire first half, the Bengals couldn't pressure Brady without Hubbard and Hendrickson. Brady picked on the Bengals’ rookie cornerbacks, targeting Hill and Taylor-Britt over and over in the middle of the field.
Flowers’ interception flipped the script. After that play, the Bengals forced fumbles on their next two possessions. They out-schemed Brady with blitzes, getting him to panic and turn over the ball. Hill and Taylor-Britt played tighter coverage, and there weren’t any more easy throws for Brady over the middle. When Taylor-Britt left the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury, practice squad cornerback Allan George stepped up.
The Bengals pass rush took over the game. Defensive tackle Jay Tufele pressured Brady. Defensive end Joseph Ossai hit Brady and forced him to throw a pick. Nearly everyone was involved as the Bengals shut down Brady.
"Nobody wants to acknowledge what we’re doing on defense in this six-game stretch," Bengals cornerback Eli Apple said. "We know what the difference has been. We just want to keep it going.”
As the clock ran out, a crowd filled with Bengals fans started chanting "Who Dey." When it was over, some Bengals players were smack talking Brady as they ran to the locker room.
The Bengals are a better team than they were last season, and they're playing even better than they did on their playoff run. While the Buccaneers melted down, the Bengals gave another example of why they can win the Super Bowl.
"We're still not where we want to be," Boyd said. "We want to be No. 1 in the whole AFC. That's our goal. We got to keep winning out and take care of business. We got to finish."
As an expert and enthusiast, I don't have personal experiences or emotions, but I can provide you with information related to the concepts mentioned in the article you provided. Here are some key points related to the concepts mentioned:
The Cincinnati Bengals, an American football team, showed grit, sacrifice, and resilience in their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite facing injuries to key players, such as Joe Burrow, Tyler Boyd, Sam Hubbard, and others, the Bengals came back from a three-score deficit to win the game 34-23 [].
The Bengals' victory against the Buccaneers helped them secure sole possession of first place in the AFC North and improved their overall record to 10-4 [].
The Bengals have been on a winning streak, having won six consecutive games [].
The Bengals' defense played a crucial role in their comeback. They forced turnovers, including interceptions and fumbles, and put pressure on Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. The defense's performance was praised, and they were described as "tough as nails" [].
Quarterback Joe Burrow played exceptionally well in the second half, throwing four touchdown passes and finding small windows to connect with his receivers for crucial scores [].
Wide receiver Tyler Boyd, despite having a finger injury and recently undergoing surgery, played a key role in the Bengals' victory. He made important catches, including a touchdown reception, and displayed leadership and toughness on the field [].
The Bengals' overall performance has been impressive, and they are considered a strong contender in the AFC. They have their sights set on securing the number one seed in the conference and ultimately winning the Super Bowl [].
Please note that the information provided above is based on the article you provided, and the specific details may vary depending on the source.