It wasn’t pretty, but your Cincinnati Bengals are now 10-4 following a 34-23 road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
History was made in the first—and potentially last—matchup between Joe Burrow and Tom Brady. Entering the game, Brady was 89-0 when leading by 17 points in a home game. The Bengals became the first team to beat him as they put up 34 unanswered points thanks to five second-half turnovers.
Burrow posted a gritty 200 yards and four touchdowns on 27-39 passing. Ja’Marr Chase was his leading receiver with 60 yards on seven receptions. Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon all had at least five receptions, and Mitchell Wilcox, the Largo, FL native, hauled in his first career touchdown mere miles from his hometown.
The quarterback matchup got off to a shaky start. For the first time all season, Burrow threw an interception to a non-AFC North team. Keanu Neal got his hands on Burrow’s fourth pass of the day, and Carlton Davis caught it out of the air for the 11th interception of Burrow’s season. His next drive ended after just three plays when Joe Tryon-Shoyinka sacked him off the right edge.
Brady did his best to give the ball back to Burrow as the Bengals defense dropped two potential interceptions on the Bucs’ first drive. Tampa Bay managed to get well into the red zone before settling for the game’s first three points.
The Bengals had run just eight plays in the first quarter, while Brady and Mike Evans were heating up. The QB-WR duo connected three times on the second drive for three completions and 64 yards before Russell Gage capped off the drive with a touchdown on fourth-and-goal over rookie Cam Taylor-Britt.
Tampa Bay had the perfect script to beat Cincinnati. The Bengals’ first four drives featured three separate three-and-outs, two sacks, and the interception. Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase couldn’t even connect on their stapled back-shoulder pass following a missed field goal from Ryan Succop.
The Buccaneers had a 10-point lead at the start of the second quarter, and extended that lead right before halftime thanks to a quick screen to Chris Godwin for their second touchdown of the day. Brady was up to 194 yards and the two touchdowns on 17-23 passing, as he was dicing up the middle of the field like he was back in New England. He was at 254 yards before the final drive of the game.
Burrow and the offense had about 100 seconds to cut into the 17-0 deficit, and their two-minute drill went 47 yards on a quick seven plays. Entering the drive, the Bengals had just 36 yards of total offense. Evan McPherson drilled a 41-yard field goal at the buzzer to make it a 17-3 game at the half, giving the Bengals some life entering the final 30 minutes.
Cue the absurdity.
The Buccaneers gifted some more life to start the third quarter. Former Bengals running back Giovani Bernard fumbled the snap off a fake punt—appearing as if he didn’t even know a fake was happening—and the Bengals got the ball inside the red zone for the first time all afternoon. Cincinnati’s offense was stunted inside the five and had to settle for another McPherson field goal, but the Bucs’ lead shrunk to 17-6.
Brady’s first big mistake came on the next drive as he threw just his sixth interception of the season to Tre Flowers, who secured his first takeaway of the year.
Momentum change #CINvsTB | CBS pic.twitter.com/TrUs5iB7v7— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) December 18, 2022
This lead to pure chaotic energy on the ensuing Bengals possession as Burrow took the absolute worst sack of his career, losing 23 yards on fourth down, and the play was negated after Ja’Marr Chase drew a defensive holding flag, a play after the refs missed a clear defensive inference flag.
Chase fell a yard short of converting the following third down on the next series, but he drew another flag, this time a face mask call, and the Bengals scored their first touchdown of the game one play later. Burrow found Higgins in the back of the end zone, but couldn’t do the same with Boyd on the two-point conversion. Nevertheless, it was a 17-12 ball game just like that.
The hits kept coming from Lou Anarumo’s defense. Logan Wilson came off the edge on a third-and-long and sacked Brady right as DJ Reader punched the ball out of the 21-year veteran’s hands. Two turnovers for the defense, and one for Darrin Simmons’ maligned special teams unit in just eight game minutes.
In order to take the lead, the Bengals needed to convert their first third down of the day, and they did so via Burrow’s second touchdown pass of the day. Boyd’s end zone grab and Higgins’ two-point conversion gave the Bengals their first lead of the day, 20-17.
The Bucs’ collapse continued as Brady fumbled away a simple handoff on their next possession, and Reader fell on it for the FOURTH turnover in the third quarter. The entire period took place on the Bucs’ side of the field.
Two clutch third-down conversions from Burrow led to the QB’s third score of the day, this time to Chase, giving each of his starting receivers a touchdown. The Bengals scored 27 unanswered points to go up 27-17, and Burrow became the first Bengals quarterback to throw 30 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.
More.#CINvsTB | CBS pic.twitter.com/bHBhWS6eNC— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) December 18, 2022
Brady and Tampa’s offense finally got across midfield, but you already know where this is going. Joseph Ossai came in on a stunt and hit Brady mid-throw, causing the ball to sail up in the air, and a diving Germaine Pratt somehow got his hands underneath it for Brady’s third turnover of the game. This was the fifth game in Brady’s career with multiple interceptions and fumbles, and the first since 2014.
First career TD for @wilcox_mitchell #CINvsTB | CBS pic.twitter.com/tQHdyTAZR8— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) December 19, 2022
Upon trading punts, the Bengals ran out several minutes of clock before forcing an offsides on fourth and inches. The Bucs couldn’t even exhaust all their timeouts because Burrow tossed his fourth touchdown of the day for the Bengals’ final points. Brady engineered a garbage time touchdown to lock in the final score of 34-23.
Cincinnati stays on the road next week as they head to Brady’s old stomping grounds New for a Christmas Eve matchup against the New England Patriots.