CINCINNATI — Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill hasn’t forgotten what happened the last time he faced the Cincinnati Bengals with the Kansas City Chiefs last year.
Hill was quick to get into the trash talk in interviews with Miami-area reporters Monday about how much he looks forward to matching up again with Eli Apple, but the target of his comments decided to let it play out on the field Thursday when the Bengals host the Dolphins in a primetime game at Paycor Stadium.
In the AFC Championship last year, Apple came up with a goal-line stop to prevent Hill from reaching the end zone on the final play of the first half. A touchdown there would have extended the Chiefs’ lead to 28-10, but instead the Bengals had a more manageable hole to climb out of en route to their 27-24 win at Arrowhead Stadium.
“Looking forward to the challenge,” Hill told reporters. “It’s going to be fun. I can’t wait to go up against Eli Apple. I owe you, boy, I owe you. I’m here. The Cheetah is here.”
Asked specifically about those comments from Hill, Apple said he was not going to talk about that and declined multiple interview requests during the open locker room period Monday.
Apple had taunted Hill a bit after that AFC Championship game, which was the Bengals’ second win over the Chiefs last season, posting on social media: “oh yeah, that chiefs cheetah pack finna (gonna) hit way crazier the second time.” He also offered to send Hill and another Kansas City player tickets to the Super Bowl in another post.
The Bengals defense was playing with a little bit of extra swagger throughout the playoffs last year, and they seem to have that confidence back after a four-takeaway performance helped Cincinnati to a 27-12 win against the New York Jets on Sunday.
With a quick turnaround to Thursday, the Bengals will be looking to carry that momentum into a matchup with the undefeated Dolphins, who have earned impressive comeback wins the past two weeks against Baltimore and Buffalo.
Cincinnati is still awaiting more information on defensive tackle D.J. Reader’s knee, which he injured on Sunday, but Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Joe Mixon is good to go after exiting in the fourth quarter because of a sore ankle.
“It’s a big game against a really good team, one of the hottest teams in the league right now,” linebacker Logan Wilson said. “So, we’re gonna have our hands full and it’s just a great opportunity for us to go out there and show what we’re capable of.”
Wilson had one of the defense’s two interceptions Sunday and said it was one of the more difficult picks he has made in his football career. After making the play, he returned it 47 yards and was eying his first pick-6 but had the ball stripped away by a lineman. Fortunately, the Bengals recovered it and ended up getting a field goal out of the ensuing drive to extend their lead to 20-6 in the second quarter.
“I mean, obviously, we’ve been stressing on it all season long about getting turnovers,” Wilson said. “It wasn’t that we weren’t trying to get the turnovers in those first two games. It’s just a matter of time before they came. And they finally came yesterday, and it was a good time for us.
“I think sometimes it’s just everything within the defensive game plan just finally coming together. … Sometimes you just have to stay the course, weather the storm. Not everything is going to ever go your way the way you want it to. But I think that our guys just did that and it finally paid off yesterday.”
Taylor said he doesn’t need to see how the defense responds to a big-game atmosphere against a top offense Thursday to know how good it is. The Dolphins, with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, are just the next test.
“I am excited to see every test that they’re presented with,” Taylor said. “It’s always a different style that they’re playing and how they respond to that, but again, I think I already know the answer to the test and how they will respond. … They don’t let one point carry over to the next, and that’s the biggest thing about this group.”
Dolphins at Bengals, 8:15 p.m., Amazon Prime, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7
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