Comeback win over Vikings costly for Bengals

Cincinnati loses D.J. Reader and D.J. Ivey to season-ending injuries

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals’ comeback win against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday came with great cost.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor confirmed Sunday defensive tackle DJ Reader and rookie cornerback DJ Ivey are both done for the year following muscle or ligament tears suffered during the first half of a 27-24 overtime victory. Reader tore a quadriceps tendon in his right leg, and Ivey tore the ACL in his left knee.

Additionally, Ja’Marr Chase sprained the AC joint in his shoulder and is “day to day.” Taylor said it’s too early to know if he will be able to practice this week. Cincinnati travels to Pittsburgh on Saturday.

These are just the latest blows to a team that already had to adjust to the loss of quarterback Joe Burrow and is trying to stay in the playoff picture with three games left. The Bengals were in the sixth spot in the AFC when play began Sunday.

“You just move forward,” Taylor said. “We can’t sit here and dwell on the guys that aren’t with us. Obviously, there’s a respect we have for those guys. Those guys are a huge part of why we are here today. But at the same point you have to just pick up and move on to the next game and we’ll utilize those guys certainly. … Those guys still provide great value to us given the leadership roles that they’re in and what they can do for us moving forward.”

Reader was injured midway through the first quarter, leaving the Bengals without their big runner stopper in the middle of the defensive line and potentially ending his career in Cincinnati as his four-year contract expires after this season. He suffered the same injury in his left leg during the 2020 season.

The 29-year-old finishes this season with 34 combined tackles, a fumble recovery, one sack and seven quarterback hits.

“He’s just such a leader, such a consistent force on the defensive line,” Taylor said. “I think he was playing outstanding, just so consistent every single day. Someone the coaches could count on, someone the other players could count on, always has the right mindset day to day, ... and so I know that he’ll respond the right way. And it’s unfortunate for DJ. It’s unfortunate for all of us because he’s such a big part of all of us and so it’s a killer to see something like that to happen to him.

“And same with DJ Ivey. DJ Ivey has really worked hard to put himself in a position to help us.”

Reader signed a four-year, $53 million contract with the Bengals ahead of the 2020 season after spending four seasons with the Houston Texans, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. After playing just five games in 2020, he bounced back in 2021 and was a crucial piece to the Bengals’ Super Bowl run.

The former Clemson product missed part of the 2022 campaign with a knee injury but returned in time to start the Bengals’ final seven regular season games and three postseason games. He’s started 44 games over four seasons.

“Critical, critical,” Taylor said of his importance the last four years. “I mean every step of the way, he’s represented everything that we talk about in the locker room, everything we talk about on the field, everything we talk about at practice, the way you conduct yourself. He’s represented everything and that’s why he’s elected captain, and he’s earned all of that and he’s been invaluable in his time here.”

Taylor said it will take a “next men up” mentality to replace a guy like Reader.

“We’ll continue to assess what that’s going to continue to look like as we go, but it’s kind of that moment, that time of year where you lean on a lot of guys that have gotten a lot of reps for you and know what’s going on and now their number’s called,” Taylor said. “... (Other) guys get an opportunity now to rise up and make a name for themselves ... we’ve got some guys that we can count on in there.”

Reader likely won’t be on the sideline over these last three games in the regular season, but Taylor hopes he can still be around and provide some insight to his teammates — much like Burrow has been doing. In addition to sitting in on meetings, Burrow has been on the headset during games to help the coaches as well.

The Bengals will need all the help they can get as they prepare for Pittsburgh on Saturday, a key AFC North matchup that could go a long way in determining their playoff fate. Taylor said he’s not keeping up with playoff scenarios, but he knows winning is important.

“I just know if we could just continue to win, I think we’re in good shape. So just win and that way you don’t have to worry about what’s going on with other teams,” Taylor said. “... We’re just in a position where we just control what we can control and take it week-to-week.”


Bengals at Steelers, 4:30 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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