Taylor-Britt hopes his return brings ‘juice’ to Bengals defense

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — Cam Taylor-Britt had Week 17 circled on the calendar for his return from injured reserve, the soonest he could possibly be cleared to practice and then to be added back to the active roster.

The Cincinnati Bengals cornerback said the timing worked out perfectly for him to be a part of the final push for the playoffs, starting with Sunday’s much-anticipated rematch of last year’s AFC Championship at Kansas City.

Taylor-Britt knew he needed to be ready for this one, and for three of the last four weeks, the team took care of business in his absence to ensure this game would still be meaningful. He’s been a full participant in practices Wednesday and Thursday and appears on track to be active Sunday, if he gets through football activities all week with no issue.

“It was very important,” Taylor-Britt said of having a chance to play this week. “If I could have come back last week, I would have tried my best to get back out there, but I feel like everything was perfect timing. You know, the guys — they handled business while I was gone, but now I add my juice to what they already got going on.”

That juice was missing last week when Pittsburgh exploited the secondary on three plays of 44 yards or more to put 17 of its points on the board in a 34-11 loss for the Bengals. Cincinnati had won three straight before that, but Taylor-Britt’s return would be a big boost to the defense this week with Patrick Mahomes leading the fourth-best passing offense in the league.

Taylor-Britt felt like he was having a Pro Bowl-worthy season before his ankle injury and would like to pick up where he left off. Receivers were posting a 55.8 percent catch rate against him in coverage.

“I wanna be that Energizer Bunny to this defense,” Taylor-Britt said. “Most definitely bringing juice ... and just keep the sideline up because I know when we have our energy, nobody can mess with us. When everything’s together the offense, defense clicking as one, nobody can beat us.”

Kansas City’s offense hasn’t been as dominant as it has in recent years, but Mahomes has proven capable of exposing weaknesses in many defenses.

Part of the struggle this year has been the Chiefs have played a carousel of wide receivers rotating in and out, and while tight end Travis Kelce continues to be Mahomes’ favorite target —leading the team with 90 catches, 968 yards and five touchdowns — there are consistent threats on the outside. Wide receiver Rashee Rice, who has 811 yards and seven touchdowns on 74 catches, is the only other non-running back with 30 catches or more, but four players have at least 240 yards receiving.

Taylor-Britt said the biggest thing that stands out about the Chiefs’ receivers is their speed, but the Bengals should match up well in that regard as that was a focus of their draft board this year.

“We just basically got to keep the shots off,” Taylor-Britt said. “We know who we’re playing. We know their offense, we know the quarterback, one of the best in the league, wants to take shots down field, that’s one thing we cannot do. We got to prevent that. I’m planning to come in and just lead, like I said not do too much, just add my juice, bringing the defense some energy.”

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is demanding more from everyone this week. He’s done talking about the youth of the secondary and how that might have played a factor in yet another explosive performance by an opponent.

Pittsburgh was playing its third-string quarterback, and Mason Rudolph, in his first start since 2021, still managed to connect with George Pickens on touchdowns of 86 and 66 yards and a pass of 44 yards that set up a field goal.

“I don’t want to make excuses for anything, but we can’t win a football game if we give up 200 yards on three plays. We can’t,” Anarumo said. “I told them the other day, I said, ‘We are what we are right now. These things have to stop in order for us to be a consistent defense. These are things that have not shown up in a long, long time, but they’ve shown up this year. So whatever the reasons are, we will keep working at it like we’re doing, but they can’t continue.’ … We got punched right in the lip. We’ll bounce back, but we have to stop these big plays. Let’s call it what it is.”

The Bengals, who start two rookies in the secondary with cornerback DJ Turner II and safety Jordan Battle, have given up 59 completions of 20 yards or more this season, and only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have allowed more with 62.

“Some of it is still lessons that these guys are learning, and we will be better for it in the future,” Anarumo said. “I keep saying that, but unfortunately, the future is like today. And we have to get better at these things immediately.”


Bengals at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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