CINCINNATI -- D.J. Reader recalls past experiences in Houston when the Texans experienced adversity, and now the sixth-year defensive tackle applies those lessons to the current situation with the Cincinnati Bengals, hoping it sparks a run in the second half of the season.
The Bengals were just beginning to earn national attention after they took the Packers into overtime and rolled to a lopsided win at Baltimore, but back-to-back losses to the Jets and Browns, the latter a 41-16 loss at home Sunday, have “humbled” Cincinnati, as coach Zac Taylor described it Monday.
Reader said the team just needs to make some adjustments and remember that each game is its own challenge, no matter the opponent. The Bengals (5-4) held a practice Tuesday but have the rest of the week off to enjoy the bye before getting back to work in preparation for the Nov. 21 game against the Raiders in Las Vegas.
“We have a lot of guys right now looking themselves in the mirror and that’s what the league is,” Reader said. “It’s play to play, making adjustments. Halftime making adjustments. Week to week making adjustments. Now we’re in that meat part of the season where everybody is sitting in the same spot, there’s no real separation. The teams who make the adjustments will be the better teams and the teams who don’t, won’t. We have to look at ourselves and want to be on the better side and want to make those adjustments. I think we will, I think we have guys in our locker room who are hungry and want to fight and our ready for that second push for the second half of the season.”
Reader reflected on his rookie season in 2016 when Houston made the playoffs as a 9-7 team and won a wild card game. The next year, the Texans went 4-12, and in 2018 they bounced back from an 0-3 start to win nine straight but lost two of the next three and exited in the first round of the playoffs.
Those experiences are a reminder of how unpredictable the NFL can be. The Bengals are one of 11 teams in the AFC with five wins or more.
“It’s a week to week league, it’s what happens, it’s how the league is built,” Reader said. “Usually that’s not good enough to get you in or whatever it is, you have to go out there and fight. I think that’s more so my experience. I hadn’t really had a you come off the bye and we just have to get it done. You see what the league is week to week, you see teams go out there and they may be favored and you see what happens. Last weekend I saw a bunch of underdogs go out there and win. You know that’s how it goes. You have to go out every week and prepare as a team every week. There’s no underdogs in the league. You go out there and play a team that’s a bunch of professional guys who are getting paid to play this sport.”
The Bengals obviously would have preferred to go into the bye week on a high note, but even with the sour taste of defeat lingering an extra week, it’s easier to digest knowing the team is still contending for a playoff spot in the second half of the season.
Cincinnati will be seeking its first playoff appearance since 2015.
“It feels a lot better,” Reader said. “We have a bunch of AFC opponents left. Everything we want is right in front of us. Everybody we play is in our division. Everybody that’s sitting at 5-4 with us, we have to play all of those people. It’s an exciting feeling. You know it’s on you and you much rather have it that way then sit there and hoping a bunch of teams lose. That’s a rough feeling when you have to sit there and hope that’s going to happen and this is going to happen, we have everything in front us. That means a lot as a player because you know it’s on you. That’s the way you want it.”
Reader said it’s important players handle the down time well this week and stay safe. He will be heading to Oklahoma to celebrate his son’s birthday. Rocky turned 2 on Tuesday and will be having a Shrek-themed party this weekend.
The two talked on FaceTime after Sunday’s loss, and Reader tried to use that moment to share a life lesson with his son.
“I told him sometimes life is going to punch you in the gut, and you’ve got to get back up and go back and look at yourself in the mirror and go back to the drawing board, check yourself, hold yourself high and go back to work,” Reader said. “He looked at me and told me he loved me and said bye-bye. So it was cool. We had a good little moment there and it was good. It’s always a blessing. My son is super silly, smiley kid and I’m blessed to have him. He’s made me a better person and definitely a better man.”
Sunday, Nov. 21
Bengals at Raiders, 4:05 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7
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