CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou didn’t watch the replay of his first career sack. The injury Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered on the play made it a moment he couldn’t celebrate.
Tupou sacked Tagovailoa on a second-and-7 play at midfield for a 10-yard loss in the first half of Thursday’s 27-15 Bengals win. Tagovailoa, Miami’s first-round pick (fifth overall) in the 2020 draft, hit the back of his helmet on the turf in the process.
After trainers assessed Tagovailoa for seven minutes and strapped him to a backboard, he was wheeled off on a stretcher and taken to University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he later was discharged to fly home with the team.
“I didn’t realize how bad it was after the initial sack,” Tupou said Friday. “I had no ill intentions of trying to hurt Tua. I was just trying to get him on the ground.”
Tupou, a fifth-year player, had played 43 games without a sack, but his role increased Thursday with D.J. Reader going on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered Sept. 25 in a win over the New York Jets. The Bengals had signed Tupou as a college free agent out of the University of Colorado in 2017. He has recorded 55 tackles, four tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, one forced fumble and now one sack in 19th career starts.
Asked how the injury to Tagovailoa impacted his individual achievement, Tupou said “it definitely does.” Tupou had a sack wiped by a penalty in the past.
“Even though it was a good moment for me, it was a hard moment for him and his family to see him the way he was,” Tupou said. “I think his health overrides my sack.”
Players from both teams were down on one knee as Tagovailoa was being tended to, and backup Teddy Bridgewater entered the game as his replacement after the long delay.
Bridgewater completed a 16-yard pass to Trent Sherfield on third-down on his first snap, but Jessie Bates made the stop short of the first down marker, and the Dolphins punted. Tupou said the first few plays after the injury felt different because of the uncertainty as to how serious Tagovailoa’s head and neck injuries might be.
Despite the scare, Tupou played a solid game, Bengals coach Zac Taylor said.
“He’s really earned his way here,” Taylor said. “He’s one of the few guys still here that was here in 2018 or earlier. On defense, it’s him, Sam Hubbard, Jessie (Bates) and Brandon Wilson I think is it. That speaks to who he is and his work ethic and reliability and consistency to step up when his number is called. (I’ve) got a lot of love for Josh. He always comes through for us and is a big part of what we do in that d-line rotation.”
Tupou played 64% of the snaps at nose tackle, and Zach Carter was in on 38% of the defensive snaps, mainly rotating with Tupou.
It’s still unclear how long Reader is expected to be out beyond the four weeks he has to miss with the injured reserve designation.
“I think it’s gonna take a couple weeks to sort out how many weeks it’s gonna be,” Taylor said. “I truthfully don’t have an answer on that one. It’s gonna take this IR period to really assess what the final number of weeks it’s gonna be.”
The team got through Thursday without major issue, though wide receiver Tee Higgins had his ankle wrapped during the game and again Friday in the locker room and tight end Devin Asiasi had his foot in a boot Friday after coming off with an ankle injury Thursday and returning to the game. Taylor classified both of those as “nothing major,” and they now have a chance to rest over a mini bye this weekend before the next game at Baltimore on Oct. 9.
SUNDAY, OCT. 9
Bengals at Ravens, 8:20 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7