Of all the ways you could’ve predicted this way to go, I wouldn’t have put money on Cincinnati Bengals right tackle La’el collins trash-talking T.J. Watt. That’s not to doubt Collins’ own play but Watt is really one of the very best players in the NFL.
But that’s exactly what happened after the Bengals won a high scoring 37-30 divisional game to improve to 6-4 and get themselves right back in the AFC playoff picture.
“T.J. knew he had to line up against me,” said Collins after the game. “So sh*t, you know, at the end of the day, he was crying to the refs.”
“So I’ll see him again next year.”
Oh, okay then. It’s not like the AFC North rivals needed any fuel to the eternal tug-of-war between the franchises. But I guess more won’t hurt.
Collins had to be fired up after hearing all season long about how Watt dominated him in Week 1 when the Bengals’ offseason addition returned from a back injury just in time for the season opener.
Despite getting three pressures on the game and an impressive interception at the line, Watt’s damage was limited in most of Burrow’s 42 dropbacks.
Collins did most of it without the help of double teams, too. The Bengals didn’t even make it a priority to have someone chipping T.J. Watt as the right tackle was mostly in an island against the 2021 D.P.O.Y.
According to Next Gen Stats, Watt had the largest average separation from Burrow throughout the game, which tells you volumes about Collins’ work on Sunday for Cincinnati.
Sure, three pressures for the Bengals prize free agent can’t be ignored but considering how many dropbacks Burrow had, that’s a number to feel good about. Even if PFF grades hated Collins’ game.
La'el Collins' passing-blocking grades vs #Steelers this year, via PFF:— Tommy Jaggi (@TommyJaggi) November 21, 2022
Week 1: 57.5
Week 11: 45.3
It might have seemed like the pass rush wasn't getting there consistently, but T.J. Watt played in both of these games and did some damage (as usual).
When the right tackle plays, his blocks don’t necessarily look pretty. Most of his wins in pass pro are thanks to his play strength and athletic ability. But as far as he’s getting his guy time, the Bengals shouldn’t care about how it looks.
This was a solid performance from La’el Collins against one of the best pass rushers in the game. Talk smack, big guy! You earned it. You and the Bengals are 7-3 and back in the playoff picture.
Featured image via Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK