Tom Brady was done in by a Mama’s Boy.
“Oh, I am without a doubt, man. Without a doubt,” Wallace Gilberry said with a grin. “Anybody who knows me will tell you that… That’s why I got this.”
The Cincinnati Bengals’ 275-pound defensive end — standing bare-chested in front of his locker in the postgame dressing room — pointed to the “Mama’s Boy” tattoo above his right breast.
He said he’d gotten the ink work in honor of his great grandmother, Olivia Williams, whom he called Mama.
“If you look closely, it’s got a halo over the M,” he said quietly. “She died of breast cancer.
“Today — and every day I go out and do this — I do it for her. She’s the reason I’m still playing football. Several times in college (Alabama) I wanted to quit and come home and get a job, but she wasn’t gonna let that happen.
“She was quite a woman. Drove a school bus for more than 50 years. She was one of those people who everybody knew. She helped raise me and gave me the lessons I needed.
“She taught me to cook. She always said, ‘If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.’ Most of all she stressed hard work. She said, ‘Nobody’s gonna give you nothing. You gotta make people take notice.’ ”
And that’s just what Gilberry did Sunday as he and the rest of the Bengals defense turned in their best defensive effort in years and made Brady’s day a nightmare.
The great New England quarterback was under siege from the second play of the game and ended up being sacked four times — twice by Gilberry — was hit as he threw another half dozen times, fumbled once and was intercepted another time as the Bengals stunned the previously unbeaten Patriots 13-6 at Paul Brown Stadium.
That ended a streak of 52 straight games — two shy of the NFL record set by Drew Brees — in which Brady had thrown at least one touchdown pass. He ended the game completing just 18-of-38 passes for 197 yards and a dismal 52.2 quarterback rating. The Pats’ ground game was even more anemic with just 82 yards. For the day, New England succeeded on just 1-of-12 first down attempts.
With pass rusher extraordinaire Michael Johnson sidelined by a concussion he suffered last week against Cleveland, Gilberry was elevated to a starter for the first time since 2011 when he was playing for Kansas City.
“I guess you could call me a backup, a journeyman, whatever you want,” said the six-year veteran who has bounced around four teams.
The New York Giants signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and then cut him at the end of that first preseason. He was picked up by Kansas City, put on the practice squad and finally added to the roster late in the 2008 season.
He lasted three more years with the Chiefs — had some success — and then was cut again. Tampa Bay picked him up last year, cut him, picked him up again and then cut him again before Cincinnati finally brought him onboard in the third game and then signed him to a two-year, $6.75 million contract in the offseason.
Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes wouldn’t put the journeyman tag on him after Sunday’s game: “He is what he is and that’s a good player. He did come up the hard way, but he’s a very, very effective pass rusher. Just a good solid defensive lineman who will play a long time in this league.
“He’s a craftsman. That what he is — a real craftsman.”
Sunday, he showed it as he hurried Brady into three throws, sacked him twice and nearly got him a third time at game’s end.
Actually this wasn’t the first time he had upended the future Hall of Famer. In 2011, he also sacked Brady.
“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “I came all the way around the edge and sacked him and forced him to fumble.”
So Brady must have known who he was before the game.
“Oh no, I’m not saying he knew me,” Gilberry laughed. “But I knew him.”
By day’s end that had changed.
On that final quarterback assault — with just 30 seconds left and New England driving toward the game-tying score — Gilberry was whistled for a personal foul when he lunged and his hand inadvertently caught Brady near the neck.
“Even though the penalty was called on me, he just looked at me and winked,” Gilberry said. “It was as if he was saying, ‘Yeah, I know that was (a suspect call.)’ But when you get a quarterback winking, you know he’s looking where you’re at at all times instead of where his receivers are.”
And sure enough, on the very next play Bengals cornerback Adam Jones intercepted Brady with an acrobatic tip of the ball that he then caught as he lay flat on his back at the 3-yard line.
“When you play a great quarterback you’ve got to play great and our defense did today,” Gilberry said. “Our backs were against the wall — we were down a man up front (and Leon Hall was missing from the secondary) — but we came out fighting. When you have 11 guys swinging — just throwing haymakers for four straight quarters — you’re gonna make something happen.”
On the second play of the game, Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins sacked Brady. On the Pats’ next possession, Gilberry got him.
Hayes said that set the tone and Gilberry agreed.
“When you can do that early it does something to a guy’s esteem,” he said. “Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, myself, Domata Peko, Margus Hunt — we got pressure on him constantly up front. We wanted to keep him rattled the whole game. I think we made a statement today.”
Actually they made a couple. Another was by wearing pink to help acknowledge October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Players accessorized in a various ways. Gilberry wore a pink towel and, like a few teammates, agreed to don pink shoes.
“I would never wear pink shoes before because I’m superstitious,” he said. “But this cause is sentimental to me.”
It reminded him of his great grandmother and those Mama’s Boy lessons she instilled — especially the one about “You gotta make people take notice.”
With a wince — and a wink — Tom Brady took notice.