Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth were critical of the potential for some of the team's "fair-weather" fans to give up their support after the blowout loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday night.
The Bengals began the season 3-0 and were the last unbeaten team in the NFL by the time of their game Sunday night. But the team then lost to New England 43-17 in a game that was uncompetitive almost from the start, leading to criticism by fans on social media.
"Let them jump off [the bandwagon]," Iloka said, according to ESPN.com. "I'm not worried about the people who jump off. We don't want them as fans anyway."
Cincinnati's loss added to its struggles in prime-time games, especially Sunday night games. The Bengals are 2-5 in prime-time games since 2011 and haven't won a Sunday night game since 2004, having gone 3-13 in franchise history in such games.
The team is also known for its playoff struggles in recent seasons. Last year the Bengals made the postseason for the third straight season for the first time in franchise history, but Cincinnati hasn't won a playoff game since the 1990 season, going winless in its five trips since, including a 27-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers last January.
Whitworth made reference to the fact that Paul Brown Stadium hasn't sold out in the team's two home games this season even with Cincinnati's hot start.
"I'm not worried about the fans or the media or any of that crap," Whitworth said. "We need to go play well and win. The same people thought Tom Brady should quit football and retire from the NFL a week ago, so I bet they don't think that now. There's a lot of people [who] are reaping what they sowed in their comments last week about the New England Patriots, and now the team that was what everyone considered the hottest team [the Bengals], they beat the snot out of. So what does everybody have to say now?"
Cincinnati hosts the Carolina Panthers this Sunday.
- Ben Estes