There was really one important lesson we learned in this week’s win against the Raiders: The Bengals are at their best when they play teams they’re better than.
The Bengals were hitting on all cylinders and in all three phases of the game. The offense scored 30 points for the first time since they started their five-game losing streak, the defense kept the opponents to under 20 points for the first time since Week 5, and Alex Erickson’s 168 yards in kick returns kept giving the Bengals great field position.
Good things happen when you play arguably the worst team in the NFL.
We shouldn’t be surprised the Bengals won. We should still enjoy the moment, but there’s no way the Raiders could have won. Of course, Geno Atkins would get three sacks; he was playing against backup offensive lineman.
Yes, the Bengals offensive line kept the pocket clean for Jeff Driskel, but the Raiders have one of the worst pass rushing units in pro football. Naturally, the defense was going to keep the Raiders away from the end zone because Derek Carr has no great receivers to throw to and a star running back on injured reserve.
A win is a win, but the Bengals didn’t show that much improvement. They just played the worst team they will face all year.
So what did we really learn from this game?
The Bengals need receiver help more than ever
Tyler Boyd had an incredible game, despite playing only two quarters. Boyd caught four of Driskel’s first six completions and 38 of his first 44 yards. With Boyd on the field, Driskel threw for 44 yards on six-for-10 passing with one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 64.2.
After Boyd got injured and had to leave the game, Driskel completed just eight of his final 24 passes for 86 yards, which equates to a rating of 44.8.
There’s no other way of putting it: Driskel was quite bad on Sunday. He missed on so many easy throws and had it not been for Joe Mixon running the ball, the game would have been much closer. But even so, Driskel looked like needed help.
With the Bengals officially eliminated from playoff contention, they have to start looking at what they have and deciding who to target in the draft and free agency. Right now, none of the receivers are making a case for themselves in 2019.
C.J. Uzomah had one catch on five targets. John Ross had one catch on five targets for six yards. Cody Core had one catch on four targets for ten yards.
Obviously, Driskel has to play better. That was the worst game of his young career for sure, but the good new is there is nowhere to go but up. The same goes to this receiving group.
Sam Hubbard is making his hometown proud
With all the injuries the Bengals have suffered, it’s good to see the team’s third-round pick from this year’s NFL Draft step up.
Sam Hubbard recorded the first multi-sack game of his career. He forced a fumble that did lead to an interception, but it helped the Bengals get good field position that eventually lead to a Boyd touchdown. He was even targeted on offense. When that was incomplete and the Bengals faced fourth down, he laid down the key block on Jason Cabinda that paved the way for Mixon’s first touchdown.
Hubbard has been the Bengals’ most impactful pick in this years’ draft outside of Jessie Bates. He has shown his versatility on both sides of the ball and on special teams. With Michael Johnson’s contract expiring at the end of the season, the Bengals might want to think about what they have in Hubbard. He’s been extremely valuable to the team this year and his role should expand even further in the future.
Fourth downs were productive for a change
Last week, the Bengals were zero-for-two on fourth downs, which was a huge point of criticism. If you think you should go for it, you should be prepared.
But the Bengals followed that up with a perfect two-for-two performance, and it possibly made the difference in the game.
Both fourth down conversions led to touchdowns, whether it was later on in the same drive or actually on the goal line. But the Bengals were aggressive, they went for it, and they got 14 points out of their fourth-down opportunities instead of six. That was key in a 14-point win.