You were freaking out during the Bengals’ season opener.
I saw the tweets saying this Bengals team was “bad,” “trash,” and worse. I tried to calm some of you down.
YOU DO NOT FREAK OUT ONE-HALF INTO THE FIRST GAME OF THE SEASON, I said.
Well, at least for now, the freak outs can stop because the Bengals are 1-0 after beating the Colts in Week 1, by a score of 34-23.
There were ups and downs. It was not a clean football game. Andy Dalton threw an interception on his first throw of the year and A.J. Green fumbled. TWICE. Shawn Williams was ejected. The Bengals had eight penalties, for 94 yards, including some bad ones.
Bobby Hart did not play well and had a penalty. Carlos Dunlap was called for two roughing the passer penalties, though at least one was questionable. Clint Boling had a false start. Brandon Wilson had a fair catch interference penalty. William Jackson got called for unnecessary roughness, on a Colts touchdown play. Alex Redmond had a holding call.
It was sloppy.
But it was Week 1. What did you expect? A perfect game?
I’ll tell you what was perfect though. Clayton Fejedelem in the closing minute of the game.
Look at that awareness, the quick thinking, the speed. And on Dunlap’s second roughing the passer penalty, it was also Fejedelem who snatched up Dunlap’s strip sack on Andrew Luck and returned it to the Colts’ four-yard line. It’s too bad it didn’t count. Fej was on a mission to win the Bengals the game on Sunday and he accomplished his task.
You know who also accomplished what they set out to do on Sunday? Joe Mixon. He was on fire all game long. Mixon finished with 149 all-purpose yards and 1 touchdown. He averaged more than 5.5 yards per carry and more than 10 yards per catch.
There was one strange drive at the beginning of the second quarter where Giovani Bernard was in at running back and Joe Mixon didn’t make an appearance on the drive, but other than that, Sunday was the Joe Mixon show. And the Bengals should ride him all season long. I appreciate that Marvin Lewis didn’t slow down his usage of Mixon when the Bengals were behind. The team saw Mixon had the hot hand and they kept feeding him the ball. The Bengals are trusting Mixon and it worked in Week 1.
Bernard only had two touches all game, one rush (for negative yardage) and one catch for 11 yards. Meanwhile, Mixon had 17 rushing attempts and was targeted seven times in the passing game. We expected to see more of Bernard on Sunday, but the Bengals were able to win without using much of him. It was interesting to see Tra Carson in on offense for a few plays, including being used as a fullback. Sam Hubbard was brought in on Mixon’s touchdown as a fullback, too.
Mixon broke the record for most yards by a Bengals running back in a season opener, taking over the honor from Essex Johnson who did it in 1973, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Is this a different Bengals team? One that doesn’t back down when trailing? One that makes second-half adjustments? One that doesn’t get mad, but gets even? It’s Week 1 and so much will happen during the course of this season, but the Bengals’ first game of the year gave us a lot to think about and a lot to like.
Even if the beginning was tough to watch, and even if Green needs to work on his ball security and even if the offensive line remains a work in progress, the Bengals are 1-0 and football is fun because of it.