Many were excited to see the Bengals kick off the 2018 regular season against a rejuvenated Andrew Luck.
Unfortunately for Cincinnati, many of the issues that have plagued the team over the past two seasons continued to hold true in the opener—even after many vaunted changes on the roster.
However, these Bengals are better than what we’ve seen the last two years, and they were able to overcome their mistakes and come away with a double-digit win on the road.
Here are some of the team’s winners and losers in the wake of the Bengals’ 34-23 win.
Preston Brown: Andy Dalton put the team in a really bad way on the first possession with a terrible interception, though he did tackle defensive back Kenny Moore before he took it all the way. Cincinnati’s defense was trapped in the red zone, but answered the call.
Luck’s first pass back after being away from the NFL for over a year was an interception, thanks to a nice play by Brown and pressure applied by Carlos Dunlap. It was a major bailout by the defense and led to a Randy Bullock field goal. Overall, it was an up-and-down day from Brown, but this play was absolutely huge.
Joe Mixon: The second-year back was given the starting running back duties this offseason, and it was a nice debut by Mixon. He caught the ball well and ran through some nice holes, en route to a day.
When he wasn’t taking advantage of some big lanes, he created many more opportunities on his own with some great cutbacks. He also had a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Bengals a temporary lead.
John Ross: In one play, Ross bettered his rookie marks in both receptions and touchdowns. He caught a three-yard fade pass for a touchdown in the second quarter to get the Bengals back in it.
Carlos Dunlap: The big man fresh off of a new extension had a good game on Sunday. He had a pass defended, a sack and tackles.
Unfortunately, he was also penalized on what would have been another sack on a more-than-questionable call by the officials. The new tackling rules affected numerous Bengals players on Sunday.
This was called roughing the passer. Carlos Dunlap was just flagged for this play. Yes, the referee threw a flag. pic.twitter.com/SSNLi7guDZ— Brandon Saho (@BrandonSaho) September 9, 2018
Clayton Fejedelem: After getting pressed into action because of Shawn Williams’ ejection, Fejedelem had the play of the game. It looked as if the Colts were going to mount a massive comeback and write a fairytale story for Luck and his return.
Tight end Jack Doyle had a 15-yard reception on a third down, but Fejedelem stripped the ball and took it 83 yards for the game-clinching score. He also had nine tackles.
Shawn Williams: Lord only knows what was going through Williams’ head when he went after Andrew Luck on a third down. Luck scrambled away from pressure on a third-and-7, converted the first down while being dragged to the turf.
As Luck was essentially on the turf, Williams launched at the quarterback’s head, leading with his head and shoulder. It brought on a 15-yard penalty to push Indianapolis into a chip shot field goal, but Williams was ejected for the game in a definitive statement by the NFL.
Brutal hit on Andrew Luck.— LeadingNFL (@LeadingNFL) September 9, 2018
Shawn Williams was ejected for this helmet-to-helmet hit. pic.twitter.com/G8hXLf5Cr4
The young pass-rushers: After being vaunted for their rotation up front, the trio of Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis didn’t do very much. Willis had a couple of pressures, but the unit had to rely on Dunlap and Geno Atkins for the production up front.