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3 things we learned from the Bengals’ win over the Titans

So the Bengals do know how to win close games.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Cincinnati Bengals Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals finally scored more points in a football game than their opponents. It feels good.

It seems like it’s been forever since the Bengals’ last win. But in reality, it’s been just over a month. In between wins, the Bengals played a game where the defense finally stepped up but the offense was destroyed, followed by two games the Bengals definitely should have won.

The #FireZacTaylor crowd should be quieted...for now.

What we saw from the Bengals was an improved defense, a functional offensive line, and contributions from just about every player on the field. Those are the things that we have criticized the Bengals over not fixing. Things are fine for right now.

But Zac Taylor is not off scotch free. He has to show that he can keep playing like this week in and week out.

As the Bengals head into the bye week, what did we learn from the second win of the season?

The offensive line is in for a makeover

Out of training camp, the starting offensive line featured Jonah Williams, Michael Jordan, Trey Hopkins, Xavier Su’a-Filo, and Bobby Hart. Su’a-Filo was injured in the first game, but other than that, this line played seven straight games together.

The Week 8 starting line included Hakeem Adeniji, Shaq Calhoun, Billy Price, Alex Redmond, and Fred Johnson. Quinton Spain came in for Calhoun after one series.

So how did things go with a brand new offensive line? Really well, actually. Considering it was Adeniji’s first career start, Price’s and Johnson’s first starts at their respective positions this year, and Spain’s third day with the franchise, things went as well as possible.

This brings up an interesting dilemma for Zac Taylor and Jim Turner.

The Bengals have a bye next week, so they will get some fresh faces back after the two week break. Su’a-Filo should be off of IR, Jordan should be better, and the rest should be able to return as normal. B.J. Finney will be out of COVID-19 protocol, so there will be another name to throw in the mix.

On paper, the Bengals’ already had their best offensive line assembled, but they have not played like it. Sunday’s game featured the line of misfit toys produced better results.

Will the Bengals give the starting jobs back to the Week 1 starters? Did anyone who played this week earn a spot? Will one of the newcomers be penciled in?

We’ll find out in two weeks.

A.J. Green quietly had a great game

Even though A.J. Green only had two catches for 19 yards, he made a huge contribution.

Mike Vrabel and the Titans defense had to respect Green after the last few games he has had. So they put Malcolm Butler on Green all game long. Butler is not only the Titans best cornerback, but their highest-performing defender.

Butler pretty much erased Green, but Green also erased Butler. Green diffused the Titans’ best defensive weapon.

Between Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and Auden Tate, the other receivers had 19 receptions for 210 yards and a touchdown.

The Bengals closed out a game

For the first time in weeks, the Bengals didn’t blow a winnable game.

They got off to a 24-7 lead in the fourth quarter, and dug the Titans into a hole so deep they couldn’t escape.

Now you’re thinking, so what? The Bengals blew a 21-0 lead against the Colts. And you are correct.

The main difference is that against the Colts, the Bengals scored 21 of their 27 in the first 18 minutes of the game. They only scored three points in the entire second half.

Against the Titans, however, the Bengals never stopped scoring. The Bengals scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. While their third possession of the quarter didn’t end in a score, it ended in a 5:40 drive that sealed the game.

The offense did what they needed to do, and it helped the defense.

The Bengals’ plan going into the game, according to Taylor’s press conference, was to keep the Titans’ to 3.9 yards per rush. That clearly didn’t work the way they wanted to on paper. But the Bengals kept Derrick Henry contained early, and that allowed the offense to claim the initial lead.

Once the Bengals got out to a double-digit lead, Henry finally started to get into his rhythm. But the Titans couldn’t keep handing the ball off, since they were down by double-digits the entire second half. So the Titans had to abandon their best weapon so they could pass the ball.