I mean... wow.
A rough first half and a wild second half set the stage for what looked like the first of many Joe Burrow clutch close-out victories. The final drive was building up to a promising crescendo, and just like that, the Bengals were at the three-yard line.
And they lost. Just like that. 0-1 is 0-1 just like 1-0 would be 1-0. But there’s always more than what the record book says.
For the first time in 2020, let’s examine the winners and losers from a Bengals game.
William Jackson III: This is a big year for Jackson, and he started it off with one of the best games he’s played in his young career. During the Chargers’ first offensive series, Jackson was targeted three times. He allowed zero catches allowed. He stopped Mike Williams a few yards short on third down that led to a missed field goal on the first drive of the second half, and later broke up another Williams target late in the fourth quarter.
Josh Bynes: As the headlining addition to the linebackers room, Bynes operated as a successful qb spy on Tyrod Taylor. The long-time veteran was often subbed out of the game on passing downs, which allowed rookie linebackers Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither to get some reps, but he showed some juice in run defense. This is the area the defense is relying on him to succeed in, so he’s off to a good start.
Jessie Bates III: After a questionable personal foul on Mike Williams, Bates responded with a clutch pass breakup against the former first-round draft pick. He later broke up a pass intended for Hunter Henry in the end zone that forced the Chargers to settle for a field goal inside their own five-yard line.
Joe Mixon: The fumble, his first since his rookie season three years ago, undoubtedly stinks. It was the most impactful play of the game from an EPA standpoint (-5.0) and it dropped the Bengals’ win probability by 20%. Even without the fumble, Mixon was ineffective creating big plays and was a non-factor in the passing game. We know the offensive line is a mess, but hey, he’s different, right? Games like these don’t justify that contract.
Bobby Hart: Geez man. I know we shouldn’t expect anything different, and maybe that doesn’t necessarily qualify Hart for this category, but an abysmal performance against Joey Bosa, including a false start and allowed sack in one drive, should have the Bengals wondering if Fred Johnson should be given another chance at right tackle.
Darius Phillips: In his first start in place of Trae Waynes, Phillips took his lumps. Williams beat him twice vertically,, and he was called for defensive holding on a third-and-long. Ultimately, the defense played well enough to give the offense a chance at winning, but Phillips had a tough day against one of the better young receivers in the game. This was just his third-career start. He’ll improve.
Zac Taylor: There can’t be a lack of aggression in the Bengals’ play-calling this year. Not going for it on fourth-and-two at midfield is bad enough, but runs on second-and-long and minimal shots beyond 15 yards down the field is no bueno. Hell, why not another shot at the end zone with seven seconds left against a tired Chargers’ defense?
Zac Taylor is 2-15 in his head coaching career. And he did not coach well enough to get his third career win.