The first half wasn’t pretty, but the Cincinnati Bengals managed to win their only primetime game of the season, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-21.
With Trevor Lawrence playing arguably his best game of the season against a Jessie Bates-less defense, the Bengals offense was forced to come alive after lackadaisical play in the first half.
The Bengals have won five of their last seven games. Prior to those seven, they’d won five of their last 37. Joe Burrow has created a new era in the Queen City, and he’s doing it with his football IQ.
Burrow audibled out of head coach Zac Taylor’s play call on the most meaningful play of the game. It was a drive set up by a Jags punt (3 straight touchdowns were scored prior to this drive) with the game tied at 21.
The Bengals had 1st & 10 on their own 10 with 5:33 to go in the fourth. Burrow snagged a couple of quick first downs. With the drive going to plan, Quinton Spain changed the dynamic with an offensive holding call.
1st & 20. Burrow went to Boyd for 7 yards. On 2nd & 13, the second-year QB noticed a blitz on the way, checked out of the play and threw a screen to Uzomah for 25 yards. It effectively won the game as Evan McPherson stepped up and kicked in a 35-yard field goal, giving the Bengals their third win of the season.
Here’s what Taylor said after the fact.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the jailbreak screen that set up the game-winning FG was a check from Burrow at the line of scrimmage Taylor: "I gave him one (play call). He got us to two."— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) October 1, 2021
Burrow also commented on his game-winning play call. Listening to this gives a fan all they need to know about the preparation that Burrow undergoes before each game. It’s impressive and one reason he’s widely considered a top franchise quarterback.
#Bengals QB Joe Burrow says he audibled for a screen to CJ Uzomah to set up the game-winner: “You guys have heard me talking about knowing the playbook in the back of my head... I know their defensive coordinator (Joe Cullen) has a Baltimore background." pic.twitter.com/dF1RxoRYxc— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) October 1, 2021
“You guys have heard me talking about having the playbook in the back of my head and seeing looks that I can take advantage of,” Burrow said. “That just comes with experience. They gave me a ‘zero’ look, and so all week I knew the defensive coordinator had a Baltimore background. They showed some ‘zero’ on film — I knew I’d have to be ready for it in a big spot. I had C.J. (TE C.J. Uzomah) out there — that’s not exactly the personnel we usually throw those jailbreak screens to — but he really took advantage of the opportunity. I had those plays in the back of my head expecting ‘zero,’ and I just got to it and didn’t really think about it.”
Burrow added that the Bengals practiced that play in training camp, but never in a manner that saw Uzomah being the one to catch the ball on the jailbreak screen.
“No, not to C.J. I don’t know if we’ve thrown one to C.J.,” he said.
Here’s what Uzomah himself said of the play.
“I’ll be honest, I had to (do a) double take on that one,” said Uzomah. Tyler Boyd was looking at me, too, like ‘What did he just call?’ It was Cover Zero, and we knew going in that this (defensive coordinator) was coming in from the (Baltimore) Ravens and that’s what they like to do — run Cover Zero in critical situations — and Joey Franchise is just back there dealing dots out there knowing and understanding what the defense is doing. He called that play up and just made something happen. Boyd had a huge block on that one, Trenton (Irwin) came out and had a big block. (Burrow) gave me a wink after I caught it, and I was like ‘This guy here, he’s reckless (laughs)!
“For him (Burrow), he is the smartest person out there at all times. I was fortunate enough to get brought into the quarterbacks’ Jeopardy game ... The questions, I was like ‘What the hell is this — I don’t know anything!’ and (Burrow) is just like ‘Can I steal this one? Can I steal this one?’ and I was like ‘If you want to — I don’t know the answer!’ He’s just Joey Franchise.”
Burrow ➡️ Uzomah all night. #Bengals pic.twitter.com/RH4NFjvBCq— Cincinnati (@CincyProblems) October 1, 2021
Overall, it was a great win, and although it was closer than Bengals’ fans would’ve liked, the team nonetheless came out on top and is now 3-1 with some extra time to rest and prepare for the Green Bay Packers.