In many ways, the Sunday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium lived up to the billing of Aaron Rodgers versus Joe Burrow. Both defenses had trouble gaining any consistency, but the fireworks on offense were on display for all.
It wasn’t the end result wanted for the Cincinnati Bengals, but an entertaining game nonetheless, albeit one that ended in painful heartbreak. Here are the best and the worst from Cincinnati in their Week 5 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Ja’Marr Chase: Early in the game, Chase had a bad drop that would have moved the chains after making a nice one on the first drive, but boy those end of half plays to turn the momentum just keep coming. The Bengals desperately needed points before the half, and on one drop back, Burrow bought nearly eight seconds and heaved a ball to Chase for a 70-yard touchdown.
He also added a beautiful bobbling grab late in the third quarter and an amazing toe-touch catch in overtime, to boot. His four catches of over 40 yards through five games is the best in the NFL since Marvin Harrison’s 2003 campaign.
Samaje Perine: We were initially going to peg Perine as a loser after getting bowled over to allow a quarterback sack, but he started stepping up later in the game. The Bengals put together a nice drive late in the first quarter, with Perine being a focal point and getting a key touchdown reception.
As he carried the football in the second half, it seemed like five yards per carry was routine. That ended up being the case, with a 5.4 yards-per-carry average. He made nice decisions and stepped up with the team limiting Joe Mixon.
Chidobe Awuzie: It was great to see Awuzie back this week. In the first half alone, he grabbed a great interception on a deep back shoulder throw by Aaron Rodgers and returned it to the Packers’ side of the field. In the second quarter, he also had a very nice tackle-for-loss to force a surging Packers offense to a field goal.
He unfortunately left shortly before halftime with an injury and his absence was definitely felt. Awuzie returned and made a few more nice plays, but had a miscommunication on a big gainer to Davante Adams.
Trey Hendrickson: The team’s big free agent acquisition came up pretty big on Sunday. He had two sacks on Sunday and a couple of other pressures.
Drew Sample: Sample has been a total afterthought in the passing game this year and has been relied upon more as a blocker. He got a shot early in the game on a layup of a reception, but it ended up as blooper reel material.
Sample made the catch and gained six yards, but tripped over the ”turf monster” and failed to net an easy first down. He was targeted two more times in the game to net just three yards and dropped another catchable one that would have bailed Burrow out of a bad situation.
The linebackers: Not only was it a very quiet day, in terms of big plays from a group that has provided them regularly this year, but miscommunication between them and the secondary was prevalent. A.J. Dillon, the Packers’ running back not seen as a receiving threat, routinely torched the defense through the air.
In the third quarter, Logan Wilson had coverage on Robert Tonyan, but he was a step late to allow a critical third-down conversion, as just one of the examples of the struggles Sunday. We knew it would be a tough day for the defense against Rodgers, but tackling wasn’t as sound as usual, nor was the usually-stout run defense.
Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins: This is probably a little bit of a reach, but here goes. No. 85 had a huge two-point conversion, but also had two critical drops on great throws by Burrow. Higgins’ impact was minimal through five quarters of play, though he gets a bit of a pass coming back from injury.
Boyd was also a minimal factor, even with a couple of first-down conversion grabs. He and Burrow had a miscommunication on their first possession of overtime to lead to the game-clinching interception, while he and Higgins combined for nine catches for 56 yards on 12 targets.
Evan McPherson: The kid has been clutch this year, but missed two tough kicks to ice the game. The one from 57 yards was excusable, but the 49-yarder in overtime was a tough one to swallow. McPherson was drafted to replace Randy Bullock who missed those big kicks routinely, so it was difficult to watch the rookie struggle.
Zac Taylor: This game was one the Bengals should have grabbed after Mason Crosby missed three straight field goals in both the fourth quarter and overtime. Unfortunately, with so many missed opportunities to get a signature win, questions on the coaching and offensive play-calling come to the forefront.
And, the other narrative of closing out one possession games is another that appears in games like these. There was a graphic from FOX that showed the disparity of success/failure in those types of contests in recent years with the Packers and Bengals, respectively, and Cincinnati’s lack of success in them is staggering.
The Bengals need to learn how to beat elite teams and upper-echelon quarterbacks with some form of regularity. If you can’t beat Rodgers at home when Green Bay’s kicker missed three late-game attempts, how can you expect to beat Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and others on the schedule?
Lou Anarumo: The Bengals’ defense had been very stout and the test against Rodgers was going to ding the stats, but there were a lot of problems Sunday. Though it was in almost five full quarters, Cincinnati allowed a 100-yard rusher, a 200-yard receiver and a 300-yard passer.
Additionally, the Bengals allowed over six yards per rush, while Green Bay averaged nearly two more yards per play, making Cincinnati look discombobulated in the back levels of the defense. They got a turnover and a couple of sacks, but they still had many issues for the second straight week.