Days like Sunday are why the NFL is America’s most popular form of entertainment. When wild and unprecedented events occur, we get to bask in the drama and cope with the aftermath. It’s the players and coaches that have to make sense of what transpired.
No one should envy the Cincinnati Bengals in their recovery from that loss, but no one should be digging their graves just yet either.
Let’s look at how the rookies performed in yet another crazy game vs. the Green Bay Packers.
Randy Moss is a decent name to be linked to after five career games.
You’ve likely seen the stats already. Ja’Marr Chase joined Moss this week as the only other 21-year old receiver to reach 400 yards and five touchdowns through five weeks as a rookie. Enjoy this artwork from the great Seth Reese in case you haven’t.
Ja'Marr Chase through first 5 games:— PFF (@PFF) October 12, 2021
453 Rec. Yards
Randy Moss through first 5 games:
463 Rec. Yards
Ja’Marr Chase is already in good company pic.twitter.com/KxYXyoAV95
Chase has been ready for this attention since the Bengals made him the fifth pick in the NFL Draft. But even the biggest of homers couldn’t have assured themselves of this kind of start.
Against the Packers, Chase reeled in six of his seven catchable targets for 159 yards and a touchdown. Just another day at the office. Granted, Chase and his teammates were running routes against a Jaire Alexander-less Packers’ secondary, but go back to the 2019 SEC Championship game. Chase was “held” to three receptions, 41 yards, and a score against the Georgia Bulldogs. He was going up against cornerback Eric Stokes in that game. Nearly two years later, Chase had about half of his production against the rookie cornerback.
With 50 seconds remaining in the first half, Stokes started to carry a slot fade route from Chase before passing him off to safety Darnell Savage. But just like they did in college, Chase and Joe Burrow created magic on a broken play. For the third time in five weeks, the two connected for a long touchdown during their pre-halftime two-minute drill.
Like clockwork, Chase was ready to give the Bengals a boost before heading into the locker room. In an offense that’s riddled with inconsistencies, this has been a welcomed constant.
combined time remaining for all 3 of chase’s pre-halftime touchdowns:— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) October 10, 2021
2 minutes 15 seconds https://t.co/60ifGaADtA
Three of Chase’s six receptions came on vertical routes, and head coach Zac Taylor wanted a few more as well. Burrow couldn’t get the ball to Chase on a couple of missed deep shots, but the duo hooked up for a couple of late-game fade routes, both coming on third down.
This week feels like the right time to revive this talking point, which got a lot of backlash during the Spring. Many denied that an elite receiver can be just as valuable as an elite offensive tackle. What more does Chase have to do to convince that crowd if he hasn’t already? Not only do we have his play to support data that’s already been analyzed, the anecdotal evidence is strong from the opposition as well.
Davante Adams went off in this game. That’s expected, because he’s Davante Adams. He had a tough matchup with Chidobe Awuzie and still obliterated the Bengals’ secondary for 206 yards on 11 receptions. Green Bay gained an average of 0.48 Expected Points Added every time they targeted him. For reference, the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense is averaging just under 0.20 EPA per play, and they lead the NFL in that category.
How was he able to do what he did despite the Packers playing their third-string left tackle? The very best receivers can add immense value to their offenses without relying on the variable of pass-protection from individuals.
The value that Chase has added to this offense is so palpable, you have to wonder what their record would be without him. He’s one of only seven starting receivers who’s averaging three yards per route run. Whether or not you want to label him elite just yet, he’s playing and instituting his will at that level.
For a more in-depth look at Chase’s performance, be sure to check out Matt Minich’s Film Room piece this week!
Cam Sample took advantage of a suspect Packers’ offensive line Sunday and had arguably his best game with the Bengals. On just 12 pass-rushing snaps, Sample generated four pressures and a hit on Aaron Rodgers.
What’s promising is that Sample spent half of his time either inside or on the nose of the right tackle. His ability as an interior rusher is where he’s most valuable right now, and they need to utilize that going forward. Ideally, when Khalid Kareem returns from Injured Reserve, he can take Sample’s snaps at edge and Sample can go to work from the interior full-time on passing downs.
Finally, is it D’Ante Smith time? Jackson Carman landed on the COVID-19 list Monday, which puts his status for next Sunday in doubt. Smith will start for Carman at right guard if Carman does not get cleared to play in time.
This really felt like the game Chris Evans was going to be more involved. Joe Mixon was limited to just 19 snaps, and instead of an equal distribution of workload between Samaje Perine and Evans, it was Perine who got the vast majority of opportunities.
Evans finished with just seven snaps (a season-high, believe it or not), and two receptions on two targets that went for 15 yards. Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan have been very consistent with Evans’ usage thus far. If it didn’t change this week, it’s hard to see it changing any time soon.
They say it’s a game on inches. You just hate it when that pertains to kickers.
What’s there to analyze with Evan McPherson? A doink off of the right post from 57 yards and hitting the flag connected to the left post from 49 yards is a tough deal. Wind was definitely a factor, as I’m sure Mason Crosby would agree, and that likely prevented Taylor from sending McPherson out earlier in the game when they were on the doorstep of field goal range. Kevin Huber punted from the Packers’ 41-yard line and 40-yard line, respectively, before the fourth quarter.
Per Elias Sports Bureau, Sunday’s game was the first in modern NFL history to feature five missed potential game-winning field goals. McPherson went literal blow for blow with Crosby; the veteran just had more chances to not miss.
Confidence in McPherson shouldn’t waver at this point, but only those who’ve experienced the pitfalls of kicking can speak for working out of those funks. Considering the Detroit Lions’ luck when it come can’t buy a missed field goal from their opponents this year, so it looks like McPherson has a strong bounce-back opportunity next week. At least he’ll wait to celebrate before the referees put their arms above their heads.
His COVID status aside, Jackson Carman didn’t play very well, specifically in pass protection. Pro Football Focus charged him with six pressures allowed, four of which came on true pass sets. It’s a blemish on his young resume, and he may not be able to make up for it next week against the weak interior defensive line the Lions are rostering. If Smith plays well in his place, you have to wonder what that means for the second-round pick.
Did Not Play
- Trey Hill (field goal unit only)
- Tyler Shelvin (inactive)
- D’Ante Smith (inactive)
- Darius Hodge (inactive)