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Postgame reactions in Bengals’ win over Lions: Battle of the 2021 First-round picks

The Bengals started sluggish, but ended up taking it to the Lions in a confidence-building game.

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It was a nice win for Zac Taylor and Co. Cincinnati needed to take care of business and beat an inferior opponent with style and they did just that on Sunday. We took the airwaves to talk about the win and dissect the various aspects of it.

Here are some of the facets we discussed.

Running ain’t pretty sometimes, but it’s great when it works

The Cincinnati Bengals have preached offensive balance this year and, despite the lack of big chunk plays, when Cincinnati can utilize Joe Mixon effectively, they are usually in the win column. A combination of timely blocking and Mixon doing a lot of high-effort work led to the Bengals’ demolition of the Lions on Sunday.

We’ll rightfully talk about Ja’Marr Chase’s added dimension to the offense, the marginal improvement on the offensive line and Joe Burrow getting more and more comfortable in his second pro season, but having at least the appearance of running the football drastically changes things.

For reference, in Weeks 1-6 this year, Mixon has 111 rushes for 480 yards (4.3 average) and three touchdowns. By contrast, Mixon had had 119 for 428 in the same stretch last year.

While the difference doesn’t seem huge, wholly-speaking, Mixon is averaging 0.7 yards per carry higher this year in the same span. That number is the difference in potentially extending drives, and when he isn’t popping a big run, Mixon is helping in the pass game.

And if it’s not him grabbing a touchdown reception, it’s the likes of athletic rookies like Chris Evans. The sixth-round pick made both an amazing touchdown reception and picked up a huge block in pass protection on Sunday.

So, while there are elements of inconsistency remaining in the run game, it’s yet another note of marginal improvement that leads to an overall larger improvement of the team.

The Bengals’ offense is feast-or-famine and needs to gain consistency...but it’s still really fun

We had said that one of the big keys for the Bengals this week is gaining an early lead. In fact, erasing the 2021 scoreless opening drive stigma would be the antidote for a possible “trap game”.

Cincinnati overcame the opening drive hurdle, but the ensuing four possessions were disastrous. They went interception, punt, punt, punt, before they kicked a field goal before half.

It wasn’t just the overall sequence, but the nuances within those respective possessions. The Bengals went six plays on the interception drive, but had three-and-outs on the other three prior to the drive leading to the pre-halftime field goal.

While they were outstanding in the second half, these dry spells can’t occur against other AFC and NFL powerhouses. They need to gain more consistency, if they are to be in the playoff picture late in the year.

Also, it’s worth noting that Joe Burrow officially accumulated the entirety of a full rookie season in this start. So, it’s very possible that we’re just seeing the start of something special.

Chase versus Sewell

Fair or not, this game was going to be about the performances of two players who were seemingly in the conversation for the Bengals at No. 5 overall. And, even though Chase got the better of this one, Sewell could still be a very good pro tackle.

Regardless, Chase shined, despite a slow start to the game. He had a drop that led to an interception, but rebounded with two big deep ball catches and an outstanding block on the game-changing Mixon touchdown reception.

Meanwhile Sewell was credited with three penalties (two holds and a false start), as well as the relinquishing of a sack. Again, Sewell is probably going to be a good one and it may be due to both the positional learning curve, along with both players taking last year off of football.

Lou Anarumo’s unit is solid and Logan Wilson is a catalyst

This sub-header may be misleading because Trey Hendrickson and the rest of the defensive line is playing well. Chidobe Awuzie and others in the secondary are also playing very well.

But, Wilson is putting together a special season. After making some nice plays as a rookie, he’s propelling himself into Pro Bowl conversations this year.

Wilson had his fourth interception of the year, alongside two more tackles for loss. While Wilson has made his own leaps, there is another factor allowing him to play without reins.

The Bengals’ stout defensive line rotation is freeing up the linebackers to do their respective things. Wilson is reaping the benefits of both personal development and vastly improved play in front of him.

Bengals ruling the possessions sandwiched around halftime

Through the first six games this year, the Cincinnati Bengals have scored 31 points in the final two minutes of the first half of games this year. That’s precisely why they’ve won and/or been in every game so far this season.

Three of those points came this week, as Chase provided a big play after the defense held strong with about a minute and a half before halftime. Cincinnati scoring before the break and then again when receiving the ball after the midway break has been a huge key to their success.

In the two drives they had right before and after halftime, the Bengals scored 10 points in those two possessions. In wins against Minnesota, Pittsburgh and today in Detroit, Cincinnati had points in these critical situations.

All of this on the postgame show, plus:

  • The Bengals are still figuring out the punt return duties.
  • Cincinnati has tied its overall win total from last year through just six games this year.
  • It was nice to see the Bengals handle the business at hand this week and not overlook it for the big Week 7 clash in Baltimore.

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