The Bengals were massive underdogs going into M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday, but they made a huge statement. Cincinnati beat the Ravens to go to 2-0 in the AFC North and 5-2 overall this week.
There were a number of positive takeaways in this one, as it goes with the Bengals. We broke everything down afterward to talk about it—here are some of what we covered.
No, we’re not talking about the “nice game, fellas” kind words after a contest. We’re talking about the three units of a football team working together to get a win.
Whether it be that trio operating in unison, or supporting each other, the Bengals are putting things together to get atop the AFC North. In some instances like in the wins against Detroit and Minnesota, all three phases played well throughout much of the game to get the win.
However, on a day like Sunday in Baltimore, it was more about the respective units supporting each other during differing dry spells. Cincinnati’s defense carried the first and fourth quarters, while the offense exploded around its usual bracket surrounding halftime. Darrin Simmons’ special teams crew was timely with their contributions as well, highlighted by Evan McPherson’s 11 points in the contest.
“Complementary football” can be coined as a phrase when all three phases of a team combine for a decisive win. It also can be used when those phases prop up each other during respective dry spells.
The Bengals’ performance in Baltimore this past Sunday was an exhibition in both definitions.
The rebuilding vision coming together
It’s been rough for Bengals fans since the 2015 Wild Card loss to the Steelers. Marvin Lewis achieved a lot in Cincinnati, but that loss was the demise of his coaching tenure and, really, the Andy Dalton era (yes, he had good statistical seasons afterward).
Furthering that pain was the 6-24-1 record in Zac Taylor’s first two seasons as head coach. Some growing pains and rebuilding struggles were expected, but a rash of injuries to important players, including the franchise quarterback.
But, Taylor continued to preach patience, while somehow maintaining a calm confidence. Three free agency periods and draft classes in the books and his thumbprint on the roster can’t be denied—nor can the 5-2 record.
Just 14 players (including the practice squad) from the Lewis era remain on this roster, all important to the locker room culture Taylor has been trying to build. They are also players that were heading towards and/or currently are in the prime of their respective careers, showing a savvy strategy by this coaching staff.
It’s taken more time than most preferred, but a win like the one witnessed on Sunday points to the foresight by this staff. It also shows that overvaluing certain players can be dangerous to a healthy locker room and on-field results.
One year ago.— Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) October 25, 2021
Zac wasn't just losing.
Some thought he was losing the locker room.
I was reminded today of a conversation I had with Zac.
What he believed then is playing out now.#Bengals @fox19 pic.twitter.com/E1Mel46LmF
Questions largely answered
Q: Was Ja’Marr Chase the right pick for the Bengals at No. 5 overall?
And my a$$ wanted Sewell smh pic.twitter.com/OQ7c3Kzn6e— Russ Blackthorn (@BlackthornRuss) October 25, 2021
Q: What about the Bengals being “for real” and the quality of opponents they had beaten up until Week 7? None of their previous four wins came against teams with a record over .500, with the Jaguars and Lions combining for just one win this year.
Against the Steelers and Ravens on their respective home turfs, the Bengals have outscored both of those teams by a combined 38 points (14 vs Pittsburgh, 24 vs Baltimore) this year.— Anthony Cosenza (@CJAnthonyCUI) October 24, 2021
Impressive and an incredible turnaround from the first two years under Zac Taylor.
When you look at things, the Bengals are just six points (three per game) away from being 7-0. Ironically, they were their own worst enemies in those contests, with turnovers and missed field goals being the headliners of reasons in which they didn’t seal the deal.
Cincinnati is good, but their errors are making them their own worst enemy. And, suddenly, teams on the remaining schedule like the Chiefs, Chargers and rematches against both Baltimore and Pittsburgh seem far more attainable than a few months ago.
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