Not only did the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Ravens, they also destroyed their AFC North rivals in Baltimore.
The Bengals had only scored 36 points in all of Zac Taylor’s games against Baltimore combined up to this point. In the last two games, the Bengals could only muster two combined field goals.
This time, the Bengals had a game plan and the right guys to execute it. Taylor knew exactly how to protect Burrow, move the ball, and keep Lamar Jackson contained.
The Bengals are now in first place in the AFC North and currently atop the entire conference.
Even the most optimistic Bengals fans probably never imagined this.
There are still 10 games left to play, so the Bengals can’t sit back and coast. They have several more division games to go, and the Ravens will be seeking revenge.
But for now, enjoy being in first place. It hasn’t happened in a while, and we had to endure some horrendous football to get to this point.
Here’s what we learned from the Bengals’ blowout against the Ravens:
C.J. Uzomah is having a career year
C.J. Uzomah observed National Tight Ends Day by catching three passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns. The 55-yard touchdown was the longest reception of his career.
Those weren’t just good throws from Joe Burrow. Uzomah had to work for that extra yardage. On both of his touchdowns, he made a man miss on his way to the end zone, which is not something we see Uzomah do a lot.
Perhaps no one has seen a bigger improvement under Zac Taylor than Uzomah. So far in 2021, he’s had the only 90+ yard games and the only two-touchdown games of his career.
In 2020, Uzomah had (though in a small sample size), had the longest yards per reception average of his career, at 10.9. In 2021, that number is 15.1. This offense has exploded, and Uzomah is a huge part of that explosion.
Give Ja’Marr Chase the Rookie of the Year award right now
To quote Burrow, “I thought he was dropping everything.”
Chase got off to a slow start in the game against the Ravens, but his finish was anything but.
201 yards ties Chase Johnnie McDaniel for 10th-most all-time in a single game in franchise history. He’s now the 9th player to receive 200 yards in a game.
Chase also set the record for receiving yards through the first seven games of his career. He’s only 55 yards away from leading the league is receiving yards, too, despite having 21 fewer receptions than the league leader.
Chase is special, and he has a connection with Burrow that can’t be stopped.
Zac Taylor had a winning plan for the Ravens
For all of the criticism leveled at Taylor for his coaching, he did an excellent job game-planning for this game.
He has made it very clear that he wanted to build a team to beat the Ravens, and he came up with a plan that somehow got the Bengals 41 points.
The Ravens are known for their blitzes on defense, and they gave Burrow fits in his only game against them last year. In Week 5 last year, Burrow took seven sacks, threw no touchdowns and one interception, and the Bengals only rushed for 2.5 yards a carry.
In the 2021 edition, Burrow only took one sack. He did throw a pick, but he had three touchdowns to balance it out. Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine led a Bengals rushing attack that gained 4.6 yards per attempt.
It was clear that the Bengals were ready for Wink Martindale’s blitzes, and put Mixon and Uzomah next to Burrow in the backfield often. It worked, as the blitz couldn’t slow Burrow down.
Taylor gets credit for drawing up a great game plan that not only protected Burrow, but put up an obscene number of points.
Lou Anarumo gets credit as well
Bengals fans also have loved to criticize Lou Anarumo over the last few seasons.
I won’t say that it was unwarranted, but I will say that his defense finally looks the way he has wanted. Once again, it became clear that the Bengals were built to beat the Ravens.
Lamar Jackson completed less than half of his passes and took five sacks. No one has been able to sack him that many times in a game before. While he did rush for 88 yards, his longest run was that 16-yarder in the red zone where he took advantage of rookie Cam Sample having to make the read.
This means that the Bengals were able to keep him from making explosive plays. Gone are the days when Jackson can spin away from Nick Vigil and Shawn Williams for long touchdowns. The Bengals kept Jackson in the pocket, and they covered up most of his receivers.
The only real damage he did was when he could find a wide-open Mark Andrews. Other than that, Anarumo’s new and improved defense came to play against the most dynamic athlete in the NFL.