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Tuesday Trenches: It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar / USA TODAY NETWORK

There’s not a lot to say. The Cincinnati Bengals lost an ugly game on the road to a bad team. Mike White and the Jets handed the Bengals their third loss of the season, 34-31.

The Bengals defense made White and one of the worst offenses in the NFL look unstoppable, and the Bengals offense didn’t capitalize on opportunities. In the end, it clearly looked like the Jets came to play and the Bengals didn’t.

Having said that, the Bengals are still 5-3 and are still very much in the playoff picture even though it’s early. The sky isn’t falling. I still believe the Bengals are a good team and I still believe they’ll win more than they will lose this year. “Any given Sunday” is a saying about the NFL for a reason. Should the Bengals have won this game? Yes. Is the season over? Absolutely not.

So here are some things that went right, some that didn’t and a look ahead at their Week 9 game at home against the Browns.

John Carter and the Giant of Mars

Jets rookie running back Michael Carter absolutely tore the Bengals apart on Sunday, on the ground and through the air. Carter carried the ball 15 times for 77 yards, an average of 5.1 yards per carry, and a touchdown, and he caught nine passes for an additional 95 yards. Every time he was in the backfield, it was clear that he was going to get the ball and the Bengals couldn’t stop him. It was incredibly frustrating to watch the Jets offense, who had a quarterback getting his first overall start, a rookie running back, and their leading wide receiver hurt, put it all together against the Bengals defense, who was the only defense in the league who hadn’t given up more than 25 points in the NFL. Obviously, that’s not the case anymore.

The White Stripes

Mike White looked like an all pro on Sunday. He finished the game going 37 of 45 for 405 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He finished with a passer rating of 107.9. It’s obvious the Bengals defense didn’t come into the game taking White seriously. I don’t think anybody outside of the Jets locker room took him seriously. They will now. I doubt he goes to the Pro Bowl this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jets fans wanting to see White starting even after Zach Wilson is healthy again.

Won the battle, but lost the war

More often than not, when a team wins the turnover battle, they win the game. This wasn’t the case for the Bengals on Sunday. The Bengals defense was able to intercept two passes and Vonn Bell ripped a ball out of Jamison Crowders hands as well. Those three turnovers were two more than the one late interception that Burrow through. Still, the Bengals couldn’t capitalize on the gifts their defense gave them.

Case in point: safety Jessie Bates intercepted White in the first quarter and ran the ball back all the way to the 1-yard line. The Bengals offense came back on the field and on two consecutive plays, running back Joe Mixon was stopped in the backfield. The next play, Burrow through a pass to Ja’Marr Chase, but the ball bounced off of Chase’s shoulder pads in the end zone for an incompletion. The Bengals decided to go for it on fourth down, but Burrow was sacked for a 12-yard loss. The Bengals turned the ball over on downs and got nothing out of Bates’ interception.

The flag

No pop culture references for this. I understand that being a referee on an NFL field is incredibly hard. You’re watching grown men run into each other at break-neck speed, and you’re expected to get it right every time. I can’t imagine how terrible I’d be as a ref. However, the helmet-to-helmet call on cornerback Mike Hilton was terrible. Running back Ty Johnson caught a pass out of the backfield and lowered his head to make contact. Hilton got as low as he possibly could without laying down on his stomach and the two helmets collided and a flag was thrown. In the end, the Bengals were penalized and the Jets got a first down instead of having to punt.

The Bengals would have had the stop they needed, but the penalty allowed the Jets to stay on the field and burn the rest of the time off the clock. The penalty was terrible and that penalty should absolutely be a reviewable play.

Having said that, blaming the loss on that one bad call is ridiculous. If the Bengals are one bad call away from losing against a bad team, they didn’t deserve to win.

Looking ahead

The Bengals return home this week after three consecutive games on the road to face the 4-4 Cleveland Browns. Here are some things the Bengals could expect on Sunday.

  • The Browns have sacked opposing quarterbacks 22 times so far this season, which is one more than the Bengals and the third most in the NFL. What is more impressive, though, is 10.5 of those sacks belong to one guy, defensive end Myles Garrett. The Browns will absolutely do what they can to pressure Burrow early and often and the Bengals had better be ready for it.
  • The running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt has been the best in the league, but Hunt his hurt and Chubb just came back from injury in Week 8 and was mostly bottled up by the Steelers defense. It’s not a secret, though, that the Browns offense like to impose their will by running the ball to set up the pass. If the Bengals defense treats Chubb like they did Carter, the Browns running back could have a career day.
  • Baker Mayfield has been inconsistent so far this season. He has been good when his running backs have played well, but he has struggled when the Browns couldn’t get the running game going. While the Bengals defense needs to focus on stopping the run, they need to be prepared for Mayfield, who can be capable and has a talented roster of weapons to throw the ball to.
  • The AFC North is the only division in the NFL in which every team is at least .500 or better. Considering there are three AFC wildcard teams now, every team in the division is alive and well as we near the halfway point of the season. Both teams are coming off a loss and this game is important for both the Bengals and the Browns. Winning this game at home would do a lot to get the bad taste from the Jets game out of their mouth.

To wrap things up, some random Week 8 thoughts

  • I don’t hate the call to go for it on fourth and goal in the first quarter, but I don’t like the play calling on those four plays. If you’re going to be aggressive, be smart about it.
  • Trey Hopkins struggled terribly, both as a run and pass blocker. He had the worst grade, according to Pro Football Focus, of any Bengals offensive player in Week 8. The trade deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m. Could the Bengals be buyers? I hope so.
  • Rookie right guard Jackson Carman injured his back in the second half on Sunday. He was replaced by fellow rookie Trey Hill. Neither had a great game on Sunday, but whoever starts against the Browns will need to be playing at the best of their ability.
  • The last time the New York Jets had a 400-yard passer was 327 games ago. It was Vinny Testaverde, and it was 20 years ago.
  • The Jets opening drive was the first time they have scored in the first quarter so far this season.
  • Again, the Bengals got off to a slow start offensively and had to go into catch-up mode against an inferior team. That is not a recipe for winning football. They did it against the Jaguars, the Lions and now against the Jets. This way of playing football was going to burn them eventually.
  • Burrow threw three touchdowns on Sunday. He is the only quarterback in the NFL with two more more touchdown passes in every game so far this year.
  • The Bengals offense has the fifth most passing yards in the NFL and Burrow has the third most touchdown passes. The identity of the offense is clear. The offense runs best through Burrow and his receivers, not running the ball with Mixon. I would like to see the Bengals air it out right away and not wait until they have to from now on.
  • The Bengals lost to the 1-6 saints in 1981 and went to the Super Bowl. In 1988, they lost to the 2-4 Patriots and again went to the Super Bowl. I’m not saying they’ll go to the Super Bowl this year, but I am saying this was just one game. I believe they’ll shake it off and move forward. On to Cleveland.

Who Dey!