Not only did the Bengals get the previous week off, but they played the most dysfunctional team in football. This game was an easy win.
But after two crushing losses, it was nice to see the Bengals take care of business. The Bengals should have demolished the Jets, but lost a last-minute heartbreaker. The Bengals should have competed against the Browns, but their defense couldn’t make a stop.
The Bengals beat the Raiders in a game that was closer than the score might show, but it was a win nonetheless.
The Bengals let Joe cook, but it was Joe Mixon doing the cooking rather than Joe Burrow. With a career low in single game passing yards, Burrow still led the Bengals to a win.
Next week, the Bengals get the Steelers, and the winner gets to second place in the AFC North. If the Ravens losing streak extends to next week, then the Bengals could regain first place with a win.
We got Good Zac this week
It may have felt like the other shoe had dropped, and the Bengals’ winning season might have been a fluke. Two straight heart-breaking losses, and Zac Taylor’s coaching was questioned.
For now, it seems like Taylor is back to being the coach he was for the first few weeks of the season. He led the Bengals to a win out of a bye week, which shouldn’t be that much of an accomplishment, but it is in Cincinnati. For the first time in five years, the Bengals’ extra week paid off.
He had a very clear plan on offense, which was to wear the defense out. He kept giving the ball to Mixon despite the number of negative plays that created. In spite of Mixon’s negative runs, he had 123 rushing yards and averaged over four per carry.
It helped to have Evan McPherson nail 50-plus-yard field goals to steadily climb ahead of the Raiders on the scoreboard. That eventually forced the Raiders to play it risky, and cost them several turnovers.
But there was a plan, the Bengals stuck with it, and it worked. Good Zac.
We’ll see if we can get Good Zac next week against the Steelers. He showed for the first game, so let’s hope he shows up for the second.
There’s enough talent to spread the ball around
A few weeks ago, I said that Burrow was too comfortable with Ja’Marr Chase, and that it was getting them into trouble. This week, the pendulum swung the other way.
Nine Bengals receivers had receptions against the Raiders, and no one was targeted more than eight times. Tyler Boyd led with eight targets and six receptions, along with a team-leading 42 yards.
Burrow only passed for 148 yards, so there wasn’t a lot of yardage to go around. Still, he wasn’t locked on Chase in this game.
This season, the Bengals have only won a single game in which Chase led the team in targets (Week 1 against the Vikings). They have only lost one game in which he didn’t lead (Week 2 against the Bears). The Bengals have their best record when Chase is either tied for the lead in targets or is second on the team.
That means Burrow should look for other receivers, which he did on Sunday. He found Boyd, he found Samaje Perine, he found Tee Higgins, and he found C.J. Uzomah. It was nearly an even spread all around.
Opposing defenses can key in on Chase and shut him down. But if they do that, they leave someone else open.
Evan McPherson is really, really good
In 62 games with the Bengals, Randy Bullock attempted 14 field goals of 50 or more yards. With only 10 games under his belt, McPherson is already halfway there.
What’s more, Bullock only made seven of those attempts. “Money Mac” has made six of his seven.
Having McPherson add to the Bengal’s lead three points at a time was a huge factor in the game. If the Bengals had Bullock, or Austin Seibert, or any number of other kickers in the NFL, they probably wouldn’t have even attempted several of those field goals.
Having a kicker like McPherson that’s so close to automatic is such a luxury for Taylor. While this win isn’t directly attributed to him, he is definitely the player from this draft class that is not named Chase to have most positively impacted the Bengals this year.