Cincinnati Bengals rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase burst onto the scene early in the season, taking the top off of defenses and leaving the preseason drop issues in the dust. The Bengals offense looked to show signs of being the juggernaut some had expected, led by Chase’s dominance.
While Chase has remained productive, defenses in the NFL have started to game plan for him, leading to a cool down for the phenom from LSU.
In games against the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns, Chase wasn’t able to get the big plays deep downfield, leading to speculation that the adjustments from defensive coordinators around the league would stop the offense in its tracks.
After a much-needed bye week, the Bengals offense has been humming. Zac Taylor and company have the team playing balanced football that is giving everyone a piece of the action.
In the Bengals’ Week 11 win over the Las Vegas Raiders, we saw nine different receivers catch a pass. We saw running back Joe Mixon carry the load in that game as well. The bell cow back carried the ball 30 times, racking up 130 yards on the ground and adding two touchdowns.
In the team’s latest victory, we saw more of the same. Joe Burrow started the game with four straight completions, each one to a different receiver. Mixon, who only had one career touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers coming in to Week 12, once again carried the load. Cincinnati made it a point to dominate the line of scrimmage on the first possession of the game, leaning on Mixon and some timely throws from Burrow to lead them down the field. Burrow finally put the first points on the board with an impressive scramble and extension across the goal line.
The Bengals... well, pulled another Pittsburgh on Pittsburgh and played a smash mouth game from start to finish. Mixon finished the day with 28 carries, a career-high 165 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Burrow didn’t have a career day, but the second-year signal caller used the dominant run game to complement the air attack for an efficient outing that saw some great throws come at timely moments. Burrow finished the day with 20 completions on 24 attempts with a touchdown and one interception.
Chase had a relatively quiet day. With three catches for 39 yards and no touchdown, it was tied for the lowest yardage of his professional career.
The slow day for Chase lead to a coming out party for Tee Higgins. The Clemson product had his best game of the season, hauling in six receptions for 114 yards and one beautiful touchdown grab.
One would expect Chase to get back on track with the deep ball sooner or later, but it is a great site to see the Bengals offense being able to adjust and find new ways to put points on the board.
As the postseason push heats up in a crowded AFC playoff picture, teams that find a way to score tend to find themselves right in the thick of it when January comes around.
With a tough schedule to close out the season, a defense that is showing signs of the early season unit and an offense that can use a full complement of weapons, the Bengals are, once again, a team we all must take serious.