Beating the Steelers isn’t a surprise anymore, it’s the norm.
Joe Burrow put it best: the Cincinnati Bengals have higher aspirations than beating their Ohio River rivals, but shifting the dynamic of this matchup so emphatically is worth mentioning in regards to the makeup of this team. It’s creating a new standard for the core of this team, which includes the rookies who will usher in future rookies for years to come.
None of the rookies had a bad game against Pittsburgh on Sunday, and most of them had their moments to shine in such a lopsidedly joyous affair. Here’s how they all performed.
Though most of his production came during garbage time, there’s something to be said about Chris Evans seeing the field earlier than Samaje Perine. The Bengals targeted Evans as a wideout twice in the first quarter alone, with one resulting in a defensive pass interference and the other as a five-yard completion that moved the chains. That’s an EPA per play of 0.62 for those keeping track at home.
For the third time this year, Cincinnati turned to their subs to finish the fourth quarter. This gave Evans a chance to run out some clock in the form of five carries for 23 yards—including a 13-yard run that left T.J. Watt in the dust—all with a backup left guard, center, and right tackle in the game blocking for him.
Evans’ stock isn’t aggressively surging upwards, but you could make the argument that he’s closer to being the No. 2 than he has been all year. The shift in offensive attack has made Perine an afterthought if Mixon can just turn 25-30 carries a game into 100+ yards and multiple scores. Evans provides the juice when Mixon needs a breather. It’s a worthwhile dynamic taking shape, but we could use another week or two to see if it’s really where things are headed.
Wind was speculated to be a factor on a chilly Sunday afternoon. Evan McPherson’s kicks wouldn’t have you thinking so.
McPherson bailed the offense out when Burrow took a bad sack at the goal-line and drilled a 31-yarder through the uprights. 21 points later, “Money Mac” (we can do better) was called on for a 51-yarder, which hit the middle of the net with plenty of yardage to spare. It was McPherson’s seventh made field goal of 50 yards or more. He’s attempted eight of them this season.
Not only does McPherson remain on pace to break Blair Walsh’s rookie record of 10 field goals made of 50+ yards, he’s got the Bengals leading the NFL in field goals made from that distance. Former Bengals analyst and current nerd Joe Goodberry posed the question of where the Bengals stand in field goals made compared to field goals allowed from over 50 yards.
They’re first with a net difference of six. The only one they’ve allowed was back in Week 1.
Teams with more 50+ yard field goals made than allowed
|Team||50+ made||50+ allowed||Net|
|Team||50+ made||50+ allowed||Net|
The 22-year old is now five for his last five kicks from beyond 50 yards and is now 17 of 20 on the year. His field goal percentage (85%) ranks 13th out of 18 kickers with at least 20 attempts.
If nothing else, Ja’Marr Chase has been pretty consistent from a box score perspective in recent weeks. The Steelers were the latest team to key in on his deep speed and had Pro Bowl safety Minkah Fitzpatrick stay on top of him from deep. This prolonged the Bengals’ need to involve Chase underneath more and attack in other ways. Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon say thanks.
Chase’s three receptions for 39 yards came on just three targets, with only one of them beyond the line of scrimmage. He took a couple screens passes for first downs and was a yard short on his lone downfield target from moving the chains. He was also penalized for a questionable pass interference call the play before the Bengals’ only turnover of the game.
Going back to that Burrow sack in the first quarter, Chase would’ve had a wide open touchdown had Burrow stepped up in the pocket, which he definitely saw during film review this week. Per usual, the box score didn’t encapsulate Chase’s overall day.
Zac Taylor praised the blocking abilities of his receivers on Monday, and Chase can be proud of his work there. He was fantastic sealing off cornerbacks when Mixon got outside.
Once the damage had been done, Trey Hill entered the game at center followed by Jackson Carman at left guard. Hill took Trey Hopkins’ place near the end of the third quarter and helped pave the way for Mixon’s longest run of the day and his second touchdown. Hopkins suffered a minor knee injury according to Taylor, which is why Hill came in while the starters were still out there. Unfortunately, his holding woes continued as he was flagged on the next drive and got away with one earlier against Cam Heyward.
Carman came in for Quinton Spain when Brandon Allen and Evans initiated garbage time protocol. Pro Football Focus graded him very well in run blocking—specifically zone blocking—and the tape reflects that. He played 11 clean snaps to end the game.
As expected, Cam Sample returned to his normal usage (27 snaps) but once again hardly produced out on the field. He’s credited with a hurry and a stop.
Did Not Play
- Tyler Shelvin (inactive)