In what many claimed to be a must-win game for the Cincinnati Bengals, they did just enough to come out of Mile High Stadium with a victory. Ugly victories count the same as clean victories, there’s just more for us to digest in the aftermath.
We’ll start by listing off our winners and losers from Cincinnati’s 15-10 win over the Denver Broncos.
Evan McPherson: The Bengals’ offense was still on the plane during the first half. Luckily, McPherson woke up and entered the stadium on time to drain two field goals from beyond 50 yards. With just four seconds remaining in the second quarter, the Bengals got Money Mac 58 yards away, and the rookie pulled through. He now has the franchise record for longest field goal and is one 50-yarder away from tying the rookie record for most field goals of at least that distance.
Tyler Boyd: Quality over quantity. Boyd had just three receptions in the first three periods, but two were significant. At the end of the first half, Boyd got McPherson in his crazy range to get the lead. His next catch got the Bengals’ offense out of the dumpster, taking a play action pass 56 yards to the house. He would follow that up with a clutch third down reception that extended the Bengals’ last drive and allowed them to drain more clock.
When Boyd’s number was called, he delivered with five receptions for 96 yards and the aforementioned score.
Trey Hendrickson: The staple of consistency showed up once again. Hendrickson had a great all-around game, being active off the edge, reading plays well, and got pressure when it matters. He got home on first drive of the third quarter to extend his sack streak to 10 games and nearly forced a fumble in the fourth. He also drew two critical holding penalties late in the game.
Markus Bailey: In his first game back from a stinger injury, Bailey played with his hair on fire. A first quarter sack on Teddy Bridgewater kick-started his best game as a Bengal. He flew around the field to record five tackles and a pass breakup.
Khalid Kareem: Injuries have kept him down this year, but Kareem left his mark in this game. He got in the backfield early in the first quarter and went quiet until the fourth when he stripped Drew Lock of the ball close to the end zone. He was carted off the field after a near disastrous fumble on his called-back return, and his injury was not in vain.
Larry Ogunjobi and D.J. Reader: Mostly a quiet outing for Ogunjobi ended with a bang. A sack on Drew Lock with less than a minute to go gave the Bengals’ defense all they needed to close the game out. It fits with the theme of Ogunjobi’s season: all or nothing.
Reader had a more consistent performance, stuffing numerous run plays and limiting the Broncos’ ground attack for most of the game. Remember—Reader was almost a Bronco before the Bengals offered him more in the 2020 offseason. He showed why both teams were so interested in his services.
Trent Taylor: He didn’t do much, but he also didn’t fumble. So we’ll give Taylor a W in his Bengals debut at punt returner.
Trae Waynes: Kudos to the veteran for playing his first full game since Week 4, but getting bodied by Tim Patrick in the end zone is no bueno. Missing a tackle for loss on Javonte Williams in the end zone is almost as bad. Waynes is back, but the defense needs him to make plays now that he’s out on the field.
First half offense: A tradition like no other. Zac Taylor’s offense once again came out of the gate sluggish and unable to counter to their original plan. Their man-beating route concepts weren’t hitting, and the offensive line suffered in part to Joe Burrow holding the ball for too long. If the opposition sported a better offense, the end result may not have been as pleasant.
Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins: Not a banner day for these two. Chase seemed to have been locked up by fellow rookie Patrick Surtain all game, and Higgins barely did anything more than him. Joe Burrow seemed perplexed by Vic Fangio’s defense, and the apparent lack of separation from his two perimeter targets was a problem. Chase and Higgins combined for just three receptions and 26 yards.
Zac Taylor: For the second time this year, we’re putting the head coach under the microscope after a win. Taylor said last week he regretted not giving Burrow a chance to win the game in their loss to the 49ers. He once again took the ball out of the quarterback’s hands on the final third down of the game. The situation is different, but the theme remains the same. It’ll be interesting to see what he says about it.
He did come out as a winner though, and in a place that’s hard for this franchise to win. So credit is due where credit is due.