Talk about déjà vu. The Cincinnati Bengals beat up on the Ravens in Baltimore by a score of 41-17 earlier in the season. Surely the Ravens would be out for revenge, right? There’s no way the Bengals would be able to do it again.
Well, they did. This time they defeated the Ravens by a score of 41-21, scoring in every offensive possession except for a missed field goal and when Joe Burrow took a knee at the end of the game to run out the clock.
Neigh sayers will be quick to point out that the Ravens were devastated by injuries, which they were, but winning in the NFL isn’t easy and the Bengals got it done. They are now a win against the Chiefs—the hottest team in football—away from winning the AFC North. Here are a bunch of things that went right and really nothing that didn’t and a look ahead at the team’s Week 17 matchup.
Tee It Up
In the beginning of the season it appeared as if rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was going to run away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. He’s still in the running with 1,163 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, but Tee Higgins has been on a tear lately. He has had four 100-yard receiving games out of the last five games, and on Sunday caught 12 passes on 13 targets for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
It’s clear that defenses adjusted to Chase. They are double-teaming him often. Now they’re seeing what we thought we might see with Higgins heading into the season. Teams can’t double both of them, and if they do, what do they do about Tyler Boyd? This offense is deadly.
There are no more pop culture references to make about Trey Hendrickson. He has 14 sacks on the season and has had 11 straight games with at least half a sack. The man has been amazing. Hendrickson has headlined an incredible cast of defensive free agent signings heading into the 2021 season and is looking to break the single-season sack record for the Bengals.
To say Burrow was dominant on Sunday is the understatement of the year. He finished the game completing 37 of 46 passes for 525 yards and four touchdowns. He had two receivers go over 100 yards and Boyd was 15 yards short of making it three. Burrow was ruthless on Sunday, and it was nice seeing the Bengals treat a division rival like they’ve been treated so often over the last several years.
Be Aggressive, B-E Aggressive
The biggest takeaway from this game, though, was the fact that Burrow was still in the game and still throwing passes with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter when the Bengals were up by three scores. That’s not something you typically see in the NFL.
On the team’s final drive, and with two minutes left in the game, Burrow through a 52-yard pass to Joe Mixon. They took a knee and ran out the clock after that pass. It was nice to see them so aggressive, however, I didn’t like seeing Burrow take two sacks when they were up by three scores in the fourth quarter. At that point, you’d think you’d want your backup quarterback in the game, but if the offensive scoring carries into the team’s Week 17 game against the Chiefs, then so be it.
A look ahead
After a slow start to the 2021 season, the Chiefs have won eight games in a row and come into the game as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They’re looking to keep their first round bye, but the Bengals have a chance to win the AFC North with a win at home on Sunday. Here are some things to look for.
- Patrick Mahomes is possibly the most physically gifted passer in NFL history, and he has had another great year so far in 2021 with 4,310 passing yards and 33 touchdowns. He has rushed for another 302 yards and two additional touchdowns. Stopping Mahomes isn’t easy, but the Bengals’ defense is one of the few in the NFL with the personnel to pull it off.
- Mahomes’ top two targets, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, are both over 1,000 yards this season, and Kelce is either the best or second-best tight end in the NFL, depending on who you ask. The Bengals have struggled to contain tight ends, and Kelce could give them problems.
- The Chiefs’ defense started the season terribly, but they’re playing fairly well now, only giving up an average of just under 13 points per game over their eight-game winning streak. In that streak they have faced some explosive offenses, including the Cowboys, Chargers, Raiders and Packers (without Aaron Rodgers), and haven’t given up many points. However, if the Bengals offense plays like they did against the Ravens on Sunday, they can beat anybody.
To wrap things up, some random thoughts about Week 16
- The Bengals are the only team in NFL history to have a quarterback over 4,000 yards passing, a running back with over 1,000 yards rushing and two 1,000-yard receivers who are all 25 years old or younger. The future is bright.
- The Bengals swept the Steelers and Ravens by a combined score of 147-58.
- Burrow looks completely healthy and his escapability under pressure is incredible. His ability to sense pressure and move around in the pocket is one of the reasons he was the first overall pick last year.
- Chase did the majority of his damage against the Ravens secondary on short catches with long runs. He’s showing that if defenses take away the deep passes by double-teaming him, he is perfectly capable of playing the role of a possession receiver.
- Higgins’ 52-yard catch in double coverage was absolutely incredible.
- One of the few gripes to have was the Bengals defense allowed too many conversions for the Ravens on third and long plays. They can’t do that against the Chiefs.
- Chase broke Chad Johnson’s franchise rookie receiving yards record on Sunday.
- I was concerned that the Bengals were going to miss D.J. Reader, but one way to take the running game away from your opponent is to go up by three scores.
- Burrow threw 14 consecutive passes at one point in the fourth quarter when the Bengals were up by 20 points. That was almost beyond aggressive. Bengals fans, did you feel like they were running up the score or being careless with Burrow’s health? What did you think?
- Heading into Week 17 with a chance to win the division is not what I was expecting for the Bengals heading into this season. It’s safe to say the rebuild is far ahead of schedule. This team is going to be scary good in the next couple of years.