Frustration and doubt has returned in full force for Cincinnati Bengals fans after a 20-17 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Now 1-1 on the season, it’s the Bengals’ offense that’s in question. They produced less than 200 yards of offense before a couple of late scores made the game interesting in what should’ve been garbage time. Even with the additional 14 points on the scoreboard, Cincinnati can’t feel good about the product they showed Sunday in Chicago.
What they can feel good about is how their rookie class is playing. Seven first-year players were active on Sunday and a few of them made their presence known throughout the game.
What looked to be a forgettable second-career game for Ja’Marr Chase turned into a salvageable outing. On just two receptions, Chase churned out 54 yards and another long touchdown and became the eighth receiver since 1972 to record at least 150 yards and two touchdowns on 10 receptions or less in his first two games, per stathead.com.
The 42-yard score completely boosted Chase’s statline, as he was struggling earlier in the day. His first target came on a contested slant route that went in and out of his chest. Coverage on the play made it tougher than it looked, but it’s a concentration play a starter needs to make. He later blatantly missed a block on safety Eddie Jackson that resulted in a Joe Mixon run gaining negative yardage.
But about that touchdown... pretty stuff from the rookie.
Rookie Ja’Marr Chase BACK TO BACK weeks with a touchdown (via @NFLBrasil) pic.twitter.com/k1F0FlwUAb— Overtime (@overtime) September 19, 2021
Just a few plays earlier, Joe Burrow missed Chase badly on a go route down the left sideline. Burrow’s only two deep completions this year have gone to Chase when the rookie is out wide to the right.
Chase’s second-career score would’ve been enough to get him in the headlines, but it was what he said after the game that turned the conversation in an interesting direction. When asked about the offense’s inability to move the ball, Chase was displeased with the fact that it took so long for the offense to try stretching the Bears’ defense deep; indirectly critiquing the play-calling from head coach Zac Taylor.
Taylor may not have liked to hear that from his first-round pick, but the fans sure did.
Up until Chase’s big play, it looked as if Evan McPherson would score Cincinnati’s lone points of the day. The rookie kicker nailed another 53-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, making him two-for-two on 50-yard kicks to start his career. He was two-for-two on extra points as well.
Cam Sample is the only rookie playing snaps on the defense right now and he’s looking like he belongs in his rotational role. He was credited with two run stops on 22 snaps, but one was just him falling on quarterback Justin Fields when the rookie miraculously recovered his own fumble.
If you blinked, you may’ve missed Chris Evans’ first offensive play of the season. Evans took a dump off pass from Burrow for 14 yards on a third-and-18. The play got the Bengals back in field goal range for McPherson to hit his aforementioned 53-yarder. Evans got one other receiving snap but didn’t see the ball out of the backfield on the play.
It’s tough to project Evans’ future involvement in the offense this early, but Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine’s collective issues in pass protection could provide an opportunity for advancement. Evans looked the part of a solid pass protector during the preseason, but bumping out Mixon and Perine for a rookie may not be in the cards just yet. It is something to monitor going forward, though.
Jackson Carman once again saw the field for special teams only, as did Darius Hodge. Carman, however, may be expected to play at right guard this upcoming week as Xavier Su’a-Filo nurses a leg injury he incurred on Sunday. Will we see the second-round pick make his debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers? Be sure to check back this week for the latest injury reports to find out!
Did not play
- Trey Hill
- Tyler Shelvin (inactive)
- D’Ante Smith (inactive)