Joe Burrow: The return to Louisiana was kind to No. 9. Burrow was surgical in the short passing game and looked to be the most comfortable in the pocket that we’ve seen him all season. Some of the LSU magic showed up when Burrow came under pressure, including a 19 yard touchdown run on a 3rd down where it appeared the Saints pass rush had him dead to rights. In the fourth quarter with the Bengals down by five, Burrow evaded the rush again, finding Tyler Boyd to extend the drive, setting up an Evan McPherson field goal. Protection was still an issue, but Burrow looked as good as we’ve seen him all season going off script when the pocket broke down. Finishing with 28 completions for 300 yards and three touchdowns through the air and the rushing touchdown, it seems like we saw the Burrow of old for the first time this season.
Ja’Marr Chase: Growing up just minutes from the Superdome, what a homecoming it was for Ja’Marr Chase. After a quiet first half, Chase came alive late to take over the game. A couple of big conversions down the stretch and a 60 yard touchdown reception to give the Bengals the lead with 1:57 remaining showed how Chase can change a game at any given moment. Finishing the game with seven receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns, Chase sent the family members who attended the game home happy.
Tyler Boyd: Boyd was his usual self Sunday. Not too much flash, but he was there when called upon and stepped up big. As the Bengal offense was struggling to find rhythm early, Boyd came up with a big, 21-yard reception to inject life into the offense. After publicly saying he wanted to get him more touches, Zac Taylor got Boyd involved early. Boyd finished with 6 for 66 yards. It won’t “wow” you on the stat sheet, but Boyd had another quietly large impact on the game.
B.J. Hill: A great performance from Hill. With D.J. Reader out and Josh Tupou going down with an injury, Hill stepped up. With six total tackles, a handful of pressures and a big time sack of Andy Dalton to force a 4th and long to keep the Saints alive, Hill was possibly the most impactful Bengal defender today.
Trey Hendrickson: The Bengals’ best defender was unable to get a sack today, but he still made several huge plays, most notably the hit on Andy Dalton late in the fourth quarter that forced a punt, which the Bengals offense later converted into the game-winning touchdown. He finished with three tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass deflection, and two QB hits. Ironically, the Bengals shut down Marcus Davenport, who allegedly was the real reason Hendrickson was ever relevant during his Saints career.
Bengals Run Defense: This isn’t the fault of any individual player, but the Bengals run defense had the worst outing we’ve seen from them in years. In the first half alone, the Bengals defense allowed 164 rushing yards. That tied the high for rushing yards allowed by the Bengals defense in a single half since Zac Taylor took over the team in 2019. To begin the second half, New Orleans continued to gash the Bengals, leading to a nearly 8-minute drive that resulted in a field goal. Not only does the defense miss D.J. Reader, but we saw tackling issues we haven’t seen from this unit over the last two seasons. Finishing the game allowing 228 rushing yards is concerning and not a trend that can continue.
Eli Apple: Much was made about multiple players making their return to New Orleans, but Apple’s return was the one Saints fans wanted to watch the most. After social media posts speaking negatively about the city and the food, Saints fans booed any time Apple’s name was called in the stadium. In fact, the PA announcer found ways to call his name more than other defenders. For Apple, it wasn’t the performance he was hoping for against his former team. Coverage lapses, specifically on third down and tackling issues were the story for Apple today, not making much of an impact. Apple did have a couple of nice tackles, but the overall performance wasn’t his best day.
Trent Taylor: The normally sure-handed Taylor got off to a rough start. After New Orleans’ first drive of the game, the Bengals defense forced a punt. After catching it cleanly, Taylor began to lose the ball before being touched, putting it on the turf for the Saints to recover. While he had a solid rest of the game, Taylor was unable to make a big play in the return game to atone for the mistake.