Sunday’s game in New Orleans started very much like their other games did so far this season. The Bengals got down early to a less talented team, and they struggled to move the ball early.
Nothing seemed to be working for the Bengals, especially in the first half, and even the defense, which had kept the Bengals in every one of their games so far this season, couldn’t stop the run, which was something they excelled at up until this week’s game. They couldn’t do anything right, until they did.
Here are some thoughts, as well as a look ahead.
Blast from the past
The Bengals offense scored one touchdown in their first four drives, punting the ball away on their other drives (they also lost a fumble on a punt return as well). Burrow was perfecting the horizontal passing game, unable to find any receivers down field, and the ground game wasn’t much better. It looked like the same offensive woes were going to plague them yet again.
But, just before halftime, Burrow led the Bengals on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a 19-yard rushing touchdown from the man himself, which pulled the Bengals within six points.
After that the offense scored on every drive (two touchdowns and a field goal with a missed two point conversion). They looked very much like they did last season.
Bend, but don’t break
The defense did struggle to stop the run on Sunday, as they allowed 6.7 yards per carry, giving up 228 yards on the ground. This was largely due to the fact that three players, Alvin Kamara, Rashid Shaheed and Taysom Hill, each had a long run of 24 yards, 44 yards, and 31 yards respectively. It’s hard to keep a team from scoring when you give up 99 rushing yards on three plays.
Former Bengals signal called Andy Dalton drove the Saints up and down the field on Sunday, often easily, and they scored two early touchdowns, but they never got back into the end zone after their early second-quarter score. The Bengals forced the Saints to attempt four field goals on their next four drives after they were unable to punch the ball into the end zone.
With the Bengals offense finding its rhythm again, the Saints needed touchdowns to keep up, and the Bengals defense didn’t allow it.
The boys are back in town
I’m not going to pretend that I know fashion. I’m not qualified in any way to judge the outfits that Burrow wears to his games. I will say, though, that his choice to wear Ja’Marr Chase’ LSU jersey to the game that was being played in the same stadium where they won their last college football game was pretty cool.
Another thing that was pretty cool was the connection they showed last year was back in a big way. Burrow found Chase seven times for 132 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.
It’s nice to see them clicking again.
Until they did......
Remember how I said the Bengals defense couldn’t stop the Saints on offense? Well they couldn’t, until they did.
After the Bengals took a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter, the Saints had all three timeouts and just under two minutes to drive down the field and score to win the game. However, a field goal wouldn’t do it, the Saints would need to score a touchdown. The Bengals defense was up to the task, though.
Dalton drove the Saints 29 yards on nine plays, but the Bengals defense stepped up big time. BJ Hill and Sam Hubbard took Dalton down for a sack on third down, leaving the Saints in a fourth-and-17 situation. On the next play, Trey Hendrickson pressured Dalton as he threw deep to Marquez Callaway, but the pass was broken up by Eli Apple and (gasp) Dax Hill. Game over.
A look ahead....
The Bengals host the 3-3 Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is coming off a big win at home against the 49ers, and have also defeated the Seahawks and Browns so far this season. They lost to the Saints, Rams and Buccaneers. Here are some things we could expect to see in Week 7.
- The Falcons are near the bottom of the league in passing yards, but they have the third most rushing yards in the NFL so far this season behind only the Browns and Bears. However, their leading rusher, Cordarrelle Patterson, is injured, so the Falcons will be leaning on Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley, as well as quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has 206 yards on the ground so far this season. The Bengals struggled to stop the run on Sunday, so they’ll need to get that fixed before their next game.
- The Falcons are near the top third of the league against the run, allowing 4.4 yards per carry, but they have allowed the most passing yards of any team so far. Hopefully, the Bengals offense can continue to build off what they did in the second half in New Orleans.
- Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson left the game against the Saints after injuring the same shoulder he had surgery on this offseason. Wilson is one of the best linebackers in the NFL, especially in coverage. Hopefully he’ll be able to play on Sunday as Kyle Pitts is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league. He hasn’t done much so far this season (13 catches for 169 yards and a touchdown), but you get the sense that it’s just a matter of time before he goes off. Hopefully that doesn’t happen against the Bengals.
- Considering the offensive firepower the Bengals possess, the Falcons’ best bet is to keep Burrow and company off the field by maintaining long drives. They haven’t been able to pressure the opposing quarterback much so far this season, only racking up eight sacks so far (second least), and without their top rusher, they’ll likely take their time and try their best to limit Burrow’s snaps. When Burrow and the offense are on the field, they’ll need to make the most of their opportunities.
Some random Week 6 thoughts.....
- Apple had a rough day as he was picked on often by Dalton. He gave up four receptions for 51 yards. He had a couple nice plays, especially his coverage on the final defensive snap of the game, but he struggled most of the afternoon to stop his man from getting open.
- Joseph Ossai was in the backfield quite a bit. He finished the game with one quarterback hit and one hurry.
- The offense was fairly one-sided on Sunday, but a lot of that was because they were playing behind early. Mixon averaged 5.6 yards per carry on his eight rushes. Hopefully they’ll have similar success on the ground and be a little more balanced against the Falcons
- Evan McPherson is 16 of his last 18 field goal attempts from beyond 50 yards. That is an insane weapon to have on your team.
- Trent Taylor is a good punt returner, but his fumble that set up the Saints first touchdown can’t happen again.
- Don’t tell me punting doesn’t matter. The Saints punter, Blake Gillikin, shanked the ball on his final punt of the game, sending it only 24 yards. The Bengals were set up at their own 40-yard line. They scored the go-ahead touchdown on that drive.
- The Ravens losing to the Giants gives the Bengals a share in the division lead as both teams are 3-3. Obviously the Ravens have the head-to-head tiebreaker were the season to end today, but they’re still very much in the hunt to win the AFC North.
- Per Lance McAlister, teams who start the season with a 2-4 record have a 10.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. With a 3-3 record, it jumps to 34.5 percent. This was a huge win.
- The Saints ran 71 plays compared to the Bengals’ 54 plays on Sunday. This shows the difference between field goals and touchdowns, and it’s also something the Bengals defense needs to address. Allowing the opposing offense to extend drives keeps Burrow and the offense on the bench. Hopefully they limit the time the Falcons are able to hold the ball, even if they’re not scoring much.
- The Bengals have been down by double digits in four of their six games. This was the first time this season they came back to win. Starting in a hole can’t continue to happen if they want to play in late January and February.
- The Bengals’ three-game stretch features three teams the Bengals should beat before their Week 10 bye. If they take care of business as they should, they’ll be 6-3 heading into the back half of the season where the schedule gets much harder. How will you feel if they’re 6-3 heading into Week 11?