See? Zac Taylor was right. We just needed to be patient following the 0-2 start.
The Cincinnati Bengals were absolutely dominant for most of yesterday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons. They had a Super Bowl vibe, the kind of energy you see from team’s that know they are simply better than the opponent. So what did we learn? Let’s get right to it.
This shotgun thing may have saved the season
Now, to be clear, I thought the Bengals would make the playoffs even before last week, when the offense found its identity. But this new move to operating almost entirely out of shotgun has saved in the season in the sense that things will start to come easy for the offense and the team as a whole, making it very likely they’ll be able to go deep into the postseason in 2023 as well.
A few takeaways from the locker room.— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) October 23, 2022
The Bengals offense "got back to its bread and butter," and the pivot to shotgun has changed the season.
"That was our best game. We capitalized on what we're trying to become," Ja'Marr Chase said.
Over the last 2 weeks, the Bengals have ran 110 out of 125 plays from the shotgun.— Andrew Russell (@Andrew_Russell7) October 24, 2022
QB kneels and the final drive vs ATL to burn clock accounts for 9 of the 15 plays.
So the Bengals have only ran 6 real plays from under center in the last 2 games.
This move plays to the Bengals’ strengths.
Bengals EPA/Play:— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) October 24, 2022
Under Center: -.22 (31st)
Shotgun: .153 (4th)
They’ve been operating almost exclusively from shotgun the last three weeks and it’s paid off big time
But most importantly, it solves the biggest issue early in the season: being predictable on offense.
Bengals now make everything look the same presnap and are running out of shotgun.— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) October 23, 2022
Now defenses can't just key on formations and have to worry about the run.
Defenses started to crack a couple weeks ago. https://t.co/nHS4bNzo5T
So whether or not Zac Taylor is a top tier playcaller doesn’t seem to matter anymore, as Burrow can cook defenses with a now-stable offensive line, elite playmakers, and the confidence that results from playing out of a formation that works for him.
Joe Burrow continues to get better
After the worst possible start to the season in a ridiculous loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Burrow has settled down and continued to improve each week. Last week against the New Orleans Saints, he looked like his 2021 self. But against the Falcons we saw the QB take it up a notch, perhaps higher than we’ve ever seen before.
Yes, his stats (34/42, 481 yards and three touchdowns passing; three carries, 20 yards, and one touchdown rushing) were eye-popping, but they still don’t do Burrow justice. He looked more comfortable than he ever has.
Not only was he smoothly taking shots 50 yards down the field to start the game...
or perfectly splitting defenders...
... but he looked relaxed on the field, which would’ve seemed impossible considering he took 70 sacks last year.
Let’s look at a 22-yard pass to running back Joe Mixon on the drive right after that long touchdown to Tyler Boyd, because this is a microcosm of Burrow’s newfound confidence in the system and in his blocking. Notice how the quarterback calmly avoids the sack and then flings it to his target and turns away, knowing the masterpiece he just created without having to look. Almost everyone I’ve asked about this play was sure he was throwing it away. That’s how casual it was.
Maybe my favorite play of Burrow's dominant performance vs. Falcons. He calmly moves away from the pass rush then seems to be throwing the ball away, only he's actually getting it to Mixon for 22 yards. Just shows how comfortable he's feeling now. pic.twitter.com/MvehYE8T0D— Dadio Makdook (@dadiodefacto) October 24, 2022
Joseph Ossai is special
The second-year pass rusher coming off a knee injury is slowly getting comfortable on the field, and that is a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Ossai had a sack of Marcus Mariota in the fourth quarter, the first QB takedown of his career.
But that was just the culmination of his efforts on a day in which he simply dominated and lived in the backfield on passing downs.
Jay Tufele and Zach Carter can really stuff the run
The challenge that the Falcons posed was their rushing attack, one of the very best in the league. Heading into yesterday’s game, Atlanta was getting 4.9 yards per carry. Against the Bengals, they managed just 3.7 yards on the ground.
Most impressively, the Bengals kept Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley in check without their star nosetackle in the game. Tufele, a waiver wire pickup right before the season, was added for depth. But he’s starting to look like a key addition to the team. Against Atlanta, he had six tackles including one for a loss and looked like the kind of presence in the middle that can make the loss of D.J. Reader sting a little less.
Carter, meanwhile, was known for his premiere pass rushing skills at Florida before the Bengals drafted him in the third round this year. But with Reader out, he, too, is filling up space quite effectively.
Check out our analysis of the Falcons game and a preview of the Monday night game against the Cleveland Browns:
You can also listen on iTunes or using the player below: