In the NFL, teams don’t get the luxury of being allowed a slump. They don’t get 162 or 82 games. They get 17. That’s it. If a good team gets off to a bad start or has a mid-season slump, it can destroy an entire season.
The Cincinnati Bengals are a good team, and their Week 11 road win against the Steelers was another huge one. Since they started the season in a slump every game is huge.
The Bengals beat the Steelers 37-30 in Pittsburgh on Sunday evening, and in doing so have put themselves in the playoff picture as a wildcard team.
Here are some things that stood out from the game.
- We all saw the replacement of punter Kevin Huber coming from a mile away. Huber has struggled so far this season, averaging only 37.4 net yards per punt. Coming out of the bye, the Bengals announced they activated new punter Drue Chrisman from the practice squad, and he would get the start on Sunday. He punted three times for a net average of 48.7 yards. If this is the end of Huber in Cincinnati, it will be sad as he’s the longest tenured player on the team, and he grew up in Cincinnati, punting for McNicholas High School and UC, but the team has to do what’s best in order to win, and punting is a huge part of the puzzle.
- The defense had two very different halves. They allowed 212 yards and 20 points in the first half, but in the second half, they only allowed a field goal and one garbage time touchdown. In fact the defense only allowed two first downs in the second half before the last minute garbage time drive.
- The offense was without Ja’Marr Chase for the whole game and without Joe Mixon for most of the game after he exited with a concussion. However, they finished the game with over 400 yards of total offense and completely dominated the Steelers defense, who had both TJ Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick back from their respective injuries.
- Joe Burrow was absolutely unstoppable outside of two freak interceptions, he played an outstanding game, finishing with 355 yards and four touchdowns. He threw passes of over 20 yards to six different receivers and, without Chase, absolutely shredded the Steelers secondary. He is making a case for MVP.
A look ahead....
The Bengals stay on the road and play another important game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. The Titans are 7-3 and coming off a win over the Green Bay Packers on the road. Here are some things the Bengals could see in Week 12.
- Obviously when we talk about the Titans, we have to talk about running back Derrick Henry. Henry leads the NFL in rushing with 1,010 yards so far on the season, and he’s averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He’s fully healthy and will be looking for a measure of revenge against the Bengals, who shut him down in the playoffs last year. It’s a good thing the Bengals have DJ Reader back. Hopefully he’s back to 100 percent.
- The Titans offense, led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, has struggled to move the ball through the air. They have the second least passing yards so far this season and only 11 touchdowns to five interceptions. This is good news for a Bengals secondary that is very much missing Chidobe Awuzie.
- The Titans defense has racked up 30 sacks so far on the season, which puts them in the top third of the league. In their playoff loss to the Bengals last season, they were able to sack Burrow nine times, which tied a single game playoff record. The Bengals have a re-built offensive line, and they are much improved from last season and even from early this season, but they have still given up 34 sacks, which is fourth most in the NFL.
- The Titans have only given up 822 yards on the ground, which is the second least in the NFL, and they’re one of only two teams that are allowing less than four yards per carry. The Bengals could be without Mixon again, but they have struggled at getting the ground game going so far this season outside of a couple of games. Hopefully the offense, especially the line comes ready to play.
To wrap things up, some random thoughts on the Bengals Week 11 win over the Steelers...
- Here’s a cool fact from Dan Orlovsky: When Burrow’s offensive line wins the line of scrimmage, he has a 72 percent completion percentage, 9.4 yards per attempt, 41 percent first down percentage, and a 114.4 passer rating. All of those are No. 1 in the NFL.
- Rookie left guard Cordell Volson had a bad day. Veteran defensive lineman and probable future Hall of Famer Cameron Heyward absolutely abused Volson. Growing pains are a part of the process. Trust the process.
- The Bengals have scored 79 points and gained 872 yards in the last two games. The offense is awake.
- Trenton Irwin had a great game and absolutely deserved a game ball. He also deserves a spot on the 53-man roster.
- It’s feast or famine with Eli Apple. He either plays really well, proving his doubters wrong, or he struggles badly. There is no in between. Apple’s game on Sunday was one of the latter ones. He gave up three receptions on five targets for 66 yards and a touchdown.
- Seeing Trey Hendrickson break up a pass to Najee Harris was cool. He can do it all!
- Speaking of Hendrickson, in the second half he racked up two sacks, two tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, and one pass defensed. When they needed him to take over, he did.
- Kicker Evan McPherson got the yips out of his system in the bye week. Against the Steelers he made all three of his field goal attempts, all three from beyond 40 yards. The longest was 54 yards.
- DJ Reader played 44 snaps but didn’t make any tackles. He will be needed to help stop Henry.
- Per Lance McAlister, the Bengals are 0-8 when Burrow throws two or more interceptions. Now they’re 1-8.
- The Steelers have the second most unnecessary roughness calls so far this season with six. The latest was from rookie wide receiver George Pickens, who decided to dive into wide receiver Tyler Boyd while he was laying on the ground after recovering an on-sides kick. If the Bengals and the Steelers are going to avoid players getting hurt, they’ll have to rein in dirty plays like this.
- The offensive line largely played fairly well, keeping Burrow clean in the pocket for the majority of the game.
- Linebacker Germaine Pratt was everywhere on Sunday. He had a great game.
- With the win, and the Jets loss, the Bengals are in the playoffs as the seventh seed, if the season were to end today. They are the masters of their own destiny. Let’s hope they take advantage of it.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and Who Dey!