The Cincinnati Bengals were on the road Sunday, looking to pick up a big AFC win as they continue their push for the playoffs. A rematch of last year’s divisional game against the Tennessee Titans was no easy task, but the Bengals were clearly up for it, as they came away with a 20-16 victory on the road.
Let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers from today’s contest.
Joe Burrow: Burrow was again without his top target, as Ja’Marr Chase was out, despite reports all week that he would be playing. Burrow was on his game regardless, spreading the ball around and making some timely runs with his legs. The nine sacks from the last meeting with the Titans didn’t seem to be in Burrow’s mind at all as he looked comfortable in the pocket, decisive on his throws and comfortable going off script. Finishing with 22 completions for 270 yards and a touchdown, Burrow took what the defense gave him and consistently made the right throws in big moments.
Samaje Perine: Perine was the lead back Sunday, with Joe Mixon still sidelined with a concussion and once again, the Oklahoma product delivered. Perine ran tough all day, as displayed in his seven-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter. While he didn’t have a three-touchdown reception performance again, he hauled in four catches for 45 yards, with a 32-yard reception in the first half. For the second straight week, Perine had a huge impact on the game, without eye-popping stats. On the ground, Perine finished with a tough 58 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.
Lou Anarumo and the defensive line: This defensive front played so well today, we could’ve named several players winners. A monster game from the whole unit started with a phenomenal performance by D.J. Reader and seemed to spread outward from there. Keeping Derrick Henry in check is no easy task, but the Bengals did just that. Henry had the big screen play in the first half, but was held to just 38 yards rushing and no touchdowns. Reader set the tone and his presence in the middle opened things up for Sam Hubbard and company to feast. Just an awesome game plan from Anarumo and even better execution from the players.
Tee Higgins: Higgins is a number one wide receiver who happens to play on a team with Chase on the roster. With Chase out, Higgins continued to step up Sunday, stretching the field and making great catches in big moments. Higgins is from Tennessee and put on a show, hauling in seven catches for 114 yards and a big time touchdown to give the Bengals the lead in the 4th quarter. As the return of Chase draws near, Higgins will be seeing lighter coverage in the coming weeks and looks poised for a big close to the season.
Hayden Hurst: Hurst remains a great off-season addition and one that is just now being talked about the way it should be. Hurst brings an element to this offense that is sorely needed with Chase sidelined. Hurst finished the game with six catches for 57 yards and is a huge energy boost, as you can feel the team feed off of him as he gets hyped up out there.
Bengals Playoff Hopes: By now, you’ve probably heard how the Bengals have the NFL’s toughest SOS for the second half of the schedule. And when you really break it down, this was a game Cincinnati absolutely needed to win when there’s still games vs. the Chiefs and Bills, as well as road games vs. the Bucs and Patriots. Today really felt like a must-win game for the Bengals’ playoff hopes, and thanks to the win, they’ll remain in the Wild Card playoff standings for at least another week while also nipping at the Ravens’ lead in the AFC North.
Chris Evans: Returning from injury with Mixon out, Evan had maybe his best chance to make an impact on the offense Sunday, as he was out there early with the offensive unit. That was, until his pass interference penalty on a pick play nullified a big Higgins reception. We didn’t see much of Evans after that. Fans have long called for his increased role in the offense, but he hasn’t been able to get out of his own way.
Darrin Simmons: Not a great day for the special teams unit, specifically on punt returns. Penalties on their first three punt returns forced the Bengals to start deep in enemy territory. Field position wasn’t their friend in the first half and as the season grows older, that will become more important. Simmons will undoubtedly work to get that cleaned up in practice, but it was not a good showing for his unit Sunday.
Tyler Boyd: Boyd wasn’t able to get things going Sunday as the secondary receiver option. Boyd looked frustrated at times and finished with just two catches for 16 yards on four targets. If anyone can work through the frustrations, though, Boyd is the guy.