The narrative that the Bengals’ run to the AFC Championship was a fluke just took a big hit. Cincinnati went in to Tennessee and took the Titans down by beating them at their own game. That’s a great sign for a team looking to gear up for another deep playoff run.
So let’s get right into what we learned...
The run defense is back
In D.J. Reader’s second game back from injury, the run defense picked up where it left off last postseason, stifling Derrick Henry and holding him to 38 yards on 17 carries for an average of 2.2 yards per carry.
Cam Taylor-Britt is coming into his own
On a couple of plays that didn’t count, the rookie corner showed just how physical he can play at the professional level. He stripped Henry of a certain touchdown at the 4-yard line and launched Tannehill back a couple yards on a scramble.
Unfortunately, the first play still resulted in a score (due to a fumble recovery in the end zone by Tennessee) and the latter in a first down (due to where the ball was spotted). Still, he’s shown enough to get Bengals fans excited about his future.
Trenton Irwin is a gifted receiver
Though he only has four catches over the last two weeks, the third-year receiver is making really impressive plays for Cincinnati when called upon. Last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he had a big catch and run as well as a TD.
This week he had a gorgeous sideline grab that set up a touchdown pass to Tee Higgins.
This Irwin fella from Cincy… good ball player— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) November 27, 2022
The run game is finally good
With Joe Mixon out, many expected the Bengals’ rush attack to take a step back. But the reality is, with the o-line getting more push up front in recent weeks, Cincinnati’s running backs are finding holes a lot easier. The duo of Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams churned out 76 yards on 19 carries against a very stout Tennessee run defense.
Also of note, both Perine and Williams had big plays in the passing game.
While the return of Mixon is eagerly anticipated, at this point, he’ll be an added luxury, as these backs look to be capable of getting the job done on their own.
The o-line is finally decent
This was a big test on the road against a tough front four. And they delivered not only in the aforementioned run game but also by protecting Joe Burrow enough to allow him to carve up the Tennessee secondary when it mattered most. Best of all, the franchise QB was only sacked once, compared to nine times in the previous matchup against the Titans.
Tee Higgins is a true #1 receiver
Time and time again, the third-year receiver has been asked to deliver big plays down the field, and he’s rarely disappointed.
The big receiver ended up with 114 yards on just nine targets.
While he isn’t as dominant as Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson, Higgins is everything you’d hope to get from a top option in the passing game.
Burrow has always been good at spreading the ball around, but Chase’s absence seems to have forced him to evolve in that regard a bit faster. So when the QB’s favorite target returns, defenses will have a harder time slowing down the pass attack than ever before.
The Bengals have a punter
Drue Chrisman averaged over 50 yards a punt on five punts, including a 62-yarder. The previous week, he booted three punts for 162 yards, including a 65-yarder. While Kevin Huber had an amazing run and is beloved by the fanbase, it is only fitting that he has passed the torch to a fellow Cincinnati native. And Huber doesn’t seem to be bothered by the inevitable outcome at all.
A cool story from the #Bengals locker room: Kevin Huber kept the ball from Drue Chrisman’s first punt tonight as the starter.— Kelsey Conway (@KelseyLConway) November 21, 2022
That’s all class from Kevin Huber and very indicative of his character