If there were any doubts about the state of the Bengals, their win over the Titans in Nashville should put them all to rest. The Bengals defeated the Titans by a score of 20-16, but the game, especially in the second half, was never really that close. Had the Titans not committed a bone-headed penalty on the Bengals field goal attempt on their final drive, the score would have been at least 23-16.
The Titans were looking for revenge for the Bengals knocking them out of the playoffs in the divisional round last season. In that game, Cincinnati’s defense completely shut human tractor Derrick Henry down. They did the exact same thing on Sunday.
Here are a few things I noticed from the game.
Henry carried the ball 17 times for 38 yards, which is an average of 2.2 yards per carry. His longest rush was for nine yards. The Bengals defense, outside of one screen pass that resulted in a long touchdown, completely shut Henry down, and this time he was fully healthy.
The Titans are very one-sided and when the Bengals took Henry away, they dared quarterback Ryan Tannehill to beat them. He couldn’t.
The Bengals were missing a couple stars on Sunday. Running back Joe Mixon was out due to being in concussion protocol, and star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was also out with a hip injury. It didn’t matter. Samaje Perine carried the load with a combined 93 yards on the ground and through the air, and Tee Higgins had another big game, catching seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He’s proven that he is a true number-one receiver.
On the other side of the ball, the loss of cornerback Chidobe Awuzie wasn’t as glaring as it was the week before. Rookie Cam Taylor-Britt and veterans Eli Apple and Mike Hilton played very well. Taylor-Britt recieved the highest coverage grade from PFF on the team.
Do you have protection?
The Bengals offensive line, missing the entire preseason, didn’t play great when the season first started. They gave up 13 sacks in the first two games. Since then they have been much better and on Sunday they were excellent. Joe Burrow was sacked one time and routinely had a ridiculous amount of time to throw.
The Titans sacked Burrow nine times in their playoff game last season, and the Bengals focused on completing a huge overhaul of the offensive line, replacing four of the five starters. It’s paying dividends now.
Heading into the fourth quarter on Sunday, Burrow had completed 16 of 30 passes for 158 yards. In the fourth quarter he completed six of seven passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. When it mattered the most, Burrow put the team on his shoulders and led them to the win.
When the game is on the line, there are very few quarterbacks I’d rather have behind center more than Burrow.
A look ahead....
This week’s game is on a lot of calendars. The Bengals host the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship game. The Bengals won that game in overtime, earning their spot in the Super Bowl. Once again the Bengals will host the Chiefs and once again they’ll be home underdogs.
The Chiefs have cruised to a 9-2 record and once again quarterback Patrick Mahomes is playing at an MVP level. Here are some things you could see on Sunday.
- The Chiefs have the best passing offense in the league. Mahomes has passed for 3,585 yards and 29 touchdowns. They lost speedster Tyreek Hill to free agency last year, but that hasn’t slowed them down as tight end Travis Kelce has been almost unstoppable. He has 912 receiving yards so far on the year, which is over 300 yards more than the next tight end in the league. It’s safe to say the offense flows through Mahomes and Kelce.
- The Chiefs are in the bottom half of the league in rushing offense and Clyde Edwards-Helaire is on injured reserve. Backups Isiah Pacheco and Ronald Jones lead the backfield. On Sunday night against the Rams, they combined for 26 carries for 81 yards, which is 3.1 yards per carry. Like the Bengals, the Chiefs have mostly used the run game just to keep the defense honest.
- The Chiefs have given up the second most passing touchdowns (22) in the league, so they are vulnerable through the air. Teams are often forced to pass against them in order to keep up with Kansas City’s high-powered offense, though. With Chase returning and Higgins showing he’s a top-tier wide receiver, the Chiefs secondary will have their hands full.
- The Chiefs have given up the sixth least rushing yards, but that stat is a little misleading because, again, teams often have to abandon the run early to keep up with Mahomes. The Bengals can absolutely win this game. They’re just as good as the Chiefs, and this has the makings of a great game.
To wrap things up, here are a few random thoughts about the Bengals Week 12 win...
- That Perine stiff arm on the first play of the game was a thing of beauty and set the tone for the rest of the game.
- Cornerbacks Hilton and Taylor-Britt were both outstanding against Henry and the run game. Both made outstanding plays, keeping Henry from getting some momentum.
- Again, D.J. Reader didn’t show up on the stat line, but he was a huge reason the Bengals defense kept Henry bottled up. He clogged up so much room on the defensive line and was constantly being double teamed, leaving open lanes for Bengals linebackers to get into the backfield quickly.
- Tyler Boyd only caught two passes for 16 yards. He wasn’t targeted by Burrow in the first half. He’s still an outstanding receiver, but it’s clear where he ranks on the team, especially after Chase is back.
- Eli Apple had a solid game this week, breaking up two passes.
- The Bengals win this game either way, but the personal foul call for hitting the long snapper was such a bone-headed play. Whatever chance the Titans had at at least tying the game, they were gone in an instant, allowing Burrow to just kneel the ball to kill the clock.
- The Bengals are capable of beating different types of teams in different ways. They can win in a shootout, or they can win with defense like they did on Sunday. That’s the mark of a contender.
- Taylor-Britt’s hustle play to force a fumble on Henry’s long screen pass was awesome. Unfortunately the Titans recovered the fumble in the end zone, but it was great to see a rookie cornerback make that play.
- Hayden Hurst is getting more and more involved in the passing game. This week he had six catches for 57 yards, including an acrobatic 29-yard catch down the seem early in the game.
- The Bengals win was huge, but so was the Ravens loss to the Jaguars. The Bengals are now a little closer to possibly winning the division.
- Sam Hubbard is not the best defensive lineman in the NFL, but he’s just really good at everything.
- Trent Irwin’s adjustment and catch to Burrow’s back-shoulder throw to keep a fourth-quarter drive alive was a thing of beauty.
- And finally, I absolutely love the attitude from center Ted Karras (warning: language not safe for work).