Game script has become such an important aspect of the Cincinnati Bengals’ success, just like it’s been a thorn in their side every time they’ve played the Cleveland Browns in recent years. The hiring of Kevin Stefanski completely tipped the scales of a historically close rivalry, but Zac Taylor finally got one over his divisional counterpart on Sunday in a 23-10 win.
The Bengals are winners of five straight games, but they’ll have to continue overcoming key injuries to keep the streak alive. This week’s snap counts heavily reflect how the depth was tested on both sides of the ball.
Sunday was tightly contested in several areas, including the snaps. Cleveland was on the field for five more plays than Cincinnati, 72-67. The Browns extended three drives thanks to fourth down conversions, but were just four of 15 on third down. The Bengals achieved five more first downs, 23 to 18, as well as a higher yards per play, 5.4 to 4.8.
The return of Joe Mixon (39) came with explosive runs and plenty of yards after contact. He looked every bit like a fresh running back coming off a two-week rest period, and the rotation between him and Samaje Perine (29), for the most part, reflected their expected roles.
Mixon was on for 18 of the Bengals’ 21 called run plays (and both of Joe Burrow’s scrambles if you want to include that), whereas Perine had the edge over Mixon with 22 snaps on passing downs to Mixon’s 19. Interestingly enough, Perine had no snaps in pass protection, while Mixon had two.
In a week-to-week league, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mixon out there for longer stretches if the game script calls for it. But this split between both backs is sustainable in of itself.
No game script could’ve predicted what happened at wide receiver. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd played a combined three snaps on the first drive of the game, and that was it. Trenton Irwin (56) came in for Higgins, and Trent Taylor (52) replaced Boyd in the slot. Per head coach Zac Taylor, Higgins’ hamstring gave him issues in warmups, and that nixed their plan to at least feature him near the goal line.
The Boyd injury simply came out left field, and Taylor had to step up unexpectedly. His toe-drag grab late in the second quarter may not have counted on the scoresheet, but it counts in our hearts.
Now that Boyd will be at for the time being with a dislocated finger, Taylor will continue to start in the slot, and the offense will continue to get creative moving Ja’Marr Chase (63) around to compensate for the loss.
Edge of a decision
On the subject of injuries, Trey Hendrickson’s broken wrist is a big deal. In his extended absence, the duo of Cam Sample (19) and Joseph Ossai (18) will be taking more snaps than they’ve done all year. Sample has steadily been playing more than Ossai in the rotation up to this point (259 snaps to 216), and when the defense is out there on the first snap against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week, Sample will likely have his hand in the dirt.
On the surface, it seems as if Ossai has been more involved against the pass this year, but that’s not been the case. Sample and Ossai have each logged 141 pass-rushing snaps in 13 games this year, and Ossai’s win rate of 10.6% gives him but a slight lead over Sample’s 9.6% (both figures per Pro Football Focus).
Only time will tell if this even split deviates without Hendrickson available.
Bengals’ snap counts vs. Browns
|Stanley Morgan Jr.||WR||5||7%|
|Jessie Bates III||S||72||100%|