The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns on Sunday by a score of 23-10 in a game they dominated from the first snap to the last, and, in doing so, beat Cleveland for the first time since the 2019 season. The defense had another dominate performance against a top running back in the league, and the offense did what was needed after a sluggish start.
Here are a few observations from the game.
- DJ Reader is a monster among men
DJ Reader isn’t going to make a lot of flashy plays that show up on a stat sheet, but he absolutely dominated the opposing offensive line again. He did have five tackles against the Browns, but on plays he didn’t make a tackle, he took on double teams and clogged holes allowing his teammates to make plays at and behind the line of scrimmage. Reader absolutely makes the front seven one of the most dominate groups in the NFL.
I mean, just look at this:
DJ Reader ladies and gentlemen pic.twitter.com/LiPzNXBGnm— Bengalorian (@thebengalorian) December 12, 2022
- Mixon returns, Perine disappears
Joe Mixon has been out since the Bengals’ Week 11 win over the Steelers and backup Samaje Perine took over running back duties against the Titans and Chiefs and in that time he played very well, both as a rusher and catching passes out of the backfield. Most people thought Perine and Mixon would share snaps in Mixon’s first game back, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Mixon carried the ball 14 times for 96 yards to Perine’s four carries for 22 yards. Perine went back to his third-down back role for the most part. It will be interesting to see how the carries will be split in the coming weeks.
- No Higgins and Boyd, no problem
Wide receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd both started the game, but only played a couple snaps after injuries forced them both out early. Boyd broke his finger and may miss some time over the next couple of weeks, and Higgins aggravated a nagging hamstring injury. With Hayden Hurst already out, this left Burrow with Ja’Marr Chase, Trent Taylor and Trenton Irwin.
Both Irwin and Taylor showed they belong on an NFL field as they combined for 92 yards and a touchdown on three receptions.
- CTB showing his stuff
The rookie cornerback who was forced into a starting role after Chidobe Awuzie’s injury has started showing why he was selected in the second round. He’s a big and physical cornerback, but he’s been getting better and better in coverage. PFF ranked him as the second-worst Bengals defender in coverage on Sunday, giving up six catches on 10 targets, but he did have a pass breakup and played very well overall. One would assume that he’ll contend to start opposite Awuzie next season.
This weekend, the Bengals once again play in the Sunday afternoon slot when they face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. The Buccaneers are coming off a 35-7 loss on the road against the 49ers. They currently hold the top spot in the NFC South, but they have a 6-7 record.
Here are a few things we could see on Sunday.
- The Buccaneers offense is fairly one-sided. They have the lowest amount of rushing yards in the NFL, but fifth most passing yards. They have only been able to find the end zone through the air 17 times, though, so far this year. Brady’s offensive line has been devastated by injuries and while Brady has been able to get rid of the ball quickly, the Bucs haven’t been able to move the ball down the field offensively with ease.
- The Bucs defense has been fairly good this season. They’re in the middle of the road when it comes to their rush defense, and they’ve allowed the seventh least pass yards as a unit in the NFL this season.
- The Bengals offensive line has improved greatly over the last few weeks. They only allowed one sack in each of their last three games. The Bucs defense has the seventh most sacks so far this season with 38. The Bengals line will need to be on their game to keep this current trend of keep Burrow on his feet going.
- This is a huge game for both teams. The Bucs are barely holding on to the fourth seed in the NFC and if they lose on Sunday and the Panthers defeat the Steelers (who just lost to a Ravens team led by a third-string quarterback) at home, they take Tampa’s spot. The Bengals are still in the running for not only the division but the top seed in the AFC.
To wrap things up, some random thoughts on the Bengals Week 14 win over the Browns
- Boyd’s finger injury was apparently very ugly as the bone tore through the skin. He had to have surgery before the game was actually over.
- The touchdown pass to Chase was thrown through an unbelievably tight window. Coach D’Amato said it best, “It’s a game of inches.”
- Burrow leads the NFL in balls batted down at the line of scrimmage.
- It was nice to see Mixon back on the field. He brings a fire that is hard to replicate. While he was effective on the ground, I do still believe Perine has earned some more playing time.
- Browns edge defenders Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney are likely the best duo of defensive ends in the league. Both offensive tackles, Jonah Williams and La’el Collins struggled against them, but Burrow was still kept clean more often than not.
- If anybody ever wanted to show a perfect flea flicker, the Bengals’ flea flicker against the Browns was one of the most perfect I’ve ever seen.
- The Bengals offense started the game with four straight punts, but then scored touchdowns on two consecutive possessions before halftime, and they never looked back.
- Kicker Evan McPherson missed another extra point on Sunday. It’s nothing to be concerned about, but it’s not normal to see from him.
- Logan Wilson had 17 tackles, including half a sack, on Sunday. He was nothing short of amazing.
- Germaine Pratt has improved so much from last season to this one, but I didn’t necessarily care for him publicly calling out the Bengals coaching staff on Twitter, even if he was right.
- A lot of Bengals players were banged up in this game. Not only were there injuries to Higgins and Boyd, but Trey Hendrickson broke his wrist and may miss time, Joseph Ossai injured his shoulder and Mike Hilton limped off the field at one point (though he did return). AFC North games can get nasty.
- Jessie Bates’ late interception was the final nail in the coffin for the Browns. What a great read.
- The Bengals have officially had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the ‘14 and ‘15 seasons.
- I wasn’t at the game, and you couldn’t tell on TV, but I’d like to think it was a fairly hostile crowd for Deshaun Watson. Can I get a report from someone who was at the game?