What makes the NFL truly special isn’t always the sheer parity. The most memorable games involve the elite teams trading blow for blow until one comes out on top. It’s why most fans consider the Kansas City Chiefs’ thrilling victory over the Buffalo Bills in last year’s playoffs the best matchup in recent history, and not the game the Chiefs lost the week afterwards.
The Cincinnati Bengals have built a team that can enter the ring with the Chiefs, and Bills for that matter, and deliver knockout punches of their own. They did just that on Sunday in a battle of two titans going drive for drive. When liabilities stick out like sore thumbs, the best teams turn them into fatal wounds. But the Bengals could rely on just about all of their players, especially their rookies, in yet another win over the Chiefs.
72 snaps. Nothing given up. No hits. No hurries. No sacks.
Perfect games for offensive linemen aren’t as rare as they are for pitchers. But when a rookie does it, it’s always worth celebrating.
Not only did Volson put up a clean sheet against Chris Jones and Co., he did so in dominating fashion. His Pro Football Focus grade of 76.6 was higher than any other starter on offense. He lost little-to-no ground in pass protection, and generated ample movement in the run game.
Who doesn't love seeing their 4th round, FCS based, draft pick just MOVING defenders in the run game? pic.twitter.com/79MmigMjsK— Parker Blake (@ParkerBlake60) December 6, 2022
It was a performance Volson needed to get back on track. The Steelers and Titans gave him some fits, as they do to most interior blockers. Volson’s virtually flawless day helped give Joe Burrow clean pockets on nearly 80% of his drop backs. That percentage didn’t reach 65% in neither of the Bengals’ previous wins over the Chiefs.
This was the first true test for Taylor-Britt. With all due respect to the previous four quarterbacks he faced as a starting cornerback, none of them compare to Patrick Mahomes. How would the Bengals’ defense fare with an improving, yet inexperienced, cornerback going up against a passing offense no one has been able to stop over the past month.
Well, an interception nearly came out of it.
Great break on the ball here from Cam Taylor-Britt as the cloud CB. Almost had his first career interception. pic.twitter.com/mK6d5UMo7Y— Mike (@bengals_sans) December 6, 2022
This was one of two times Taylor-Britt was targeted in coverage. While it’s true that the Chiefs primarily attack the middle of the field and not the deep thirds, Taylor-Britt was consistently in position to take away deep patterns in his zone, and matched up will the times Cincinnati went to man.
Tackling has been the bright spot for Taylor-Britt this season, so seeing him miss two tackles in this game was rather surprising. One occurred on an inconsequential play at the very end of the first half, but another allowed the Chiefs to convert a fourth-and-four, just three plays after his near-interception. JuJu Smith-Schuster ran through Taylor-Britt’s takedown attempt and dove past the yellow line. The Chiefs would score their first touchdown of the game on that drive.
The fact that Carter was active at all is a telling sign. This was the first time both DJ Reader and Josh Tupou played together since Week 6, when Jay Tufele emerged as a surprising bright spot at defensive tackle. Tufele’s hot streak lasted a couple of weeks, and he’s since returned to regular form. Now that all five interior players are healthy again, he became the odd man out once more, with Carter as B.J. Hill’s backup at 3-technique. The rookie had just 14 snaps on Sunday—the lowest since Week 2.
About the most notable thing the first-rounder was asked to do Sunday was come in for an “injured” Jessie Bates III at the goal line. Three of his four snaps came on passing plays.
Where on the field was Dax Hill?
- Box: three snaps
- Free safety: one snap