Well, that’s not the way any of us wanted to see the season opener unfold, especially considering it was a division game against the Steelers, the single team Cincinnati Bengals fans love to hate the most.
Everything that could go wrong on field, outside of major injuries, went wrong. The Bengals absolutely deserved to lose that game, and the fact they almost won, twice, is astonishing. That fact alone should keep Bengals fans from jumping off the tallest building they see.
Here are some things.
I understand head coach Zach Taylor’s concept of resting all starters in the preseason. It helps keep them healthy, and considering Burrow’s appendix issues, it makes sense he didn’t take a meaningful snap until Sunday. However, the Steelers played their starters during the preseason, and anybody who knows anything about football could see they were ready to play from the opening snap and the Bengals were not.
Having said that, it is about where you finish and not where you begin. Losing the first game of the season to a division rival isn’t a death sentence by any means, but it’s still not a great way to start a season.
There’s a reason long snapper is a position in football. If everyone could do it well, the Clark Harris’ of the NFL wouldn’t exist. Evan McPherson is a great kicker, but it’s hard to be a great kicker when one of the three gears in the kicking machine doesn’t work. Harris’ torn bicep turned out to be a huge problem. Emergency long snapper Mitch Wilcox’s snaps were slow and off target, allowing one kick to be blocked (thanks in part to Drew Sample), and one to sail wide left because holder Kevin Huber couldn’t get the laces out.
Anybody who says long snappers aren’t important should watch this game.
Joe Versus the Volcano
Here’s something I haven’t written before: Joe Burrow was really bad on Sunday.
Yes, he was under pressure, and yes, he was playing against one of the best defenses in the league without taking a single snap during the preseason, but that doesn’t change the fact that he played poorly.
Burrow threw four interceptions in the first half and also lost a fumble. It was a bad game. It may be his first bad game in the NFL, but it won’t be his last. Burrow will be just fine.
Walk the Line
The Bengals brought in four new offensive lineman this offseason to completely retool the line that allowed Burrow to be sacked 70 times in 2021. Like Burrow, though, most, if not all, got very limited action in the preseason. La’el Collins was dealing with a back issue, and new right guard Alex Cappa was dealing with injuries of his own. The fact the line was getting their first real game action showed on Sunday. Burrow was sacked seven times and was often under pressure when trying to find an open receiver, which definitely contributed to his poor play.
The line was better in the second half than the first, and they’ll be better in Week 2 than they were in Week 1. It’ll be ok.
A look ahead.....
The Bengals travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys at Jerry Wold on Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys lost their home opener to the Buccaneers by a score of 19-3, and lost starting quarterback Dak Prescott in the process. Prescott injured his thumb and had to have surgery. Here’s what to expect on Sunday.
- The Cowboys offense without Dak will run through Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. The Cowboys 1-2 punch each averaged over five yards per carry against a very good run defense and the Bengals front seven will need to be prepared.
- The Cowboys defense struggled at stopping the run, allowing Leonard Fournette to average six yards per carry and 127 rushing yards. Joe Mixon played well against the Steelers and should have another good game.
- The Bengals didn’t generate much of a pass rush against the Steelers. Mitch Trubisky often sat in a clean pocket with enough time to get to his second or third read. The best way to get to an inexperience quarterback like Cowboys backup Cooper Rush is with pressure.
- I think the Bengals come out angry and get back on track with a 27-10 win on Sunday.
To wrap things up, some random thoughts....
- Welcome to the NFL Cordell Volson, your first blocking assignment is future Hall of Famer Cam Heyward! What a way to get broken in.
- La’el Collins was obviously rusty, but he was also going up against one of the best pass rushing linebackers in the league.
- People need to give a little more credit to the Steelers defense
- Mixon was heavily involved in the passing game, catching seven passes for 63 yards. That’s a trend I’d like to see continued.
- For all the talk about Dax Hill, he played six snaps. I was under the impression that he would be much more involved.
- We all know Burrow and Tee Higgins will be able to enter contract negotiations after this season is over. Hopefully they get a deal done with both, but especially Burrow. Logan Wilson will also be eligible. He’s becoming one of the best linebackers in the league.
- Chase’s non-touchdown absolutely should have been challenged.
- DJ Reader is a monster.
Don’t get worried yet. The Bengals will be okay.