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Tuesday Trenches: Steps in the Right Direction

Audible sigh of relief.

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

If you were standing on the ledge, ready to jump after the Cincinnati Bengals got off to an 0-2 start, Sunday’s win over the Jets should have been enough to get you to take a step back. The Bengals went into MetLife Stadium on Sunday with an 0-2 record and with their backs up against the wall. It’s weird to think of a game played in September as “must win,” but this one was, and the Bengals did what they needed to do, beating the Jets by a score of 27-12.

The offense was much improved and did most of their damage in their first half, where they led by a score of 20-6 after the first two quarters of play. The defense also didn’t allow the Jets to score a touchdown the whole day.

Here are some things:

Harry and the Hendrickson

Edge rusher Trey Hendrickson didn’t have a sack over the first two games, but he more than made up for it in Week 3 against the Jets. Hendrickson finished the game with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He did not let Joe Flacco get comfortable in the pocket at all on Sunday and is a huge reason the Jets were held to field goals all afternoon.

Be Aggressive. B-E Aggressive!

The Bengals wanted to get off to a hot start, and the best way to do that is to start the game with the ball. Zac Taylor typically defers to the second half if the Bengals win the opening coin toss, but on Sunday the Bengals decided they wanted the ball first. Joe Burrow capped off the 12-play drive with a touchdown pass to running back Samaje Perine, and that was after a perfectly good touchdown pass to Tee Higgins was ruled incomplete.

After their opening drive, it was clear that much of the rust that plagued the offense through the first two weeks had been knocked off.

Mixon it up

Joe Mixon struggled to get the run game going until he left the game early in the second half. He carried the ball 12 times for only 24 yards, with a long carry of nine yards. Maybe it was all the talk this weekend about how the Bengals needed to get their run game going, but it sure seemed the Jets defense was much more concerned about stopping Mixon than they were limiting Burrow and his trio of wide receivers, all of whom did damage on Sunday.

Line it up

The offensive line, facing off against two of the best pass rushers in the league in TJ Watt and Micah Parsons, struggled in the first two weeks, giving up 13 sacks. Burrow was sacked three times against the Jets, who also boast a solid front four, but it was clear the offensive line had something to prove. They routinely gave Burrow clean pockets to operate from and the Jets often had to send extra pressure at him, and we all know how Burrow deals with extra pressure.

“You can’t zero me!”

A look ahead.....

The Bengals have a quick turnaround as they host the 3-0 Dolphins on Thursday night. This is another big game as a win would even things up for the Bengals and would go a long way to erase their slow start. Here are a few things they could see on Thursday night.

  • Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had a scary moment on Sunday after slamming the back of his head down into the turf. He stood up and was clearly very wobbly. He left the game and was somehow cleared to come back in and play. It’s currently unclear as to who will be under center. Tagovailoa didn’t practice on Monday and if he can’t suit up on Thursday night, backup Teddy Bridgewater will man the helm.
  • The Dolphins have quite the receiver room of their own. It’s highlighted by the speedy Tyreek Hill and second-year wideout Jaylen Waddle, who was selected the very next pick after Ja’Marr Chase. The Bengals secondary will need to be ready to cover the best group of receivers they’ve faced so far this season.
  • The Dolphins have the third least rushing yards of any team in the NFL and are averaging only 3.3 yards per carry. The Bengals defense has allowed the tenth least rushing yards so far this season, and are giving up only 3.7 yards per rushing attempt. Miami does, however, have the second most passing yards so far this season, and they’re averaging nine yards per attempt. The Bengals will need to be able to get pressure on the quarterback to limit the damage the Dolphins will be able to do through the air.
  • This could easily be a “who can score last” game. The Bengals offense looked much better against the Jets, but it will need to be firing on all cylinders on Thursday, especially if Tagovailoa is cleared to play. This means the offensive line needs to continue to build off the massive improvement they showed between Weeks 2 and 3.

To wrap things up, some random thoughts......

  • D.J. Reader is having quite possibly the best season of his career. Just three games in and he has proven to be almost unblockable. Hopefully his knee is okay allowing him to play on Thursday.
  • Mixon also had to come out of the game on Sunday after he tweaked his ankle, but he was able to practice on Monday, albeit in a limited capacity. If he’s not 100 percent on Thursday, we could see more Perine and (gasp) maybe even Chris Evans.
  • It was nice seeing Joe Burrow look like Joe Burrow again. He looked confident in the pocket and was able to make guys miss and extend plays in the backfield. He was even shown smiling on the sideline during the game. It was a good to see.
  • Perine absolutely out played Mixon, especially when you consider every defensive player and their mothers knew that the Bengals were going to run the ball late in the fourth quarter. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry to Mixon’s two. Mixon is still the better runner, but we may see more of a timeshare over the next few weeks.
  • Tee Higgins’ overruled touchdown catch to cap off the first drive of the game was a thing of beauty, and I can’t comprehend how it was ruled not a catch. Luckily they scored on the very next play.
  • I was very happy to see the explosive plays again. Burrow through several deep passes, and connected on a few of them.
  • The Bengals offensive line collectively graded much higher than they did over the previous two weeks. La’el Collins was at the bottom of the pack again, but his score still much better than it was in the Cowboys game.
  • There aren’t many middle linebackers that can drop to the deep middle and pick off a deep seam pass the way Logan Wilson did on Sunday. He is one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL and his payday is coming.
  • Cam Sample had a great game. He finished with three tackles, including a sack. He was also credited with two additional quarterback hurries.
  • It’s so clear the Bengals have the best wide receiver room in the NFL. Everybody knows about Chase. Most know about Higgins. Hardly anybody talks about Tyler Boyd. He’s had multiple thousand-yard seasons, and he’d be the number-one receiver on several teams in the NFL right now.
  • It was sad to see CJ Uzomah in a non-Bengals uniform. I’m glad he didn’t do much against the Bengals, but I wish him the Best in his career.
  • I’m not sure how many of you reading this are Bearcat fans, but Sauce Gardner is going to have a very long and good career., He broke up two passes and overall played a very good game against very good receivers.
  • Eli Apple rebounded from a bad game in Week 2. He broke up a couple passes as well.
  • The Bengals offensive line largely kept former Bengals edge rusher Carl Lawson in check. Lawson’s replacement, Hendrickson, was not kept in check by the Jets line.
  • Bengals fans should feel better. What we saw in Week 3 looked like the Bengals we got to know last season. A win over the undefeated Dolphins would put everything right back on track and would make fans forget about the slow start.

Who Dey!