It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win, and boy, was this one the Bengals needed to keep their playoff hopes alive heading into a much-needed bye week.
Here are Sunday’s winners and losers:
Even though Tee Higgins played in Sunday’s game, he wasn’t in on every snap, giving the rookie out of Princeton some playing time. On the team’s second touchdown drive of the day, Burrow, rolling out left to create more time, found Iosivas in the end zone for his first touchdown of his career. Burrow picked up the ball in the end zone to make sure Iosivas got it.
Also, it was Iosivas’ birthday!
CTB Continues to impress. He picked off one pass, broke up a big pass intended for DK Metcalf early in the game by pulling the big receiver’s hands away at the last moment and broke up a touchdown pass that would have given the Seahawks the lead by knocking the ball away from Tyler Lockett in the third quarter. The second-year cornerback is proving himself to be one of the best corners in the division.
His breakout year continues.
We’ve talked a lot about the health of Chidobe Awuzie, Cam Taylor-Britt’s possible breakout season, and rookie speedster DJ Turner, but one guy we haven’t discussed a lot is slot corner Mike Hilton. He reminded everyone he was there on Sunday when he picked off a pass thrown by Geno Smith intended for Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the red zone. This happened after a Burrow interception, canceling out any potential damage it could have caused.
While all of the contract year attention goes to Tee Higgins, we can’t forget that Tyler Boyd is also in the final year of his deal and is hoping to get at least one more big NFL payday. But his numbers through the first five games left a lot to be desired, but he stepped up in a big way vs. Seattle.
Boyd hauled in seven catches on seven targets and his first touchdown of the season in a four-point win that saw him also net 38 yards.
Defense in big moments
The defense played a little bend-don’t-break defense on Sunday. They gave up a lot of yards between the red zones, but once Smith and the Seahawks offense got near the end zone, the Bengals defense mostly clamped down.
Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard also had big-time sacks in big moments in the fourth quarter, especially Hubbard’s, which came on a 4th-and-Goal with just over two minutes left in the game.
And then, on the last offensive play of the game for the Seahawks, BJ Hill tore through the interior of the offensive line and forced an errant throw from Smith on fourth down, ending the game.
It’s no secret that Lou Anarumo’s defense wasn’t what we expected for much of the first five weeks, but boy, did his unit step up in a big way in this one. This will go down as one of the best defensive games he’s ever called, especially after the Seahawks’ opening touchdown.
The most impressive aspect of today was how he helped limit the Seahawks to just three points on four goal-to-go situations.
Lou was cooking today.
The first-half offense
The Bengals scored touchdowns on two of their four drives in the first half with a nice even mix of pass and run plays, most of which gained positive yards. Burrow found Tyler Boyd in the end zone and then Iosivas. The whole offense looked like they were ready to explode.
The second-half offense
The wheels came off at some point. You could see signs of it in the first half. Burrow couldn’t connect with his receivers. Mixon couldn’t get any traction in the run game. Outside of a field goal (and the two touchdown drives notated above), the offense couldn’t move the ball against the Seahawks. The Seahawks defense is good, but I know the Bengals offense has enough firepower to make any defense squirm.
On the drives that worked, Burrow just took what the defense gave him, and the run game filled in the gaps at times. But then they would do weird things as well. On one particular play, they had the ball on third down with less than a yard left to go. They saw the defense line up anticipating an inside run, and the Bengals walked right into it.
The offense was great to start the game, but then just sputtered and stalled through some of the second quarter and most of the second half.
With less than two minutes left in the game, the Bengals got the ball back with a chance to run out the clock. Instead, they punted after just 15 seconds ran off the clock. If that’s not a play-calling or coaching issue, I don’t know what is.
Irv Smith Jr.
The team’s starting tight end’s struggles to get involved with the offense continued on Sunday. He only logged one catch for five yards, but even worse, was only targeted twice. The other target was dropped on a pass that was thrown slightly behind the tight end, but it was still catchable.
Tee Higgins was back this week but was very much on a snap count. It would be nice for Burrow to have a tight end he could rely on the way he has the last two seasons.
Tee Higgins when it comes to OPI penalties
Higgins recovered enough from his rib fracture to play on Sunday. He caught a couple of passes but didn’t really contribute very much, which was expected. However, on third down late in the fourth quarter, Burrow found Higgins deep down the sideline. A first down would have given the Bengals a chance to ice the game. Instead, Higgins was called for offensive pass interference. That’s the second time he’s been called for pushing off this season.
Who was your biggest winner today? Let us know in the comments section!