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The good, the bad and the ugly in the Bengals’ 17-13 win over the Seahawks

The win had positives, to be sure, but there are some other major areas of concern.

“A win is a win,” and other similar adages have been used to describe Cincinnati’s victory over the Seahawks in Week 6. The game started off looking like we’d be witnessing a shootout, but quickly (de-)evolved into a defensive showdown.

Here are the best and worst facets of the Bengals’ 17-13 win over Seattle on Sunday.

The good

The young defensive backs:

What a game from Cam Taylor-Britt. His ascension to solid starting corner began in the playoff beatdown of Buffalo last year and crescendoed on Sunday with seven tackles (all solo), three passes defended, and an acrobatic interception. His physical style of play and the amazing performance had DK Metcalf completely frustrated Sunday afternoon.

DJ Turner has come in on spot duty when there are packages with multiple receivers and/or with Chidobe Awuzie on some form of a pitch count from his knee injury recovery. He’s been playing at an extremely high level early on, allowing just five receptions and a 42.4 passer rating on players he’s covered.

Meanwhile, Dax Hill continues to be a versatile and valuable piece to the defense, and rookie Jordan Battle is looking good in limited reps. The future appears very bright in the defensive backfield for the foreseeable future.

The pass rush:

This was one of the more dominant performances by a Bengals defensive front in recent memory. Four sacks, 13 quarterback hits on Geno Smith, and inevitably contributing to his two interceptions thrown were all part of the amazing afternoon.

Two of the sacks came in the fourth quarter, as the defense knew they had to pick up the slack of a struggling second-half offense. Sam Hubbard had a sack and five quarterback hits, while Trey Hendrickson had a sack and three tackles for loss.

Shout-outs have to go to others like B.J. Hill, Cam Sample (who had the best game of his pro career), and linebacker Logan Wilson who chipped in on the pass rush with a sack as well.

The first two offensive drives:

After falling into a 7-0 hole on the opening drive, Cincinnati’s offense went to work. The first drive, comprised of 13 plays, was pass-heavy (nine total), culminating in seven straight completions and a Tyler Boyd score.

The second, seven-play drive was more balanced (three runs, four passes), but again had the Seahawks defense on their heels. It ended in rookie wideout Andrei Iosivas’ first career touchdown reception.

A relatively clean game against a quality opponent:

The Bengals had five penalties, but two or three of them were questionable, at best. Burrow had the one interception, but the Bengals were a plus in the margin overall in the game.

This was pretty much another “must-have” game for Cincinnati this week, and it came against one of, if not the most solid overall team they’ve faced to this point. Getting a win against these tough Seahawks, however ugly, has to be something this team can build upon going forward.

The bad

Crossing fingers for improved health after the bye:

Orlando Brown, Jr. left the game with a groin injury, and while things seem positive long-term, he’s an incredibly important player to the offense. Tee Higgins has dealt with a couple of injuries and is attempting to come back from a cracked rib, and Burrow still has his calf issue.

This bye week comes at an extremely opportune time, especially with the offense needing to turn a corner. Healing these three up is paramount to a mid and late-season run and offensive turnaround.

Where are the big plays on offense?:

There’s a little bit of a pass given here because of the Bengals’ offense having early success, but even with the high percentage of completed passes in those first two drives, the sizzle has been lacking. While teams have made adjustments the past two years to take away the back-breakers we’ve seen this crew make, they’re struggling to pop big plays in 2023.

In fact, they have the least amount of them in the league to this point. The Bengals’ offense had just two big passing plays in Sunday’s contest.

Some major statistical disparities:

Seattle dominated first downs 24-to-15, was more efficient on third down (5-of-12 versus 3-of-11), total yards (381 to 214), and controlled time of possession (34:01 to 25:59). On almost any other Sunday, this is a formula for a loss.

So, in essence, this is a bittersweet facet to the win for the Bengals. It’s great to see them be able to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, but this isn’t a sustainable path for long-term success. It’s also an indictment of offensive ineptitude for more than two quarters.

The ugly

Second half offense:

What the heck happened? As mentioned above, Cincinnati’s offense started off red-hot, with the Bengals giving Seattle a “death by a thousand paper cuts” through the air, so to speak.

Burrow was 13-of-15 on those first two drives, and it looked like the offense was building off of the solid momentum they found in the Arizonian desert. Yet, a mixture of losing Orlando Brown, Jr. to a groin injury, a handful of poor throws from Burrow, and others not executing led to an excruciating final two-plus quarters on offense.

With the defense supplying four sacks, 13 quarterback hits, and two interceptions, that all should have fueled far more than just three second-half points by the offense. And, by the sounds of things, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan isn’t having it going forward, so we’ll see how they rebound out of the bye.

The running game:

You can blame play calls, the scheme, relying on supporting players who have limited experience, and/or not giving them proper touches, but the run game was a mess, from a macro perspective. Joe Mixon was the leading rusher with only 38 yards on 12 carries.

The Bengals’ long run of the day was just five yards, and the team had 46 on the ground in total. We can bang on the passing attack’s lack of consistency and big plays, but some semblance of balance needs to be seen for things to turn around on that side of the ball.