Somewhere outside of Buffalo, Sean McDermott awoke in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. He could have sworn the house was shaking. He wiped the sleep from his eyes. Where was that light coming from? He sat up in bed, still struggling to see clearly. As his vision came into focus, what he saw made his heart beat hard in his chest.
There, on the floor at the foot of his bed, was a little blond girl sitting in front of a TV. This definitely wasn’t his kid. The TV was showing nothing but static. The little girl pulled her hands away from the screen and turned to look at Sean. He could have sworn there was an orange glow to her eyes.
“They’re baaaaaaack,” she said, in a sing-song voice.
The Cincinnati Bengals went out to the West Coast to take on the San Francisco 49ers and finally looked like themselves. When the final second ticked off the clock, the score was 31-17 in the Bengals favor. They dominated the 49ers, and while the Bengals outscored the Niners by 14 points, they left at least 10 on the field.
Here are a few things that caught my eye:
- Joe Burrow didn’t just have a good game. He was nothing short of amazing. He completed an amazing 88 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions. He moved around in the pocket and threw perfect passes all day long. I mean, just take a look at this play:
It's exhilarating to watch Joe Burrow operate. Love that the officials didn't blow this dead and Burrow provides the most exciting 10 yard pass possible.— mike (@bengals_sans) October 30, 2023
He's so back manpic.twitter.com/KrPWkbFrn0
- Trey Hendrickson, again, was in the backfield all day long. He finished with one sack on the day, a strip sack that basically ended the game, but he made Brock Purdy uncomfortable all afternoon. According to PFF, he had nine sacks all of last season. Through seven games, he has eight sacks, and he’s on pace for just over 19 sacks on the season. Those are NFL Defensive MVP numbers right there.
- Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt are the best linebacker duo in the NFL, especially when it comes to pass coverage. Both had key interceptions on Sunday, and Wilson almost had two. The fact the Bengals were able to extend both this offseason is going to be huge for the defense over the next few years.
- Ja’Marr Chase had 10 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals moved him around a lot and had him running a lot of different routes. Chase is a top-three wide receiver in the league, and moving him around pre-snap is the best way to get him heavily involved in the offense. The Niners were almost powerless to stop him.
Now that's a diverse target map for Ja'Marr Chase.— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) October 30, 2023
Lining up all over and being used on a variety of routes. pic.twitter.com/F48z6KXuPH
On Sunday Night Football, the Bengals (4-3) will host the Buffalo Bills (5-3). The Bengals are now riding a three-game win streak, while the Bills are coming off a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night. The Bengals, and Burrow, have steadily improved over the last few weeks, peaking at the crescendo of offense in San Francisco. The Bills have kinda been all over the place. They beat the tar out of the Raiders, Commanders, and Dolphins, three pretty good football teams, only to turn around and lose to the Jaguars and Patriots while they barely squeaked by the Giants and Buccaneers.
Here are a few things we could see on Sunday night:
- There are only a handful of truly elite quarterbacks in the NFL. They’re capable of putting their teams on their backs and carrying them to victory. Joe Burrow is an elite quarterback. So is Josh Allen. Allen can do amazing things on the field, especially off-script, but he also has a tendency to be careless sometimes. The Bengals are second in the NFL with 10 interceptions so far this season and could benefit from a forced pass or two.
- Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins has only given up one sack on the season so far, and has a pass-blocking grade of 77.9, which is 7th best in the league. Allen has only been sacked 12 times. However, Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson has had a sack in four consecutive games and is on pace for close to 20 sacks on the season. He’ll be looking to keep his streak alive.
- On the other side of the ball, the Bills defense has been all over opposing quarterbacks so far this season. They’ve racked up 28 sacks, good for third-most in the league, compared to the Bengals’ 21. Burrow has been sacked 17 times so far this season, and the Bengals offensive line has played pretty well over the last couple of weeks. It’s clear they are getting their feet under them. Burrow seems to be completely healthy again. He’ll need to be able to move around on Sunday night.
- This is sure to be an emotional game. The Bills and Bengals will be meeting for the first time since Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field at Paycor Stadium. The game was eventually canceled. I’m sure the event is still fresh in the minds of players on both teams.
Here are a few more random thoughts on the Bengals win over the Niners:
- The Bengals offense started out hot and then went into a lull before scoring again. I’d like to see a game where they start hot, end hot, and stay hot in between.
- Seeing Burrow scramble as much as he did and avoid pressure was awesome. That was vintage Burrow. He’s back!
- Joe Mixon ran like a man possessed on Sunday. He averaged over five yards per carry against a good run defense. I’m excited to see that continue this weekend.
- The run blocking was very good against the 49ers.
- I was happy to see Irv Smith more involved. He caught four passes for 24 yards. That’s 10 catches so far this season. He did have a bad fumble trying to get a couple more yards on one of his catches, though. Overall, Smith has been the biggest disappointment on the Bengals offense, at least to me.
- The defense is very good, but when they get down in their own red zone, they lock things down. Lou Anarumo will be a head coach next season. I said that last year, though.
- If the offense plays like they did against the Niners for the rest of the season and they get rid of the dumb mistakes, there’s not a single team in the league that could consistently beat them.
- The Bengals almost played a penalty-free game on Sunday. The first penalty came in the fourth quarter.
- The Bengals left 10 points on the field in the first half with a missed field goal and Smith’s fumble. The score should have been 41-17.
- Winning on the road in the NFL is tough, but going across the country and beating a good team on their own field by two full touchdowns is pretty rare. Especially when you factor in the fact that the Niners had just dropped two straight and were looking to get back on track, the Bengals win was pretty incredible.
- This is back-to-back great games by Mike Hilton. He’s going to go down in history as one of the best free-agent signings in Bengals history.
- Tee Higgins caught five of his six targets for 69 yards. It wasn’t the breakout game we were hoping for, but he looks like he’s back on track.
- Tyler Boyd showed the rest of the league that he’s still in the league over the last couple of weeks.
- The fake WR screen, TD pass to Chase was beautiful.
- The trade deadline is today. Will the Bengals be buyers? I doubt it. Should they be? Yes! (This was written on Monday)
- Chase’s backflip was great!
- Andrei Iosivas caught his second touchdown pass on Sunday, and Trenton Irwin showed up in the second half to help move the chains. The Bengals have the best WR trio in the league, and the future of the position is bright!