Joe Burrow put to rest that this calf issue will be holding the offense back for much longer, as he had a big game where he moved out of the pocket several times.
We also saw a record performance by Ja’Marr Chase on the day with Tee Higgins out with a rib injury. The defense had some bad moments, but they were also very opportunistic against a quarterback who had been stingy with turnovers.
The Bengals elected to defer after winning the coin flip. The defense answered the call with a three-and-out.
Burrow and the offense followed it up with their most efficient drive of the season. Throws were on time, and players were getting open fairly easily. The exclamation point was Burrow extending the play near the goal line to hit Ja’Marr Chase in the end zone for his first touchdown of the season, his 200th career catch, and the team’s first first-half touchdown of 2023 as well.
The Bengals defense again forced a three-and-out. That led to another productive drive that had the Bengals knocking on the door for a touchdown. However, a play where Burrow avoided several rushers — looking like his old self — ended up as a 15-yard loss and an Evan McPherson field goal.
The Cardinals finally got going offensively in the second quarter as Josh Dobbs heated up and got into a rhythm. He was able to hit Hollywood Brown for a 25-yard pass over cornerback Jalen Davis. That brought the game back to within three.
Arizona clearly grabbed the momentum as the defense quickly got Burrow off the field with another sack on third down. Then James Conner had a big-time run, and the drive was also aided by a bit of a flop on the punt return. It all set up an easy throw-and-catch between Dobbs and tight end Zach Ertz to make it 14 straight points to erase Cincinnati’s lead quickly.
The Bengals were able to get all the way to the one-yard line. They ran the ball three times inside the 4-yard line, but Mixon was unable to get into the end zone. That included a fourth-down run as well.
That left the Cardinals at their own one-yard line. Dobbs ended up throwing a rushed pass on second down that Cam Taylor-Britt picked off and returned for a touchdown. It was Dobbs’ first interception thrown on the season. It was also Taylor-Britt’s first regular season interception (his first was against the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round of the playoffs last season).
Both offenses finished the half with the quarterbacks narrowly avoiding throwing an interception. A promising Bengals drive was also ended on a looping defensive lineman sacking Burrow.
The Bengals went into the half up 17-14.
Burrow and Chase wasted no time adding to their lead. A 63-yard dime from the quarterback really had fans excited that Burrow is looking more and more like himself. All around, it was a great design with a slight rollout to the right off play action to give Chase time to outrun the secondary that was cheating down toward the underneath receiver.
Arizona answers the call with an 11-play drive. It eventually ended with rookie running back Eman Demercado breaking outside for the touchdown. The drive was littered with runs all the way down the field. Backs falling forward, and the Arizona offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage. Cardinals kicker Matt Prater missed the extra point as the holder didn’t get the laces out, so Arizona only made it 20-24.
Burrow was getting going again in Arizona’s territory when Trenton Irwin — who had been having a fantastic game — fell as the ball was thrown, making it an easy interception. A huge trick play that saw Brown run a fake reverse pitch play to get down to Cincinnati’s 25-yard line seemed to really have things looking all Cardinals.
However, the Bengals defense came up big on a 4th-and-1 play. Dobbs was running to the outside, and safety Nick Scott and linebacker Germaine Pratt blew the play up before it could threaten a first down.
The next drive, we saw Burrow scamper for a first down. It was the most agile he’s looked since last season. The drive was extended by a very close Andrei Iosivas catch on third down, where he double-caught the pass along the sideline. It was the rookie's first catch of his career.
We also saw Chase catch a franchise-tying 13th reception to help get them a first down on a 2nd-and-long.
Then, his single-game record 14th catch for a touchdown on the drive to extend the lead to 11 points with 7:48 left. Burrow was able to buy time rolling out to his right, and Chase ran down the top of the end zone until he was open for his third touchdown in the game. Chase would finish the game with 15 grabs for 192 yards and three scores.
The defense showed up instantly on the next drive. Trey Hendrickson screeched around the offensive tackle to hit Dobbs and force the fumble. Sam Hubbard was able to dive on it. Cincinnati settled for a 40-yard field goal. Tyler Boyd did have a great catch-and-run that ended up as a touchdown, but it was called back with a Bengals penalty. Still, the lead reached 14 points with 6:30 left in the game.
The Bengals defense got another interception. This one came on fourth down, which isn’t an ideal time to get it. That led to a quick three-and-out that was ended when Trayveon Williams missed a check to a run by Burrow. The defense stood up when Brown felt footsteps and Alligator armed a throw by Dobbs that would have been negated by a holding call, but it wouldn’t have potentially ended the game.
A cool moment was Kwamie Lassiter II getting his first career catch against the team his late father played for. The time ran out soon after, and the Bengals came away with a 34-20 victory.
The Bengals NEEDED this kind of performance. After getting smacked by the Tennessee Titans last week, they couldn’t afford to drop to 1-4. Now at 2-3, they are merely a single game back (before tiebreakers) in the AFC North, as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are both sitting at 3-2. The season doesn’t look as grim as it once did.