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3 things we learned from the Bengals’ win over the 49ers

The Bengals are cooking.

Cincinnati Bengals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images

“The Bengals are back.” “Joe Burrow is back.” “Here comes Cincinnati.”

We’ve heard it all since Sunday. But what did we actually learn following the Cincinnati Bengals’ 31-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers on the road?

Joe Burrow is 100% healthy

Yes, we heard the reports before the game, but seeing Burrow take off for designed runs and even throw his body into harm’s way really sealed the deal. He’s fully back from the calf strain, and with only 10 games left and his team currently out of the playoff race, I’d expect to see the quarterback continue to put his body on the line.

The Bengals will have to survive without a quality tight end

Cincinnati tried to get Irv Smith more involved against San Francisco. As a result, he had a season-high in receiving yards. The problem is that his season high was only 25 yards. And he had a costly fumble near the goal line.

On Tuesday, the Bengals let the trade deadline come and go without upgrading at tight end. So this is it. Today, they signed Tanner Hudson to the active roster. And so those will be your two pass-catching tight ends for the rest of the season.

Zac Taylor’s play-calling is a lot better when Burrow can move

We all suspected this, but the dominant win over the 49ers cemented the idea; the Bengals head coach is not a great play-caller when he can’t get Burrow under center, have him create plays by escaping pressure, or pick up first downs with his legs.

When Burrow was limited by the injury, Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan looked like they didn’t know what they were doing. Then, on Sunday, they seemed brilliant.

The offensive output wasn’t all Burrow. Taylor and Callahan called a great game. The best they have this year. And it’s no coincidence that came precisely when Burrow finally felt completely right.

There are different ingredients that go into Cincinnati having a functional (and sometimes explosive) offense: Burrow’s incredible accuracy and evasiveness, Chase’s occasional monster play, and Taylor and Callahan giving Burrow the structure he needs to make things happen. If one of those ingredients is missing, the whole thing falls apart.