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Tuesday Trenches: What’s better than a win?

The quality of the win, of course.

Syndication: The Enquirer Cara Owsley/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

A win is a win. That much is true.

However, a total win, in which one team thoroughly dominates the other team in all three phases of the game, is obviously better than “just a win.”

That’s what the Cincinnati Bengals did to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon in Paycor Stadium, winning by a final score of 34-14.

Jake Browning had another great game, and other than one bad defensive drive and one offensive mistake, the Bengals showed there isn’t a team in the AFC they can’t hang with, even without Joe Burrow.

Here are a few big things that stood out to me:

  • I’m so excited that Chase Brown is taking advantage of his opportunities. His burst and speed give us something the running game has been lacking without him. Joe Mixon is playing well too. He’s picking up the tough yards. Third-and-one? Give it to Joe, he’ll get it. Second-and-long? Get the ball in Brown’s hands in space, he’ll get you close. The offense is working right now in large part to the running game. It’s about time.
  • Trey Hendrickson continues to have an incredible season. He has 13.5 sacks so far this season, which ties him in third place in the league and puts him just a sack and a half behind the NFL leader Khalil Mack. He has absolutely been one of the best free agent signings in team history, and it’s incredible that he’s under contract through 2025. He’s on pace for 18 sacks in 2023. And in case you’re wondering, the single-season record for sacks is 14, held by Hendrickson in the 2021 season.
  • The Colts' bread and butter on offense is their ability to run the ball. Jonathan Taylor was out, but the offensive line is still good at opening up holes, and it’s not like Zach Moss can’t run the ball. Well, actually, he couldn’t run the ball. The Bengals kept Moss to 2.2 yards per carry. DJ Reader and the Bengals defensive front kept the Colts under 50 rushing yards for the game. And this is the same defense that has struggled to stop the run all season.
  • Jake Browning had another game. He completed 18/24 passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns, rushing for a third, and only one interception. Outside of one or two bad throws, he was incredible once again. But there was one play in particular that blew my mind. Browning found an open Tyler Boyd as the other receivers were covered. He paid for it too, as he was crushed (check out the whole play here, done well again by Joe Goodberry).

The Bengals stay at home and play on SATURDAY against the 7-6 Minnesota Vikings, who are currently holding on to the No. 6 seed in the NFC. They’re also with a backup quarterback, and while they’ve won three of their last five games, they have only averaged 11 points in the last three games played.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on:

  • Kirk Cousins is out for the year, and Josh Dobbs, who had been leading the offense, was benched in the team’s Week 14 3-0 win over the Raiders. He had completed 10/23 passes for only 63 yards when Nick Mullins stepped in and completed 9/13 passes for 83 yards. We don’t currently know who will be taking snaps in Week 14 yet, but the Bengals defense should prepare for both guys.
  • On a team with Justin Jefferson and rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison, it’s tight end T.J. Hockenson who leads the team with 839 receiving yards. The Bengals have had trouble lately when it comes to covering tight ends. Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth caught nine passes for 120 yards. Hockenson is a very talented tight end. It’s not insane to say that Hockenson will be the biggest threat to the Bengals on Sunday.
  • Danielle Hunter leads the Vikings with 14 sacks and rushes from both ends. The Bengals' offensive line held up against the Colts, as Browning didn’t even take a single sack. They’ll need to have a similar game. Former UC Bearcat Ivan Pace Jr. is also a very good pass rusher, though he doesn’t rush nearly as often. The Bengals, in theory, had their hands much fuller with the Colts. Now we’ll get to see if they’ve actually found their stride.
  • The Vikings have been tough against the run, only giving up a little over 1,200 yards so far this season. Josh Jacobs, one of the better running backs in the league, ran the ball 13 times for only 34 yards (2.23 yards per attempt). Hopefully, the Bengals’ resurgent running game using both Mixon and Brown is able to get the job done.

Here are a few more random thoughts on the Bengals Week 14 win over the Colts:

  • The Bengals interior offensive linemen, Cordell Volson, Ted Karras, and Alex Cappa, were excellent on Sunday, both as run blockers and in pass protection. The offensive line has stacked two great performances, and as the playoffs near, now is a good time for them to get on the same page.
  • At any point in the offseason, if you told me we might miss the playoffs because JAKE BROWNING HURT HIS THUMB, I would have checked you into a hospital. What a time to be alive.
  • I was happy Tee Higgins was more involved, and I wish the touchdown would have stood or Browning was able to hit him in stride when he broke open on his long reception. He still had a couple of bad dropped passes, but I’d love to see him have a HUGE game on Saturday.
  • Chase Brown has wheels. He was faster than every single player in the NFL so far this season, with the exception of DK Metcalf. Yes, that means he was faster than Tyreek Hill.
  • The 2023 Bengals draft class has been outstanding. First round pick Myles Murphy had a 14.3 percent pass rush win percentage (per PFF), which was just a little behind Hendrickson. DJ Turner and Jordan Battle are starting and showing flashes of what they’re capable of. We saw what Chase Brown can do. We’ve seen what Andrei Iosivas can do, both on offense and special teams, and now DJ Ivey. The only guy we haven’t seen a ton from is Charlie Jones, but I think his time is coming, even if it’s not in 2023.
  • There’s no question that Browning can win. Looking at the schedule, we see a bunch of teams with backup quarterbacks and the Chiefs, who are having a down year. The Bengals are still a playoff team, and I think they can win in the postseason as well. Having said that, can you imagine this offense, this one that Browning is running right now, with Burrow behind center? Scary.
  • Also, Burrow giving up his suite for Browning’s family is a class move. After seeing all these other quarterbacks sitting in their team’s luxury boxes during their games, seeing Burrow on the sideline, rooting for Browning, wearing a headset, and helping where he can is a breath of fresh air. He’s a leader of men, and we’re lucky he’s here.

There are six teams log-jammed at 7-6 in the AFC, and all of them play in Week 15. The Steelers and Colts play each other, the Broncos play the Lions in Denver, the Texans travel to play the Titans, the Bills host the Cowboys, and the Bengals host the Vikings. Hopefully, the Bengals have a spot to lose after this weekend.

Who Dey!