Thankfully, the defense stepped up as much as anyone could have hoped for, and the offense did just enough for Cincinnati to score a 19-16 victory over L.A.
The Bengals started the game with a promising drive. They converted their first third down of the game thanks to Tyler Boyd putting together a couple of nice catch-and-runs. Rookie wide receiver Charlie Jones also had the first catch of his career for a first down. An unfortunate stumble by tight end Tanner Hudson when Burrow was targeting him led to a failed third down conversion and Evan McPherson pushing a 56-yard field goal wide left.
It appeared the Rams quickly turned the missed field goal into a touchdown as they gashed the Bengals' defense on the ground, capped off with a 24-yard wide receiver Tutu Atwell run where he dove into the end zone. Upon further review, it was ruled that he stepped out at the 2-yard line. Nose tackle D.J. Reader made a statement, getting a sack on first down, which set Los Angeles too far back to do anything but settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown.
Both teams suffered a three-and-out the next couple of drives. Cincinnati turned a 3rd-and-1 into a 3rd-and-11 due to two false starts, but the defense stepped up to get the offense the ball back, quickly getting a stop on 3rd-and-1.
The Bengals put together an efficient drive. Burrow spread the ball around, hitting five different receivers on the drive, and Joe Mixon put together a couple of good runs. Unfortunately, another false start on third down gave the team a long third down attempt that they failed. McPherson drilled a 49-yard field goal to tie the game.
Los Angeles put together another quick drive that landed them in the red zone. Matthew Stafford connected with Atwell for a 37-yard gain taking advantage of single high coverage. Still, the defense did its job and stopped them at the five-yard line, forcing another field goal that gave them another three-point lead.
Burrow and the Bengals managed to move the ball a little bit, but defensive lineman Aaron Donald recorded his first sack of the game and threw them off schedule. Then Dax Hill made two great plays to help force Los Angeles off the field on third down again. The defense had yet to allow a third-down conversion on the night (0-4).
The Bengals offense just looks disjointed. If they aren’t able to stay on schedule, it just all falls apart. The defense even did them a favor with a Logan Wilson interception on the Rams 40-yard line. Tee Higgins made a great catch that would have set them up at the five-yard line, but he pretty obviously pushed off and got called for offensive pass interference. Then Burrow misfired on two other downfield throws to Higgins and Chase to squander an opportunity.
Hill, playing probably his best game as a Bengal so far, sacked Stafford on second down to take the Rams all the way back to a 3rd-and-18 and another failed conversion that gave Burrow, and the offense got another opportunity with 1:13 at their own 40-yard line.
The offense didn’t fail the call. On the best pass of the game, Hudson gained 26 yards and put them in field goal range. A sack did eliminate any opportunity for more than that. The team was out of timeouts, and after the team was able to get set up, they had just around 30 seconds before they could even think about even getting a play in and called. Burrow opted to let the clock run to about four seconds and secure a half-ending field goal. McPherson delivered to tie the game at 6-6.
Los Angeles started out the second half with a very impressive drive. It was saved after a Trey Hendrickson sack was called back due to a “face mask” penalty against Sam Hubbard, which was a bit questionable of a call. That gave the offense the ball on the 21-yard line, but the defense stood strong in the red zone again, and Hendrickson ultimately got his sack that ended the drive in another field goal making it 9-6 in favor of the Rams.
The Bengals' offense came out on fire in the second half. We saw clutch catches and decent-chunk plays from Chase and Higgins. The drive was extended via an amazing Chase catch that he made a full arm length behind him that Burrow had to place there. He caught it and managed to keep his momentum for a first-down conversion on third-and-long. The drive was capped off with a Mixon run that he weaved through traffic in the middle to end up with a touchdown. This was the most the team looked like themselves all night. They gained their first lead of the night, 13-9.
The Rams' offense came out with a deep shot to Van Jefferson for 46 yards and appeared to be threatening to turn this into a shootout. Mike Hilton had a different plan as he was going to come on a blitz but opted to drop back and spy Stafford’s eyes when the offensive line clocked him. He was able to get a hand on the pass that landed in Wilson’s arms for his second pick on the night.
The Bengals managed to turn the turnover into a field goal. The highlight of the drive was a perfectly executed play-action play where Burrow fulled the entire defense into believing it was a pitch play. Instead, he rolled out and hit Chase down the field for 43 yards. They now led by seven points.
The defense kept the momentum alive. The drive was derailed due to a face mask penalty on the offensive line that wiped out a first-down play. Rams still looking for their first third-down conversion late into the third quarter (0-7).
The offense put together a long drive. They converted a third-and-long and a fourth down on the drive. However, while they were in scoring position Rams’ cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon made a fantastic defensive play going over the top of Boyd and taking the ball away from him for the interception. The Bengals failed to extend their touchdown lead.
The Bengals defense — like they have all night — answered the call and forced a three-and-out. Hendrickson recorded another sack, and B.J. Hill also got a sack on third down that Stafford almost got the ball out before getting to the ground. The Rams had to punt from their own end zone, and Jones added a 19-yard return on the punt. Burrow starts with the ball at the Los Angeles 40-yard line.
The offense went three-and-out, but they gained enough yards to give McPherson the opportunity to give the Bengals a two-score lead with a 54-yard field goal.
Hendrickson continued his assault on Stafford with another sack, but he had another wiped with offsetting penalties. The defense still managed to keep the Rams blanked on third-down conversions with another three-and-out.
Cincinnati’s offense focuses on running the clock with three straight run plays to give the Rams the ball back with 3:45 left at their own 39-yard line needing two scores with only a single timeout.
The Rams were able to convert a fourth down on their next drive, but right afterward, Sam Hubbard joined the fun with a sack for himself, the team’s sixth of the night
that wasn’t taken away. That negated any chance of Los Angeles scoring prior to the 2-minute warning. Stafford was able to hit wide receiver Puka Nacua for a deep gain on the three-yard line, but then the Rams ran the ball. That means when Atwell caught a touchdown the next play, it left only 1:03 left. Leaving them needing an onside kick down a field goal.
Tight end Mitchell Wilcox recovered the kick, essentially ending the game.
It was absolutely a team win. Give the defense an incredible amount of credit. They forced two turnovers, got six sacks, and didn’t allow a third-down conversion until the final minute. Burrow and the offense did enough to get the win, but you have to wonder how many times this team can pull out wins with the offense playing like this.
Still, this is a time to be positive as they move to 1-2 on the season, and a win next week to move to .500 would do a lot for the confidence of this team.