They did it.
The Cincinnati Bengals beat the LA Rams on Monday night and avoided starting the 2023 season with an 0-3 record. In doing so, they’ve stoked the flames of hope that they can do something really special this year. Quarterback Joe Burrow didn’t have any setbacks and started to really look more like himself at times in the second half.
But that wasn’t the story. The defense was.
Here are a few big things that stood out in the Bengals win over the Rams
- Holy cow, the defense was dominant. After looking like they did last week for the beginning of the Rams' first drive of the game (not good), the Bengals defense finally got their feet under them when D.J. Reader was able to sack Matthew Stafford on third down in the red zone. That took the wind right out of the Rams' sails, and the defense continued to pour it on. They sacked Stafford seven times on Monday night football.
- Trey Hendrickson absolutely dominated all night. He finished the game with two sacks, but he was in Stafford’s personal space all night long.
- Burrow isn’t Burrow yet. That’s clear. He doesn’t look 100%, and the Bengals offense sputtered a lot on Monday night. There were bright spots, but the offense overall isn’t really firing on all cylinders right now. I’m not even sure if they’re firing on half of them yet.
- Joe Mixon averaged less than four yards per carry, but he had some tough runs and broke a couple of long runs too. Not only did he score the team’s only touchdown, but he converted on a tough fourth-and-short and at least kept the Rams defense honest.
Next week, the Bengals go back on the road to face the Tennessee Titans. Here are a few things they could be looking for as they prepare for Week 4.
- It obviously starts with Derrick Henry, the biggest and strongest running back in the league. The Titans' offense flows through Henry, and Ryan Tannehill is mostly asked to manage the game. It hasn’t worked yet for the Titans, though. Henry has only averaged 3.2 yards per carry so far this season.
- The Titans have given up the fifth most yards to opposing quarterbacks so far in 2023. Since Burrow made it through against the Rams, if he’s more in sync with his receivers in Week 4, and if he’s more himself, he could be in store for a huge game on Sunday.
- DeAndre Hopkins, acquired via free agency by the Titans, has more than double the catches of the next receiver. The Titans' passing attack hasn’t been great. They have the fourth least yards in the NFL so far this season, and Tannehill has thrown three interceptions to one touchdown.
- The Titans' defense has racked up 10 sacks so far this season, tying them for fourth most in the NFL after Week 3. The Bengals’ offensive line has done a pretty good job so far when it comes to protecting Burrow. They’ll need to keep it up in Week 4.
Some random thoughts on the Bengals' Week 3 win:
- Dax Hill had himself a game. He was everywhere. In the first half alone, he had a sack, a huge tackle for loss, and a big third-down stop. He’s filling those big shoes left behind by Jessie Bates III well so far.
- The secondary did have some miscommunication issues in the second half, but that’s to be expected when you’re replacing the duo of Bates and Vonn Bell with Hill and Nick Scott. Still, their athleticism was on full display.
- Congratulations to Chad Johnson and Boomer Esiason for their induction into the Bengals Ring of Honor!
- Hendrickson is a monster, and he was on full display on Monday night. He lived in the backfield. He forced Stafford to throw early and off-target over and over.
- Burrow looked like Burrow sometimes, and then sometimes he didn’t. There were plays where he flashed what he could do, and then there were times when it was clear he wasn’t fully healthy. I’m happy there were seemingly no setbacks, and I hope he trends in the right direction moving forward.
- The offensive line did a pretty decent job at keeping Burrow clean. Aaron Donald got him, but he’s Aaron Donald. For the most part, though, Burrow had time to throw.
- The pre-snap penalties were a killer on Monday night, and they absolutely have to be cleaned up.
- Ja’Marr Chase had a huge game. It was nice to see the Burrow-Chase train back on the tracks.
- Higgins struggled. He dropped two first-down passes and was called for OPI on a long pass down the sidelines. He and Burrow will get it right, but this is two duds for Higgins out of three games.
- Logan Wilson had two interceptions, once again showing he’s one of the best coverage linebackers in the game.
- The play-calling in the second half was better. I was happy to see Chase moved around pre-snap to give him different opportunities. That played a lot into his big game.
- I’m happy Burrow got the win and was able to finish the game without re-injuring his calf, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to see Browning come out in the third quarter based on the risk to Burrow’s health and how the offense had looked in the first half.
- Considering he isn’t 100 percent, 49 pass attempts for Burrow is pretty wild.
- Burrow said, “0-3 sounds a lot worse than 1-2” after the game. You’re damn right.
I’m a survivor (what)
I’m not gon’ give up (what)
I’m not gon’ stop (what)
I’m gon’ work harder (what)