What a way for the Cincinnati Bengals to start their 2018 season.
A year removed from one of their worst season-opening performances in team history, this year’s squad gave us one of the most electric results in recent memory. Even with an 11-point win on the road, as well as overcoming a 13-point second-half deficit, things weren’t all rosy in the Cincinnati’s victory.
Here are the best and worst from the team’s 34-23 win over the Colts in the season-opener.
Joe Mixon: Though he had a bigger number of scrimmage yards in a game last year, it’s hard not to call Mixon’s performance against the Colts as his best as a pro. Perhaps that’s in the facet of overall consistency.
He was a dual-threat on Sunday, giving Indianapolis’ defense fits. He finished with 17 carries for 95 yards (5.6 average) and a touchdown, along with five catches for 54 yards.
Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap: The Bengals used a lot of rotations up front, but it was their two stars on the defensive line that provided the biggest boosts. Atkins was a major factor in holding the Colts to just 3.4 yards per carry on the ground and had a sack of Andrew Luck.
Meanwhile, it was a roller coaster of a day for Dunlap, who ended up getting riled up after a certain questionable penalty was called against him. He used that anger towards team production, ending with a sack, a defended pass and two total tackles.
P.S. — Get used to being frustrated in watching pro football this year, as this is now a penalty in today’s NFL:
This was called roughing the passer. Carlos Dunlap was just flagged for this play. Yes, the referee threw a flag. pic.twitter.com/SSNLi7guDZ— Brandon Saho (@BrandonSaho) September 9, 2018
Special teams: Randy Bullock hasn’t been fully embraced by the fan base, but after a solid 2017 campaign, statistically-speaking, he started 2018 on a similar note. He finished 4-of-4 on extra points and 2-of-2 on field goals, with a massive one in the fourth quarter.
Kevin Huber also had a nice day, with two punts averaging 50 yards per kick, while Alex Erickson also had a nice 28-yard kick return.
Coming back from a large second half deficit: For about two and a half quarters, this had all of the style of a 2017 disappointment. Yet, inexplicably, the team metaphorically tightened their laces and got to work.
The “changes” we have heard so much about this offseason began to take shape. Big plays in the passing game, improvements in the rushing offense and creating turnovers on defense were all part of a 24-point second half by the Bengals.
Preston Brown and Nick Vigil: Unfortunately, Brown’s day was cut short with an injury, but he was active. Yes, he allowed a couple of frustrating underneath completions, but he had a gigantic first quarter interception to go along with five total tackles.
Vigil may have had his coming out party against the Colts. He led the team in tackles with 11, with a couple of them going for a loss.
Cordy Glenn: When you don’t hear an offensive lineman’s name very often during a game, that’s often a good thing. Glenn wasn’t highlighted very much by the announcers, but held his own in pass protection.
The big man also aided greatly in the run game. Check out Joe Mixon’s gains versus the Colts and how able the left side was at springing big plays. Yes, Billy Price and Alex Redmond had some nice pull blocks on a couple of occasions, but Glenn was a force on the left side.
Scheme and execution with Giovani Bernard: For all of the success Mixon had on Sunday, Bernard had just as many struggles. We’re not sure if it’s because of the styles of the respective runners, but the Bengals’ line will need to adjust to No. 25.
Bernard struggled to find any room at all, running once for minus-two yards and grabbing one reception for 11 yards. It will get better for Bernard going forward, we presume, but not a great output in packages designed for the versatile back in Week 1.
The right side of the offensive line: Even though the line showed improvement overall, Redmond and Bobby Hart struggled on Sunday. Hart got manhandled by former Bengals’ defensive end, Margus Hunt, as he racked up two sacks on Sunday (he had just 1.5 in four seasons with the Bengals).
As seen above in the tweet from Adam Spinks, they were able in the run game, but not necessarily the strong points. Both Redmond and Hart had penalties called against them as well.
#Bengals G Alex Redmond earned a 56.5 overall grade across 56 offensive snaps in Indy, allowing five total pressures in the process.— PFF CIN Bengals (@PFF_Bengals) September 10, 2018
Redmond and Bobby Hart (37.4 overall grade) earned the two lowest grades of any Bengals offensive player and allowed 10 total pressures combined.
Disparity of total plays: In some ways, it’s a miracle that the Bengals left Lucas Oil Stadium victorious. One of the ominous stat lines was in the amount of offensive plays called by each team.
Indianapolis ran 77 plays to the Bengals’ 50, which is startling. However, it was in the Bengals’ ability to get big plays on offense and defense that got them the win. After all, even though the Colts ran 27 more plays, they only had 50 more total yards (380 to 330).
Inability to cover tight ends...still: Luck attempted to kill the Bengals in a death by a thousand paper-cuts, given the dink-and-dunk nature of the Colts offense. The tight ends feasted on the Bengals’ defense, which has been a bug-a-boo for this team for a long time.
Jack Doyle had seven catches for 60 yards, while Eric Ebron had for grabs for 51 yards and a score. Even on the big play by Fejedelem, Doyle was set to convert a massive 15-yard third down. Teryl Austin needs to fix this in a hurry, as the tight end-heavy Ravens come to town on Thursday.
A near-loss from high-completion plays: To piggy-back on the previous point, Luck was all but poised to write a great NFL headline via high-percentage passes. In his first game back in over a year, Luck threw 53 passes, but completed them at a staggering 74% rate (39 completions).
Again, Austin needs to get to work here. Teams will undoubtedly use this method until the Bengals’ defense shows it can regularly clamp up on a variety of plays.
Four dropped interception opportunities: Austin has preached the need for game-changing plays and the Bengals had their chances on a number of occasions on Sunday. Whether it was because of rusty throws from Luck, or being in the right place at the right time, Cincinnati’s defense didn’t make some of the plays they needed to.
Dre Kirkpatrick let two interception opportunities go through his hands, while Vigil dropped a difficult one as well. And, despite Dunlap’s great afternoon, he did have one that hit him in the throat in the fourth quarter. Imagine if Cincinnati had just one of these potential turnovers.