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The good, the bad and the ugly in Bengals’ 20-16 win over the Titans

Cincinnati came through with a huge win on Sunday against Tennessee, but there were some areas of concern.

It was a big win for the Bengals on Sunday, as they disallowed the Titans to exact revenge from their last meeting. Cincinnati did a number of great things to get a quality win under their belt, impressing the masses.

Here are the best and worst facets of the team’s win against Tennessee.

The good

Bottling up Derrick Henry...on the ground, at least:

The Cincinnati Bengals had one goal on Sunday: bottle up Derrick Henry and the Titans’ run game. They achieved that in a big way, with Henry having 2.2 yards per carry on the day, while also keeping him out of the end zone.

The rest of the Titans runners didn’t do much else, either, with the team getting just 3.0 yards per carry and netting 11 yards as the long run of the day. The Bengals’ defense made it extremely tough for the Titans to win by completely erasing this facet of their team.

Finding ways to win:

It wasn’t a pretty affair by either team, as evidenced by the three total touchdowns score in the contest. Yet, these Cincinnati Bengals might as well be the “Queen City Chameleons”, given the way they continue to evolve and beat teams in creative ways.

Not only were the Bengals without Ja’Marr Chase when it looked he may be finally returning from his hip injury this week, but Joe Mixon was also still suffering effects from a concussion sustained against the Steelers. Yet, Cincinnati went in to Nashville, didn’t flinch and beat the Titans in a non-finesse way to continue climbing up the AFC playoff bracket.

Tee Higgins and Hayden Hurst:

Again, without the Bengals having two of their big weapons, Joe Burrow and the gang had to make adjustments. Higgins had his second-straight 100-yard receiving game (third of the year) and had what ended up being the game-sealing touchdown catch.

Hurst continues to integrate himself nicely in the offense as a potent ancillary weapon in the passing game, notching 57 yards on six catches. Oh, and his blocking is improving a bit:

Zero turnovers committed against a quality defense:

The Bengals’ offense plodded at times on Sunday, but in a game with razor-thin margins for error, they didn’t commit the big one. Burrow played clean football, as did role players who stepped up when called upon because of injuries to others. It was a huge key to the team’s win.

Offensive line performance:

In the first matchup back in the 2021 AFC Divisional Round, the Bengals’ offensive line became a national punchline for allowing nine sacks in the game. Despite getting to Super Bowl LVI and almost winning it, that game sent a message to the team that major changes were needed.

Four new starters later, things are coming together. The vaunted Tennessee defense netted one sack, prompting Burrow to publicly praise the offensive line after the win. PFF is liking what the unit is doing, too:

The defensive backs:

Chidobe Awuzie is leaving a massive void, but guys are stepping up. The athleticism the Bengals loved from rookie Cam Taylor-Britt keeps popping off the tape with each additional start, as evidenced by his eight tackles and Charlie Hustle forced fumble. Oh, and he had the fourth-highest PFF score on the team this week (79.7).

Mike Hilton made three high impact tackles of his seven total, while Eli Apple keeps putting together solid games. He had two passes defended in the contest, making life hard for Ryan Tannehill.

Special teams stepping up in a tight game:

The transition to Drue Chrisman at punter has been one of the better moves by the team this year. In a game that was tight throughout, the field position battle was a huge facet. He had a 51.8 punt average and two of his five punts landed in the Titans’ 20-yard line.

Evan McPherson had another perfect game in gloomy weather, accounting for eight of the team’s 20 points. He bombed a key 47-yarder and continued to show ice in his veins in a hostile environment.

The bad

The Henry pass play:

Cincinnati may have bottled up Henry on the ground, but he navigated his way for the game’s biggest and wackiest play of the afternoon. “The King” took a dump-off pass 69 yards before Taylor-Britt unleashed the Hammer of Thor to knock out the ball right before the end zone.

To boot, even after a high-effort play by the rookie, the ball still bounced Tennessee’s way, as Treylon Burks hopped on the fumble in the end zone. Not so much a truly poor play by the Bengals, as it was a quality one by Henry and luck playing a factor.

No turnovers forced and inconsistent pressure:

It’s kind of a wonder in how well the Bengals’ defense is playing right now. Really, what they’re best at is getting teams into longer third down situations and getting off of the field.

Lou Anarumo’s group forced zero turnovers and sacked Tannehill just once in this game. I guess if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, but it seems like we make a weekly request for the Bengals to find more ancillary pass-rushers goes unheard.

Wide receivers not named Tee Higgins:

Really, Chase is coming back at a seemingly perfect time. Cincinnati’s offense has gotten by with Higgins often winning his matchups, but it’s been a little bit of a struggle for other receivers.

Tyler Boyd had a quiet day (two catches for 16 yards), while Trenton Irwin and Trent Taylor combined for two catches for 24 yards.

The ugly

Accrued penalties:

Regardless of the year under Zac Taylor, the Bengals have routinely been one of the least-penalized teams in the league. While that still has been a theme this year, the Bengals had nine penalties on Sunday.

Trey Hendrickson had two (offsides and roughing), which was jarring, while special teams had a number of yellow flags called on them as well. This is out of the norm, so it’s not a long-term worry at the moment, but it made the game much more precarious.