The Cincinnati Bengals have won a football game. After the confluence of college and professional teams that this site roots for (Reds, Bengals, Kentucky) went 0-6-1 over these last few weeks, it was nice to taste victory for a change. Rookie rocket-arm Joe Burrow looked spectacular and the offensive line and defense held up enough to let the playmakers dominate in a closer-than-it-should-have-been 33-25 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Cincy defense opened with their only respectable possession of the half — intercepting Jags QB Gardner Minshew on 3rd down off a Jessie Bates tip and Jordan Evans catch in Jacksonville territory. The offense responded with a three-and-out and a punt from the Jacksonville 40. Abominable. Good football teams capitalize on the turnover, and the best ones roll the dice on fourth down, especially with a gamer like Joey B under center.
The defense caught another break next time out as Jacksonville hooked a 48-yard field goal left of the uprights before Cincy marched down the field and Burrow hit Tyler Boyd for a slick 16-yard touchdown pass that, of course, was called back for holding and pushed the Bengals into an uncomfortable 3rd-and-16 and eventual field goal. 3-0.
Jacksonville scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive thanks to 44 yards of personal foul penalties and an acrobatic TD snag by Jax wide receiver DJ Chark.
Cincinnati responded by botching the kick-off, starting at their own 11-yard line before Burrow and Joe Mixon tag-teamed their way to the Jacksonville one-yard line. And on 3rd-and-goal, they pulled a Kentucky and turned the ball over at the one. Terrible play call. Inches to go and Bengals coaches call the worst play in football: the goal line fade…to a tight end? Burrow put a perfectly-placed ball between Drew Sample’s gloves…and Sample let Jags linebacker Myles Jack take his manhood along with the football for an end zone turnover.
Jacksonville drove right back down the field but settled for a field goal before Burrow came back out and led Cincy to a touchdown. A series of tosses to Tee Higgins and a 2nd-and-goal flip to Mixon in the flat for a nine-yard, defender-hurdling touchdown with 56 ticks to go in the half knotted the game at 10-10.
We all know that’s plenty of time for Bengals’ opponents to sneak in a score before the half, and yet again, the opposition stormed down the turf, got inside the two-yard line with six seconds left and kicked a go-ahead field goal before halftime.
Which leads to this mind-numbing stat:
5th game in a row the #Bengals have given up points in the final 2 minutes of the first half, 6th in the last 7 and 36th in last 52.
— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonATH) October 4, 2020
Again, unacceptable! Aside from some nifty offensive play designs, it was another putrid half of coaching; so, par for the course with this staff.
Burrow caught fire in the second quarter and opened the third with a quick touchdown drive, ending in a 34-yard Mixon scamper for his second score of the day and a Bengals lead. Then the defense finally stepped up and forced a three-and-out; but really, a Jacksonville holding call is to credit. Jags running back James Robinson, who busted the Bengals’ pitiful (and expensive) run stoppers up throughout the first half, ran for 35 yards into Cincy territory before it was called back and Minshew threw three straight incompletions.
Either way, Cincinnati capitalized! Burrow hit a few mid-range passes and Giovani Bernard broke for a big gain, followed three plays later by another Mixon touchdown, this one coming on a 23-yard, 3rd-and-one gash up the middle. 24-13.
Next time out for Jacksonville, another three-and-out, this time courtesy of excellent pass defense and what the announcer considered a “coverage stop” on a third-down stop where Minshew scrambled around the backfield before being brought down at the line of scrimmage. Another punt.
Burrow led another drive into Jacksonville territory, threw three incompletions and Randy Bullock’s number was called for his second field goal of the day. 14-point Bengals lead, 27-13. Jacksonville responded with their first decent drive of the half and settled for a field goal after a huge first sack of the day, a dual takedown by linebackers Josh Bynes and Jordan Evans. Burrow zipped right back into opponent territory on the following drive — Cincy’s made it past the 50 on every possession in the game to this point — and wound up settling for the game’s third straight three-point score, 30-16.
The Jaguars converted a life-saving fourth down on their next possession and charged down the field, punching into the end zone with another DJ Chark touchdown catch that Leshaun Sims ripped away in a similar fashion to Drew Sample’s from earlier. This one stood as a TD. The Jags went for two and did not convert, giving Cincy the ball up eight with about six minutes to play.
Nine rushes and 66 yards later, Randy Bullock sailed his fourth field goal through the uprights to essentially seal the game, 33-22. Jacksonville scored with one more field goal with 10 seconds left but Jordan Evans recovered the ensuing onside kick to give the Bengals their first victory of the Joe Burrow era.
The defense still left a lot to be desired and the first half penalties led to a Jags touchdown, but Cincinnati came out in the second act the much better, and dominant, side, reaching the other side of the 50 on every possession of the game and scoring 23 points in the final two quarters while holding Jacksonville to 12. It was a complete performance.
Offensively, the O-line played its best game since Zac Taylor took over, allowing zero sacks (Burrow’s slide right before the final Bullock field goal doesn’t count) and giving Burrow ample time to pick apart the porous Jacksonville pass defense. Also to the credit of the big bodies up front, Mixon had one of his best games as a Bengal, taking 25 carries for 152 yards and two 20+ yard touchdowns; and added 30 yards and another touchdown as a receiver.
And how about Joey Burrow?!?
Elite. Professional. Smooth. Focused. Pinpoint accuracy.
The mistakes were nonexistent and the passes hit receivers right in the gloves. Open or not, Burrow bull’s-eyed throws to Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd all afternoon long, and his lone interception should have been caught by Drew Sample, who failed to take advantage of a perfectly placed ball.
We’ve known since last fall, but Joe Burrow is as real as his college highlight tapes and is headed towards being a perennial top-10 or even top-5 quarterback in the NFL. Actually, let’s break it down. Here are the ten best non-Burrow QBs:
- Patrick Mahomes
- Russell Wilson
- Lamar Jackson
- Aaron Rodgers
- Dak Prescott
- Tom Brady
- Josh Allen
- Ryan Tannehill
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Deshaun Watson
This year, I’d take Joe Burrow over at least Big Ben, Deshaun and Tannehill; and Josh Allen isn’t totally trustable yet. From an optimist’s perspective, Cincinnati has maybe the seventh or eighth best QB in the NFL. That’s our rookie! Lots to build on from a feel-good home victory.