Who dey think is in first place?
The Cincinnati Bengals took a huge amount of flak in the press for drafting Ja’Marr Chase instead of offensive tackle Penei Sewell. Then Chase proceeded to drop every pass thrown his way in the preseason.
Passing on Sewell was the correct move, however, because they had already signed free agent Riley Reiff to play the same position. The other tackle, Jonah Williams, was drafted 11th overall in 2019. They also drafted three offensive linemen including second-rounder Jackson Carmon from Clemson. Sportswriters who say that the Bengals are not protecting Joe Burrow are perhaps not looking at the overall picture.
Chase was sensational in the upset win over Minnesota with five catches for 101 yards and, most importantly, zero drops. Joe Burrow is right up there with Baker Mayfield in terms of accuracy. He went 20 for 27 for 261 yards. However, the Bengals did give up five sacks, despite all the nice things I said about their offensive line.
Actually, the tackles held up rather well, judging from the videos, but center Trey Hopkins had a very rough time. Hopkins is coming off a late-season ACL injury. Hopefully, he’s okay, but….
Joe Mixon appears to be back, gaining 127 yards on the ground on 29 attempts (4.38 yards per carry) and adding another 23 through the air via four receptions. He’s back, after apparently recovering from a foot injury last season that seemed like it might be chronic. Cincinnati tried desperately to give the game away, allowing Minnesota to come back from a 21-7 deficit and also 24-21.
The Bengals defense gave up 351 yards on 36 completions from 49 attempts by Kirk Cousins, but held Dalvin Cook to 3.05 yards per carry on 20 carries for 61 yards. They also sacked Cousins three times for 26 yards. The defensive line did not perform at all last season, so they are much improved.
Coach Zac Taylor had a very Bengalesque moment at the end of regulation, with a wind blowing and a potential 53-yard field goal facing the Vikings and their kicker, Greg Joseph, who you may recall as the Browns kicker who beat Baltimore in overtime in 2018.
Taylor decided to freeze the kicker by calling a last-second time out, allowing Joseph to complete the kick which was no good. Of course, Joseph was able to gauge the wind better, compensates perfectly, and knocks it through to send the game into overtime. Great job, coach! It was so obvious that you don’t give an NFL kicker a second chance to compensate for the wind.
Bengals fans literally screamed at the TV at the sports cafe where I was on Sunday before the kick attempt. That decision was so bad that I too found it offensive as a football fan. The Bengals richly deserved to lose that game. But somehow Odin, or whatever diety is in charge of football games, allowed the Bengals to win in overtime after a Dalvin Cook fumble.
To summarize, the Bengals seemed determined to lose but won despite themselves. Joe Burrow is a stud, and he is definitely back all the way. There is concern about Ja’Marr Chase but his talent was evident versus the Vikes. The interior of the Bengals offensive line needs to be repaired.