The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off their biggest victory of the Zac Taylor era. This victory should make everyone believe that the Bengals are not just a young upstart team that can compete next year. This team can compete this year.
They came into Baltimore and took it to the division-leading Ravens. Despite being 6.5 point underdogs, the Bengals won by 24 points and it certainly felt like it towards the end with both teams pulling their starters. So let’s get into some things that the Bengals can take away from this victory.
The Bengals Just Had Their Statement Victory
It feels like every team that puts itself on the map has a game just like this. In 2017 the Los Angeles Rams went into Seattle and beat the Seahawks 42-7. That felt like a changing of the guard for the NFC West. The Baltimore Ravens in 2019 rattled off 8-straight wins after their bye week, starting with a 37-20 victory over the New England Patriots. That felt like the moment that Baltimore was not just a fun team, but a contender. Even looking at the Cleveland Browns from last year, they took the leap into being a contender after they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in the playoffs. All of these games were the launching point for those teams to be considered contenders. I think that this game against the Ravens will be the launching point for the Bengals in the same way. They won by a convincing margin on the road against a high-quality opponent. All of the excuses are gone. I think you will see the national media start to change their tune about this team.
Joe Burrow Was Excellent
This one is pretty obvious, but Joe Burrow was excellent in this game. Over 400 yards for the second time in his career, a passer rating well over 100, plus he averaged over 10 yards-per-attempt and threw for 3 touchdowns. His EPA/play was 0.49 (excellent), his average depth of target was over 10 yards, and his completion percentage over expected was 4 (very good). Outside of that terrible interception, Burrow may have had the best game of his career. The 416 yards are a career-high. The 3 touchdowns tie for the most Burrow has ever thrown in a game. The 10.95 yards per attempt are the most the Burrow has ever thrown in a game. Whether you use the eye test, volume statistics, efficiency statistics, or advanced statistics, Burrow just had possibly the best game of his career.
Low Sacks Lead To Wins
Another one that may seem obvious, but when Burrow is hardly sacked over the course of a game, the Bengals win. In games that Burrow finished, there have been five instances where Burrow has only been sacked one time or less. The Bengals have won every single one of those games. When Burrow has been sacked three or more times, the Bengals are 1-7-1. So Something that seems simple is really backed by the past year and a half. If the offensive line can give Burrow time, he will tear apart a defense and win the game.
Rushing Efficiency Is Key
Similar to the last takeaway, the Bengals win when Mixon runs well. So far this season, when Joe Mixon is over four yards per carry the Bengals win. In the Bengals’ two losses this year, the opposing defense was able to slow him down to less than four yards per carry. This is not the old-fashioned “if we have more rush attempts, we win” type of thinking. That thinking is more flawed because the winning team will run the clock out. This takeaway is about the efficiency of running the ball. These past two takeaways really mean that the Bengals win when their offensive line plays well.
The Defense is For Real
This defense was said to be built to stop the Ravens. They did that in this game. The Ravens had their lowest point total of the season. The Bengals switched things up as they have the past few years and gotten into a 4-3 stack against Baltimore rather than their usual 3-4/5-2 base that they utilize against everyone else. This allows for the second level to flow against the Ravens' dynamic rushing attack. Then when it comes to the passing game, the Bengals were able to get multiple coverage sacks. The pass rushers did a good job of staying in their lanes to contain Lamar Jackson, but it was the coverage downfield that gave them the extra time to get to him. The entire defense played together to combine for a fantastic performance.
Consistency Is Key
This win is a cause for celebration from the team, fans, owner, coaches, reporters, and anyone else who is invested in them. For the first time since 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals are a true force to be reckoned with. The one thing that needs to happen is consistency. The Bengals need to maintain this high level of play to be a contender. Beat the Jets in New York next week. While it doesn't matter for the standings, they should pull out a big victory against them. The Jets are one of the worst teams in the league and the Bengals need to make sure that they do not play down to their opponent. If the Bengals maintain this high level of play, over the course of the year, they could definitely win the AFC North.
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