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Six Takeaways From the Bengals' 34-11 Win Over the Lions in Detroit

Cincinnati is 4-2 for the first time since 2018.

The Bengals needed to beat the Lions on Sunday if they wanted to be taken seriously as a possible playoff contender. Even though Detroit kept it close in the first half, Cincinnati did manage to make a statement in the second half. The Bengals led 27-0 at one point and cruised to a 34-11 win

Scripted Plays

The first 15 or so plays on offense are typically scripted by the coaches. Mainly it is to move the ball early by taking advantage of what was presented on tape. For the first time this year, the Bengals scored during their first drive. It ended with Chris Evans' 24-yard touchdown reception. This was his first touchdown of the season and it came on a beautiful go ball down the left sideline split as a wide receiver. The Bengals must have liked that matchup against the Lions linebacker. If the Bengals want to win in Baltimore next week, scoring during the first 15 would go a long way to helping that.

Related: Five Thoughts on the Bengals' Blowout Win Over the Ravens

Second Half Dominance

The first half was in the Bengals’ favor, but the game was still within reach for the Lions. The Bengals kicked a last second field goal to take a 10-0 lead into the half. However, the second half started off with a bang. 

Joe Burrow thew a 40-yard touchdown to Joe Mixon on 4th-and-1 on their first drive. They used the swap boot concept. Then the defense forced a 3-and-out. The Bengals’ second drive of this half ended in a field goal to double the lead of the first half. After this score, the Bengals’ defense forced another punt. 

On the following drive, Cincinnati finished off Detroit with their third score of the half. This time Burrow found C.J. Uzomah for a two-yard score. After this touchdown, the Bengals were in cruise control and pulled their starters. Even with the backups, they increased the lead even further with a touchdown from Brandon Allen putting the score at 34-3 before a late garbage time touchdown for D’Andre Swift. So prior to the Bengals pulling their starters the 2nd half was at a score of 17-0. Both sides of the ball were dominating the Lions during that run and it is what turned the game into a blowout.

Stifling Defense

Say what you will about the opponent that the Bengals faced on Sunday, but the defense was absolutely smothering. Prior to the Lions’ garbage time scores, the Bengals defense held them to 0 points, and then even including what the Lions did in garbage time the yardage totals were fantastic. Jared Goff barely hit 200 yards on more than 40 passes. Swift and Jamaal Williams combined for 35 rushing yards on 17 carries which is good for 2.06 yards per carry. They only had one sack and one turnover, but the defense was still dominant. 

Explosive Offense

Both this takeaway and the last one are pretty expected when the team wins by such a massive margin, but this one more specifically is about how the Bengals created explosive plays. There were five plays of 20+ yard gains on the day for the Bengals. Mixon was tackled two yards short of making it six explosive plays. 

The Bengals scored on all five drives that had at least one big play. This shows the value of creating these plays because it makes life easier on the offense. It is not a coincidence that the offense scored every time there was an explosive play on the drive.

Running Back Showcase

On paper, the Bengals had a massive advantage when it came to their wide receivers against the Lions’ cornerbacks. Despite what looked like an advantage there, Burrow threw all of his touchdowns to running backs and tight ends. Specifically with the running backs, Evans and Mixon each caught a long touchdown. To go with the receiving work, Mixon carried the ball 18 times for 94 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. This is not carried by any large runs either as his longest of the day was 18 yards, which shows how he was able to consistently gain positive yardage. 

This was a fantastic performance from him both on the ground and through the air. He also had a standout pass protection rep where he stonewalled a linebacker at the line of scrimmage. Evans did not have the same success on the ground at just four carries for 18 yards, but he had the opening touchdown that really showed off his ability as a receiver. There aren't many running backs that can win on go routes like Evans did on the touchdown. The ability to win at the line, track the ball, and make the tough catch are all areas that running backs struggle with. Evans is different. Those are areas where he shines brightest.

Oct 17, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Chris Evans (25) catches a pass for a first quarter touchdown against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Evans made a beautiful 24-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter of Sunday's game.

Offensive Line Roller Coaster

All of the positive takeaways from this game are fun, but we need to discuss the one area of concern. The offensive line was not abysmal in this game, but it was a negative. It definitely needs to be improved upon heading into Baltimore next week. Specifically, the issues seem to be communication and correctly setting the protection. 

Those are the two areas that the Ravens love to attack under defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. I am sure Bengals fans still remember the game in Baltimore last year where Burrow was sacked seven times in a 27-3 defeat. They got nearly all of their pressure against him in that game by taking advantage of the Bengals’ inability to communicate correctly. In Sunday's win over the Lions, Burrow took a sack from Julian Okwara where he came through untouched. This could be due to a full slide protection, but then Burrow needs to know that and get the ball out before that defender can reach him. The Bengals have plenty of reasons to celebrate this victory, but they also need to make sure that the communication between the offensive line and Burrow is ready for a big test in Baltimore.

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