It may not have looked like it at the start of the game, but the Bengals seemed to get back on track by beating the Raiders 32-13, which included a 19-point fourth quarter.
Cincinnati improves to 4-2 on the road following their win in Las Vegas. This was a much-needed win to improve their playoff chances. According to FiveThirtyEight, they have a 53% chance at making the postseason after this win.
In a game with huge stakes, the Bengals were able to prove that they are a true playoff contender.
Here are six takeaways from Sunday's game:
Have a Day, Joe Mixon
Joe Mixon carried the Bengals on his back on Sunday. After a slow start to the game, Mixon got going in the second half. He finished with 97 yards on 19 carries in the final two quarters. That’s bogged down just a little bit because he had three carries in garbage time that went for two yards.
During those carries, the defense absolutely loaded up in the box because the Bengals were just trying to milk the clock. The 5.1 yards per carry in the second half already looks very nice from an efficiency standpoint, but the 5.9 yards per carry prior to milking the clock is even better.
He had three different runs of 15+ during this timeframe. All of this fails to mention the two touchdowns he scored, including the game clinching 20-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
Mixon's first touchdown was on a windback concept with Stanley Morgan leading the way and then the second one was a cutback on wide zone. Both of those have been staples in the Bengals run game this season, so it was nice to see that they were able to execute those concepts at a high level. Mixon's performance was one of his best of the season and he helped Cincinnati escape Sin City with a win.
Third Down Defense
The defense had a very good game as a unit. They held the Raiders to 1-of-7 on third down. This allowed the offense to not only get the rushing attack going, but maintain the lead in time of possession. The Raiders finished with just 13 points and 13 first downs. The 3rd down defense also helped the Bengals hold the Raiders to two red zone field goals. Playing 3rd down so well was one of the keys to the Bengals’ defense yesterday. They were able to get off the field, hold the Raiders to field goals, and get the ball back to their offense. The Bengals played great defense when it mattered the most and it's a big reason why they improved to 6-4 on the season.
Pressure on Carr
Derek Carr has always played well from clean pockets, but he has been known to shrink under pressure. Yesterday, the Bengals front was able to apply plenty of pressure on the Raiders quarterback.
According to Pro Football Focus, they tallied 11 pressures against him. Trey Hendrickson led the way with three pressures of his own and also got Carr for a strip-sack.
Hendrickson has now gotten a sack in all but 2 games this season. He has a sack in six-straight games. He has 9.5 sacks this season, so he should absolutely hit double-digit sack numbers for the year. Hendrickson has been a real bright spot as a pass rusher.
On the opposite side, Sam Hubbard also sacked Carr. He has six sacks on the season, which means he's 2.5 away from his career-high of 8.5 sacks. Other contributing members to the pressure party were D.J. Reader, Larry Ogunjobi, and B.J. Hill.
Tyler Boyd Involvement
No one really went bananas for the Bengals in the passing game. This adds up with only 148 passing yards from Joe Burrow, but a talking point during the bye week was how to get Tyler Boyd more involved. This seemed to be a point of emphasis early in the game. He had five receptions in the first half and a jet sweep that he took for 14 yards. Boyd led the team in receiving. It seems like the Bengals understood his importance to the team and made it an active effort to get him involved in the offense more. This will be something to watch for in the coming weeks.
Pass Protection Issues
This game was kind of the Bizzaro version of the Bengals offensive line. They were worse in pass protection than they were in run blocking and most of the pass protection woes came from the offensive tackles who have been their rocks all year.
According to PFF’s charting, the offensive tackles gave up 10 pressures on the day and a sack, while the interior of the offensive line only gave up two pressures. This does add up when you look at the Raiders’ strengths on defense. Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby are possibly their two most talented players on defense and they certainly took advantage of the Bengals’ tackles yesterday.
On the plus side, Trey Hopkins was charted with zero pressures allowed. He may be finally getting healthy after the bye week, although it’s also possible that he had an easier assignment this week. The Raiders rarely play a head-up 0 technique, so he didn’t have to solo block in pass protection that often. It's still encouraging to see after the way his season has gone so far.
While this game was important for the Bengals’ possible playoff bid, it is just one game. They have another crucial game this Sunday against Pittsburgh in Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals currently sit at a 53% chance to make the playoffs. If they beat Pittsburgh, that number jumps all the way up to 62%.
Every game for the Bengals over this second half seems to be a crucial game. FiveThirtyEight not only does playoff predictions, but they also rate games by importance. As it stands, only two games are below a 90 in importance rating. Those two games are against the Broncos and Chiefs which are sitting at 89 and 88, respectively. Essentially every game will be crucial to making the playoffs for the Bengals as they face off against essentially every AFC Wild Card contender. They also play San Francisco, who has quickly become a playoff contender in the NFC.
Only one game at a time, but the Bengals’ schedule appears to be a tough one as we head into winter.
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