Mixed feelings all around for the Eagles and Bengals after playing to a 23-23 tie. The matchup had the same result in 2008.
The tie was cemented by Doug Pederson's decision to punt instead of attempting a 64-yard field goal in the final minute. There was a lot to parse through from a rollercoaster ride in week three. Let's take a three-down look at this matchup.
First down: Joe Burrow shines through a bludgeoning
Joe Burrow has taken big strides each week and Sunday was no different. He completed 31-of-44 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns. Burrow came into the contest averaging 5.2 yards per attempt. He bumped that up to a healthy 7.1 YPA in Philadelphia.
Burrow's showing more patience and poise in the offense every week and it was supercharged to close out the first half. Burrow went 13-of-13 between the two-minute warning and the middle of the third quarter, consistently finding Tyler Boyd as a safety blanket.
The hot stretch led to eight and nine-play touchdown drives to give Cincinnati a 17-16 advantage. Burrow also displayed the veteran savvy to draw two Eagles offsides in the game. The reigning Heisman showed off all his scrambling tricks in the fourth quarter on a broken play to Tee Higgins.
Officials overturned it but this was another special instance of Burrow making something out of nothing. The rookie performed at a high level, even though he was getting hit on almost every play.
Second down: DEFCON 1 for the offensive line
After being hammered by Cleveland's defensive front, things got worse on Sunday. The Bengals gave up eight sacks, which is tied for the third-most sacks allowed in franchise history. It was the unit's worst performance since the Monday night battle with Pittsburgh last season.
Burrow and the receivers shoulder some blame for holding onto the ball and not getting deep separation. Despite those mistakes, it's clear that the offensive line is one of the worst units in the league. The protection was terrible. Burrow's hot stretch in the middle of the game coincided with the best protection of his young career, but it was just a tease.
Burrow suffered 18 QB hits in total and was under fire most of the afternoon. The pressure point was at right guard. Fred Johnson made his second straight start and was benched for Billy Price after giving up consistent pressure and committing a false start penalty. Price wasn't much of an upgrade. The Eagles attacked him the entire second half and punctuated the pounding with a Fletcher Cox sack to end the Bengals hopes at victory.
"We're trying to figure it out. We can't have a 3-technique come as a free runner. That's frustrating." Zac Taylor said afterward.
The offense has a clear ceiling if Burrow isn't going to get enough time to throw.
Third down: Boyd-Higgins ignite the passing game
Tee Higgins got the starting nod on Sunday and maximized the opportunity, scoring both of Cincinnati's touchdowns. Higgins paired his red zone lethality with a steady diet of Tyler Boyd to produce the most efficient passing performance yet for Burrow.
Boyd and Higgins combined for 16 catches, 165 yards, and two touchdowns on 22 targets. Boyd led the team in receiving hauling in 10 balls for 125 yards, one catch off his career-high of 11. The slot maestro took advantage of soft coverage from Nickell Robey-Coleman all afternoon to post the fourth-best receiving total of his career.
Boyd and Burrow got things rolling with a clinical touchdown drive near the end of the first half and kept the pressure on Philly's secondary to boot. Meanwhile, Higgins showed he can be a go-to mismatch in the red zone with the Bengals coaching staff taking advantage of the shorter Eagles secondary. Higgins and Boyd are the future of the receiving corps and represent a bright light heading into next week's home date with the Jaguars.
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