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State of the Bengals: Cincinnati Shows What They Should Be In Dominant Win Over the Jets

The Bengals walked into East Rutherford with the specter of a potential 0-3 start hanging over them. Instead, they exorcised many of the demons that contributed to their poor start to 2022 and showed us the blueprint to turning this season around.

When the Cincinnati Bengals got off their flight to New York on Friday, they knew they were on a mission that their entire season might hinge on. They were reeling after last-second, mind-boggling losses to the Steelers and Cowboys, and what once looked like a promising season was quickly coming off the rails after an 0-2 start. Since 2002, only ONE team has recovered from an 0-3 start to make the playoffs: the 2018 Houston Texans. For that reason, getting a win over a feisty Jets squad was crucial to ensure they still had a pulse for the rest of the year.

Not only did the Bengals pull out the victory at MetLife Stadium, they did so in an emphatic manner. Zac Taylor went away from his usual strategy of deferring on the coin toss, and Burrow rewarded him with a lead they would not relinquish all day with a fantastic opening drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Samaje Perine. From that point forward, the Bengals looked comfortable, scoring two more touchdowns and kicking two field goals in an afternoon that saw them march up and down the field.

That is not to say everything came easy; Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed both had good games covering the dynamic outside weapons that Cincinnati possesses, but it was never enough to totally stop their offense. Cincinnati controlled the game from the opening whistle, combining a resurgent offensive performance and a dominant defensive performance into the first complete game of 2022. And while it is important to remember that the opponent was the Jets, let’s not forget this same Jets squad shocked division-leading Cleveland just last week. This game was a big confidence boost for Cincinnati, not just because they finally got the winless monkey off their back, but also because it reminded us, them, and the rest of the football world what the Bengals should be.

Burrow and the Offense Start Hot, Just Need to Finish

Through the first two weeks of the season, Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense scored a grand total of nine points in the first halves of games against Pittsburgh and Dallas. The team was able to top that in just one quarter in New York, however, scoring fourteen points after a fantastic, methodical first drive touchdown and a pinball touchdown by Tyler Boyd. While their other first quarter drive ended in a controversial turnover by Ja’marr Chase, it had appeared that the offense had finally found their teeth and were ready to become what we thought they would be all season.

After it was all said and done, the offense definitely played a solid game against the Jets, but there was still meat left on the bone. Cincinnati got into the red zone four times on Sunday, and were only able to convert one of those into touchdowns. They also had a fourth down pitch that was immediately sniffed out by the Jets’ defense and a missed field goal (although the game was all but over when the latter occurred). While 27 points is a step up in terms of scoring from the Bengals offense, they were in position to score almost 40 with how they were able to march up and down the field and (mostly) avoid turnovers. They need to start finishing these drives with more consistency; once they do, they’ll be in an excellent spot to become the offense that we expected going into the season. Sunday was a step in the right direction, but with games against Miami, Baltimore, and New Orleans on the horizon, it is vital they maximize their point totals going forward.

Defense Continues to Be Dominant, Grounding the Jets All Afternoon

As it has all season, the Bengals defense came up big for the team in securing their first win of the season. While the final stats show that New York only had a couple fewer yards and only one less first down than Cincinnati, it was clear all afternoon that the defense was giving the Jets fits. Joe Flacco would throw two interceptions, one each to Logan Wilson and Jessie Bates, and Trey Hendrickson would record 2.5 sacks, 2 of which resulted in fumbles recovered by BJ Hill. While rookie receiver Garrett Wilson was able to put up a decent stat line, recording 6 catches for 60 yards, most of his damage came in the slot; when he, or anyone for that matter, was lined up outside on Chidobe Awuzie, they could not get any offense going.

The Bengals defense has been excellent all season and it is good to see them finally rewarded with a win. Of course, a big part of that win is due to their own performance, as forcing 4 turnovers and recording 4 sacks will often result in ticks in the win column. So far this season, the team is ranked in the top ten in every major defensive category except passing yardage allowed, which is mainly due to the high number of garbage time stats that Flacco was able to put up on Sunday. The Bengals defense was the primary catalyst for the reason the first two games of the season were even close, and they came through big time in East Rutherford to ensure they went home victorious. Over the next two weeks, they will face the #8 (Miami) and #1 (Baltimore) scoring teams in the league, so they will need to continue these performances going forward to flip the poor start to the season on its head.

Looking Ahead to Miami

Miami will go into Thursday’s nights game with the best record in the AFC, while the Bengals will go in with the best uniforms in the league…so a pretty balanced matchup, all things considered. Joking aside, the Dolphins are a dangerous team, with a lethal passing attack headlined by Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. However, it is not without its flaws; they looked dead in the water for the first three quarters against Baltimore, and they needed a clock management gaffe by the Bills to secure a win against their division rival. They played 90 snaps on defense against Buffalo and will certainly be exhausted on that side, something the Bengals should take advantage of on a short week. Miami also have some health concerns going into the game, as star players Terron Armstead, Xaien Howard, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jaylen Waddle all would have been unable to participate in Monday’s practice had they had it. Still, as their record suggests, Miami is a dangerous team, but with the whole country watching on Thursday Night Football, now is the time for the Bengals to re-establish themselves in the top tier of the AFC.


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