Watch out, NFL defenses. The Big Play Bengals are back.
On the Bengals first drive of the game, Joe Burrow connected with Tyler Boyd for a 60-yard touchdown, and the Bengals never looked back. Finally, it looks like their early-season woes are behind them.
It was a dominant effort offensively. Burrow threw for 481 yards and three touchdowns and chipped in another touchdown on the ground. Boyd finished with 155 receiving yards. Ja’Marr Chase finished with 130 and two touchdowns. Tee Higgins finished with 93 yards.
The wait is over. That high-powered Bengals offense you fell in love with last year has returned.
Everything was clicking. Those play-calling criticisms will have to be tabled (for another week, at least). On days like these, it’s gonna be darn-near impossible for anyone to beat these Bengals.
In all fairness to the Atlanta Falcons, they put up a noble effort. Their defensive players were dropping like flies, particularly in the secondary, and they were already thin going into the game. In the end, the Bengals's overwhelming talent was far too much.
After the first two Bengals drives ended with touchdowns, it looked like the Falcons might be ready to roll over, especially after top cornerback A.J. Terrell went down with an injury early in the first quarter. To their credit, they continued to fight, limiting the Bengals in the run game and collecting three sacks of Burrow. But when the Bengals offense is firing on all cylinders, you’re going to have to do a lot more than be mildly disruptive.
Defensively, the Bengals continued their remarkable streak of not surrendering a touchdown in the second half of a game all season. While the Falcons were able to do some damage in the run game, the passing game was completely inept. Aside from a few annoying pre-snap penalties in the first half, it was the best, most complete game the Bengals have played all season.
After their 0 - 2 start, the Bengals have now rebounded to win four of five, with more winnable games on the horizon. Their next four games are at Cleveland, home versus Carolina, at Pittsburgh and at Tennessee. The Bengals will likely be favored in all of these games and after starting their divisional slate with two losses, they’re in prime position to make up for those setbacks.
It feels like the season opener was a lifetime ago. Since his five turnovers in that game against the Steelers, Burrow has thrown exactly one interception since. The run game was non-existent, and the offensive line was a sieve. It’s not perfect, but both elements have improved by leaps and bounds. The defense, which was the Bengals only saving grace early in the season, has remained rock solid.
And speaking of the defense, defensive end Sam Hubbard deserves a shout out. He teamed up with fellow pass rushers Trey Hendrickson and Joseph Ossai to bring down Mariota three times, continuing his monster play through seven games. Whether it’s sacks, batted balls at the line of scrimmage, or his tremendous effort in the run game, Hubbard has been at an All-Pro level this season.
This was a game where the Bengals stars really shined. And with the Bengals above .500 for the first time this season, this team feels like it’s about to go on a very, very nice run. It’s been an up-and-down season so far, but after today, the Bengals look primed to continue that upward trajectory for the foreseeable future.