Heeeeeeee's baaaaaaaack!!! You read that right – Mr. Joe Cool, the sharpest, slipperiest, savviest, superstar quarterback in the game Joe Burrow is back, baby! The rest of the NFL is officially on notice – though I’m not sure how much good it will do.
It shouldn’t be understated: this was a massive win for the Bengals. On the road against a team just two games ago considered heavy Super Bowl favorites, the Bengals came into Santa Clara and pushed the 49ers into a puddle and stole their lunch money. It was a true beatdown performance – and frankly, the Niners should consider themselves lucky, because it should have been worse. The 31 - 17 margin should have been closer to 41 - 17, if only the Bengals had not missed a chip shot field goal and fumbled at the 1-yard line.
But who cares about mistakes in a time like this? Yesterday was all about excellence, and we have to start with Joe Shiesty. Joe was locked in from the first snap as he piloted the offense 85 yards down the field for their first score of the day. By the end of the first half, Burrow was streaking with 19 consecutive completed passes, a new personal best. He also looked totally recovered from his preseason calf injury, as he squirmed and squeaked his way past defenders in the pocket, found space to make throws downfield, and even broke off several impressive scrambles (his scramble and escape in the first quarter where he found Tee Higgins for the first down…magnificent!). It was the complete Burrow game we’ve been waiting for all season.
Of course, for all of Joe's heroics, we would be remiss if we ignored the numerous contributions from players all over the offense. The offensive line, which had been up-and-down through seven weeks, turned in a phenomenal performance against a stout opponent, keeping Burrow's jersey clean and opening holes for Joe Mixon to have his best ground game this season. The receivers all stepped up. Ja'Marr Chase continued his assault on the Bengals all-time single-season catch record, Higgins shook off some early-season rust with five big receptions, and Tyler Boyd struck pay dirt. Trenton Irwin also had two receptions, including a critical first down late in the second half, and rookie Andrei Iosivas grabbed his second TD of the season.
And that's just the offense. Against a powerful Niners offense, the Bengals D jumped on them from the word GO. A three-and-out on the opening drive foreshadowed an impressive performance. There was nothing easy to be had for the Niners on Sunday. Christian McCaffrey was (mostly) bottled up, and outside of some garbage-time yardage, the Bengals defense contained the Niners passing attack too. It was a long day for Brock Purdy, and after having a five-week run to open the season as the NFL's darling, it's been a rude awakening for the second-year signal-caller.
Two players who gave Purdy a particularly hard time on Sunday were Bengals linebackers Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt, who continued to make a strong case as the best linebacker duo in the game. Both recorded massive interceptions late in the contest that stifled any hope of a 49ers comeback. With his tenth interception since entering the league in 2020, Wilson continues to shine as the premier ball-hawking ‘backer in the business, while Pratt’s all-around game is consistently slept on by the rest of the NFL. These two are game-changers, and it’s time they start getting that recognition.
Finally, we can’t spend all this time praising the defense without mentioning Trey Hendrickson, the Bengals relentless pass rusher. Through seven games, Hendrickson has eight sacks. You read that right – he’s averaging over a sack per game right now and is on-pace for 19, which would shatter the Bengals all-time single-season record which Hendrickson himself set back in 2021 with 14. And though he was quiet for most of the day against the 49ers, Hendrickson saved his best for last, sacking Purdy and forcing a game-sealing fumble on their last offensive play.
It was the complete game we’ve been waiting to see from the Bengals, and boy, did it come at the perfect time. Three weeks ago, everybody knew the Niners were the best team in football. Brock Purdy was an MVP candidate, the Niners offense was thought to be unstoppable, and the defense was suffocating. And the Bengals just went into their house and trashed the place.
It’s one game, yes, but it feels like a steppingstone for more. Like the Bengals drubbing the Carolina Panthers a week before their bye-week last year, this splattering of the 49ers feels like the clearest sign yet the Bengals early-season issues are over. Once again, the Bengals make us look silly for ever worrying. Now, would it be nice if they could just win out of the gates and not make us stress? Sure. But the NFL is a results-based business, and with the Bengals, the results continue to speak for themselves.