Cincinnati Bengals’ Position Grades after crushing the Ravens 41-17

Cincinnati Bengals
Evan Habeeb, USA Today Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals have arrived. In Week 7, they took the Baltimore Ravens to task with a 41-17 blowout win in Baltimore, a week after a similar result in Detroit. We’re starting to run out of reasons to doubt this team that easily could be 6-0 right now with a bit more luck.

This one was a complete team win for the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite another slow start on offense, they rattled off 28 unanswered points in the second half. Lamar Jackson put up 345 yards of total offense and it still wasn’t anywhere close to enough to overcome an absolutely dominating effort by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: A

It wasn’t a perfect game for #9. But, Burrow flashed his impeccable pocket presence all day against the Ravens. He didn’t let his mistakes turn into patterns and still managed to put up 416 yards and three touchdowns through the air. His chemistry and trust in his receivers was on full display as he carved up the Ravens’ secondary.

Unfortunately, that trust in Ja’Marr Chase bit him early in the fourth quarter. He slightly overthrew Chase on a touchdown attempt, likely expecting Chase to either come down with it or knock the ball away. Instead, Marlon Humphrey came up with a pick in the end zone that looked like it might give the Ravens a chance to build some late momentum.

It was a script the Ravens have executed many times this season. It’s also one the Cincinnati Bengals have been on the wrong side of many times in Zac Taylor’s career. The interception would be Burrow’s final pass attempt of the night. But, his performance to that point proved to be enough to allow the Bengals to coast the rest of the game after a big defensive stop.

Running Back grade: B+

Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine didn’t have a ton of opportunities to touch the ball this week. But, they were generally pretty efficient when they did. Early in the game, there were some pretty head-scratching inefficiencies running the ball on third and short. But, ultimately both running backs finished with over 4.7 yards per run. You’ll take numbers like that all day long.

At the end of the day, all that efficiency only translated to just over 50 rushing yards for either back. But, there’s something major to be said about both players putting up touchdowns on back to back drives in the middle of the fourth quarter.

The scores iced the game for a Cincinnati Bengals team that was already playing with extreme confidence. But, the second Mixon broke that 21-yard run into the end zone, you knew the game was basically over. 

Then, Perine hit one for 46 yards on the next drive. There’s no coming back from that.

Wide Receiver grade: B+

How can I criticize this unit too much when Ja’Marr Chase goes absolutely off for 201 yards and a touchdown? One of which was an absolutely mesmerizing 82-yard catch-and-run where he broke three tackles before sprinting down the length of the field.

That play broke the game wide open at 27-17 and might go down as one of the greatest highlights in Bengals history.

It was a struggle for the rest of the unit. Tee Higgins overcame an up and down first half performance to make an impact in the second half. In fact, at one point, he caught an 11-yard pass and absolutely trucked the defender for a key 3rd down conversion.

That came despite a defensive pass interference and the Bengals ended up with the ball at the 9 after looking like they might get stopped at midfield. Unfortunately, the end of that drive saw Burrow’s interception so the good plays from the drive will likely be forgotten about.

Tyler Boyd also struggled to make much of an impact for the Cincinnati Bengals. He did have a nice 25-yard catch at the beginning of that interception drive. But, the rest of his night was pretty quiet.

Tight End grade: B+

Drew Sample continues to be a complete non-factor in this offense. Zac Taylor’s tenure is starting to be known for very good performances in the draft. But, Sample is starting to look like a complete whiff. The Bengals selected him in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but he’s only caught two of his five targets this year. He no longer appears to be part of this team’s offensive thought process.

CJ Uzomah, on the other hand, is having a career year so far. He’s already at 256 yards receiving and five touchdowns on the year. Two of those touchdowns came on Sunday in the form of 55 and 32 yarders that helped the Bengals keep pace with the Ravens offense, before the game broke wide open late in the third quarter.

Another reception late in the second quarter gave him a final tally of 91 receiving yards on the day. One more catch and he could have broken the 100-yard mark.

Offensive line grade: B+

Joe Burrow was sacked HOW MANY TIMES against the Ravens? That’s right, once. This is a Ravens team that came into this game tied with the Bengals for the 10th most sacks in the NFL. Jackson Carman, in particular, had a really nice game.

That’s huge, because the Cincinnati Bengals really need him to develop into a franchise right guard after making the controversial decision to trade down in the draft for him. Over the last couple of weeks, he seems to be showing that was a good call.

Jonah Williams, on the other hand, had a rough game. In his defense, he had a really tough matchup this week against Justin Houston. But, you still have to come ready to play and he was visibly worked throughout much of the game.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: A+

If there was a criticism you could make for this unit, it’s allowing 88 yards rushing to the opposing quarterback. However, considering that opposing quarterback is Lamar Jackson, I’ll let it slide. Particularly because this unit regularly got in Jackson’s face for five sacks.

It’s the second time in Zac Taylor’s tenure the Bengals have compiled that many sacks. The last time was a meaningless Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns. Both teams’ seasons were over at that point, so you could argue Sunday’s sack total was more impressive.

On top of that, the Bengals only allowed 2.25 yards per run to Ravens players not named Lamar Jackson. A lot of that had to do with incredible performances from the boys up front. The only member of the starting four defensive linemen who didn’t have a flashy play was DJ Reader. Even then, both of his tackles allowed less than two yards.

Linebacker grade: B

It was a quieter night from the Bengals’ linebacker corps. Tight ends Mark Andrews and Josh Oliver looked like they were ready to break out in the second quarter. But, the Bengals got back on top of them in the second half and ultimately didn’t allow either to find the endzone. 

Logan Wilson once again led the team in total tackles (7). He did a lot of cleaning up Lamar Jackson breakaway runs. But, he also absolutely stoned Le’Veon Bell for a five yard loss on the Ravens’ first drive of the game.

That play set the tone for the Bengals’ defense the rest of the game. Just another day at the office for Wilson, who is starting to look like a star.

Cornerback grade: A-

The Cincinnati Bengals saw snaps from almost their entire cornerback roster this week from Chidobe Awuzie, to Eli Apple, to the newly acquired Tre Flowers. Outside of the one time Chidobe Awuzie got beat for a 39-yard touchdown by Marquise Brown, I don’t think any of them had a particularly bad play.

One of my favorite plays of the game came with 4:26 left in the third quarter. The Bengals’ defense was trying to hold on to a 10-point lead and Lamar Jackson found Marquise Brown for a quick play. Awuzie and Mike Hilton were right there at the perfect spot to stop the play short of a first down.

Hilton got faked out of his cleats. But, Awuzie stood firm and allowed only 3 yards, forcing a punt on the following play. It nearly led to a game-icing score on the following drive, except Burrow threw an interception in the end zone.

Safety grade: A

Jessie Bates’ claim as the best safety in the NFL is much quieter this year, but still very much alive. The splash plays are just not happening. But, to be fair, the defense as a whole isn’t really generating them. In fact, they don’t really need them to dominate opponents.

So, Bates gets to focus on being an elite cleanup crew in the passing game and a FORCE in the running game. Vonn Bell too. When opponents are making it to the third level, these two are simply not letting them get much else accomplished.

Special teams grades: A-

This may have been the most complete game Darrin Simmons’ unit has played all year. Evan McPherson easily converted both of his field goal attempts. One of them was a 52-yard attempt. Most NFL kickers are tested at that range, but McPherson didn’t blink and worked his way back to being known as ‘Money’. 

Kevin Huber had a rough first attempt when the Cincinnati Bengals were forced to punt from the Ravens’ 39. It sounds like a really bad coaching decision, but the Bengals were unable to get anything accomplished each of the last three plays so it seemed unlikely they would magically pick up 10 yards on 4th and 10.

Unfortunately, Huber put a bit too much power into his kick and the ball fell harmlessly for an easy touchback. 

With such a short field to work with, you’d hope he would have pinned the Ravens inside their own 5. Coverage on the following punt wasn’t great, giving the Ravens possession at their own 29 instead of their own eight. However, the Bengals didn’t punt again until their second-to-last drive of the game. This time, Huber knocked it out of bounds at the Ravens’ 16.

Darius Phillips had a good day as a returner. On his first punt return of the day, he set the Bengals up near midfield with a 13-yard punt return that looked close to going to the house.

Coaching grade: A

I think the biggest complaint against Zac Taylor this week was the lack of creativity on 3rd and short. Fairly regularly, the Bengals simply tried to run up the middle and got stuffed. It contributed to a first half performance that really felt like the Bengals missed a bunch of opportunities to not already be in full control of the contest.

Then, the second half started. Lamar Jackson shredded the Bengals on the first drive of the third quarter. But, those were the last points the Ravens would score the rest of the game. Offensively, it was another second half explosion. Zac Taylor is becoming known for his ability to make great adjustments at halftime, and that was on full display this week.

The vision is starting to materialize in Taylor’s third season. Everyone who was ready to fire him last year is starting to look real suspect.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 7

NFL Power rankings Week 7
Emilee Chinn, Getty Images

The NFL Power Rankings Week 7 are seeing quite a bit of movement. Basement teams are shuffling around, the top 10 is shuffling around, and we even have a new No. 1 this week! The Detroit Lions had the biggest fall this week all the way down to the bottom spot in the NFL. The Las Vegas Raiders saw the biggest climb after overcoming their head coach drama to put away the struggling Broncos.

32. Detroit Lions (0-6)

Last Week: 29

The bottom fell out. The Detroit Lions are the last winless team in the NFL and they got there in absolutely embarrassing fashion this week. They were completely shut out in their own home stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals. That is, until the Bengals started playing prevent defense and allowed the Lions to march down the field and put 11 garbage time points up against their backups. Dan Campbell is no longer crying for his players. Now he’s just disappointed in them. That hurts worse, and that’s why they’re now at the bottom of the NFL Power Rankings.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5)

Last week: 32

The Jacksonville Jaguars finally snapped their 20-game losing streak. It figures it would happen in London, their second home, where they’ve played more than any other team. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still worried about how this locker room feels about Urban Meyer. But, for this week, they got the job done and earned a bit of credit on the NFL Power Rankings.

30. Houston Texans (1-5)

Last Week: 31

Trust me, I don’t feel good elevating the Houston Texans a spot after being blown out 31-3 by a team that came in with the same record as them. Unfortunately, that’s how things go sometimes when you’re down this deep in the Power Rankings. Sometimes you get dropped for looking awful, and sometimes the ineptitude of your peers makes you look slightly better.

29. Miami Dolphins (1-5)

Last Week: 27

Currently, I don’t believe the Miami Dolphins are a fundamentally more flawed team than the Jacksonville Jaguars. Miami’s quarterback situation is a mess and their defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed. But, Brian Flores still has to be a better coach than Urban Meyer, right? Flores’ fall from grace has been spectacular. But, at least his players still respect him. I think.

28. New York Giants (1-5)

Last Week: 28

Hey. They had a lead through the end of the first quarter. That’s progress right? Nevermind the fact that they let the Rams score 38 unanswered points after a pretty good start. I’m joking, of course. They’ve been absolutely spanked both of the last two weeks. You thought they were making progress when they upset the Saints after two close losses. But, it’s starting to feel a bit hopeless in Jersey.

27. New York Jets (1-4)

Last Week: 30

Sometimes one of the best things you can do is nothing. That’s what the Jets did this week on their bye week. In the process, they capitalized on an opportunity to not embarrass themselves, as they’ve done quite a few times this season. Luckily for them, a bunch of their peers on this end of the NFL Power Rankings had really bad weeks. So, the Jets end up with a large climb due to simply not looking worse than teams like the Dolphins, Texans, and Lions.

26. Atlanta Falcons (2-3)

Last Week: 26

The Falcons don’t get quite as lucky as the Jets on their bye week. Unfortunately for them, nobody in their area of the Power Rankings embarrassed themselves as badly as the teams in the bottom five. They’ll have an opportunity to get back to .500 against the lowly Dolphins next week, but for now they stay put.

25. Washington Football Team (2-4)

Last Week: 25

That was an admirable performance by Washington. They bullied Patrick Mahomes and went into halftime with a lead. Unfortunately, Mahomes decided to stand up for himself. Washington allowed the Chiefs to score three touchdowns on three drives after a missed field goal. Taylor Heinicke completed the meltdown with an interception thrown late in the fourth quarter. The game was probably already out of hand at that point, but that sealed it.

24. Philadelphia Eagles (2-4)

Last Week: 23

For a brief time, the Eagles turned a stinker of a Thursday Night Football game into a briefly watchable affair. They weren’t able to finish out the comeback due to a completely dead looking defense on the Buccaneers’ final drive. But, Jalen Hurts looked great on those final three drives.

23. Indianapolis Colts (2-4)

Last Week: 24

After nearly upsetting the Ravens last week, the Colts showed they’re still a dangerous team this week. They did it with a 31-3 drubbing of the struggling Houston Texans. Running back Jonathan Taylor exploded for 145 yards and two touchdowns. He was matched by Carson Wentz in the air, who had a very efficient night. When the Colts play like this, it makes you think they could do something exciting. The problem is, games like this have been few and far between in Indy this year. 

22. Denver Broncos (3-3)

Last Week: 19

RIP to that much talked about 3-0 start. The Broncos have gone from one of the most hyped teams in NFL Power Rankings to a “bad” team. In theory, they had a devastated Raiders team delivered, like lambs, to the slaughter. In reality, the Broncos were completely outclassed by a far more talented Raiders team that looked motivated to overcome their coaching woes.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)

Last Week: 22

I can’t say I’m exactly impressed after the Steelers ground out wins against a hilariously overrated Broncos team and the Geno Smith Seahawks. But, a win is a win, no matter how ugly. And boy, was that an ugly win. The Steelers subjected America to an overtime nobody wanted. They pulled it off in the end, but this Steelers team still has way more questions than answers.

20. New England Patriots (2-4)

Last Week: 20

You have to give it to the Patriots: They played the Cowboys much closer than any other team has since Week 1 when Tom Brady beat them. It seems like ol’ Bill Belichick is inching this team closer and closer to contention every week. But, they had a tough task against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys this week. Still, they had a lead late and almost broke it in overtime. Patriots fans have to feel like they’re right there.

19. Chicago Bears (3-3)

Last Week: 18

As a fan of a team that has been owned by a hall of fame quarterback for the last decade or so, I feel for Bears fans. They won’t stop hearing “I still own you!” all week and possibly all year. They seem like they’re good enough to turn their season around and make the playoffs. But, they did this one to themselves. They’re going to have to get out of their own way if they want to play with the big boys.

18. Las Vegas Raiders (4-2)

Last Week: 21

I did not see that coming. Last week, the Bears were absolutely mauled by the Chicago Bears in the midst of the Jon Gruden fiasco. This week, they managed to put the drama behind them and play mostly flawless football en route to a huge win. It proved they are not pretenders of the same kind as the Broncos. Was it real, or was it an emotional reaction to their awful week? Their next three games are against the Eagles, Giants, and Chiefs. So, they could easily work their way back into the top 14 if they take advantage.

17. Seattle Seahawks (2-4)

Last Week: 15

Thank God Russell Wilson is coming back eventually. They aren’t going to do much winning with Geno Smith at quarterback. He almost brought them back at the end, but it was clearly a struggle to get there. Then, he fumbled the ball away at the critical moment. Just like the interception last week. Is this what Jets fans had to deal with? Poor suckers.

16. San Francisco 49ers (2-3)

Last Week: 17

The 49ers are probably happy that the Seattle Seahawks fell just short of a victory this week. The season is still early, so you could easily see their 2-3 start flip to 4-3 with games against the Colts and Bears coming up. Then again, they could easily plummet in the power rankings if they fail to win those games.

15. New Orleans Saints (3-2)

Last Week: 16

The New Orleans Saints also benefit from Geno Smith’s ineptitude on their bye week. Then again, this is two positive results in a row for the Saints. That seems pretty unsustainable considering their run of form this year. Is that a bad omen for their matchup with the Seattle Seahawks this coming week?

14. Carolina Panthers (3-3)

Last Week: 12

Broncos fans are probably looking at this list thinking I’m an idiot for putting them so low and the Panthers, who also blew a 3-0 start, still in playoff range. Rest assured, if the Panthers put up another bad performance next week, they will be plummeting down these Power Rankings. The difference, however, is the Broncos dominated three awful opponents then got exposed when they played real teams. The Panthers at least beat the Saints and have made each of their losses interesting. Sam Darnold is starting to fall back down to earth, but they still managed to force overtime against the Vikings. They didn’t even get the ball in overtime, but you feel like they might have won the game if their offense got the ball first.

13. Minnesota Vikings (3-3)

Last Week: 14

The Vikings’ luck in their 1-3 start was absolutely brutal. But, two solid wins since have brought them back to .500. Their schedule is absolutely brutal the next four weeks as they play the Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers, and Packers. But, they’ve proven they can hang with anyone. If they can even go 2-2 in that stretch, you have to feel good about their playoff chances.

12. Tennessee Titans (3-2)

Last Week: 13

The Titans beat the team that I considered to be the most dangerous in football, so you can’t deny they look like a bona fide playoff team. Their offense is still heavily reliant on Derrick Henry continuing to be an absolute force. But, Ryan Tannehill came up clutch down the stretch too. He kept the Titans driving late in the game, allowing Derrick Henry to save his angry runs for big situations.

11. Cleveland Browns (3-3)

Last Week: 9

The last two weeks haven’t been great for the Browns. You could sort of look past that loss to the Chargers. Herbert’s gonna Herbert, but at least Baker Mayfield and the offense kept up and participated in a wild shootout. This week, Baker Mayfield couldn’t stop turning the ball over and the Browns’ offense simply could not keep up with the Cardinals. The Browns turn around on a short week to host the sputtering Broncos before getting 10 days of rest to host the Steelers. Hopefully that’s enough to shake off a rocky couple of weeks, because they need it.

10. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)

Last Week: 11

The Cincinnati Bengals are a top-10 team in the NFL through six weeks, just like we all expected. Ok but seriously, did anyone see this coming? Granted, it’s not like the Steelers, Jaguars, and Lions are exactly difficult outs. But, they’ve been beating the teams they’re supposed to beat and that’s not nothing. Hell, they would have beaten the Packers if one of those field goals went in. They proved themselves this week by dismantling the Lions. Maybe not as efficiently as you’d hope, but it was still a blowout.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (3-3)

Last Week: 10

I was ready to move the Chiefs out of the top 14 after halftime. The Chiefs were sloppy in that first half and looked to be confirming the doubts of many with their play. But, they turned things around in the second half to the tune of a 21-0 shutout on the road. This is why I never moved the Chiefs out of the top 10. Because they’re still capable of stuff like this.

8. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2)

Last Week: 6

That was a bad loss. The Los Angeles Chargers’ vaunted offense was completely shut out in the second half and most of the first half. The missed extra point on their lone touchdown near the end of the second quarter perfectly encapsulated a day where almost nothing went right for the Chargers. The Chargers have had some close calls this year against less-than-stellar competition. But, this is also the same team that dropped 47 points on the Cleveland Browns last week. So, I’m not ready to demote them to pretenders in the NFL Power Rankings just yet. We’ll see how they respond to this setback.

7. Green Bay Packers (5-1)

Last Week: 7

Do your victory lap, Aaron Rodgers. When you’re 22-5 against an opponent, I think you have every right to claim you own them. For the most part, the Packers played pretty average football against the Chicago Bears. They held Justin Fields under 200 yards passing, but they allowed 140 yards on the ground. However, Mason Crosby hit all of his kicks and Aaron Rodgers personally scored all three of the Packers’ touchdowns against a Bears team that looked like it was turning a corner.

6. Baltimore Ravens (5-1)

Last Week: 8

How many times is Lamar Jackson going to overcome being super reckless with the football and end up looking good by the end of it? He had a bad day (167 yards passing, one touchdown, two interceptions). The Ravens STILL blew out a Chargers team many consider to be dark horse Super Bowl contenders. When they’re firing on all cylinders like this, Lamar can afford to be less than perfect. The Ravens look as tough as anybody right now despite some close games against bad teams earlier in the year.

5. Los Angeles Rams (5-1)

Last Week: 5

The Rams went into New Jersey to face off against a Giants team missing all of their legitimate offensive weapons. I can’t say this is the most legitimizing win of all time, considering many already consider the Rams to be Super Bowl contenders. But, they got the job done against an obviously inferior opponent and they absolutely deserve credit for that. There’s not much room to move around this high in the power rankings. Especially, when everyone else up here also won their games. But, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Donald both showed exactly why many value them so highly.

4. Dallas Cowboys (5-1)

Last Week: 4

It was getting tense there for a minute in Foxborough. The Cowboys came in against a below average Patriots and almost fell victim to what could be argued as a trap game and a plunge in the NFL Power Rankings. But, Dak was electrifying as ever. He overcame a boneheaded interception where he tried to force a touchdown pass into really tight coverage to wind up throwing for 445 yards and three touchdowns. 

3. Buffalo Bills (4-2)

Last Week: 1

Don’t feel bad, Buffalo. Everyone struggles against Derrick Henry. The Bills ended their run of dominance this week that had me claiming them as the best team in football despite the Week 1 loss. Josh Allen tried his hardest with 379 yards of total offense, three touchdowns, and only one interception. The problem is, his bowling ball style of scrambling couldn’t get the job done on a questionable 4th and one call. I get the Bills were trying to go for the win, but you could have lived to see overtime. I imagine they’ll take their frustrations out on the Dolphins after their bye week. But, another stumble and they could see a sharp fall in the NFL Power Rankings.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1)

Last Week: 3

If you turned the Thursday Night Football game after halftime, no one could blame you. The Bucs were dominating the Eagles through the first half after the Eagles’ first drive. If you kept watching, you saw the Bucs somehow let the Eagles back into the game, even after extending their lead to 28-7 in the third quarter. A missed Eagles field goal takes away from just how close the Eagles were to breaking through. But, the Bucs got their act together on the final drive and ran the clock out. Overall, it was a pretty solid win that shouldn’t have been a game.

1. Arizona Cardinals (6-0)

Last Week: 2

The Arizona Cardinals continued to make their case as the best team in the NFL Power Rankings as they dominated the Cleveland Browns from start to finish. A second quarter rally by the Browns gave them a fighting chance, but the Cardinals completely shut the door in the second half. Coffin nails were arguably achieved late in the third quarter when Deandre Hopkins reeled in a touchdown pass from Kyler Murray to make it 30-14. But, all hope was extinguished when AJ Green went in the endzone against his familiar foe with just under five minutes left in the game.

Position Grades for the Cincinnati Bengals after dismantling the Lions 34-11

Bengals Position Grades
Daniel Mears – Detroit News

Position grades for the Cincinnati Bengals are going to be fun this week. It was a rough first half for a Bengals offense that has gotten out to slow starts all season. But, a 24-point explosion in the second half shows the Bengals deserve to be taken seriously this year. They’ve been climbing up the Power Rankings all season, but (spoiler alert) they should break into the top 10 now.

Sure, the Lions are a winless football team. But, nobody has beaten them by as many points as the Bengals did this week. In fact, the Bengals shut out an NFL opponent on the road all the way up until the backups started going in and they shifted to prevent defense.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: B+

Joe Burrow’s first half was one to forget. The Bengals did put together a solid first drive. Burrow showed off his mobility and found RB Chris Evans for the Bengals’ first opening drive touchdown of the year. Unfortunately, he overthrew Ja’Marr Chase in the redzone on the next drive, resulting in a gut-wrenching interception.

Throughout the rest of the first half, Burrow looked inaccurate and indecisive. 

Luckily, he pulled a complete 180 in the second half. At one point, he took a 12-yard sack in a goal-to-go situation where he really should have just thrown the ball away. But, to his credit, he found Chris Evans and CJ Uzomah on the following two plays to erase the lost yardage and punch the ball in the endzone. He finished the game with 271 passing yards, 20 rushing yards, three passing touchdowns, and just the one early interception. It was good for a 115.7 passer rating, which you’ll generally take every time.

Running Back grade: A

Because this unit failed to score a rushing touchdown, many will forget the impact they had. That said, 125 rushing yards should tell more than enough for the Position Grades. Joe Mixon alone put up 5.2 yards per carry and was an absolute weapon in second half 3rd and 4th down situations. In fact, he was responsible for 153 yards of total offense if you count his receiving touches.

Rookie Chris Evans was more effective as a pass catcher than a runner. He caught 3 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. 

Only Ja’Marr Chase put up more yards per catch on the day. Even Trayveon Williams, who was just called up from the practice squad, got in on the action once the game was fully under control late in the 4th quarter. He only managed a measly 2.2 yards per carry. But, he did convert the 4th & 1 on the Bengals’ final drive that allowed them to run the rest of the clock out. It didn’t make a huge difference in the game. But, it did allow the Bengals to preserve the largest margin of victory against the Lions this season.

Also, worth noting, Chris Evans looked fantastic in pass protection today. So did Joe Mixon. Their 80.0 and 83.9 PFF pass blocking grade, respectively, was the highest rated of any Bengals RB tandem all season.

It’s not the first time Evans flashed solid blocking chops this season, either. The Bengals have seen so many issues from defenses taking advantage of running backs who can’t block. The Bengals may have found a gem in this kid from Michigan who missed a lot of playing time in college due to academic issues.

Wide Receiver grade: A

Ja’Marr Chase has been such a boost to the Bengals’ offense it doesn’t even seem real. He’s arguably the front runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He added to his case this week with 97 yards on four catches. One of those catches was a 34-yard conversion on 3rd and 10 that set the Bengals up for a field goal going into halftime. It helped turn the Bengals’ offensive momentum around from a mostly terrible first half performance.

Later on, in the 3rd quarter, he reeled in a 53-yard bomb that set up the Bengals’ third touchdown of the game. It would be the final drive of the game for the Bengals’ offensive starters. Oh, and then there was the time when he outran Mixon to lay a crushing block that ended in a 40-yard touchdown.

This kid is special, and that’s reflected in the Position Grades.

Tee Higgins also looked great with 44 yards on three catches. Although, he was targeted six times. His connection with Joe Burrow has been rocky the last few weeks. But, even then he managed to be a factor in this game. He also drew a 21-yard pass interference near the end of the game that helped Brandon Allen extend their second to last drive. It allowed them to run some more time off the clock and eventually get into the endzone for the fourth time on the day.

Tight End grade: C+

CJ Uzomah had a good day this week. His first two catches went for a combined 13 yards and didn’t have much of an impact on the day. But, his third catch went into the endzone and gave the Bengals a 27-0 lead.

Drew Sample, on the other hand, was a complete non-factor in the passing game and Position Grades once again. He was only targeted on one play and he dropped the pass.

However, he did grade a 76.0 as a pass blocker on nine pass blocking reps, the most of all non-linemen. So, maybe you can look past the poor performance as a receiver.

Granted, it wasn’t exactly easy and the defender played the ball well. But, he’s starving for any impact on this offense and is starting to look expendable. 

Offensive line grade: B

For once, the biggest criticism against the Bengals’ offensive line was not their pass-blocking ability. Burrow was only sacked twice  and generally had plenty of time to throw the ball. There were a few hiccups, but the biggest problem was the penalties. 

The Bengals’ second drive ended in an interception, so Trey Hill’s back-to-back holding and false start penalties were largely forgotten. The infuriating part is the holding penalty wiped out by a 15-yard catch by Tee Higgins that would have kept the Bengals’ early momentum going. Instead, the Bengals ended up on 2nd&25 and Burrow forced a ball for a killer interception. Although, Hill played pretty well the rest of the day, which helps this unit’s Position Grades.

The following drive, Riley Reif wiped out a first down catch by Tyler Boyd with a holding penalty on third down. The Bengals punted and began a series of terrible scoreless drives that wouldn’t end until Evan McPherson sank a 38-yard field goal as the first half expired.

The second half, however, was much better. There was one terrible rep where Riley Reiff got absolutely manhandled by Austin Bryant en route to a sack. But, for the most part, the line got their act together in the second half with the rest of the offense. 

That said, despite the up-and-down play by the offensive line, it seems clear the Bengals made the right pick at No. 5 overall. Penei Sewell struggled against Trey Hendrickson all day and has generally had a rough rookie season.

Bengals’ second round pick Jackson Carman was carted off the field after throwing up in relief for a struggling Trey Hill. But, he looked really good when he was on the field. Unfortunately, he only played about a third of the snaps this week. But, when he was on the field, he only gave up a single QB hit and graded 90.3 as a run blocker.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: B

Jared Goff was only sacked once the entire game, which is not what you want to see. But, Trey Hendrickson was still regularly in the backfield pressuring Goff and forcing errant decisions. Three times he was credited with a QB hurry, and five pressures For Sam Hubbard, three pressures and two QB hurries.

DJ Reader was a huge part of the Bengals keeping the Lions to only 36 yards rushing. In fact, every time he got in on a play, the rush only went for one or zero yards. BJ Hill continued to show why the Bengals wanted to trade for him as he contributed with two pressures and one QB hurry.

Linebacker grade: A

Logan Wilson was back in the spotlight this week when he caught a ball ripped away by Vonn Bell for an interception that cancelled out Burrow’s early INT. He also stopped Lions ball carriers in the backfield twice for losses. Akeem Davis-Gaither also contributed with two pass deflections and a short stop in coverage. 

Wilson is starting to become the really solid coverage linebacker the Bengals always needed. Despite allowing four catches on five targets, he still only allowed a 57.1 passer rating when targeted. He got picked on a bit on the Lions’ final drive of the game. But, at that point the Bengals were largely playing prevent and focusing on big plays, so you can excuse the issues.

Cornerback grade: A

Chidobe Awuzie continues to look like one of the Bengals’ best free agent pickups in recent memory. At one point he had one of the prettiest bats in the air you’ll ever see on a deep pass. Jared Goff targeted him seven times on the night and he allowed five receptions. Even so, he only allowed a 76.5 passer rating when targeted. Eli Apple also looked really good, allowing only a 39.6 passer rating when targeted. To be fair, that was only once, but he didn’t allow a catch on 45 coverage snaps.

The Lions put together a decent passing attack on the day through TE TJ Hockenson and RB D’Andre Swift. But, the Lions’ leading wide receiver was Kalif Raymond, who only recorded 37 yards on six catches. Even without Trae Waynes or the newly acquired Tre Flowers, Bengals cornerbacks managed to come together for an outstanding night and overall fantastic Position Grades.

Safety grade: A

Vonn Bell is starting to play like the Bengals’ best safety. Yes, that’s with Jessie Bates III on the field. Without question, Jessie Bates has an incredible ceiling. But, in 2021, Bell has been the one making major plays.This week, he led the Bengals in tackles (7) and created a turnover when he ripped the ball out of Amon-Ra St. Brown’s hands. He was credited with a pass deflection rather than a forced fumble, because the officials ruled the receiver never completed the catch. So, the credit for the turnover goes to Logan Wilson. But, Bell deserves just as much credit for the play if not more.

Special teams grades: B

After struggling with missed kicks both of the last two weeks, rookie kicker Evan McPherson got back on track this week. He converted both of his field goal attempts and all four extra points. It looked like he was going to push the first field goal way wide to the right. But, he used the air current to his advantage this time, and caught the bottom right corner inside the uprights. You’d prefer he didn’t give everyone a heart attack like that, but he was automatic today and you have to give that to him.

The rest of the special teams unit was solid as well. Kevin Huber got quite a bit of work in the second quarter, but he did a great job on all three punts. All three times he put the ball inside the 20. 

Unfortunately, the Bengals’ punt coverage wasn’t quite so good. They only held the Lions inside the 20 on one of those punts, and that was because of an illegal block above the waist. The kickoff coverage was much better and helped the unit’s Position Grades look a bit better. However. They held the Lions behind the 25 yard line on three of the four kickoffs that didn’t result in touchbacks.

Coaching grade: B+

Throughout the first half, Taylor’s deficiencies as an offensive manager were on full display. Aside from finally scoring a touchdown on the opening drive of a game, the majority of the Bengals’ first half drives look uninspired. Despite a decent running game, it looked like the passing game couldn’t get anything going. The short plays on second and long were confounding. I’ll partly blame coaching for the rash of penalties that destroyed drives in the first quarter.

However, as we’ve seen them do so many times during Zac Taylor’s tenure, they made massive adjustments at halftime. Suddenly matchups were being taken advantage of and the Bengals began to dominate the way everyone expected them to. Also, you absolutely have to give it up to Lou Anarumo. He has put together an absolutely stifling defense despite so many Bengals fans wanting the team to move on from him after last year.

You’d prefer to see the coaching staff get this team ready to play 60 full minutes and have schemes that don’t require halftime adjustments to bear fruit. But, as long as the Bengals are winning, you can’t criticize too hard.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 6

NFL Power Rankings
James P. McCoy – The Buffalo News

The NFL power rankings are always a fun exercise. Drama reigns supreme in the 2021 NFL season. You really can’t tell what some teams are going to do on a week-to-week basis. And even beyond the results, some of these games are simply fascinating. The New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans made the biggest jump in the rankings this week at 3 spots. The Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders look like identical teams and have an identical 4-point drop in the rankings. Let’s dig into it.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5)

Last week: 30

I thought the Jaguars were showing some progress with close games against the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals. But, after the Bengals game head coach Urban Meyer became a massive distraction, embroiling himself in controversy.

Not only was he caught on camera letting a young woman who was not his wife grind on him at a bar. But, it was his own bar in Columbus with a picture of him and his wife on the bar, and he handled the situation like a naughty first grader who just got caught throwing rocks at windows.

His players no longer respect him, he’s lost the confidence of the fanbase, he seems to have lost the confidence of ownership, AND they just got smacked 37-19 by the division rival Tennessee Titans. The Jags are in free fall.

31. Houston Texans (1-4)

Last Week: 32

The Texans did a few things worthy of inspiring the faintest hint of promise this week. First of all, not laying a stinker amid a media firestorm and an inferno of controversy like the Jaguars helps. Second of all, Davis Mills turned in an extremely efficient game against the New England Patriots. They weren’t able to hold on to a 22-9 lead early in the third quarter. But, getting there in the first place shows a bit of progress.

30. New York Jets (1-4)

Last Week: 29

The New York Jets very nearly pulled off a second win in a row this week against the always hilarious Atlanta Falcons. Unfortunately, they had no answer for Matt Ryan and Kyle Pitts and put themselves in a position where they needed to recover an onside kick to win the game. Zach Wilson is still struggling to show why the Jets selected him with the No. 2 overall pick. But, they feel a lot closer to some form of relevancy right now than they did after their 0-3 start.

29. Detroit Lions (0-5)

Last Week: 31

Dan Campbell is a hell of a coach. His passion was evident after the Lions’ last-second loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, this is a bad football team. That was evident when they couldn’t accomplish much of anything through 56 minutes of game time. Jared Goff is a limited quarterback who shows flashes from time to time, but on the whole is holding the Lions back from any sort of real success.

28. New York Giants (1-4)

Last Week: 27

Ouch. The Cowboys have been embarrassing a lot of teams lately, but it’s never fun when it’s your turn. In addition to getting blown out against a division rival, the Giants lost Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, and Kenny Golladay to injuries. Hey at least Kadarius Toney finally looks worth that first round pick.

27. Miami Dolphins (1-4)

Last Week: 26

Hopefully Tua Tagovailoa is back this coming week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But, it’s not going to matter much if the Dolphins keep putting… well… THAT around him. Truth be told, Jacoby Brissett has performed fairly well in Tua’s place. Yeah, he threw a garbage time interception and fumbled the ball late in the first half. But, the real problems for this team are a porous defense and an even worse offensive line. The way this team is trending, I could see them pushing the 30s by the end of the season.

26. Atlanta Falcons (2-3)

Last Week: 28

Those Falcons almost did it again! They put up a strong first half performance against the New York Jets and somehow forgot to continue playing football through the rest of the game. To their credit, they finally managed to (barely) hold onto a lead in the fourth quarter. But, it came against the lowly Jets. So, did you really win?

25. Washington Football Team (2-3)

Last Week: 22

I’ll give WFT this – Taylor Heinicke is fascinating to watch. He scrambles all over the field, knows how to put a drive together, and generally looks like a solid option most of the time. That is, until he starts making mistakes. The Washington Football Team had a genuine chance to be competitive this week against the Saints. But, Heinicke threw a bone headed interception just shy of the endzone on an opportunity for a touchdown. He threw another bad one on their own 26 with only a 4-point margin between the teams. You just can’t win with that.

24. Indianapolis Colts (1-4)

Last Week: 21

Tough break for the Colts. They outplayed the Ravens for the majority of the Monday Night Football game, but fell apart in the fourth quarter. If that wasn’t bad enough, Carson Wentz still managed to drive them down the field for the game winning field goal kick. But, Rodrigo Blankenship pushed it wide left from 47 yards. The Ravens’ offense was on a roll at that point, and they won the coin toss. It was pretty much a wrap from there.

23. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)

Last Week: 25

From a neutral perspective, the Panthers and Eagles played an ugly game. From an Eagles fan’s perspective, you’re happy to return near .500. And, doing it against a team many recently considered to be one of the best teams in the NFL. However, that blocked punt at the end of the game perfectly encapsulates just the kind of craziness that needs to happen for the Eagles to look competitive right now.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)

Last Week: 24

The Steelers finally looked like a competent team this week against a struggling Denver Broncos. Ben Roethlisberger played unspectacular, but mistake-free football. Najee Harris finally looked like the force on the ground the Steelers needed him to be. Losing JuJu Smith-Schuster for the rest of the season hurts too. The result wasn’t certain through the vast majority of the game, but they came away with the win at the end and that’s what matters.

21. Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)

Last Week: 14

I thought the Broncos were the biggest pretenders in the NFL. Boy was I wrong. The Raiders’ sloppiness has been there all season and is starting to get in their way. Their inability to get the two yards necessary for two points after their lone touchdown of the Chargers game exemplifies just how bad this team was at running the ball this week. Then there’s the coaching issue. Four years into a 10-year contract, head coach Jon Gruden is now gone. We don’t need to talk about the controversial aspects of that in this article. But, it is devastating from a football perspective. The Raiders’ season could very well fall off a cliff after this.

20. New England Patriots (2-3)

Last Week: 20

To be clear: the reason why I’m moving the Patriots down a spot is because I wasn’t all that impressed by their win, and teams around them are moving quite a bit. The Patriots looked dead in the water most of this game until a late rally beginning in the middle of the third quarter sparked a last-minute comeback. It was finished off by Nick Folk kicking the go-ahead field goal with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It’s good for Patriots fans, who were staring 1-4 in the face. But, I see more of the ugly side of this one.

19. Denver Broncos (3-2)

Last Week: 15

After being pulverized by the Ravens last week, I called the Broncos pretenders. I’m going to go ahead and double down on that statement this week. They managed to avoid being completely embarrassed this week against a downtrodden Steelers team. But, they showed massive signs of weakness. Like Roethlisberger, Teddy Bridgewater was mostly serviceable if unspectacular this week. He didn’t make too many mistakes until an absolutely gut wrenching interception with 11 seconds left in the game killed any hopes the Broncos had of tying the game and sending it to overtime. It wasn’t even a fluke thing, it was just an awful throw and the Broncos finish things out looking like the biggest pretenders after a promising 3-0 start.

18. Chicago Bears (3-2)

Last Week: 23

You have to give credit to the Bears. Despite all the drama surrounding Matt Nagy’s decision making and Justin Fields’ development, they’ve won three of their last four games. Wins over the Bengals and Lions weren’t exactly easy, but it looked pretty easy against the Raiders this week. Keep an eye on this Bears team. They could sneak their way into the playoff picture if you take your eye off of them.

17. San Francisco 49ers (2-3)

Last Week: 16

Trey Lance didn’t look particularly comfortable in his first game as a starter. He couldn’t find the endzone, was sacked twice, and threw a costly interception on his first drive of the game. If he’s to save the quality of the 2021 rookie QB class, he’s going to need to perform much better going forward. But, I will give credit to the 49ers defense. They kept a high-flying Cardinals team to only 17 points this week. Put a decent offense on the field, and this team is a contender.

16. New Orleans Saints (3-2)

Last Week: 19

I’m really starting to get sick of your antics, Saints. Particularly you – Winston. Can you make up your mind if you’re good or not? The Saints looked like a very good football team this week. The defense allowed 373 yards, but only two touchdowns. One of which came late in the fourth quarter when it would have taken a miracle for Washington to come up with the win. Jameis threw for four touchdowns and only one interception. I wonder how they’ll lose next week?

15. Seattle Seahawks (2-3)

Last Week: 13

Russell Wilson’s doctors allegedly believe he has a realistic chance to return to the lineup in four weeks. That’s huge, because I’d have to push this team down farther if they were planning on playing Geno Smith all season. He was good enough to engineer a comeback, but he still did Geno Smith things at the end by killing it with an interception.

14. Minnesota Vikings (2-3)

Last Week: 17

Barely beating the Detroit Lions isn’t necessarily worth jumping three points in the NFL power rankings. However, contextually, the Minnesota Vikings are starting to turn things around. Don’t forget, this is the same team that is literally only a handful of traditionally low-impact plays away from being 5-0 right now.

13. Tennessee Titans (3-2)

Last Week: 18

Derrick Henry. That’s all I really need to say about the Titans. In fairness to Ryan Tannehill, he was very efficient. He even threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter! But, let’s be honest. This game was about Derrick Henry going OFF for 130 yards and 18 of the Titans’ 24 offensive points. It’s just the Jaguars, but Derrick Henry stepping on the scene is never good for the rest of the NFL.

12. Carolina Panthers (3-2)

Last Week: 11

I’m not ready to leave the Panthers behind just yet, but getting beaten by a struggling Eagles team just isn’t a good look. It’s even worse when you see Sam Darnold getting sacked three times and throwing three interceptions. Are the ghosts returning? Let’s see how they do against the Vikings next week.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)

Last Week: 12

Barely losing a strange game against the very good Green Bay Packers is not something to be terribly worried about. The season is still early and the Bengals showed a lot of fight against a Super Bowl contender. The Bengals can still make an impression with the Ravens and Browns making up two of their next four games. But, if they want to be a top-10 team, they’ll need to figure out more ways to spark the offense beyond simply chucking it deep to Ja’Marr Chase.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3)

Last Week: 10

It seems kind of nuts to me to have a sub .500 team in the top 10 of the NFL power rankings. But, we all know what the Chiefs are capable of when they catch fire. Their three losses (Ravens, Chargers, Bills) have all come against teams ranked higher than them in these power rankings. Not to mention, one of their wins also came against one of those teams (Browns). I have a feeling they’ll get it turned around sooner or later, but they might fall out of the top 10 with another lackluster performance against Washington this week.

9. Cleveland Browns (3-2)

Last Week: 7

I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why people are blaming Baker Mayfield for this loss. What more do you want from him? He threw for over 300 yards, two touchdowns, only took one sack, and was extremely efficient all night. If the Browns didn’t have such a scary backfield, he probably would have thrown for more touchdowns. The defense isn’t quite ready to stop elite quarterbacks like Justin Herbert, but the Browns kept pace. They’re still a top-10 team in my eyes.

8. Baltimore Ravens (4-1)

Last Week: 9

The 1-4 Indianapolis Colts aren’t exactly a juggernaut, but you absolutely have to give it up to the Ravens for that comeback victory. Don’t get it twisted, though. I haven’t forgotten about the slow starts, and I haven’t forgotten that they lost to the Lions. Baltimore gets credit for climbing to 4-1 by climbing in the NFL power rankings, but I’m still skeptical if they can keep this up.

7. Green Bay Packers (4-1)

Last Week: 6

Credit where credit is due: The Packers survived two pivotal missed field goals by Mason Crosby and came out with a very weird win. But, this is a very injured football team. Hopefully Elgton Jenkins and Josh Meyers can return soon to put that offensive line back together. But, they’re still missing Jaire Alexander for a while. They’re still without Zadarius Smith for the rest of the season. When you have Aaron Rodgers you always have a chance, but they’re edging toward the fringes of the Super Bowl contenders.

6. Los Angeles Chargers (4-1)

Last Week: 8

If you’re still not convinced the Los Angeles Chargers are legit, I don’t know what more information you need. Justin Herbert was nearly perfect against the Browns throwing for just under 400 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. He got off to a bit of an up and down start this season, but the last three weeks he has been absolutely automatic. 

5. Los Angeles Rams (4-1)

Last Week: 5

The Los Angeles Rams, right now, are a team that feels like they have no holes. The only thing they’ve kind of struggled with this year is pass coverage, and even then they make up for it with well timed interceptions. That’s what they did as Geno Smith marched the Seahawks down the field this week. It was hard to stop the Geno train, but they pulled it off with their fifth pick of the season.

4. Dallas Cowboys (4-1)

Last Week: 4

I’m a sucker for a good ol’ deep pass by a wide receiver. That’s what we got from WR Cedric Wilson this week in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys were already in clear control of this football game. At that point, they were just showboating. But, it was still fun to watch nonetheless. I’m not sure if the Cowboys are benefiting from a weak division this year, but it sure didn’t help them last year. So they must also be really good.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-1)

Last Week: 3

Beating up on the poor Miami Dolphins just doesn’t seem fair. Tom Brady owned them for years in New England and now he’s moved about 200 miles northwest just to add insult to injury. The Bucs absolutely spanked them 45-17 in a game where Brady truly looked like a GOAT. Their only loss so far this season is to the Rams, but I’m confident they could win that game if they see them again in the playoffs.

2. Arizona Cardinals (5-0)

Last Week: 2

Another week, another No. 2 appearance for the only undefeated team left in football. I wasn’t terribly impressed by their 17-10 win over a struggling 49ers team. Kyler Murray was efficient but unspectacular, but their defense did look good against the rookie Trey Lance. I absolutely think they’re a dangerous team, I’m just not sure if they’re the MOST dangerous team.

1. Buffalo Bills (4-1)

Last Week: 1

The Bills ARE the most dangerous team in football right now. Josh Allen is playing lights out in the air, their ground rotation is lethal, and their defense is stifling. Week 1 is a weird stain on their season, considering the loss came to the struggling Steelers. But, I think we can safely say that game was a fluke. In the last four weeks, this Chiefs game was the only one remotely close. And they still won by 18 points.

Bengals Position Grades after 25-22 loss to Packers

Bengals position grades
Katie Stratman – USA Today Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals showed they are worth taking seriously this week against a Super Bowl caliber team in the Green Bay Packers. NFL teams do not celebrate moral victories, and I’m not suggesting Bengals fans do either. But, these position grades will reflect the fact that the Bengals played mostly well in their 25-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Like it or not, the Cincinnati Bengals are on the radar now across the league. If just a few plays go differently, this is a 5-0 team right now. I said in our preview article for this game, the Bengals didn’t have much to lose in this game as long as they kept it close. The element of surprise is now gone. NFL teams will pay closer attention now when preparing to face this team. It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, particularly for certain position groups. But, the most frustrating part is it should have been enough to come away with a win.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: C-

You can never truly count Joe Burrow out, as evidenced by his gutsy drives down the field late in the second half. Were it not for a holding penalty on Quinton Spain and a missed field goal by Evan McPherson, he might have done enough to come away with a huge statement win.

Unfortunately, the way he played in the final 20 minutes of regulation doesn’t tell the whole story. He threw a bunch of passes pretty far off target, looked like he was having trouble getting the ball where it needed to go, and threw two costly interceptions in the third quarter and in overtime. 

The first interception was severely underthrown and killed all of the momentum they had built by scoring just before halftime. The second interception looked like he didn’t even see De’Vondre Campbell right in front of him. It should have directly led to the game-winning field goal kick. Luckily, Mason Crosby missed on his third straight attempt and the Bengals got the ball back.

Running Back grade: B+

Samaje Perine was an absolute machine this week. The man refused to go down no matter how many Packers were on top of him. He turned in an impressive 5.4 yards per carry on the day, which you always love to see. He also caught the Bengals’ first touchdown of the day that gave them an early 7-0 lead at the end of a rough first quarter for both offenses.

Joe Mixon played through an ankle injury many thought could keep him out this week. Although, he certainly looked limited, only turning in 3.3 yards per carry. However, he did score the Bengals’ game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The 8-yard conclusion to an eight-minute drive breathed new life into a Bengals team that almost came back and won it near the end of regulation.

Wide Receiver grade: B-

It’s really hard to be overly critical of this unit’s performance when Ja’Marr Chase turns in six receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown. At the end of the day, Chase was one of the biggest reasons why the Bengals were in this game with a chance to win at the end.

The problem is the drops. Chase had a big one that would have gone for a first down and added to his already impressive totals. Tee Higgins… man. He had two absolutely brutal drops that would have extended drives and likely led to the Bengals putting more points on the board. In close games like this one, those huge missed opportunities matter. Boy, did they matter this week.

Tight End grade: C

We didn’t see much from the tight ends this week. CJ Uzomah was targeted twice and caught both passes for 16 total yards. Unfortunately, the first catch is largely forgotten about because it didn’t result in a first down. However, it did put the Bengals within long field goal range for Evan McPherson. Why Zac Taylor opted to punt the ball on the Green Bay 41 yard line is baffling. But, we’ll talk about that in later in the article.

Offensive line grade: C-

On the whole, the Bengals’ offensive line didn’t really have the best night. Joe Burrow was regularly under pressure, and quite a few of the rushing yards were only attained by plowing through a sea of defenders. That said, it wasn’t an all-out terrible night for a unit that did help put over 100 rushing yards on the day and only allowed Burrow to be sacked two times. 

He was sacked three times total. But, one of those was on a failed blitz pickup by Samaje Perine. Then again, maybe being happy he was “only” sacked three total times is an indication of how bad this unit has been in the past.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: C

Going into this game, Bengals fans were hoping to see a much more disruptive performance by the defensive line. Not only has this unit been playing really well this year, but the Packers were missing three starting offensive linemen. Trey Hendrickson had a pretty good game. He constantly got in the backfield, took down Aaron Rodgers twice, and hit him a third time.

Unfortunately, Hendrickson was the only member of the defensive line to have a particularly good day. Cameron Sample and DJ Reader were able to get a bit of pressure, but for the most part the unit got shredded by Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Not to mention, DJ Reader’s killer tripping penalty that extended a Packers drive in the fourth quarter. The drive eventually resulted in a field goal. Without that penalty, the Bengals would have held the Packers to a 3 & Out immediately before the late eight-minute touchdown drive. There would have been no overtime, only victory.

Linebacker grade: B

It was a relatively quiet game for Logan Wilson, although he still had the third most tackles on the team this week. He was largely responsible for most of the Packers runs that were stopped for a short gain. Akeem Davis-Gaither was largely quiet too, primarily showing up as cleanup duty on broken plays.

Germaine Pratt, on the other hand, was a huge part of the defense’s ability to keep the Packers’ offense largely in check. Twice he stopped Packers running backs for a short gain, once for no gain, and once for negative yards. He did have to play cleanup duty on a couple big catches by AJ Dillon in the backfield, but in general he brought this unit’s grade up.

Cornerback grade: C+

Guarding Davante Adams is a nearly impossible task. He’s a top-two receiver in the NFL, and he’s clearly not number two. So, as ugly as it looked, I’m not going to destroy the Bengals’ corners for getting worked by him all game. Honestly, the fact that they only allowed Adams to get in the endzone once was remarkable. Other than Adams, there were a couple of big plays by Randall Cobb. But, that was about it.

Chidobe Awuzie once again showed why the Bengals believed in him this offseason  with two pass deflections, a tackle for a loss, and a huge interception on Aaron Rodgers early in the game. Mike Hilton got worked by Randall Cobb early in the game, but he cleaned things up as the game went on. He had a tackle for loss in the second quarter. After that, he only allowed one more intermediate play the rest of the game, an eight-yard pass to Davante Adams. 

Trae Waynes generally played well against his man. Eli Apple got burned by Davante Adams for a 22-yard catch that eventually led to a touchdown. But, you didn’t hear much else from him during the short period while he was filling in for an injured Awuzie.

Safety grade: C-

Jessie Bates was back this week and went right back to being the Bengals’ leading tackler like it was his birthright. It wasn’t exactly the most exciting night from him though, as he was regularly the one having to clean up big plays by Davante Adams. Adams burned Bates on that explosive 59-yard catch that ended up being his longest of the night.

While Bates was cleaning up big plays by Adams, Vonn Bell spent most of the night cleaning up big plays by Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Except for the one play where he didn’t, absolutely whiffing on Aaron Jones in the backfield. He had him absolutely dead-to-rights on what would have been a big loss. But, Jones stepped to the side and ended up with a 57-yard run that eventually set up a chip shot 36-yard field goal by Mason Crosby late in the fourth quarter. Luckily, Crosby shanked it wide left. But, that could have been the back-breaking play that could have killed the Bengals’ comeback hopes.

Special teams grades: F

From what I understand, there was a wind current running through Paul Brown Stadium near the end of the game. That partially accounts for why Mason Crosby and Evan McPherson combined for five missed field goals at the end of regulation and in overtime.

That said, it’s no excuse for McPherson missing two opportunities to win the game. Granted, one was a 57-yard field goal that would have tied the all-time Bengals record for longest kick. But, the other was from a much more manageable 49 yards. He’s a rookie and I’m sure he’ll learn from this and be better in the future, but it’s something he and Darrin Simmons need to work on.

Kevin Huber had an ‘OK’ day punting the ball. But, poor special teams coverage ruined the punts he did hit well. Then again, there was the one time Zac Taylor decided to punt from the Packers’ 41-yard line. Huber couldn’t pin the Packers deep in their own territory despite the short field.

I’m not entirely sure what Darius Phillips was thinking trying to return a punt at the six-yard line. It likely would have resulted in a touchback. Instead, the Bengals’ offense ends up with the ball at the eight. After they went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, Huber was only able to get the ball to the 38-yard line. Luckily, Rodgers threw an interception on the ensuing drive. But, you still never want to set an explosive team like the Packers up in good field position.

Coaching grade: D-

Oof. I will give Zac Taylor credit for the Bengals never giving up every week. If two or three plays goes differently on the season, this Bengals team could be 5-0 right now. The way they played this week, it makes you think they are right on the cusp of winning games like this. If they manage to sneak into the playoffs, you have to believe they might be able to make some noise.

That said, I really don’t understand Taylor’s decision making this week. Why the hell did we punt the ball from Green Bay’s 41-yard line? Or later in the third quarter from their 40? The defense was playing well and Evan McPherson hit a 60-yard field goal in warm ups. It sounds weird to say after all those misses at the end of the game. But, those misses hadn’t happened yet in the first and third quarters. 

What happened to that aggressive mentality he assured us they would have all season after that weird 4th down call he made against Minnesota? Why all the conservative playcalling? Why did they not utilize their running game more considering how effective it was when they actually did run the ball?

It’s Taylor’s third season as a coach and mistakes like this really shouldn’t be happening at this frequency. On the whole, they’re having a decent season. He’s going to look pretty good at the end of the season, if they win more games than they lose.

But, when they lose games like this, you can’t help but question what the hell he was thinking.