The Cincinnati Bengals marched into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, aiming for their first win of the 2020 season. After coming close to victory in Weeks 1 and 2, the team had to feel good about their chances against a banged up Eagles team that had been slipping.
Ascending rookie quarterback Joe Burrow put on another promising performance, and once again, put his team in a position to win — arguably the biggest job of a QB. There was also an emerging star on offense that Cincinnati that may be a “shiny new toy” for Burrow.
Although the Bengals did not win the game, they didn’t lose either, as the match would end in a rare tie, 23-23.
Cincinnati will go into Week 4 with an 0-2-1 record, as they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at home in Paul Brown Stadium.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Once again, we find the the 2020 first-overall pick performing well enough to place himself in this category. Despite being under a ton of pressure and taking hits throughout the game, Joe Burrow did what he’s done thus far in this young season; keep his team in the the game. For the second straight week, he’s crossed the 300-yard passing threshold, as well as having a passer rating above 90. He will still have his occasional rookie miscues, but his heart and resolve are truly commendable. Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals are steadily putting the league on notice, now that they finally have “their guy.” He played extremely well in Week 3, all things considered.
After a pair of quiet performances to start the year, the former fourth-round pick out of Auburn put together a monster game. Defensive end Carl Lawson gave a banged-up Eagles offensive line fits all afternoon en route to a career-high eight tackles, along with two sacks and two quarterback hits. He also chipped in with two tackles-for-loss. Being in a contract year, Lawson had an outstanding game to add to his resume, as he looks to cash in next offseason.
There was a bit of a pre-game surprise on Sunday. 2017’s ninth-overall pick John Ross III was a heathy scratch. Enter rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins, the highly-touted receiver out of Clemson University. He was pushed into the starting role and, boy, did he make the most of it. While only tallying 40 receiving yards on the day, Higgins still managed to find pay dirt not once, but twice. He caught five total passes, but it should be noted that he was targeted nine times, the second-most of any Cincinnati pass-catcher. Look for his role to significantly expand, starting with this upcoming game.
Have to give the big man some love here. Like Lawson, DE Carlos Dunlap wrecked Philly’s O-line all afternoon. He led the team in total tackles with nine, while also contributing a tackle-for-loss, a QB hit, and a pass deflection. Dunlap was constantly getting through the line and beating his blocks, putting plenty of pressure on Carson Wentz. The 10-year veteran most certainly made his presence felt in this game.
The Offensive Line
This is also starting to become a weekly trend for the Bengals. The O-line has struggled mightily thus far, and that would continue in this contest. Starting guard Fred Johnson, along with several other offensive linemen, have played poorly in each of the team’s three games. In Week 3, the unit as a whole gave up eight sacks and 18(!) QB hits. (Editor’s Note: Ouch.) The running game was unable to get going, too. The Bengals rushed for a paltry total of 49 yards…as a team. Johnson was benched for C/G Billy Price at the half. There will most likely be some other changes among the line in the very near future. Had Cincy’s O-line been able to hold, they would’ve had a really good chance at winning, as the score remained close for the duration of the game. It’s a miracle that the team was even able to keep pace with Philadelphia, given the circumstances of the offensive line.
Mackensie Alexander and Darius Phillips
These two make the cut because they were both responsible for giving up some crucial and critical, game-altering plays. With 21 seconds remaining before halftime, the defense, at the last second, rotated its coverage. This seemed to cause some confusion as Alexander got caught out of place and left a void in the back half of the zone, leaving an Eagles receiver WIDE open for a touchdown, which took the lead away from the Bengals.
Although Phillips made a few solid plays on defense, he was the victim of a deep 30-yard pass to tight end Zach Ertz which kept the Eagles’ drive going and put them into Cincinnati territory. Phillips was also called for a terribly-timed pass interference call on Philly’s final drive of regulation. That penalty would continue the Eagles’ drive, eventually leading to a TD and a game-tying extra point to send the contest into overtime.
Another week, another “is he washed?” performance by the Bengals’ former All-Pro wideout. A.J. Green was only able to make three receptions for a grand total of 29 yards. He followed that up with a five-catch, 36-yard performance, an average of 7.2 yards per catch. What was also telling was the fact that he was only targeted by Joe Burrow six times in this match. In the first two games, Green received a total of 22 targets. Maybe this could simply be chalked up to a dud performance due to being shadowed by the stellar star corner for the Eagles, CB Darius Slay. Or maybe, we are beginning to see the decline of the franchise’s second all-time leading receiver. It’ll be interesting to see how much Burrow looks Green’s way moving forward.
Current Wide Receiver Group Needs To Remain As-Is
The absence of speedster John Ross III may have been a blessing in disguise. For starters, Ross has been constantly on the Injury Report, only logging in 26 game activations since he was drafted in 2017. With Ross inactive for this game, more opportunities opened up for some of Cincy’s other WRs, especially Auden Tate and Tee Higgins. Tate flashed last year but hadn’t been able to get on the field for the first two weeks. His massive 6’5″ frame can provide another big target, which could be a tremendous safety net for their rookie QB.
As stated earlier, Higgins had his “coming-out party” Sunday versus the Eagles. Although he had been receiving a decent amount of snaps on offense, he wasn’t receiving many opportunities to make a difference. That obviously changed in Week 3, and Higgins is now in position to truly blossom and grow with fellow rookie Joe Burrow. He’s shown that he can step up and make plays when called upon, and he should garner even more snaps, given the state of the receiver room outside of WR Tyler Boyd.
The Guard Spots Need To Be Addressed ASAP
If we’re being honest, the entire line, minus center Trey Hopkins, could use a makeover. Left tackle Jonah Williams, the 11th-overall pick in last year’s draft, has played admirably in spurts. Nevertheless, the former Alabama All-American hasn’t quite lived up to his draft slot billing. The interior is where reinforcements are needed the most. Fred Johnson and Michael Jordan looked anything but good against Philly. Both guards are only in their second season so it’d be unfair to criticize them as if they’re finished products. But, as much as Joe Burrow has already been hit, something has to give. If not, it could negatively affect the progress of the rookie quarterback in a major way. Right tackle Bobby Hart hasn’t done anything to make fans feel better about his position on the O-line, either.
The Bengals Are A Way Better Team Than Their Winless Record Indicates
In the three games Cincinnati has played this season, they’ve lost or tied by a combined 8 points. That is truly remarkable, considering how inept the offensive line has been, and how iffy the defense has been. The defense is ranked 14th in total points allowed. On offense, the team has several young players still maturing and meshing together. We still haven’t seen the best Bengals football yet and they have been missing out on wins just by the skin of their teeth. Not to mention, they will get a major boost from the returns of All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, and offseason-acquisition CB Trae Waynes, from injury. There is still plenty light at the end of the tunnel in 2020.
- Bengals brought up DT Khalil McKenzie from the practice squad to the active roster.
- Per Pro Football Focus, Joe Burrow finished with an overall grade of 86.5 and an 87.5 grade when under pressure.
- The Athletic’s Jay Morrison provided updated Bengals rankings following the game.
(Featured Image Credit: Chris Szagola for AP Photos / Bengals.com)