Everything was on the line when the Cincinnati Bengals welcomed the Baltimore Ravens for a pivotal AFC North matchup. The winner of this game had a clean path to the AFC North title though it’s obviously not guaranteed with how tight the division is to this point.
The Ravens have been decimated with injuries all season long and this week they also had COVID-19 issues, leading to Josh Johnson playing quarterback for Baltimore. Give Johnson credit — The guy played well for the Ravens and at times, made the game a little closer than we’d all have cared for.
Be that as it may, Cincinnati came out victorious and move to 9-6. They’ll have a winning record for the first time since 2015, so that’s reason enough to celebrate, even if the team somehow doesn’t win the division.
With all of this said, let’s take a look at some takeaways from the win that was.
Trey Hendrickson, sack leader
Has there been a better Bengals free-agent signing than Trey Hendrickson? The newcomer has 14 sacks in his first season with Cincy, which now puts him as the all-time single-season sack record. Yup… Just one season in.
Hendrickson can make history next week against the Chiefs because if he gets a sack on Patrick Mahomes or any quarterback who might end up playing (you never know with COVID-19), it’ll give him 12 straight games with at least half a sack. What an outstanding signing for the Bengals.
Have a day, Tee Higgins!
Really, all of the Bengals’ receivers played incredibly well on Sunday but I’m highlighting Tee Higgins because he had nearly 200 yards receiving and two touchdowns. The second-year receiver out of Clemson just missed out on a 1,000-yard season as a rookie but he’s passed the mark in year two.
Higgins’ final stat line for this game was 12 catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Absolutely unstoppable.
Defensive struggles on 3rd down
This one might be overlooked due to the blowout win, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. As Mike Petraglia mentions in the tweet below, the Ravens offense was faced with a 3rd-and-12, 3rd-and-13, and 3rd-and-10 and converted on all of them.
One, in particular, was a really ugly conversion where the Ravens receiver should have been tackled on three separate occasions but still wiggled his way to the first down marker. That was the worst of the worst and this is something Cincinnati’s defense can’t continue to do if they end up making the playoffs.
Defense can’t cover tight ends
It was hard not to notice the big game that Mark Andrews had for the Ravens. Andrews is one of the best tight ends in the league but the defense’s inability to stop tight ends is clearly an issue for this team and it won’t get any easier down the stretch, as Travis Kelce comes to Cincinnati next week (assuming he clears COVID-19 protocols).
Andrews ended the game with eight receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown. He continued to be open when Johnson needed to get the ball down the field and not being able to slow down tight ends has reared its ugly head in multiple games this year. It’s concerning for sure.
Joe Burrow making history
Yes, Burrow was going against practice squad players but the Bengals signal-caller did exactly what he should have done in that scenario. He tossed for 525 yards and four touchdowns in the game and looked like he was having fun throughout the game.
Returning the favor
We’ll close with this tweet from Petraglia, who notes that the Ravens destroyed Cincinnati last year. Fast forward to 2021 and the Bengals got to return the favor to their hated division foes.
This blowout win was even sweeter because it puts Cincinnati in a good position to win their first division title since 2015. If they’re able to do that in this gauntlet of a division, it’ll give fans a great deal of hope moving forward.
With the win, the Bengals move to 9-6 and are guaranteed to finish the season with a winning record. Take a bow, fellas.