3 things we learned from Bengals’ blowout week 16 win over Ravens
Sunday was truly a great day to be a Cincinnati Bengals fan. The stripes did what they were supposed to do when they dismantled an undermanned team at home. It certainly felt better that the team in question was the hated Baltimore Ravens, but regardless of the competition, a winning team should defeat an undermanned team on their home field.
The path to the AFC North title became more well defined at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday. The win over Baltimore gives the Bengals an almost death grip on the division. Considering how the Ravens are imploding, the Steelers were blown out by the Chiefs, and the Browns also lost, the Bengals essentially need only to split their remaining two games, and perhaps don’t even need that.
We learned much about this team, and this coaching staff this week. Many fans, myself included were wary of how the Bengals were going to respond to a wounded, desperate opponent. That question was answered.
Here are three more things we learned from the Bengals’ pasting of the Ravens.
Zac Taylor is learning the killer instinct
It’s been a recurring theme over the years for the Bengals to get a nice lead, throw the car in neutral, and attempt to cruise to a win. We all know how that has often worked out. Not well. It’s been maddening at times when the team would have an opponent on the ropes, only to let them catch their breath and rally.
Sunday against the Ravens, that simply didn’t happen. The Bengals got down early, but once they took the lead, they smashed the gas and put the Ravens in the rearview. How nice was that to see? Instead of stressing out and watching the Bengals punt and play soft defense, they stayed aggressive and punished the Ravens. Credit Taylor and his staff for identifying their opponents’ weakness and hammering it until they submitted.
Perhaps some pundits will criticize Taylor for keeping Burrow and company in when the game was out of hand. To them, I say “save it”. The fan base needed this. The team needed this, and after the comments from Raven Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale, the Ravens needed this. Never underestimate Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase.
Tee Higgins is WR1
Much has been made of Ja’Marr Chase and his historic rookie season, and Chase is indeed worthy of being called a WR 1, but make no mistake, Tee Higgins is also a WR1.
Higgins had an outstanding rookie year, however when Chase was drafted many thought Higgins would slide into a complementary role. Not so fast. The past five weeks, as teams have rolled extra coverage towards Chase, Higgins has balled out. In that span, Higgins has four games over 100 yards, and four touchdowns. Many of his catches have come in crunch time, often bailing Burrow out with huge, clutch catches.
Against the Ravens, Tee Higgins posted 194 yards and two touchdowns. Amazing numbers, but many of the catches were clutch, contested catches with more than one defender draped on him. For fans of a certain age, it was impossible to not see shades of a young Calvin Johnson today. Not saying Higgins is of that ilk, but if he can be three-quarters of the player Johnson was, the Bengals should be set at receiver for years.
Joe Burrow is locked in
I don’t care if the opponent was a wounded Raven team or Moeller High School, Joe Burrow is on point. The feeling watching the game today was Burrow would’ve dropped 300 yards and three touchdowns on anyone. However, no one saw this performance coming.
Burrow dinked when he had to, he dunked when it was necessary, he scrambled, bought time, and dropped more dimes than the US Mint. In short, he was on fire. When Burrow sees the field like he did today, anything is possible.
There have been numerous great quarterbacks in Bengal history, despite what the narrative says. Boomer Esiason, Ken Anderson, Andy Dalton, (quiet haters, Dalton was great), and Carson Palmer — None did what Joe Burrow did today.
Any questions about his recovery from the knee, his comfort level in the offense, or his ability to raise his level of play in crucial situations were answered today in spades. In short, Joe Burrow is locked in and playing at a level most Bengal fans have never seen. Enjoy the ride.
It was truly a great day to be a Bengal fan. The beating administered to Baltimore was sweet, but what would be sweeter would be a victory against the best team in the conference next Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. If the Bengals can pull that off we will learn more than three things about this team and their potential into January.