The Cincinnati Bengals got into the win column for the first time in the 2023 season, notching a 19-16 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in a rematch of Super Bowl LVI. It was a win that the team absolutely needed after dropping to 0-2 to start the year.
The Bengals are now 1-2 while the other three teams in the division are 2-1 so they're still in the basement of the AFC North. That being said, the schedule eases up with trips to Tennessee and Arizona and then hosting the Seahawks before an early BYE in Week 7.
This win was crucial though because this team needed to get on the board and they did it behind a dominant defensive effort, holding the Rams to just nine points until the final minute and a half. Let's dive into the takeaways from the game.
Burrow's injury clearly bothering him
Playing Joe Burrow despite him dealing with a calf injury was the definition of the term 'playing with fire'. It panned out okay this time around with him avoiding any further irritation (that we know of at least) but he definitely looked off throughout the night, especially at the beginning of the game.
It was clear in the first half of the game that any time there was pressure, Burrow's goal was to just dirt the ball so as not to get hit. He wasn't throwing the long passes that he's known for and that's all on that injury.
Maybe this injury is just something that nags the quarterback throughout the season. We'll have to wait and see. It wasn't great seeing him drop back to pass nearly 50 times though, especially when the team had a comfortable lead late in the game.
Defense had a much better showing
A lot of fans were disappointed in the defense's efforts through the past two weeks, especially the run defense. The defense held the Rams to just 16 points and picked off Matthew Stafford twice. The Rams' run game was nearly non-existent, as they rushed for under 100 yards.
It felt as though the run defense struggled in the first two weeks due to their opponents and they looked like the group of old against a much weaker offense. The pass rush also came to life, collecting six sacks on Stafford, which is the most ever in the Lou Anarumo era, per Jay Morrison, who also noted that the Rams were 0-for-8 on third downs midway through the fourth quarter. They were 0-for-10 on third downs at the two-minute warning, according to Ben Baby.
It was good to see the old unit on the field and not the one we had watched in the first two weeks of the season.
Is the offense finally clicking?
The Bengals offense through the first two and a half games of the season was putrid. They were barely able to muster up any yards and that led to two losses. The first half of this game wasn't kind to the offense either, as Burrow struggled to make much of anything happen and they had just six points at the half.
In the second half, however, the group started to get their bearings. Joe Mixon ran for a touchdown to give the Bengals their first lead of the game and then Ja'Marr Chase had a big catch on the next offensive possession to get the Bengals into field goal range for an Evan McPherson field goal.
While Burrow's injury is certainly something to be concerned about still, he appeared to manage it much better in the second half. Protection held up for him and he was able to make some nice throws.
This win puts the Bengals in the win column for the first time this season and had they lost, they'd have been 0-3 and approaching the lost season category. Fortunately, that's not something this team needs to worry about. They'll head to Tennessee next weekend with a chance to get back to .500.