The Cincinnati Bengals are officially over the .500 mark after knocking off the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31-17. This is the Bengals' third straight win and things appear to be setting up exactly as they did a year ago with the team hitting its stride at the midway point of the season. This is the best time for any team to get red-hot, as it can propel them to a deep playoff run.
With the game in the books, let's take a look at three takeaways from the big win.
Irv Smith Jr. is not the answer at tight end
Had you asked any Bengals fan before the game who had been the biggest disappointment so far this season, most probably would have answered with Irv Smith Jr. The Bengals signed him in the offseason hoping that he'd be the next tight end to benefit from playing with Joe Burrow but he's been a bust so far.
The lowlight for Smith came near the end of the second quarter when Burrow threw to him a goal-to-go situation only for him to fumble the ball and give the 49ers the ball. This took away a chance for the Bengals to score heading into the half and then coming out of the half and scoring again, essentially putting the game out of reach early on.
Instead, the 49ers got the ball to end the half (and thankfully didn't score) but Smith cost his team big there. This won't be looked at as critically considering how much Cincinnati won by it was a big moment that could have been the momentum changer.
With the trade deadline creeping closely, do the Bengals finally add a tight end or do they give someone like Tanner Hudson a chance? One thing is for sure though and it's that Irv Smith Jr. is not the guy the Bengals were hoping for.
Joe Burrow scrambling magic is back!
The Bengals offense was dreadful through the first month of the season and a big reason for that was Burrow's injury. The injury prevented Burrow from being able to scramble and do the things that made him a great quarterback. He looked like himself this week, however.
Time after time, Burrow was able to scramble out of a would-be sack and get his team a critical first down and rushing for over 40 yards. That wasn't something he was doing early on and it cost his offense dearly. Now that he's able to do that, though, it opens the offense back up. Defenses have to be alert to the possibility of Burrow taking off and running with the football when before, they were daring him to do just that.
If the Bengals get this version of Burrow every game for the rest of the season, there's no reason they can't still make a run for the AFC North title.
Still in the AFC North basement
It's crazy but even with a win over a good 49ers team and an over .500 record, the Bengals are still in last place in the AFC North. This won't matter in a few weeks when the Bengals keep on winning (hopefully) and the Browns and Steelers finally slow down a bit but right now, it's just a crazy thing to think about. A team that's 4-3 and on a three-game win streak should not be in last place in their division.