Joe Burrow gutted through a lingering calf injury to guide the Cincinnati Bengals to a much needed 19 to 16 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Paycor Stadium in front of the home crowd in Cincinnati on Monday night. The win gave the Bengals their first victory of the season.
We learned a lot from the Monday night matchup with the Rams. The Bengals offense is still a work in progress as Burrow’s calf heals and Joe is still struggling with the ability to start being able to drive off his back foot throwing the football down field. The offensive line struggled when the Bengals fell behind in the down and distance where the Rams defense knew the Bengals offense would need to pass. Aaron Donald constantly overpowered Cordell Volson and split double team blocks from Volson and center Ted Karras getting pressure on Joe Burrow. The offensive line excelled in run blocking for Joe Mixon. Pro Football Focus gave Volson a grade of 27.3 which he must improve against another rugged defensive front that Mike Vrabel deploys for the Titans. Orlando Brown Jr. had a grade of 45.6. Tee Higgins struggled with a grade of 43.7 and Joe Mixon came in at 55.5. The top offensive grades were as follows: Ja’marr Chase at 76.8, Joe Burrow at 74.0, Jonah Williams (who had his best game of the season so far) at 60.9, Alex Cappa at 59.6 and Charlie jones at 58.6. The Bengals gained only 67 yards on the ground and had Burrow throwing near 50 times, the lack of balance is proof that the offense is struggling. The run game and yards per carry must improve over the 2.9 yard average per rush against Tennessee. The Bengals have to stay ahead in down and distance while the left side of the offensive line works to gel and improve in pass blocking. The Titans defensive front lead by Jeffrey Simmons, Teair Tart, and Denico Autry is not a front you want to be in 2nd or 3rd and long situations exposing the left side of the line and the Bengals weaker pass protection between the center and guard.
The defense saved the season forcing the Rams to kick field goals instead of converting touchdowns. Lou Anarumo and the secondary need to come out from playing so much zone coverage giving receivers free releases and go back to playing more man-to-man coverage jamming and throwing off timing for quarterbacks and wide receivers. Defensive tackle D.J. Reader came up with a key sack to set the tone and deny the Rams getting into the endzone which must continue in Nashville this Sunday. BJ Hill also imposed his will along the interior of the defense on Monday night. The pass rush showed up with Trey Hendrickson leading the charge with a PFF grade of 92.1. Logan Wilson, the turnover machine, had two interceptions and a PFF grade of 90.1. Other defensive grades: Jalen Davis came in at 88.4, Cam Sample at 82.5, and Sam Hubbard at 76.0. All will need big games to get pressure on Ryan Tannehill and stop Derrick Henry in the run game.
Here are some keys to a Bengals victory over the Titans. The run game has to be more efficient keeping the down and distance short. The Bengals need average at least 4 yards per rush attempt. In the passing game, the Bengals must attack the middle of the field. Brian Callahan and Zac Taylor got creative to get Ja’Marr Chase involved last week by moving Chase in the slot for quick passing plays to manufacture touches. Look for Titans coach Mike Vrabel to scheme his defense to take that away. This will be another homecoming for Tee Higgins who the Bengals need to have another normal big game going back home to keep the Titans honest defensively. Tyler Boyd and Tanner Hudson must attack the middle and seams of the Titans defense in the passing game. Defensively, the defensive front must sell out to stop Derrick Henry before he can get started and force Ryan Tannehill to throw the ball in 2nd and 3rd and long situations. The more heat on Tannehill, the greater the tendency for him to force the ball in bad windows and for the Bengals to come up with timely interceptions to win the ball game. The turnover battle simply must be won by Cincinnati!