I mean, at some point Mason Crosby or Evan McPherson was going to knock it through, right?
While 60 minutes of regulation time wasn’t enough to settle a matchup between two teams who entered the week atop their respective divisions, one thing became apparently clear: the Cincinnati Bengals are indeed for real.
Let me first start off by highlighting Ja’Marr Chase. Long overdue respect is needed toward his production thus far, as the first-year wideout has five touchdown catches in his first handful of games, and has quickly arrived onto the NFL stage as a boundary threat to specifically game plan against. While loads of negative attention were drawn toward Chase during training camp and the preseason due to his inability to simply catch the football, Chase has seemingly silenced his critics for good after a six-catch, 159-yard day against the Green Bay Packers, a career high in yards for the former LSU standout.
He’s been unstoppable, and with a favorable matchup against the Detroit Lions and New York Jets in two of the next three games, Chase’s production only looks to increase as the weeks churn on.
With Joe Burrow under center, the Bengals have by no means have set the scoreboard on fire, but the former No. 1 overall selection is completing more than 71% of his passes with multiple touchdown passes in each of his first five starts, and looks to have taken a jump in his second full season captaining an intriguing Cincinnati offensive attack. A rookie season ultimately cut short following a Week 11 ACL tear against Washington last fall, Burrow has recaptured the spotlight and will be the key to Bengals’ success if they look to finish atop an ultra-competitive AFC North when the dust settles.
Behind Burrow, it was a two-man attack with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon against the Packers. Perine, a journeyman back who’s failed to grasp onto a major backfield role in his prior stops in Miami and Washington, saw his largest workload of the season thus far totaling 11 carries for 59 yards, splitting duties with Mixon (10 carries for 33 yards and a touchdown). And while Mixon has also enjoyed his struggles from the onset of his professional tenure, his ability to remain healthy so far this season has resulted in 93 carries for 386 yards in five weeks, a workload that will surely increase as the Bengals eye their first playoff appearance since 2015.
A well-balanced offensive attack has kept Cincinnati's defense off the field and rested. Although their 25 points allowed to Green Bay on Sunday was the highest point total allowed through five games, and Lou Anarumo’s secondary—like every team—wasn’t able to limit Davante Adams, their front seven remains in the top 10 for sacks recorded and has limited teams to fewer chunk plays, minimal creases in the run, and overall, less time of possession, a welcomed addition to weekly forthcomings for hot-seat head coach Zac Taylor.
While a loss against the Chicago Bears initially muffled expectations in Week 2, an opening season overtime victory against the Minnesota Vikings, a 14-point win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, and a near victory over an NFC-powerhouse in the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers have clearly welcomed the Bengals into playoff conversation as we near the halfway point of the season.
Concern remains toward the severity of a throat contusion suffered by Burrow, where any amount of missed time will dramatically affect their projection, but scoping the Bengals this fall provides an enticing reward considering their current talent, impactful depth, and a head coach-quarterback duo that has seemingly finally found the rapport they’ve longed for since Cincinnati took Burrow atop the 2020 NFL Draft.