The first week of NFL football is always a week that brings me much joy and excitement, as sitting and watching a full slate of football on Sunday is the best way to prepare yourself for another 40 hours of work beginning the next day.
“Sunday scaries” began a little early on Sunday though as nearly all Bengals fans will need a double dosage of blood pressure medicine after this week one thriller. I was imagining myself writing this article with joy as Evan McPherson and the kicking crew came out twice to win the game, yet this game ended in a gut-wrenching loss that will haunt myself and may even become a playoff implication down the road. By the time you are reading this, I am sure you already know of the missed opportunities from special teams, along with the turnover frenzy that happened at Paycor Stadium, but let’s dive in to the good, the bad, and the ugly in the three-point loss to the Steelers.
· The defense still looked dominant, despite 23 points being scored by the Steelers. With five turnovers, including a pick six, from the Bengals offense, this is quite impressive. Cincinnati held Mitch Trubisky to 194 yards with a 48.0 QBR. The entire Steelers offense was limited to 75 yards rushing. Hilton, Wilson and Pratt lead the team in eight total tackles a piece, and continued their dominance from last season.
· Ja’Marr Chase continued to show he is a top five receiver in the league while pulling in 10 receptions, 129 yards and catching what should have been the game winning touchdown. Chase even showed his ability to run routes in the slot and put up 64 yards after catch in his week one performance (second best YAC in the league through Sunday).
· Joe Mixon shined playing behind his new offensive line. Mixon displayed great patience and racked up 145 total yards through both the air and ground.
· Tip-toeing tight end and new face in Cincinnati, Hayden Hurst displayed great athleticism while reeling in five receptions for 46 yards. Hurst’s route running, hands and speed highly impressed me, as this a total change from Uzomah’s style of play at the position in the 2021 season.
· This was only one game. This club is going to take time to gel with their new line and they did not play any snaps together in the preseason. We can bounce back against the Cowboys next week (Dak Prescott isn’t playing) and we can all take a deep breath.
· The first negative has to be the word count that I am limited to in this article, as I could take up an entire page, without ads, going over the negatives from week one.
· Injury to Clark Harris — Who would have thought that an injury to Harris’ right bicep would be the reason we lose in week one? With Harris out, the Bengals appeared more than uncomfortable without their regular long snapper. I am sure Cincinnati has prepared for an injury to him, but from the looks of it Mitchell Wilcox had no business snapping the football. Even with some bad snaps, Huber could have fallen on the ball on third down and tried again on fourth, but for some reason he chose to place the ball down anyway. McPherson seemed to be placing much of the blame on himself, as he stated, “The operation was fine, I just didn’t get the job done.”
· Joe Burrow had one of the worst, if not the worst, game of his career. And yes, it is more than OK to be critical of his play. He can still be the savior of this franchise and have a bad game, as it is only his third season in the league. Burrow had many missed throws, four interceptions, one fumble, and held on to the ball for way too long. Yes, I will add the offensive line on the next bullet point, but we can’t look past his play, and he would tell you that himself. Joe has been sacked a whopping 109 times in his NFL career, but over 30 percent of those come after 2.6 seconds.
· The offensive line — Boy was this hard to watch. After much anticipation from the signings of Collins, Karras and Cappa, the offensive line was a disaster. Cincinnati has a real problem with Cordell Volson. While TJ Watt is a different animal, Volson was exposed multiple times throughout the game and gave up seven allowed pressures. Jonah Williams allowed two sacks himself and continued to show his inconsistency.
· Tee Higgins injury — While Cincinnati displayed the ability to play without Tee Higgins, against a better opponent, this could have been a much bigger issue. Mike Thomas missed a catch in the endzone and has continued to show the Bengals lack in talent after the trio of stars at the WR position. Let’s hope this concussion does not linger into Week 2 against the Cowboys.
· Zac Taylor’s Game Management — Coach Taylor’s no challenge on the Chase’s catch by the endzone, play calling that lead to turnover on downs, and leaving time on the clock that lead to a Steelers win instead of a tie was truly a malpractice. His inexperience in these situations continue to arise.
Let’s forget week one ever happened and ignore what TJ Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and the rest of the Steelers just did to the reigning AFC Champions. Early season jitters is what we will mark this game as and we are blessed with taking on a second string quarterback in week 2 (get well soon Dak). With Ezekiel Elliot, Noah Brown, Tony Pollard and Ceedee Lamb hosting us in Arlington at 4:25 p.m. Sunday, we have to come prepared to compete with this high powered offense despite Cooper Rush taking on the lead quarterback role.
The three other teams in the AFC North pulled out wins in week one and with our schedule, we have to capitalize against a second string quarterback. Looking ahead, Cincinnati takes on the Cowboys, Jets, Dolphins, Ravens and Saints in their next five games. It’s only one week of football and this team will turn it around. I trust our defense and trust Burrow’s abilities to be an elite quarterback. Don’t panic, just buy a stress ball and call your local pharmacy for a refill of blood pressure medicine, as football season is back.
Prediction: Cincinnati-31, Dallas 17….Who Dey!
Matthew McAdow is a Peebles resident. He works in human resources in the nuclear industry and has been an avid Cincinnati fan his entire life. He is an Ohio Christian University graduate and has always enjoyed giving an honest opinion on multiple topics regarding Cincinnati sports.