Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase bail out the Bengals in an ugly win in Arizona
GLENDALE, Ariz. (ENQUIRER) - There’s a chance that three months from now, when the regular season wraps up, the only aspects of the Cincinnati Bengals’ ugly Week 5 win that will end up mattering will be that quarterback Joe Burrow showed he can move outside of the pocket, the offense showed signs of life and the Bengals picked up a victory in a must-win game.
In a 34-20 win for the Bengals over the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium, Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase bailed out a Bengals team that played an up-and-down game against one of the worst teams in football.
The Bengals have a long way to go and a lot to fix. They still look nothing like the team that won 10 straight games last season, Cincinnati Enquirer sports reporter Charlie Goldsmith wrote.
But the Bengals are buying time as the team figures out its identity. They’re surviving a stretch of the season where Burrow hasn’t fully been himself, the offensive line hasn’t communicated well and the defense keeps getting in its own way.
Even though mistakes are piling up and flaws are obvious with the 2023 Bengals, Sunday’s win over the Cardinals gives Cincinnati the opportunity to get its season back on track.
Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase looked unstoppable as Chase set the franchise record with 15 receptions. Chase also picked up 192 yards and three touchdowns as the Bengals pulled away in the second half.
With the win, the Bengals improved to 2-3 on the season, just one game back in the AFC North standings. They beat a Cardinals team that’s in a total rebuild and may end up with the No. 1 pick in the draft next spring. The Bengals didn’t deliver the type of inspiring performance that could give the team some of its confidence back, but Burrow and Chase showed that the offense is trending in the right direction.
Burrow played his best game of the year. It was a low bar to clear, and he still struggled against the blitz and made several inaccurate throws. But for the first time all season, Burrow was creative, elusive and mobile.
For the first four weeks of the season, Burrow was stationary as he battled a calf injury. Defenses sent waves of pressure up the middle, and those plays worked every time because Burrow couldn’t avoid sacks. He also wasn’t lining up under center, going through deep drop backs or stepping up in the pocket.
That changed on the Bengals’ first drive of the game. On 3rd and goal, Burrow side-stepped a pass rusher, slid around a defender and re-directed wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase to the back right corner of the end zone. Burrow set Chase up for a touchdown that put the Bengals up 7-0. While the Cardinals have arguably the worst secondary in the NFL, Chase looked like one of the best players in football on Sunday in a record-setting game.
The rest of the first half was a borderline disaster for the Bengals. Arizona schemed up a deep pass to their best receiver against a fifth-string corner, and Marquise Brown beat Jalen Davis for a 25-yard touchdown. Cardinals running back James Conner escaped a tackle for a loss, reversed fields and broke three tackles and picked up 35 yards on a scoring drive that gave the Cardinals a 14-10 lead.
The Bengals defense has missed far too many missed tackles this year, and safety Nick Scott briefly got benched for rookie Jordan Battle after missing a few on Sunday. Conner missed most of the game due to a knee injury, and the Cardinals still had success with their power run game.
In the last two minutes of the first half, the Bengals’ offense had one of its most concerning and problematic stretches of the year. Looking to take the lead heading into halftime, the Bengals faced first and goal. They ran the ball four straight times and got stone walled at the goal line on a turnover on downs.
It looked like the Bengals’ lack of a power run game was costing them at the worst possible moment. It looked like the Bengals red-zone offense was back in a rut. It looked like a bad Cardinals team was imposing its will on a Bengals team that has Super Bowl aspirations.
Then two plays after the Bengals turned the ball over on downs, Cardinals quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw a pick six to Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, which gave the Bengals the lead for good.
The Bengals took a 17-14 lead into halftime and then opened the third quarter with the type of play that can change how defenses play Burrow in 2023. He threw a 63-yard touchdown to Chase that put the Bengals up by 10 points, and even more importantly it showed what he’s capable of.
Burrow took a deep drop back in the pocket on a play action pass. He planted off his previously injured right leg, led Chase into the end zone with a beautiful throw and made one of the prettiest touchdown passes of his NFL career. The Bengals took a 24-14 lead, but the defense nearly handed the Cardinals back the lead.
Due to more poor tackling and terrible run defense, the Cardinals scored a touchdown and then made it inside the red zone on their next possession with a chance to take the lead. Linebacker Germaine Pratt forced a turnover on downs with a tackle for loss, and Burrow sprinted for a first down two plays later to get the Bengals their momentum back. Burrow’s third touchdown pass to Chase put the Bengals up by 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Sunday didn’t feel like a season-saving moment for the Bengals. In Week 5 last year, Burrow’s walk-off 60-yard touchdown throw to Chase in New Orleans was a defining moment in the season that highlighted the opportunities ahead of the Bengals. The 2023 Bengals didn’t make that type of statement on Sunday.
But they got a win. With all the adversity that the Bengals are facing, they’ll take it.
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