ANALYSIS: 5 takeaways from Bengals’ win over Cardinals

A week after Ja’Marr Chase claimed he is “always open,” the Cincinnati Bengals took him at his word, and a more mobile Joe Burrow fed him the ball. What a difference that connection made.

Burrow threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns, all to Chase, as the wideout grabbed a franchise-record 15 catches for 192 yards, and the Bengals rolled to a 34-20 win at Arizona on Sunday.

The defense came up with three turnovers to make up for other deficiencies on that side of the ball, and Cincinnati now improves to 2-3 with a chance to get back to .500 before the bye.

Here are five takeaways from the game.

1. Burrow’s progress shows

Burrow had indicated he was feeling more mobile this week, and that showed as he was able to move around better in and out of the pocket Sunday on his injured calf. It was expected that part of his game returning would mean good things for the Bengals offense, and that proved to be the case.

The first sign of that came on the first touchdown when he slid to the right to avoid a sack, then found Chase in the back of the end zone. His “quick twitch” pocket movement was something he mentioned being an issue the first four games.

Burrow even did a little scrambling, and perhaps the most encouraging step forward was the 63-yard pass he threw – 58 yards of that through the air – to Chase for the second touchdown on the opening drive of the season half. That was the key play of the game, extending a three-point lead and creating a gap Arizona could not overcome.

2. Using what they’ve got

Burrow had not been able to utilize his best weapon the way he wanted to the first four games, but Chase said earlier this week the 2018 Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., was when the connection with him and Burrow really started to take shape, and they got back to those roots Sunday.

Chase’s 14th catch, for his third touchdown, broke Carl Pickens’ 1998 record for most receptions in a game, and he finished with 15 catches on 19 targets. He had not caught a touchdown pass in the first four games, but Cincinnati especially needed Chase to step up with Tee Higgins out because of a rib fracture.

In the Bengals’ two wins this season, Chase has been the main target for Burrow. He had 12 catches for 141 yards against the L.A. Rams, but the lack of touchdowns had bothered him. Chase had seven or fewer receptions in the other three games and didn’t top 73 yards in any of those.

3. Defense gets three takeaways

The Bengals still struggled with missed tackles, especially on an 11-play, 75-yard drive in response to Chase’s 63-yard touchdown grab, which allowed Arizona to cut a 10-point deficit down to three.

However, they made up for those issues with three takeaways. The next play from scrimmage after the explosive touchdown, Trey Hendrickson forced a fumble on a strip sack, which Sam Hubbard recovered, and the Bengals took advantage for a field. Then, Germaine Pratt grabbed an interception to seal the game with about five minutes left.

Before all that, there was a key stop in the redzone to force a turnover on downs, but perhaps the most crucial play was Cam Taylor-Britt’s pick-6 at the end of the first half, which came right after Joe Mixon had been stopped at the goal line on a fourth-down run. That put the Bengals ahead for good, with a 17-14 lead going into halftime.

Arizona finished with 142 yards rushing but just 294 total yards of offense.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

4. “The next man up”

Chase wasn’t the only wide receiver that stepped up in Higgins absence, and it wasn’t just Higgins that was missing from the starting lineups. The Bengals also were without cornerback Chidobe Awuzie because of back soreness that popped up Thursday.

Rookie second-round pick DJ Turner started in Awuzie’s place and had a couple open-field tackles and one big third-down stop to force a punt in the first half. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo had been pleased with Turner’s pass coverage so far but had cited his run defense as an area to improve. Turner wasn’t perfect in that area but did show some progress.

Offensively and on special teams, Trenton Irwin had a big day. He hadn’t ever caught more than three passes in a game but finished with eight catches for 60 yards on 10 targets and nearly caught a flea-flicker in the first half. Also filling in for Charlie Jones on punt returns, Irwin had a long return of 28 yards and finished with 17.0 yards per punt on four attempts.

Kwamie Lassiter, who was elevated from the practice squad, also made his first NFL catch late in the game, in the same place his late father played eight seasons. He served as a game captain as well, a nice tribute by the team. Rookie Andrei Iosivas also had his first career catch, a 9-yard grab.

5. Getting back on track

Coach Zac Taylor said in his postgame press conference the Bengals had talked about how if they could get back to .500 going into the bye in two weeks, they would be right where they need to be to reach their goals of a third-straight AFC North title and a deep postseason run.

Cincinnati is now 2-3 and open as three-point favorites to beat the Seahawks next week at home. The Steelers helped keep the division standings compact, beating the Ravens to put both those teams at 3-2, while the Browns were idle and sit at 2-2.

After the Week 7 bye, the Bengals travel to San Francisco, which won its first four games, and then the Bills come to town Nov. 5. Cincinnati was 2-3 after five games last year and 5-4 at the bye, as part of a 10-game winning streak to go into the AFC Championship.

SUNDAY’S GAME

Seahawks at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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