Relax, Cincinnati. Finally, this season, the Bengals have secured a victory, and it’s in the win column, thanks to a hard-fought 19-16 win against the Los Angeles Rams, closing out Week 3 in style.
All week long, leading up to kick-off, the burning question on everyone’s mind was whether Joe Burrow would be in the lineup for this game. His calf injury, dating back to the early days of training camp, had cast a shadow of doubt. But Burrow showed his grit and determination, taking the field, albeit not at 100%. Yet, he managed to string together enough plays to rack up the points needed for the win. He wrapped up the game with 259 passing yards, completing 26 of 49 attempts with one interception. The most notable achievement of the night was his successful connection with Ja’Marr Chase, who had a standout performance, making 12 receptions for an impressive 141 yards.
While the offense showed promise, it was the Bengals’ defense that truly stole the spotlight in Cincinnati on this memorable night. The defense effectively stifled Matthew Stafford and the Rams, excelling in third-down situations and inside the red zone, giving the Rams no room to maneuver. The Rams struggled significantly on third downs, failing to convert on 10 out of 11 attempts. Additionally, the Bengals managed to create turnovers, with linebacker Logan Wilson securing two crucial interceptions.
Matthew Stafford, on the other hand, had a tough night, completing only 54.5% of his passes for 269 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.
For a more comprehensive breakdown of the game’s unfolding events, read on for our insights below.
Why the Bengals Triumphed
The primary accolades must be directed toward the Cincinnati defense before we delve into offensive plays. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo orchestrated a masterful performance that kept the Los Angeles offense off balance throughout the evening.
The Bengals’ defense was virtually impenetrable in the red zone and on third down, consistently applying intense pressure on Stafford. This pressure led to six sacks and a total of ten quarterback hits. Logan Wilson’s two interceptions further underscored the defense’s ability to create turnovers, giving the offense an advantageous field position. Most crucially, they prevented L.A. from scoring touchdowns, a vital accomplishment on a night when Joe Burrow was clearly not operating at full capacity.
Speaking of Burrow, he managed the game admirably despite his lingering calf injury. The most significant development was his successful synchronization with Ja’Marr Chase, who had a standout performance, recording a career-high of 12 receptions. This bodes well for the team’s future prospects.
In this particular game, Chase made a significant impact during the pivotal touchdown drive that saw the Bengals seize the lead in the second half. On a third-and-10 play, positioned at the Rams’ 44-yard line, Burrow connected with Chase for a crucial 13-yard reception that extended the drive. Four plays later, Joe Mixon powered into the end zone, giving the Bengals a 13-9 lead. From that point onward, the Bengals maintained control of the game and never relinquished their lead.
Why the Rams Faltered
For the Rams, this game marked a nightmarish outing for their situational offense. They began the game by failing to convert on all ten of their third-down attempts, achieving their sole conversion on the very last play of the game. For nearly 99% of the night, the Rams found themselves unable to move the chains. This offensive struggle extended into the red zone, where they started 0-3, with their only conversion occurring on the final play of the game, long after the outcome was decided. These dismal results in critical aspects of the game are not conducive to victory. It’s particularly surprising that the Rams, who led the NFL in red zone touchdown rate (83.3%) and third-down conversion rate (58.1%) coming into Week 3, performed so poorly.
Furthermore, head coach Sean McVay made some perplexing decisions late in the game while attempting to mount a comeback. Instead of going for it on fourth-and-5 from their own 30-yard line when trailing by ten points, McVay chose to punt the ball away with 6:09 left in the fourth quarter. This decision allowed Cincinnati to chew up 2 minutes and 28 seconds of game time before punting the ball back to the Rams’ offense.
In another puzzling move, McVay called a run play on first-and-goal from the Bengals’ 3-yard line with just 1:35 left in regulation. This decision consumed precious time on the clock. Although it wasn’t the sole reason for their loss, McVay’s questionable clock management late in the game certainly didn’t favor his team’s chances of a comeback.
Several moments in the game swung the momentum in favor of the Bengals. However, one key turning point was Trey Hendrickson’s third-down sack of Matthew Stafford. The game was tied at six, and the Rams appeared poised to score a touchdown after a strong drive to start the second half. However, on a third-and-6 attempt from the Bengals’ 17-yard line, Hendrickson managed to sack Stafford, forcing the Rams to settle for a field goal. This defensive stop provided the Bengals with a burst of momentum that carried over to the offense, which promptly marched 75 yards downfield, scoring the game’s first touchdown and taking a four-point lead.
Play of the Game
While there weren’t many jaw-dropping plays in this game, Ahkello Witherspoon’s fourth-quarter interception off Joe Burrow stood out. At that point, the Rams trailed the Bengals by just one touchdown, and Cincinnati was advancing downfield, threatening to extend their lead. As Joe Mixon converted a fourth-and-1 run to move the chains and position the Bengals at the L.A. 37-yard line, Burrow targeted wide receiver Tyler Boyd. At that moment, Witherspoon managed to collide with Boyd just as the ball arrived, snatching it away with one hand.
Regrettably for the Rams, they failed to capitalize on this turnover, as their offense went three-and-out on the subsequent possession.
What’s on the Horizon
Looking ahead, the Bengals will embark on a two-game road trip, starting with a matchup in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans in Week 4. Meanwhile, the Rams will head to Indianapolis for a showdown with the Colts.