The contest could have finished in a very different fashion, as No.1 overall pick Joe Burrow was carted off the field early in the third quarter due to a season-threatening left knee injury.
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STORY OF THE GAME
Burrow looked poised for the majority of the game, not taking any sacks, getting rid of the football quickly and delivering strikes all over the field. However, the Bengals did not score their first points until late into the second quarter, with their first drive ending in a missed field goal and the next in a Burrow fumble as he scampered toward the end zone before No. 2 overall selection Chase Young forced the ball out.
Burrow was dealing from a clean pocket, completing 21-of-29 passes for 198 yards and three big-time throws (PFF’s highest-graded throws).
Second-year QB Ryan Finley took over in Burrow’s absence, and it was not pretty. On over 20 fewer dropbacks, Finley took four more sacks and completed just three of his 10 pass attempts for 30 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception.
With Joe Mixon out, the running backs also struggled to gain traction, combining for 37 scoreless yards on 14 carries. Tyler Boyd was the only reliable offensive playmaker outside of Burrow, reeling in nine catches on 11 targets for 85 yards as he was open on seemingly every play.
On the opposite side of the ball, Alex Smith earned his first win since his gruesome injury in 2018. He was not asked to push the ball downfield, averaging just 5.5 yards per target, but he was efficient. Smith connected on 17-of-25 attempts for 166 yards, one touchdown and an interception off a tipped pass up front.
After being quiet for much of the past few games, we finally saw life from rookie running back Antonio Gibson. He took his team-high 16 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown, adding another 10-yard reception in the receiving game.
Washington escaped with the win, and if Burrow’s injury is severe enough to keep him out the rest of the season, the Bengals will be looking at yet another top-five selection with Finley under center.
Outside of Burrow, the Bengals had three rookies see significant playing time today. Second-round receiver Tee Higgins was held to one of his most unproductive games of the season, hauling in only three of his nine targets for 26 yards. Third-round linebacker Logan Wilson did not do much in his 29 snaps, recording a few tackles and allowing his lone target to be caught for 11 yards. Lastly, sixth-round offensive tackle Hakeem Adenji started his first game at right tackle after spending the rest of the season at left tackle. The transition was rough, to say the least, as he conceded four QB pressures, two of which were sacks, before being pulled from the game in favor of veteran Bobby Hart.
For the Football Team, only Gibson, Young and Kamren Curl received over 20 total snaps. Outside of his forced fumble, Young beat his man on three occasions as a pass-rusher but was unable to generate pressure as Burrow released the football just before he could reach him. Curl was solid at his safety position, forcing two tackles for loss or no gain and netting three defensive stops on his six total tackles.
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