The Cincinnati Bengals' 20-17 loss to the Chicago Bears brings up several questions to be answered in an important game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday.
But before we move forward, let’s take a comprehensive look at what took place at Soldier Field. Who were the best players on offense and defense? What were the PFF grades? What plays changed the game? What did the players and head coach Zac Taylor have to say following the loss? All of those questions will be answered here and more.
Offensive player of the game: Wide receiver Tyler Boyd
While Cincinnati’s offense struggled to do remotely anything for most of the game, Boyd made three catches on four different third-down targets to keep several drives alive. Quarterback Joe Burrow’s game-changing first interception came on a play designed to get Boyd the ball when linebacker Roquan Smith recorded the pick-six. Boyd was the Bengals’ highest-graded offensive player, according to Pro Football Focus with an 80.8 overall grade. Burrow followed Boyd on the list of offensive personnel with a 66.6 grade. Boyd caught seven passes on nine targets for 73 yards.
Defensive player of the game: Defensive end Trey Hendrickson
The Bengals acquired Trey Hendrickson in the offseason and gave him a $60 million contract to do one thing – get pressure on opponents’ quarterback. Hendrickson showed why it was a smart investment for Cincinnati to bet on him to do so in Sunday’s game. The former third-round pick was credited with 1.5 sacks against the Bears. He and defensive end Sam Hubbard split a sack on quarterback Justin Fields in the second quarter. Hendrickson’s rush came from the right side, Hubbard’s from the left and Fields stood no chance in the pocket. The sack ultimately led to Chicago being forced to punt.
Hendrickson’s second sack of the game was his most impactful play. Not only did Hendrickson get to Fields again, he stripped the ball out his hands but was unable to recover the fumble. This sack ended in a loss of 11 yards for the Bears. He finished with four total pressures, one hit and one hurry in addition to his 1.5 sacks on the day.
Pro Football Focus grades to ponder
Highest-graded player: Defensive tackle B.J. Hill
PFF grade: (84.1)
Hill was the Bengals’ best player against Chicago’s rushing attack. This marks two games in a row where Hill, acquired by a trade when Cincinnati sent center Billy Price to the New York Giants in exchange for Hill on Aug. 30, has made his presence felt up front. He might end up being the steal of the season for the Bengals.
Best tackler: Linebacker Logan Wilson
PFF grade: (82.3)
In his second season with the Bengals, Wilson is making a name for himself. The linebacker should have had the play of the day on defense. When Hendrickson stripped the ball out of Fields’ hands, Wilson was unable to scoop the ball up from the ground and score. He’d like to have that play back but, in a game, where Cincinnati didn’t tackle all that well, he took care of business. Wilson led the team in tackles with nine.
Lowest-graded offensive starters: Tackle Jonah Williams and guard Xavier Su’a-Filo
PFF grades: Williams (52.6) and Su’a-Filo (44.1)
The Bengals need Williams and Su’a-Filo to play better moving forward. After an offseason full of questions surrounding if the team did enough to bolster the offensive line, all eyes remain on Frank Pollack’s unit. Williams needs to show why he was worth the Bengals selecting him with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Protecting Burrow’s blindside is his most important job and Cincinnati’s franchise quarterback has been sacked nine times in two games.
Su’a-Filo beat second-round pick Jackson Carman out for the starting job at right guard and is playing next to Riley Reiff, who has been Cincinnati’s best offensive lineman so far. It was a long day for Su’a-Filo against the Bears not just in pass protection, but in run blocking as he earned a 41.1 grade in that area. If the Bengals can get the right side of their line consistently playing at a high level, that will make things much easier for head coach Zac Taylor and Burrow.
Run blocking: No. 25 in the NFL
PFF grade: (55.9)
Taylor wants his offense to start and end with a strong, physical rushing attack led by Joe Mixon. After Week 1 against the Vikings, it became clear how important having an efficient run game is. The Bengals were unable to be productive in the run game against the Bears and it was largely due to the poor run blocking from the entire unit. Wide receiver Tee Higgins (73.9) and center Trey Hopkins (61.5) were the highest-graded run blockers for the Bengals on Sunday. The Cowboys (78.) and 49ers (77.9) finished No. 1 and 2 in this category and both won their games showing just how important it can be.
“When you watch the plays, there's a different guy that didn't quite finish or didn't quite have the perfect technique, and it was pretty much a different guy every play. I don't think there's any pointing fingers going on here. It's just that we needed to do a better job up front. We need to be more in tune with the back and the movement of the play.” –Williams on the Bengals’ protection issues.
“Our pass protection hasn't been good enough by any stretch. It's really irrelevant on whose fault the sacks (are on). The facts are there's just too many of them, period. That's a group effort. Everybody's included in that. I thought we ran the ball well the first week. I thought our guys were physical up front. We had some fundamental issues and some twist pickups (responsibilities) that led us to (allowing) some sacks. Our guys are better than that. The standard is higher.” – offensive coordinator Brian Callahan on the offensive line
“We had some shots called. Sometimes the coverage takes that away.” – Taylor responding to comments made by Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase following the game about not taking enough deep shots.