And the recurring themes fit: Joe Burrow looked good, the offensive line and defense largely struggled.
But the Bengals got assists from a bad Eagles team with Carson Wentz struggling under pressure, which helped the battle of winless teams stay interesting throughout. Here’s a look at some instant analysis.
— With John Ross surprisingly inactive, it was Auden Tate and Tee Higgins out there in three-wideouts sets to start the game. Mike Thomas also got some work early. But that first drive — as seemingly usual — got derailed by the offensive line.
— The wideout trends held true from a playing-time sense though, with Higgins notably getting the most work besides Tyler Boyd by game’s end.
— Similar story for the offensive line, things didn’t improve for the starting unit until they made a lineup change in the second half.
— Philadelphia’s first two carries of the game went for 25 yards, a continuation of the Cincinnati defense’s struggles. The Eagles went away from the run though, which helped matters and Bengals defenders picked off a pair of bad passes.
— 10 dropbacks, two sacks and five hits for Burrow before halftime. Plus, a brutal shot that forced Burrow from the game for one play.
— Comedy of errors gave the Eagles the lead going into halftime. Randy Bullock sailed a kickoff out of bounds and got flagged. A busted coverage then coughed up a touchdown, spoiling the lead established by the new “9 to 85” connection’s first touchdown.
— That “9 to 85” look remained hot in the second half, with Burrow going a perfect 7-of-7 on one drive in the third quarter before finding Higgins for his second touchdown of the game to take back the lead.
— The big lesson there? The offense resembled more of a two-minute drive look than the base offense. If the coaches keep tapping into that, Burrow’s clearly going to keep cooking.
— Bengals also yanked Fred Johnson from right guard and put Billy Price in there. Paired with better playcalling, the line in front of Burrow looked better in the second half (until the overtime holding call).
— Ultimatley, Cincinnati settled for a trio of field goals to go up 23-16, which hurt as the Eagles then forced overtime with a late score before dragging this thing out to the tie.
3-for-13: Cincinnati’s conversion rate on third downs. That was 0-for-5 at halftime, with only the two-minute offense late in the half producing good results.
Joe Burrow: Who else? The No. 1 pick got battered and bruised all day behind a bad line and still kept trying to make plays down the field. He ended the day with 312 yards and two touchdowns, including some straight-up amazing plays and shocking accuracy.
What to Fix
Everything: No exaggeration. The line continued to play poorly in the first half. The defense has problems everywhere but the redzone and struggles to tackle. And the play calls on both sides of the ball are questionable more often than they aren’t. It’s a lot to deal with before Week 4 against Jacksonville, though again, all of these items improve if the team can tap into what works in the two-minute offense.
No more excuses: The Bengals don’t get the benefit of pointing to the lack of a preseason as an excuse, not with so many of the same problems from last year still plaguing them.
Philadelphia was a struggling 0-2 team with a shaky starter under center and the Bengals had issues in all facets of football. This was always going to be a rebuilding year, but going down in winnable games isn’t as understandable as it was a season ago.