Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. It’s been raining for four straight days here in the New York area, and I’m losing my mind.
In today’s SI:AM:
A win is a win
It wasn’t the prettiest win, but the Bengals have to feel good about themselves after gutting out a hard-fought 19–16 victory over the Rams last night.
After entering the season with Super Bowl hopes, Cincinnati didn’t remotely resemble a playoff team in its first two games. The offense managed just 142 total yards in a 24–3 loss to the Browns in Week 1, then the defense surrendered 415 yards in a 27–24 loss to the Ravens last week. To make matters worse, quarterback Joe Burrow reaggravated the calf injury that plagued him all through training camp. It initially seemed unlikely that Burrow would play on Monday Night Football, but he was able to give it a go and passed for more yards (259) than he did in either of the first two games. It was enough to get the win, but the Bengals’ offense wasn’t humming like it had in the previous two seasons, Gilbert Manzano writes:
There was nothing explosive about the Bengals’ offense in the first half—they averaged 3.8 yards per gain and stalled multiple drives with false starts on third down. Burrow occasionally took his chances downfield, but he missed a handful of throws that were uncharacteristic for his lofty standards. Burrow completed 54.8% of his passes in the opening half. (He completed 68.3% of his passes in 2022 and a league-high 70.4% in ’21.)
It was a grind, but it was a win, and sitting at 1–2 makes it a lot easier to make the playoffs than if the Bengals had joined the Bears, Broncos and Panthers as the only winless teams in the league. Manzano believes that the win vaulted Cincinnati back into the conversation of AFC contenders.
Being able to beat a quality opponent with a diminished Burrow is a great sign for the rest of the season. Burrow didn’t have to be excellent because the Cincinnati defense was. The Bengals picked off Matthew Stafford twice and sacked him six times while allowing the Rams to convert on third down only once (out of 11 tries).
Burrow’s health will continue to be a concern, but last night’s win showed that Cincinnati has enough complementary pieces to succeed when its best player isn’t at his best. Burrow is fortunate to have a receiver as reliable as Ja’Marr Chase, who caught 12 of 15 targets last night for 141 yards.
The Bengals may not have played like a Super Bowl contender last night, but the regular season is all about doing enough to reach the postseason. At this point, the Bengals need wins. They can worry about putting all the pieces together later.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- Conor Orr’s NFL power rankings have a new team in the top spot this week.
- The Pac-12 is on its last legs, but Pat Forde writes that the conference has four or five serious Heisman Trophy contenders.
- Albert Breer spoke with Brandon Staley about how the Chargers put it all together Sunday to earn their first win of the season.
- Matt Verderame has a list of NFL rookies to pay attention to in Week 4.
- Bucks fans should be worried about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s comments about a potential contract extension, Chris Herring writes.
- A new team has reportedly emerged in the trade market for Damian Lillard.
- Unsurprisingly, Travis Kelce’s jersey is the hottest-selling one in the NFL right now.
- USC coach Andy Enfield gave an update on Bronny James’s status as the team begins practice.
The top five...
… things I saw last night:
5. The attendance at the Yankees’ final home game of the season. The announced crowd was 41,096, but nearly every seat in the stadium was empty.
4. Yordan Alvarez’s towering home run in the Astros’ big win over the Mariners.
3. Jalen Hurts’s perfect touchdown pass to Olamide Zaccheaus.
2. Mike Evans’s one-handed catch.
1. Ahkello Witherspoon’s interception where he ripped the ball away from a Bengals receiver.
On this day in 1998, which SWAC school’s football program broke a nine-year, 80-game losing streak?
- Grambling State
- Prairie View A&M
Yesterday’s SIQ: On Sept. 25, 1984, Rusty Staub joined Ty Cobb as the only players in MLB history to hit a home run as a teenager and a 40-year-old. Which two of the following players have since joined them?
- Ken Griffey Jr.
- Alex Rodriguez
- Gary Sheffield
- Miguel Cabrera
Answer: Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield. A-Rod’s first homer came June 12, 1995, six weeks before his 20th birthday. His last was July 18, 2016, nine days before he turned 41. Cobb hit only 117 homers in his career, but that number includes two hit in his first two seasons, before he turned 20, and six hit in his final two seasons, after he turned 40.