Analysis: What we learned from the Cincinnati Bengals Week 15 road win over the Denver Broncos

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  • Joe Burrow
    Joe Burrow
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Zac Taylor
    American and Canadian football player
  • Evan McPherson
    Evan McPherson
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The Cincinnati Bengals improved to 8-6 on the year and in first place of the AFC North following their 15-10 win over the Denver Broncos (7-7).

Sunday's win for the Bengals looked similar to many games this season. A slow start by the offense, a dominant performance by the defense and an inspiring drive by quarterback Joe Burrow to ignite the team.

After almost two quarters of subpar play by the Bengals' offense, Denver missed a 51-yard field goal with 0:14 left to play in the first half. Rather than take a knee and go into half tied 3-3, head coach Zac Taylor opted to take a shot. Burrow connected with Tyler Boyd for 19 yards and put Cincinnati in field goal range. Rookie kicker Evan McPherson hit a 58-yard field goal, a franchise record, to give the Bengals a 6-3 lead at the half.

The Bengals still couldn't find the end zone early in the third quarter and even lost their lead at one point. After Denver's backup quarterback Drew Lock came in for injured starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, he connected with wide receiver Tim Patrick on a 25-yard scoring play to take the lead.

As we've seen many times this year, these are the situations that seem to bring out the best in Burrow. When the Bengals took the field on the ensuing drive, Burrow and the Bengals went no-huddle and in a matter of 0:45 seconds, took the lead back. Burrow found his "security blanket" Boyd over the middle and the veteran wideout out-ran Denver's secondary for a 56-yard scoring play.

Cincinnati never scored again but they didn't need to because of how well the Bengals' defense played, as we've seen time after time this season.

Doc: It was a well-planned Bengals' victory that young teams grow from

'It was no panic': Zac Taylor plays it smart as the Bengals get massive win over the Broncos

Here's what we learned from the Week 15 road win over the Broncos:

Cincinnati's defense sends message

With so much star power on the offensive side of the ball, the Bengals' defense seems to get overlooked at times. They shouldn't. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo's unit held the Broncos to 10 points on the road. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson continues to be the team's most valuable player on defense and has now recorded a sack in 10 consecutive games. Zac Taylor gave game balls to all of the Bengals' defensive tackles for their performance in the win as D.J. Reader and Larry Ogunjobi both made highlight-worthy plays all night.

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson (91) reaches for Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) as Denver Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles (72) attempts to block him and is called for a holding penalty in the second half the NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Empower Field in Denver, Co. Cincinnati Bengals defeated Denver Broncos 15-10.
Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson (91) reaches for Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) as Denver Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles (72) attempts to block him and is called for a holding penalty in the second half the NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Empower Field in Denver, Co. Cincinnati Bengals defeated Denver Broncos 15-10.

"Our defense played their tails off," Taylor said. "I think they really sent a message to the league that we have a hell of a defense. Our guys step up and make the plays when they need to. They really enabled us to play the way we needed to on offense to get this win. So hats off to the defense."

The Bengals' defense recorded six quarterback hits, three sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Joe Burrow's ability to scramble is more important than you might think

At the start of the 2021 season, Joe Burrow wasn't sure if he would be able to make the types of plays he was accustomed to making with his legs. After his gruesome knee injury that ended his rookie season short, the Bengals' franchise quarterback had every reason to be hesitant when it came to making plays with his legs.

The Burrow football fans saw before tearing his ACL and MCL in 2020 is back. In every way. Not only is he continuing to impress with his accuracy, Burrow showed he's capable of extending plays again with his underrated mobility.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) slides after getting a first down in the second half the NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Empower Field in Denver, Co. Cincinnati Bengals defeated Denver Broncos 15-10.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) slides after getting a first down in the second half the NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Empower Field in Denver, Co. Cincinnati Bengals defeated Denver Broncos 15-10.

Cincinnati was 4-of-13 on third down against the Broncos on Sunday. Three of those four third-down completions came on Burrow runs. His longest run of the day was eight yards and he finished with 25 rushing yards. Not only did the Bengals need this part of Burrow's game to win, but even more important, it's giving Burrow the confidence he needs to carry this team for the rest of the season.

"It felt good," Burrow said of running for as many first downs as he did. " I don't know if I would have been able to do that at the beginning of the year. I think that's a testament to my hard work and as well as the hard work of all of the people around me. The trainers, my personal trainer, a lot of people have gone into this."

Burrow finished they day completing 15-of-22 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown.

Rookie kicker Evan McPherson is Bengals' secret 'weapon'

Despite being just 22 years old, Evan McPherson plays beyond his years. Sunday's game was the first time McPherson was kicking at high altitude and he had no issues. McPherson made all three of field goal attempts, including the 58-yard franchise record kick to give the Bengals the lead before the half. Cincinnati's first-year kicker has made 21-of-25 field goal attempts this season, good for 84 percent on the year.

Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2) high fives teammates after hitting his third fieldgoal in the second half the NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Empower Field in Denver, Co. Cincinnati Bengals defeated Denver Broncos 15-10.
Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2) high fives teammates after hitting his third fieldgoal in the second half the NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Empower Field in Denver, Co. Cincinnati Bengals defeated Denver Broncos 15-10.

"He’s a weapon," Taylor said of McPherson. "That’s the best way to put it, he’s a weapon."

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Bengals: Analysis of NFL Week 15 win over Denver Broncos

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