CINCINNATI — It felt like pulling teeth but the Bengals finally got their first taste of victory Monday night.
Joe Burrow played through a right calf strain to complete 26-of-49 passes for 259 yards while Ja’Marr Chase caught 12 passes for 141 yards to lead the Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) past the visiting Los Angeles Rams(1-2), 19-16, Monday night before a sellout crowd of 65,158 at Paycor Stadium.
Joe Mixon ran for 65 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown while Chase’s 12 passes fell one shy of Carl Pickens team record from 1998.
Trey Hendrickson two of Cincinnati’s sacks of Matthew Stafford as the Bengals held the Rams to 1-for-11 on third down.
Logan Wilson intercepted Matthew Stafford twice and the Bengals sacked Rams quarterback six times as the Rams were held to 1-for-11 on third down.
Stafford finished 18-of-33 for 269 yards with two interceptions and a late touchdown. The Rams were held to three field goals from Brett Maher before Stafford found Tutu Atwell for a late touchdown.
The onside kick was recovered by the Bengals.
Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson converted four of his five chances on the night, missing only a 56-yard kick in the first half.
The Bengals were driving on their first possession, with a pair of first downs that found them at the LA 44. But a dropped pass by Ja’Marr Chase stunted the drive and the Bengals settled for a 56-yard field goal attempt that Evan McPherson pulled wide left.
The Bengals defense was attacked by Matthew Stafford right out of the chute on LA’s first drive. Two of the first three plays were 12-yard completions – to Tyler Higbee and Puka Nacua. Then, facing first-and-10 at the Bengals 24, receiver Tutu Atwell took an end around and outraced the Bengals defense to the end zone. But replay caught Atwell stepping out on the far sideline between the 2 and 3.
The Bengals got a sack from DJ Reader on the next play and held the Rams to a 30-yard Brett Maher field goal.
The Bengals had third-and-one at their own 34 before self-destructing with back-to-back false starts from Joe Mixon and Orlando Brown Jr.
Even on their first scoring drive, capped off by a 49-yard Evan McPherson field goal, the Bengals offense couldn’t get out of its own way. Tyler Boyd committed the team’s third false start in the first 18 minutes.
Another tell-tale of Burrow’s limited mobility came on third down. The Bengals quarterback felt pressure in the pocket. Instead of escaping and rolling out to open space, Burrow just threw the ball incomplete for Tanner Hudson.
Burrow’s mobility was clearly limited in the pocket all night.
The Bengals got their biggest break when Trey Hendrickson and Nick Scott got the pressure on Stafford. The throw over the middle was picked off by a diving Logan Wilson just before the ball hit the turf.
The defense continued to make big plays. Logan Wilson picked off Stafford at the Rams 41. Joe Burrow hit Tee Higgins for 39 yards to the Rams 2 but Higgins was called for pushing off Ahkello Witherspoon and the offensive pass interference pushed the Bengals back to their 49. The drive stalled the Bengals punted.
But on the next Rams possession, Dax Hill broke loose on a safety blitz and crushed Stafford back to the LA 13. The Rams punted and Joe Burrow was able to find Tanner Hudson over the middle for a 26-yard seam route that put the Bengals in field goal range.
After Burrow was sacked, the fans booed the decision to run the clock down but the Bengals managed a 53-yard McPherson field goal and the game was tied, 6-6, at the half.
Boomer Esiason and Chad Johnson received their Ring of Honor jackets and had their numbers and names placed on the East facade of Paycor Stadium.
Starting with the Dax Hill safety blitz of Stafford, the Bengals raised the pressure on Stafford and it paid dividends, with Trey Hendrickson getting to the Rams quarterback twice, one of which was wiped out by a questionable Sam Hubbard facemask.
After Brett Maher’s third field goal, Burrow put together a 75-yard drive in 10 plays, capped by Joe Mixon’s 14-yard run touchdown run and highlighted by a clutch catch by Ja’Marr Chase for 13 yards on third-and-10 from the Rams 44. The ball was behind Chase, who turned and caught the ball.
Four plays later, Mixon ran it in for Cincinnati’s first lead of 2023, 13-9.
On the Rams next possession, Stafford opened with a 46-yard bomb to Van Jefferson and the Rams were immediately threatening. But on the next snap, Mike Hilton got his hands on a Stafford pass and Wilson recorded his second interception.
The Bengals were able to drive downfield to the Rams 30, thanks to the biggest play of the season. Burrow rolled out to his right on a naked bootleg and found Chase for 43 yards.
The drive was capped by McPherson’s third field goal, a 48-yarder that clanked off the right upright and through for a 16-9 lead.
The Bengals appeared ready to drive for insurance when Mixon ran for three yards on fourth-and-1 from the Rams 40. But on the next play, Ahkello Witherspoon jumped over Tyler Boyd for the interception.
But on the next series, the Bengals pass rush showed up again, with Trey Hendrickson and BJ Hill collecting sacks.
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