ANALYSIS: Back on track -- 5 takeaways from Bengals’ win over Raiders

Credit: David Becker

Credit: David Becker

The Cincinnati Bengals are back on track.

Coming out of the bye week after two straight losses, the Bengals put together a 19-point fourth quarter to turn an otherwise close game into a blowout, beating the Las Vegas Raiders 32-13 on the road Sunday.

Cincinnati led just 10-6 going into halftime after the scoring opened with three field goals, but Joe Mixon got the ball moving late in the third quarter, and a pair of turnovers helped the Bengals extend their lead while preventing Las Vegas from rallying.

Here are five takeaways from the win:

1. Important road win

The Bengals now are 6-4 heading into the final seven games, five of which are at home, starting with the Nov. 28 matchup with Pittsburgh. Four of their wins have come on the road, an impressive feat for a team that had won just one game away from Paul Brown Stadium in Zac Taylor’s first two seasons combined.

While Sunday wasn’t a “must win” game by any stretch, it was an important step in the hunt for a playoff spot as teams start separating themselves from the middle of the pack in the AFC. After Sunday’s win and before the Week 11 games had ended, the Bengals were sitting in the No. 6 spot in the AFC playoff picture where seven teams qualify. The Ravens (7-3) scored a late touchdown to come back and beat the Bears, despite a valiant effort by former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton putting his team in position to win and help out his old team in the AFC North race.

Cincinnati now has some confidence back with a positive tone set for the second half of the season.

2. A little help from the opponent

The Raiders helped bail out a struggling Bengals offense in the first half, as the hosts were called for three third-down penalties to extend scoring drives. Then, in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati was able to take advantage of mistakes caused by its defense as the game unraveled for Las Vegas.

Two of those third-down penalties in the first half were for automatic first downs, including one on a drive that resulted in Evan McPherson’s first field goal of the day and the other that set up a Joe Mixon 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. That touchdown drive also was extended by an offside penalty that was flagged after Joe Burrow had been sacked, and on the down replay, Burrow connected with third-down specialist Tyler Boyd for a 14-yard gain.

Las Vegas had entered the game with a plus-1 turnover margin for the season but Derek Carr threw an interception and lost a fumble on a Trey Hendrickson sack in the final five minutes. The Raiders were trailing just 22-13 before the first turnover.

The Bengals offense finished with just 288 yards, including 148 yards for Burrow on 20-for-29 passing.

Credit: David Becker

Credit: David Becker

3. Defense is back

The Bengals defense had struggled the last two games, allowing 511 yards in a loss to the Jets and 41 points in a defeat against the Browns. However, they allowed the Raiders just 278 yards of offense, 13 first downs, including just one third-down conversion out of seven attempts, and forced two turnovers.

Waller was as expected and caught seven passes for 116 yards but the Raiders were 1-for-3 in redzone opportunities.

Cornerback Eli Apple, who has struggled as the starter in Trae Waynes’ place, had a bit of a redemption moment when he intercepted Carr’s deep pass intended for Darren Waller at the Vegas 42-yard line. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Josh Jacobs moved the Bengals another 15 yards closer to the end zone, and two plays later Mixon scored on a 20-yard run to make it a 29-13 lead with less than four minutes to go.

After the two-minute warning, Hubbard sacked Carr on a first-and-10 from the Bengals’ 17-yard line, and the next play, Hendrickson got to him for a sack to force a fumble that Hubbard scooped and ran back 43 yards to set the Bengals up for another field goal to end the game.

Credit: David Becker

Credit: David Becker

4. Mixon’s big adjustment

This was a game where it seemed like the Bengals would rely more on Mixon, and they did, but it wasn’t going quite as planned until late in the third quarter.

After some negative carries and issues with the turf, Mixon changed to cleats with longer spikes and told media following the game that was the key to his breakthrough. He finished with a season-high 30 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and it was his best yardage since rushing for 127 yards in the opener for his only other 100-yard performance.

Mixon had just 26 yards on 11 carries in the first half, including the 11-yard touchdown he had in the second quarter when wide receiver Stanley Morgan made an incredible block to clear a path.

5. McPherson sets record

McPherson went 4-for-4 on field goals Sunday and became the first kicker in franchise history to make three 50-plus-yard field goals in one game. Prior to that, only one Bengals kicker (Horst Muhlmann) had ever even made three 50-yard field goals in one season.

The Bengals tied the game at 3 with a 54-yard field goal from McPherson in the first quarter, and then he hit kicks from 51 and 53 yards in the second half before he finished the game with a 47-yarder. The rookie fifth-round draft pick is 6-for-7 from 50-plus yards this year.

Cincinnati may find that weapon even more valuable as the playoff chase heats.

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