<
>

Rapid Reaction: Cincinnati Bengals

CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 33-7 win over the Tennessee Titans at Paul Brown Stadium:

What it means: This one's easy. Sunday's 26-point win means that the Bengals are the best team in the NFL on this side of the Mississippi River. The only reason I give that geographic identifier is because there are two teams out West -- the Broncos and Seahawks -- getting set to kick off who are very much in the conversation for best team in the league. But so are the Bengals, and this third straight win -- the most impressive in a string of early-season dominating victories -- proves that. At home these last two weeks, the Bengals have showed relatively few weaknesses. Their offense has been dynamic and explosive, their defense remains suffocating, and their special teams have been adequate enough, spearheaded by punter Kevin Huber. Sunday's win was also the Bengals' 11th straight at home in the regular season, setting a franchise record. It's the longest home winning streak in the league.

Stock watch: Missed tackles were arguably the most problematic issue for the Bengals. One week after they were credited by Pro Football Focus with missing just four tackles, the Bengals easily had four before halftime Sunday. It's possible they may have had four in the first quarter alone. Official numbers won't get tabulated until Monday. But unofficially, veterans like defensive end Wallace Gilberry, safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback Adam Jones were among those who struggled to bring down Titans offensive players throughout the ballgame. Many of the misses occurred early on drives when the Titans were showing signs of moving the ball. As much as the Bengals' tackling stock may have dipped Sunday, it wasn't enough to hurt a unit that allowed just seven points and has given up an average of 11 through three games.

Going over 100: When rookie running back Jeremy Hill spoke to reporters earlier this week in Cincinnati, he said the goal for the running backs was to hit 100 yards rushing each game. It would be ideal to get to 150, he said. This week, they at least hit the minimum threshold when they gained 116 yards on the ground. It's the second straight week they've gone beyond 100.

Game ball: Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson gets this week's game ball for the way he called another creative game. Each week it seems he has some new trick up his sleeve that he's willing to show in order to confound defenses that have to face him later this year. In Week 1, he trotted out various formations, including a set that put offensive tackles Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith out in the slot as receivers. Last week, he called a successful receiver pass from Mohamed Sanu to fellow receiver Brandon Tate. This week, it was Sanu's 18-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Andy Dalton that caught attention. Jackson has two weeks to come up with a new wrinkle.

What's next? On deck for the injury-weary Bengals is a perfectly timed early bye week. While they were quick to curse the Week 4 bye when the schedule was released, the Bengals are thankful to have it now. It will give them an opportunity to rest a few of their banged-up stars like Vontaze Burfict and Margus Hunt, and a chance to get ready for arguably the biggest game of the first half of the season the following Sunday at the New England Patriots.