*This victory felt less like a triumph and more like staving off disaster. I can't imagine what it would've felt like to go into the bye with three straight losses, a 4-4 record, and two weeks to swallow an 18-point lead evaporating in the fourth quarter. I'm very glad the Bengals won, but I'm happier that we don't have to deal with the fallout from a meltdown more.
*Loved the emphasis on using Joe Mixon early and often. Loved even more his productivity. Not entirely sure what happened to him, and the offense as a whole in the second half, but Mixon was fantastic in the first 30 minutes.
*Jordan Evans. Remember how tantalizingly good he was at times during the 2017 preseason? He was every bit of good yesterday, filling a huge role with both Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil absent. He had a sack and a half, a pick, and 11 tackles. Chances are that you know this, but it's nice to write about a Benagals linebacker solely for the good things he did.
*Tyler Boyd and AJ Green were fantastic. This is not the first time I've typed this sentence. Boyd continued his mastery of NFC South opponents, repeatedly taking advantage of holes in Tampa Bay's AJ-focused defense, and Green made one of the season's best catches for his second quarter touchdown, then had two critical catches on what ended up being the game-winning drive. They had to do all the heavy lifting for a wide receiver corps that's desperate for help.
*Yes, Randy Bullock missed a PAT. Yes, he had a kickoff go out of bounds. But on a day not conducive to kicking, he ended up making the biggest Bengals kick of the season, the 44-yarder to win it, which staved off disaster. There are a lot of fans who seem to loathe Randy Bullock, which in a year where kicking has been problematic throughout the league, makes little sense. Yes, I wish he had a bigger leg, but he's pretty damn reliable, and he came up big against the Bucs. Maybe we should get off his back a little.
*I loved Marvin Lewis' aggressiveness, going for it on fourth down twice in the first half. I'm not sure on the first one why the Bengals looked so hurried and ran a play on fourth and one out of the shotgun, but, you know, baby steps for our guy Marv.
*The 2018 NFL Draft has produced two key contributors. Jessie Bates had a pick-six, continuing his stellar season. Sam Hubbard had a drive-ending sack and a tipped pass that was picked-off by Preston Brown, who was nice enough to actually do something. These two guys have loads of upside, but they're also needed in the here and now. Bates is playing in a secondary that's, uh, not great. Hubbard takes on added importance with no Carl Lawson for the rest of the season.
*Our seats are just a few rows behind the visitors' bench. I often get caught up watching players and coaches interact. I watched Jameis Winston look not all that upset to be taken out in relief of Ryan Fitzpatrick. I also watched Bucs players perk up as Fitzy started to get loose.
*OJ Howard would've looked nice in stripes yesterday, no?
*It was nice of that vaunted pass rush to show up a little, and on a day when Tampa Bay kept piling up chunk plays, can you imagine how the game would've played out had the Bengals not gotten to the QB as often as they did?
*By the halfway point of the season, teams have started to establish what they are. The Bengals are a team with a lousy defense, which is mildly surprising given the preseason expectations, yet a little understandable given who they're playing without. I'm not sure, unless Burfict gets healthy and returns to his previous form, how this gets any better. The secondary is shaky, the pass-rush is hit or miss, and yesterday they allowed Peyton Barber to run for a yard more per carry than his season average. Yes, it's great that they had four picks, and they deserve credit for creating those takeaways, but they still gave up a staggering amount of yardage, and they seemed helpless as the lead evaporated. The D has been a problem too often this season to believe it will get any better, and while it's a credit to the offense that the team has found ways to win a couple of times this season when the defense hasn't shown up, I do wonder if it's asking too much to repeatedly hope that the Bengals can just outscore people.
*The trade deadline is Tuesday. I'm not going to lose my mind if the Bengals don't make a deal. I will be pissed if we find out that they weren't even open to the possibility, which many have suggested that, "because it's just not something they do" that they aren't. You can't be a team that claims that things are different if you're going to be the same, rigid, passive team that hasn't made a deadline deal in more than three decades. The Bengals badly need help at linebacker, corner, and tight end. They could use upgrades at wide receiver (De'Sean Jackson reportedly asking out of Tampa and Mohammed Sanu possibly being on the block - which makes little sense - are interesting), and on both lines. Trades are complex, and obviously take two teams to get done, but aggressiveness is winning in sports, and there's a new open-mindedness about trades throughout the National Football League. The Bengals must be open to joining in on the deal-making fun.
(Photo: Getty Images)