What We Saw: Week 8

The What We Saw Team recaps all of the Sunday action from Week 8 of the 2023 NFL season

Bengals @ 49ers

Final Score: Bengals 31, 49ers 17

Writer: Justin Havelock (@HavelockJustin on Twitter)


It was a warm, sunny day in San Francisco with winds coming in at around 10 mph. Just windy enough for us to have seen a couple of wonky passes, but nothing that threw either of these quarterbacks completely off their game.


Four Up

  • Christian McCaffrey – This almost doesn’t count because we can’t really get much higher on him. There isn’t another player in the league who can match the stretch of dominance that McCaffrey has had since putting on a 49ers jersey.
  • Brandon Aiyuk – In the middle of the best season of his career, Aiyuk should lead the 49ers in targets at the end of the season.
  • Tee Higgins – While he sometimes gets overshadowed by the rest of this offense, Higgins just makes big plays look easy. Any concerns about his performance earlier in the season can be shut down now.
  • Tyler Boyd Insert your favorite “rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated” meme here. Not only did Boyd show that he could still deliver in this elite group of receivers, but Zac Taylor appeared committed to finding ways to involve Boyd in the offense.

One Down

  • Elijah Mitchell – Falls into vintage What We Saw “better than the boxscore looks” territory, but there’s simply not enough of a role for him here. Mitchell’s a touchdown-dependant play, stuck behind the best running back the NFL has seen in how many years?


Cincinnati Bengals




Joe Burrow: 28/32, 283 Yards, 3 TD | 6 Carries, 43 Yards

The bye week seemed to have been at the perfect time for the Bengals as Joe Burrow and this offense put their first six games in the rearview mirror. Burrow dominated throughout the game against one of the league’s premier defenses and his performance on the ground was by far the best of the season. The Bengals quarterback came into this game with only 14 rushing yards. He more than tripled his season-long production and that’s likely a good sign that Burrow’s fully healthy once again and ready to take the league by storm.

Now that looks more like the Joe Burrow we’re used to!

Missed Opportunities

  • Burrow failed to pick up a double coverage early in this game that would’ve been an interception if Chase hadn’t managed to pop the ball out


Running Back


Joe Mixon: 16 Carries, 87 Yards, TD | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 23 Yards

Joe Mixon may have just had his best game of the season so far. Mixon finally showed the explosiveness that the Bengals have desperately been lacking all season in the run game. His 87 rushing yards and 5.44 YPC were both season-highs. Mixon looked like a hot knife slicing through butter against the fifth-best run defense in the league coming into tonight (86.1 rushing yards allowed per game).


Trayveon Williams: 2 Carries, 6 Yards

The Bengals continued their search for another backfield threat behind Mixon. Trayveon Williams did not impress without a single explosive run and his 3.0 YPC was good for only fourth on the team (Burrow- 7.2, Boyd- 6.0 & Mixon- 5.44). Burrow not only led the team in YPC, but he finished second in rush attempts (6), as even the wide receiver room combined for more carries than Williams (Chase- 2 & Boyd- 1).


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Ja’Marr Chase: 2 Carries | 12 Targets, 10 Receptions, 100 Yards, TD | Fumble (Recovered)

Ja’Marr Chase fumbled on the opening play of the game but managed to recover the ball. Chase immediately redeemed himself by breaking up a would-be interception, but this would be the theme of the night as this was far from the Burrow-Chase connection we’ve become accustomed to. Obviously, the 49ers did their best to be all over Chase in coverage and there might still be some rust left from the first six weeks coming out of the bye.


  • Stuffed twice and took an -8 yard tackle for loss
  • Zero catches over 20 yards


Tee Higgins: 6 Targets, 5 Receptions, 69 Yards

Chase drawing away coverage left room for a get-right game from Tee Higgins. Higgins’ 69 yards were more than he had over his last three games combined. He also made a key catch on Burrow’s early scramble, showing the awareness to stay open and give his quarterback a chance to make a play before reeling the ball in. And of course, making the entire sequence look easy.


Tyler Boyd: 1 Carry, 6 Yards | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 40 Yards, TD

Tyler Boyd caught Burrow’s 100th career touchdown.

Boyd also had a 22-yard reception that was his longest of the season, so far. The Bengals could look to get him more involved downfield as a deep threat in order to help free up Chase and Higgins and confound defenses.


Trenton Irwin: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 24 Yards

Irv Smith Jr.: 4 Targets, 4 Receptions, 25 Yards, Fumble (Lost)

While he managed four receptions, Irv Smith Jr. was barely noteworthy in this one.

Missed Opportunities

  • Fumbled the ball inside the 10, at the end of the first half, with the Bengals up by four. Sure, they wound up winning, but we’ve seen players wind up on a coach’s bad side for less.


Andrei Iosivas: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 2 Yards, TD

Rookie Andrei Iosivas has proven he’s a name worth learning and not just because it’s a fun one to say. While his sole target wasn’t a designed play, Burrow found the 2023 sixth-round pick in the corner of the endzone and Iosivas kept his feet in bounds for the score. I’d keep a close eye on Iosivas’ role over the next few weeks as the Bengals’ offense has reminded us they can still carve up even the best defenses.


  • Has now scored a touchdown in back-to-back weeks


Drew Sample: 1 Target


San Francisco 49ers




Brock Purdy: 22/31, 365 Yards, TD, 2 INT | 6 Carries, 57 Yards, Fumble (Lost)

The good: Brock Purdy set career highs in both passing AND rushing yards. The bad: He also set a new career high in turnovers.

Between Purdy and Burrow, this game was just one enormous scramble drill.


Running Back


Christian McCaffrey: 12 Carries, 54 Yards, TD | 7 Targets, 6 Receptions, 64 Yards, TD

Another day, another pair of touchdowns for Christian McCaffrey. Per the broadcast, the 49ers are 15-4 since trading for McCaffrey and he showed us why.


  • 17 consecutive games with at least one touchdown is tied for the longest in NFL history
  • Both rushing and receiving touchdowns in back-to-back games
  • His final play was his biggest of the day, a 28-yard catch and run


Elijah Mitchell: 3 Carries, 2 Yards | 1 Target

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Shanahan sees Elijah Mitchell as a goal-line weapon. In the first quarter, Mitchell came in for a short gain inside the 10 and clearly expected to go right back off the field after the play. Instead, Shanahan left Mitchell in and he instantly picked up the lead block on McCaffrey’s touchdown.


Kyle Juszczyk: 2 Carries


Wide Receiver/Tight End


George Kittle: 11 Targets, 9 Receptions, 149 Yards

Kittle had one of his best games of the season, benefiting from a negative game script in the second half where Purdy was able to dump it down to him for chunk play after chunk play. He was more than just a dump off option in this game, but he certainly padded his numbers on San Francisco’s final two drives of the day.


Brandon Aiyuk: 9 Targets, 5 Receptions, 109 Yards

Brandon Aiyuk continued the career year he’s been having in 2023. Aiyuk recorded triple-digit receiving yards on only five receptions thanks to several plays like this one. The efficiency he’s shown should keep him as a consistent receiving threat in this offense even with the potential return of Deebo Samuel after the 49ers bye next week.


Ray-Ray McCloud III: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 43 Yards

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