Crushed Out Of The Gates: Bengals Are Losing Their Games In The First Half

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 14: The Indianapolis Colts are on offense during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 14 2010 in Indianapolis Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Want a quick view as to why the Bengals are losing recently? Just take a look at the first half. In three of the past four games against Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, the Bengals have allowed 21.3 points in the first half while only responding with only 6.7 points of their own. At this point last year, the Cincinnati Bengals had completed a season sweep of the Pittsburgh Steelers, improving their record to 7-2. And a significant different from last year to this year is points scored and allowed in the first half. The 2009 squad scored, on average 12.4 points in the first half through the first nine games on the season while allowing only 8.6 points. You can virtually swap those numbers this year, with the Bengals only scoring 8.1 points in the first half, yet allowing 13.3 points in the first half with 8.5 points coming in the second quarter alone.

Here's the breakdown.

Points Breakdown Between First Quarter and First Half in 2010
  Points Scored Points Allowed  
  1st Q 1st H 1st Q 1st H Result
New England 0 3 10 24 L, 38-24
Baltimore 0 6 0 0 W, 15-10
Carolina 7 10 0 0 W, 20-7
Cleveland 0 10 3 13 L, 23-20
Tampa Bay 7 10 0 7 L, 24-21
Atlanta 3 3 7 24 L, 39-32
Miami 7 14 3 12 L, 22-14
Pittsburgh 0 7 10 20 L, 27-21
Indianapolis 0 10 10 20 L, 23-17
  2.7 8.1 4.8 13.3  
Points Breakdown Between First Quarter and First Half in 2009
  Points Scored Points Allowed  
  1st Q 1st H 1st Q 1st H Result
Denver 0 0 0 3 L, 12-7
Green Bay 7 21 14 21 W, 31-24
Pittsburgh 0 3 10 13 W, 23-20
Cleveland 7 14 0 7 W, 23-20
Baltimore 0 3 0 7 W, 17-14
Houston 0 17 7 14 L, 28-17
Chicago 14 31 0 3 W, 45-10
Baltimore 14 17 0 0 W, 17-7
Pittsburgh 6 6 3 9 W, 18-12
  5.3 12.4 3.7 8.6  

You would think with the point differential being so high that Cincinnati obviously outscores the opponents in the second half, right? And they do. Cincinnati is averaging 12.3 points in the second half this season compared to just 10.3 points allowed. You can thank that with 21 points against a prevent-style defense against New England, the 29 points scored against Atlanta and 14 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yet, by the time the second half rolls around, Cincinnati is already in a hole, having given up 20 points or more in three of the past four games. For their part, they are generating points for a comeback, losing by seven points or less in those games.

The slow starts are what's killing this team.

Carson Palmer's splits between the first and second halves are simple examples of the offensive struggles coming out of the gates. In the first half, Palmer has six touchdowns and six interceptions for a passer rating of 72.7 in the first half. In the second half, his touchdowns (10) double his interceptions (5) for a passer rating of 92.0. More impressive is Palmer in the third quarter, never throwing an interception and completing 67.5% of his passes for a 106.3 passer rating.

  CMP ATT YRD CMP% TDs INTS Rating
1st Half 95 167 1,049 59.6 6 6 72.7
2nd Half 126 193 1,346 65.3 10 5 92.0
               
1st Q 37 63 371 58.7 2 3 66.3
2nd Q 58 104 678 55.8 4 3 76.5
3rd Q 54 80 601 67.5 4 0 106.3
4th Q 72 113 745 63.7 6 5 81.9

Cincinnati will win another game, probably several, now that the pressure is off to make the playoffs. But if they're going to do that, then they must start out of the gates with better defense and better offense. It's elementary, my dear Lewis.

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