CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 02: Kyle Cook #64 and Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrate after the 23-20 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Alright, now that we are officially a quarter of the way through the season we can get an idea of what type of team will be heading out onto the field on a weekly basis. And so far the Bengals have exceeded the expectations of many analysts and fans. I mean who thought they would have two wins heading into week five? Probably not many people.
The Bengals have looked like a team trying to prove themselves. A team that is attempting to demonstrate that they shouldn't be disregarded due to their lack of experience. Up to this point the defense has looked relatively stellar, while the offense has looked adequate.
The offense has had one glaring hole that always has a spotlight beaming down on it. And that's when it comes to third-down situations.
Through the first four games of the season the Bengals rank 29th in the league by converting only 28 percent of their third down opportunities. Against the Broncos and 49ers the Bengals only converted two of their 23 third down situations. However, against the Buffalo Bills the Bengals appeared to be making strides at improving that stat by completing five of their 12 third down pressure situations.
Their lack of success on third down has undoubtedly cost the Bengals from starting off the season with a perfect record or at least a better record than what they stand at now. Neither of their losses were blowouts. Instead they were close duels that ended with the Bengals wondering what could have been had they been able to continually move the ball at a better rate and convert on third downs.
Cedric Benson believes that the Bengals have let opportunities slip away and this allowed opponents to stay in the game when the Bengals have had a massive amount of opportunities to bury their opponents
"I felt like we could have put that team away earlier in the game," Benson said. "We leave a lot of plays out there at times and allow our opponent to stay in the game…Until we figure that’s (not) what we need to do, we’ll have a lot of close games." ...
The Bengals inability to convert on third down has cost the team on the scoreboard. Up to this point the Bengals have only averaged 20 points per contest. That doesn't seem too shabby for Andy Dalton and company, right? Well, unfortunately that ranks 22nd in the league. The Bengals inability to move the ball has hindered their ability to put points on the board. It has also enabled opponents to remain in the game longer than necessary.
In order for the Bengals to succeed this season and add more W's to the win column, they are going to have to start doing better at converting third downs. But it all starts with first and second down. If the Bengals cannot gain more yardage on the first two downs then they are going to be facing even more third down and long situations. Even in short yardage situations on third down the Bengals have struggled and need to improve. And up to this point of the season, third down has not been their forte.