What a ride. The Bengals 2011 season ended when the Texans laid the smack down on them in Houston in the first round of the playoffs, but the fact that the Bengals were in the playoffs in the first place was an incredible achievement. It's been a fun ride and even though it's over, we get to look forward to the next chapter of the "new" Bengals as they continue to build their team and look to go deeper into the playoffs.
Here are seven thoughts from Saturday's game and the season in general.
|Point One: The Bengals need a running game|
T.J. Yates has found success partially due to the fact that he has one of the league's best running games at his back. When Arian Foster averages a billion yards per game, both through the air and on the ground, it's much easier to set up play action when you actually have a run game that makes linebackers and safeties nervous.
The Bengals don't have that. They haven't had it most of the season. Cedric Benson ran the ball seven times on Saturday for a total of 14 yards. While he did score a touchdown, I think it's fair to say that we've seen the last of Benson in stripes.
|Point Two: The offensive line needs a massive upgrade|
Through the majority of the second half, the offensive line was completely unable to give Dalton a clean pocket. He was sacked four times but he was chased around, pressured and hit countless others. This has been a problem in 2011. Dalton was sacked 24 times in 2011, which isn't close to the 40 times that Ben Roethlisberger was sacked, but against good teams with good pass rushes (Baltimore and Pittsburgh) the line had a hard time protecting him.
Andrew Whitworth has done well this season and Andre Smith has done well enough to stay at right tackle. The Bengals do need to upgrade the guard positions though.
|Point Three: J.J. Watt's pick six was a freak play|
Andy Dalton, statistically, had his worst game in Houston. He completed 27 of 42 passes for 257 yards and three interceptions for a 51.4 passer rating, the lowest of the season. On of those interceptions was a freak play that wouldn't happen again if he threw the same pass 100 times.
J.J. Watt made an amazing play when he picked off a pass that most defensive linemen would just be able to bat down. That play changed the entire game for the Bengals. All the momentum went to the Texans and the Bengals never recovered. We can't really blame Dalton for that pick. Instead we should credit Watt for an amazing play.
|Point Four: The end of Gresham's season needs to extend into 2012|
The last three games of the season were good for Jermaine Gresham. In those three games he averaged 58 yards per game and was used to stretch the field. He's been a red-zone threat throughout the season in 2011. If the Bengals offensive coordinator, who is still hopefully Jay Gruden, can combine Gresham's ability to stretch the field and be a red-zone threat in 2012, he can have a pro bowl season and make the Bengals offense even more potent.
|Point Five: Secondary needs a boost|
Even when Leon Hall was still playing the secondary was obviously missing Johnathan Joseph. Nate Clements has had a good season but he's an obvious step down from Joseph in coverage and Adam Jones has struggled as well. On Andre Johnson's long touchdown pass, Jones was faked out so badly by Johnson's double move that he nearly fell down and since there was nobody there to help him out, thanks to the safety's poor angle, the play resulted in a touchdown.
The Bengals need to upgrade their secondary in the upcoming draft, probably more so than any position group.
|Point Six: Geno Atkins|
I don't know if there is anybody on the defense that I'm more excited about. On one particular running play, Atkins pushed the Texans center in to the backfield so fast that he the center hit Arian Foster and knocked him down for a loss. Atkins literally used the center as a weapon.
He has shown us that he's not only a great pass-rushing interior lineman this season, but that he is good against the run as well. This is the kind of player that a team can build a defensive front seven around.
|Extra Point: Who Dey!|
What a great season is has been. The Bengals are a new team and even though there are some holes that need to be filled, they have a very bright future. The season is over but their work is just beginning. They can fill the holes on the team via free agency and the draft and if they make the right moves, this could be a team that has the capability to go deep in the playoffs in 2012.