Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Cincinnati Bengals offense struggled badly on Saturday, especially in the first half when A.J. Green didn't see a single pass.
Clearly one of Cincinnati's biggest storylines after Saturday's 19-13 postseason exit to the Houston Texans was the sheer disappointment from the Bengals inept offense. And one of those issues early suggested the insane neglect from the coaching staff and quarterback Andy Dalton getting the playmaker involved. A.J. Green wasn't targeted once in the first half whereas Jermaine Gresham had five opportunities, generating one reception for a single yard. Rookie receiver Marvin Jones led the Bengals with 11 yards receiving at half time.
"I think just the designs of the plays; we were trying to get (TE) Jermaine (Gresham) the ball early," said Andy Dalton after the loss. "We were trying to get some of the other guys going, but we weren’t making plays."
That's the Cincinnati Bengals offense in a nutshell. There's no dynamics nor adjustments to flawed loyalty on a gameplan that never worked. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden clearly identified Houston's inside linebackers as a weakness, trying to take advantage of a perceived Gresham mismatch. It didn't work. In fact prior to Jones' 11-yard reception inside the two minute warning, the Bengals would have gained more yards without throwing the football. Cincinnati punted the football during the first four possessions, taking a knee to end the first half on their fifth.
It wasn't until the 10:27 mark in the third quarter that A.J. Green made his debut in the game Saturday.
"There’s up and downs in the football game," said A.J. Green, "and like I said, I would love to get the ball every play but there’s other guys on the team that did it. They double me so other guys can make plays, but I’m going to try and make some plays when my number was called but we didn’t make enough plays as a whole team to come out with this win.”
The reliance on other receivers didn't work. One could argue that there's no one else, but we're not sure. It could be a matter of Dalton not having any progressions to work with after his initial reads were neutralized based on the designs of those plays. Pressure didn't help either for a quarterback that doesn't handle pressure well.
So the Bengals recommitted to their top offensive threat. Green posted three receptions on the team's second possession of the third quarter, generating 64 total yards of offense and the best offensive series of the evening that eventually led to the offense's initial points.
"I need to do a better job making sure A.J. gets his catches," said Dalton. "He is one of the best receivers in this league. He needs to have the ball thrown his way a lot. I think I could have done a little bit better job, but we tried to get other guys involved as well."
Marvin Jones, Andrew Hawkins, Jermaine Gresham and BenJarvus Green-Ellis combined for 18 targets, nine catches and 47 yards receiving -- most of which generated by Marvin Jones. Gresham only caught two of seven passes for seven yards receiving.
Paul Daugherty with the Cincinnati Enquirer says it best with his conclusion:
Gear up for an offseason of wondering if Dalton is The Guy, if the draft can bring Green some help, if the defense next year can be as stout as it was down the stretch this year. It was a good year for the Bengals, better than we predicted in August. It wasn’t good enough, though. Time for the coaches to figure out why. Here’s one clue:
In your biggest games, "involve" your best player. Throw the damned ball to A.J.