You felt it coming. With a bull's eye on their backs that would make the Target retail chain blush, the Cincinnati Bengals faced a perfect storm and got swept away in the wind and gigantic waves. What transpired at Paul Brown Stadium teed up softballs for the talking heads.
Let's preface things with a few caveats before we begin to rake individual Bengals players over the coals. First thing's first, many players, especially on offense, were to blame for Cincinnati's zombie-like loss to the Houston Texans. The coaching staff, which had prided itself on making in-game adjustments this year, had no answers for what the lowly Texans were throwing at them after a bye week. Aside from the defense that allowed just 10 points on the night, almost everyone else wearing an orange uniform didn't live up to expectations.
Unfortunately, it's an emerging star whose performance, or lack thereof, has been brought to the forefront in an embarrassing 10-6 loss at home to a team that might not make the playoffs. There is no doubt that Tyler Eifert has been a major key to Cincinnati's 8-0 start going into Week 10, but he was a highlighted figure in a disappointing loss.
With his nine touchdown receptions, Eifert has tied the Bengals' franchise single-season records in the category for tight ends and is well on his way to his first Pro Bowl berth. While it was known that the Houston defense would key on him, Eifert had his opportunities to make a significant impact on the game.
What transpired was Eifert having as many drops (three), as catches, while netting just 26 receiving yards on the evening. All drops are accentuated, in terms of impact, but Eifert's came with terrible timing, with one being on third down and the other two coming in the fourth quarter. While a couple were contested, we've seen the big tight end make far more difficult plays this season.
How does a guy who makes plays like the one below, manage to dismantle three other drives with egregious drops?
On a third down, in the second quarter with the Bengals driving for a touchdown, Dalton dropped back and slung one to Eifert with Eddie Pleasant bearing down on him. It would be a tough catch, but not anywhere near as difficult as ones we've seen him make all year. His biggest gaffe came on the team's final drive when Dalton hit him between the "8" and "5" on his jersey while running a slant route and he let it get inside of him to bounce off of his helmet. Hey, it's the Bengals on Monday Night Football.
As if it wasn't enough that Eifert's hands were channeling his inner-Jermaine Gresham, he had to get a false start to complete the metamorphosis. His performance, along with the running game and overall offensive gameplay caused fans to throw their hands in the air with no sensible answer and overall disbelief. To Eifert's credit, he was wide open on what would have been a good gain on a slant route, but Dalton totally misfired, which was a microcosm of the entire night.
"I’m not happy about it," Eifert said, while addressing the media after the team's first loss of the 2015 season. "I feel responsible. I know it’s not my fault. But I could have helped our team win and I didn’t."
He later added, "We just didn’t play well. I played awful. It’s embarrassing. We’ve just got to come back and work. Losing is never a good thing, but maybe it will refocus us and kind of recharge us."
You need to wonder if that is total accountability or not. With Adam Jones telling blogs to quote him as saying the lone touchdown in the game was his fault (Jones and the defense played very well, despite his voluntary trip to the guillotine), and A.J. Green falling on the sword for his fumble on a fourth down catch. It's a head scratcher, but multiple players are taking the blame for the loss.
Eifert doesn't plan on having another multi-drop game. "That can’t happen. I let me teammates down. We move on and get back to work on Wednesday."
Despite it all, Bengals fans have to hope that the performance, both as a team and as individuals, was an anomaly and not foreshadowing more primetime heartbreak as the winter grows colder. Given what we've seen in their first eight games, it's a positive forecast going forward. However, "the primetime curse" is rearing its ugly head once again and the Bengals have their third consecutive game in the venue next week against the surging Cardinals. Did we mention former Cincinnati quarterback, Carson Palmer is at the helm of that squad?
One game shouldn't overshadow what the third-year tight end has done through the first half of the season. But, Eifert and Co. better hit the film room and increase the focus, while also tuning out the noise, both positive and negative, they will be hearing all week.
Marvin Lewis doesn't seem concerned. After the game, Lewis said, "A.J. won’t fumble the ball and Tyler Eifert won’t drop balls, and we’ll go back to work, making plays and catches like we have and continue to get better at it."