After the game, before flying back on what was surely a painfully long flight back to Cincinnati, Lewis addressed the media to share his thoughts on the day.
“Obviously, it was not a very good football game for us,” Lewis said. “First half to be down 21-0, threw up a touchdown [in the] second series of the second half right after we get stopped on offense. We didn’t well play enough and they outplayed us.”
There were some positives, like the red zone offense working more effectively than we’ve seen (2/2), at least when the team was able to get inside to the Dallas 20-yard line. That didn’t happen until the fourth quarter. But, Lewis also acknowledged that the offense stalled on third down, another trend we’ve seen this season. The Bengals were 5 of 12 on third down, a 42% rate, which remains unsatisfactory.
“Our execution on offense, I thought did a good job and then we would just stall the drive out on third down. We got the ball to about midfield and stalled out,” Lewis said.
But, even worse than the offense stalling out on third down was the inability of the defense to stop anyone on the Cowboys offense. Three Cowboys running backs had plays for 9 yards or more and four Cowboys receivers had plays for 13 yards. Ezekiel Elliott, the leading rusher on the day with 134 yards, also added 37 yards receiving, including a 22 yard grab.
“Defensively, we gave up some plays where they got seven, eight, 13 yards,” Lewis said. “Crossing routes and things like that that hurt us today. On third downs in the first half we weren’t very good. They converted the three-or-four they had. They kept the drives alive when they had opportunities.”
Lewis said he was disappointed in how the team played. “We’ll have to just look at it very hard and make corrections and move forward quickly,” he added.
That’s true as the Bengals will face another extremely difficult test next week when they head to New England for Tom Brady’s first home game of the year after coming off his Deflategate suspension. On Sunday, Brady dismantled the Browns to the tune of a 33-13 win in Cleveland. Brady had 406 passing yards and a 138.8 passer rating when being blitzed. Yeah, it's safe to say he wasn't rusty in his return.
But back to the Bengals, Lewis noted the team will look at the tape to figure out the "plusses and minuses" Other than Brandon LaFell's first two touchdowns as a Bengals player, the only two touchdowns of the day for Cincinnati, there were very few "plusses" that Lewis will be able to find. Andy Dalton also played incredibly well considering the circumstances, so he can be considered one of Lewis' plusses, too.
Lewis expressed his feelings on Dalton and how he played on Sunday in his return home to Texas.
“We got flushed a little bit but I thought Andy played a good football game,” Lewis said. “He continued to keep his eyes down the field as much as he could. Run and keep things moving and going and that’s what we need from Andy all year. He didn’t panic. He just kept playing, which was good to see.”
On the bright side, Lewis believes the Bengals’ issues are fixable. “Standing right here, right now, I think it’s very fixable and we need to fix it,” he said.
That they do. The Bengals will return home to work on what went wrong and quickly address it this week. In reality, a 4-4 record going into the Week 9 bye is still realistic, if the Bengals fix some of the issues they’ve experienced, and hopefully get Tyler Eifert back on the field in the next week.
The Bengals play the Patriots next week, but following that game will be a divisional game at home against the Browns and a London trip (technically a home game) to play the Redskins. Anything is possible, but 4-4 seems obtainable right now.
“It’s plain-and-simple,” Lewis said. “We haven’t played good enough three times out and we lost. I’m not going to sit here and analyze anything beyond that.”