The Bengals are definitely not out to the start that they or their fans wanted. Through the first five games of the 2015 season, the Bengals have only managed to beat the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets, who only have one win each. But, the Bengals losses have come against tough opponents as the Broncos, Steelers, and Cowboys are all near the top of the NFL standings with 4-1 records.
By no means does the team’s 2-3 record mean the season is over. Yes, it’s a slow start, but the schedule starts to get easier after the team gets back from Foxborough next week. But, the slow start is not an encouraging one and it’s starting to stir a bit of panic among the Bengals’ fanbase. That said, it’s not just Bengals fans who are growing pessimistic about the Bengals’ chances going forward. The general sentiment from the national media was summed up by Katherine Terrell of ESPN, explaining that the Bengals’ issues in 2016 could be extremely tough to overcome.
By the time the Cincinnati Bengals get tight end Tyler Eifert back, it might be too late.
This team's problems run far beyond the absence of its leading scorer from the past season. It might be a total team effort.
The first three quarters of the Bengals' 28-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys could safely be called their worst performance in several years. Their only saving graces Sunday were two fourth-quarter touchdowns that made the game appear closer than it was. Dallas (4-1) was completely in control Sunday.
It’s hard to watch the team play as badly as the Bengals did in the first half and continue to have confidence in them. As Bengals fans, we’re going to stick by our team through thick and thin. But, watching that game was definitely one of the “thinner” moments for the team in recent years.
This is absolutely disgusting to watch. Damn @dallascowboys blowing these boys out. Knew it was a mistake to trust @Bengals. Just knew it!— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) October 9, 2016
Despite scoring 14 points in what was essentially garbage time, there wasn’t any point during this game that the Bengals could point to and say they were actually challenging the Cowboys. The Bengals even got the running game going to an extent, averaging an impressive 5.1 yards per run, the first time they averaged more than five yards per carry this season. But, they also got behind early and were forced to ask quarterback Andy Dalton to throw the ball 41 times.
As the Bengals’ offense became one-dimensional, the strategy of trying to contain Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott and forcing the Cowboys to make Dak Prescott beat them in the air didn’t work. They allowed 8.9 yards per run to Elliott, opening Prescott up for a decent day throwing the ball. Prescott only recorded 227 yards and a touchdown on the day. But, he completed 75 percent of his passes and, as discussed by Clarence E. Hill Jr of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, absolutely shredded a Bengals defense that is starting to look extremely vulnerable.
Cincinnati (2-3) and its vaunted defense was suppose to provide the stiffest challenge to these upstart Cowboys, led by dueling rookie of the year candidates in quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott — especially considering the Bengals had a 10-day break since their 22-7 victory against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 29.
But this was no contest. The Cowboys dominated on both sides of the ball, while the rookies led the way on offense.
Prescott completed 18 of 24 passes for 227 yards with one touchdown rushing and one touchdown passing. He has three rushing touchdowns on the season, the most for a Cowboys quarterback since Danny White had four in 1984.
Interestingly enough, the Bengals actually came on top in the battles of possession time, turnovers, and first downs. Unfortunately, the possession time and first down battles were primarily won because the Bengals’ defense was so bad at stopping the Cowboys from scoring. Many of the Cowboys’ drives simply didn’t last long enough before the team scored for the Bengals defense to stay on the field.
Didn't play like the veterans today, & I was head of the snake. I will fix my shh I can tell you that. We Will get back to Bengals Football.— Carlos Dunlap (@Carlos_Dunlap) October 9, 2016
As bad as the Bengals’ defense was through most of the game, the Bengals’ offense actually wasn’t as bad as the whole product would suggest. One of the biggest questions going into this week was what to make of the running game. Giovani Bernard answered that question with 5.6 yards per rush. Unfortunately, the Bengals dug themselves into a deep hole early, so the running game was largely abandoned for a more aggressive strategy.
After three quarters of essentially nothing, as explained by Bryan Curtis of The Ringer, the Bengals finally scored in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of a Cowboys fumble.
The Bengals’ offensive stats are better than the team was. On their first drive, Giovani Bernard looked like he was going to go carry-for-carry with Ezekiel Elliott. But then, on first down, the Bengals called a shovel pass to receiver Brandon LaFell, who was tackled for a 3-yard loss. It was a weird decision; they had to punt two plays later. On the next drive, Andy Dalton couldn’t find a receiver and had to scramble on third down. They punted again. On the next drive, Dalton’s third-down pass came up a yard short. The ball was at the Bengals’ 34-yard line, and Marvin Lewis didn’t go for it. That might have been the right decision, intellectually, but it basically ended the game. The Bengals were already down 21 points.
They answered that score with another touchdown drive after forcing a Cowboys three-and-out. But, it was all too little, too late. Had the Bengals possibly had an extra 30 minutes to finish off the comeback, there might have been some hope. But, being down 28-0 up until there was 10 minutes and 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter is just too big of a hurdle to overcome.
It was a tough loss to take and one that Bengals fans will lament for a long time. That’s not to say that the season is over, because there are still 11 more games left to play in the season. The Bengals do have to face the New England Patriots, who just annihilated the Cleveland Browns 33-13, next week on the road. But, after that the schedule calms down a lot, so a second half surge for the Bengals is definitely not out of the question.
Bengals could start 2-4, but hard to count them out even after that. Schedule isn't that bad the rest of the way. Can finish 9-7/10-6.— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) October 9, 2016
Twitter is never quiet about any Bengals games, and certainly wasn’t after the product we all saw on Sunday. Here’s some more interesting reactions to that mess:
#Bengals pic.twitter.com/Cj8e11yTYX— HumKen (@HumKen) October 9, 2016
Andy Dalton has been sacked 17 times already this season. He was sacked just 20 times all of 2015. https://t.co/wCDK12uR8N #reddit #nfl— NFL on Reddit (@NFLonReddit) October 10, 2016
Cincinnati Bengals sack differential— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) October 10, 2016
(+10) 42 sacks/32 sacks allowed
(-7) 10 sacks/17 sacks allowed
Mystified as to why they've been so average this season. Jones gave Cowboys credit: "They beat us all the way around the board today." https://t.co/SJSafEfmNk— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) October 10, 2016
Me after watching that bengals game. pic.twitter.com/Oj2WXOKfee— ◈AD™ (@DonovanAngelo) October 10, 2016
Me too, Donovan Angelo. Me too.