After getting back on track in Week 4 against the Dolphins, the Bengals absolutely laid an egg in Week 5 against the Cowboys. With the loss, they slipped to 2-3 on the season and are starting to get to the point where they will need a strong finish if they hope to want a chance at making the playoffs. The Bengals will certainly need to play better than they did in Dallas if that’s going to happen.
It was a rough day for pretty much everyone on the team this week. Even the Bengals players who received the highest grades from Pro Football Focus didn’t even reach the mark of 80. On offense, we saw decent days from Russell Bodine (77.7), Andy Dalton (75.9), Andrew Whitworth (75.3), Clint Boling (75.1), and Brandon LaFell (72.8). Whitworth, Boling, Bodine, and Kevin Zeitler are consistently graded among the top players every week, but the unit as a whole has allowed the second most sacks in the league (17), this also goes to show how poorly Cedric Ogbuehi has been playing this season.
We saw a nearly identical trend with the top players on defense. Carlos Dunlap (77.1), Karlos Dansby (76.7), Shawn Williams (76.6), Pat Sims (75.1), and Dre Kirkpatrick (73.4) led the group, but none of those players were terribly exciting in the tough loss.
One of the most glaring takeaways of this season has been the atrocious results of the offensive line’s play, despite pretty good play from four of the five members of the line all season. Andrew Whitworth and Russell Bodine have been in the top five offensive players consistently, while Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler have graded as top players in some games, but not all. Granted, Zeitler hasn’t been great lately, grading negatively in both of his last two games for the first time since Weeks 7 and 8 of the 2013 season. But, the biggest problem is the new right tackle who is struggling to adjust to the speed of the professional game.
Ogbuehi is struggling mightily. Against the Cowboys, he gave up five hurries and a hit in the passing game. Only five offensive tackles have graded worse in pass protection this year, partially due to the fact that he is giving up more pressures than the rest of the Bengals’ offensive line combined.
The struggles of the offensive line as a whole are making a mess of quarterback Andy Dalton’s play, whose quarterback rating of 104.6 dropped to just 94.1 when under pressure and 73.4 when blitzed. This week, he didn’t have his security blanket in A.J. Green open for much of the game, so he had to rely on Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd. Neither offered much help in the deep passing game and only Boyd was able to come up with a pass of 20 yards or more.
With Eifert still hurt and Green largely stifled during the game, Dalton had to rely primarily on his short passing ability. He did perform very well in this area of his game though, recording 23 completions on 26 attempts for 180 yards on passes thrown 10 yards or less. Unfortunately, when the short passing game is the only part of the offense that seems to work and the Bengals throw the ball 67 percent of the time, it’s just not going to be effective enough to win games.
Also worth noting is the struggles of the running game continuing to be a major factor. Both Jeremy Hill (46.7) and Giovani Bernard (51.9) received poor grades for their efforts. In Hill’s case, that grade makes sense. But, Bernard was effective as a runner (5.6 yards per run) and as a pass catcher, where he caught six passes for 46 yards. He wasn’t given the ball a whole lot because the Bengals got behind early and had to play aggressively. But, when he was, he looked great. Therefore, it’s a little strange that PFF had him as the 30th ranked running back in the NFL this week.
The defensive side of the ball wasn’t much better. Yes, the defense successfully helped the offense to dominate time of possession and even won the turnover battle. But, that was primarily because the Cowboys were scoring so fast that they didn’t have time to put up possession stats. The lone turnover of the game didn’t come until the fourth quarter and, while it did set up the Bengals’ first scoring drive, it was a little too late.
The Bengals’ pass rush was particularly awful this week. The Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, but only Carlos Dunlap was able to put together anything significant from the Bengals’ entire line to get pressure on Dak Prescott. He registered a stop, two QB hits, a hurry, and a sack on only 19 pass rushing snaps he registered.
But, those numbers accounted for nearly half (44.4 percent) of the Bengals’ pressures on the entire game. Dunlap’s pass rush productivity (18.1 percent) ranked third best among 4-3 defensive ends this week. But, he was the only member of the Bengals’ defensive line to receive a respectable rating in that regard.
Most of the Bengals’ linebackers graded poorly on Sunday, particularly Rey Maualuga (30.4). He allowed catches on all three of his targets in coverage for an average of 10 yards each and recorded a very poor grade in run defense (36.1) on his way to his worst graded game since Week 3 of the 2012 season. It was also the 57th ranked grade in the NFL this week among linebackers. Karlos Dansby was the one bright spot for the Bengals linebackers, recording the best grade on the Bengals’ defense (77.7). But, he was still only the 23rd highest rated linebacker in the NFL this week, by PFF’s standards.
Despite the generally awful play in pass coverage from most of the team, Shawn Williams actually had a nice day overall, receiving the fourth best grade on the entire team for his efforts (76.6). It came as a result of not allowing a single completion in pass coverage as well as forcing two QB pressures and making a stop as a run defender. If everyone could have played like him, the Bengals would have had a much better shot at winning this game.