Another week, another pitiful loss for the Cincinnati Bengals. That pretty much sums up how things went for the team in their Week 6 matchup with the Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday. Despite looking pretty good for the first 19 minutes or so of the game, the Bengals looked awful through most of the second half and ended up finishing with a 35-17 loss to the Patriots. The slip to 2-4 doesn’t damn the Bengals to a busted season, but it means that they absolutely must bounce back next week if they want any chance of turning the season around.
If you watched the game, you probably aren’t going to be terribly surprised at this week’s round of grades from Pro Football Focus. Offensively, we saw a mixed bag of performances, but a few gems gave the team a chance to compete for at least a half. The unit was led by Andrew Whitworth (84.9), Andy Dalton (84.1), Kevin Zeitler (83.3), Tyler Boyd (76.0), and A.J. Green (70.9).
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out so well on the defensive side of the ball. The Bengals’ offense was competent enough throughout a large enough chunk of the game that they remained in a competitive state until the fourth quarter rolled around. But, there wasn’t a single quarter in which the Bengals stopped the Patriots from scoring, so we ended up seeing a pretty poor day from the defense overall. The best performers were Adam Jones (73.5), Shawn Williams (70.9), Geno Atkins (69.9), Rey Maualuga (67.4), and Josh Shaw (50.0). When one of the top five performers on a unit records a grade of 50.0, you know there were some serious issues.
Despite the team’s rough 2-4 start, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been a major bright spot for the team. He ranks third in the NFL in passing yards (1,757) and has thrown less interceptions (two) than both Eli Manning (six) and Matt Ryan (three), the two quarterbacks who have thrown for more yards. Only Ryan (117.9), Drew Brees (103.1), Ben Roethlisberger (99.2), and Derek Carr (99.1) have recorded a better quarterback rating throughout the season than Dalton (97.2) while attempting more passes.
In fairness, he could stand to improve in the face of pressure. This week, he recorded the fourth highest grade among quarterbacks, although his completion percentage plummeted from 76.2 to 50.0 when pressured. Despite the fact that he faced blitzes on 23 of his 34 snaps and pressures on 12, he still managed to put together 21 completions on 31 attempts for 254 yards and a touchdown. It all culminated in a passer rating of 103.4 on the day.
With Kevin Zeitler recording another good game this week, it has become apparent that Cedric Ogbuehi is the primary source of the struggles for the offensive line. The Bengals’ coaching staff took note of that this week and benched him in the third quarter in favor of Eric Winston.
This was directly a result of Ogbuehi allowing two QB pressures and committing devastating holding penalty. Combined with a generally poor performance otherwise, he ended up with an awful grade by the end of the game (42.9).
That said, Bengals fans who wish the team would have kept former starting right tackle Andre Smith should temper their suggestions as he performed poorly in Minnesota through the first four weeks and suffered a season ending bicep injury a couple of weeks ago.
In relief, Winston didn’t allow a single pressure and even opened up some holes in the running game to end up with an impressive overall grade (75.0). Had he played more snaps, he would have qualified to replace A.J. Green on the list of top-ranked Bengals players. But, he didn’t, so his excellent relief performance flew largely under the radar.
In the running game, the Bengals did manage to break the 100-yard mark in a game for the first time since Week 3 against the Denver Broncos and only the second time this season. But, they also ran more rushing plays against the Patriots (32) than they have against any team other team this year other than the Dolphins (37). On average, the Bengals only gained about 3.8 yards per run, and it was even less than that individually for both Giovani Bernard (3.3) and Jeremy Hill (2.9).
Both primary running backs only managed to record a single broken tackle between them. Hill was brought down almost immediately after first contact every time (averaging 1.5 yards after contact). Bernard only performed marginally better (2.56). Bernard, in particular, recorded his worst grade of the season (53.3), and it would have been a lot lower if he didn’t play well in the passing game (four catches for 43 yards). However, despite his lowest grade of the season, he still performed better than Hill, which should tell you everything you need to know about the season they’re both having.
For a second straight week, the defense as a whole was uninspiring at best, although ‘shoddy’ might be a more accurate description. This was exemplified by the day Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski had, recording seven catches on nine targets for 162 yards. Seven different Bengals defenders were responsible for covering him at various points during the day and no one ended up pulling out a good performance.
Part of Gronkowski’s big day was due to the play in pass coverage by Karlos Dansby. Before this week, it was noted that the Bengals’ outside linebacker tandem of Vincent Rey and Dansby ranked as the No. 1 and No. 9 linebackers in pass coverage in the NFL, respectively. They were supposed to, at the very least, slow down the elite tandem of Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. While Rey did perform fairly well in pass coverage (74.3), Dansby looked absolutely awful (31.5). Vontaze Burfict wasn’t much better (39.8), so Rey’s solid day ended up not making much of a difference.
Pat Sims looked pretty good as a pass rusher this week (74.6) due to his one sack and one QB hit. But, he was the only defensive lineman to grade well as a pass rusher this week. Carlos Dunlap (41.9) and Geno Atkins (47.8) have traditionally been very good in that role, but struggled mightily this week. Atkins, in particular, hasn’t looked like himself in the past two weeks, having recorded only a single quarterback hurry last week and two this week.
The Bengals’ secondary looked porous at best this week, seeing very poor grades from payers like George Iloka (38.7), Shawn Williams (58.6), and Dre Kirkpatrick (37.9). Kirkpatrick, in particular, looked about as bad as you can get this week, allowing six receptions on seven targets and recording an extremely poor discipline grade (3.0). Were it not for the efforts of Adam Jones (73.5) not allowing a single reception and recording three tackles and a stop in the running game, the Bengals secondary might have single-handedly been the reason they lost to the Patriots.