This was just an ugly game all around for the Bengals.
They were manhandled in every facet of the game en route to falling behind 28-0, and while they did show fight in the second half, it was too big of a hole to climb out of as they fell 28-14 and notched their third loss of the season.
Here is a look at our winners and losers from the game, though, it often felt like everyone on Cincinnati was a loser.
The Bengals made a surprising decision to start Giovani Bernard in this game, marking the first time he’s started since Week 15 of 2015 and just the second time since Week 15 of 2014. Jeremy Hill has gotten every other start since then, and for the most part, he’s earned it.
However, the ground game has failed to get going this season, and the Bengals must have felt Bernard was more deserving of the start in this game. They were spot on, as Bernard finished the first half with 30 yards rushing on five carries (6.0 avg) and two catches for 17 yards.
While not anything to brag about, that was a solid line that was really all that kept the Bengals offense moving in what was a disaster of a first half. Bernard finished the game with just 50 yards on nine carries (5.56 avg) and six grabs for 46 yards.
The Bengals may need to consider starting Bernard consistently going forward.
You have to give Andy Dalton props for giving it his all in this one. Most quarterbacks would have folded when down 28-0 and been doing everything in their power to preserve themselves.
Instead, Dalton did everything he could to move the offense, even when it meant calling his own number and running at the defense. You rarely see quarterbacks do that, let alone when they’re down 28-0.
Dalton even appeared to injure his ankle in the second half, but stayed in and led the Bengals to a pair of late touchdowns to at least make the game respectable. Dalton could have easily taken himself out and let AJ McCarron finish the blowout loss, but he stayed in and took the beating with his teammates.
The Bengals managed to get a pair of garbage-time scores, but they were touchdowns nonetheless that Brandon LaFell caught both of. LaFell came into this game having yet to score this year, but reached the end zone twice in the final quarter.
Seeing a Bengals receiver not named A.J. Green was nice, even if it did come in garbage time.
We’ve already detailed the struggles of Cedric Ogbuehi and how he’s hurting this offensive line. There’s no sense in beating a dead horse with his previous struggles, but he was somehow worse in this game.
DeMarcus Lawrence, a solid pass-rusher coming off a four-game suspension, looked like Robert Quinn almost every time he went one-on-one with Ogbuehi. It was ugly, and it helped keep Andy Dalton under fire all day and keep the offense grounded.
The Bengals better hope Ogbuehi improves a lot over the next year. He’ll have to make massive improvements just to avoid being labeled a bust, let alone be a player they want starting at right tackle for the next decade.
The Defensive Line
Give credit where credit is due: Dallas has one of, if not the best offensive lines in football, but there is still no excuse for what they were able to do to Cincinnati’s defensive line. This line has been too good to get pushed around and manhandled the way they did in this game.
They looked lost and disinterested for far too many plays in this game, which led to them getting run out of the building before the first half was even over.
Then again, should we really be surprised at this when we’re seeing Margus Hunt and Will Clarke both on the field for significant snaps in the first half? Those two entered training camp on the roster bubble, and because the Bengals added no one to challenge them for roster spots, they were gifted with jobs, and now we’re seeing why they were on the bubble.
To be fair to Clarke, he’s at least been a good pass-rusher, but he’s a ghost against the run. Then again, the guy ahead of him on the depth chart hasn’t been much better...
But as bad as Hunt and Clarke were, Michael Johnson has been almost nonexistent for five games now. He entered this game with a mere seven tackles and 0.5 sacks, which came against some pretty shady offensive tackles on the Jets, Steelers and Dolphins.
Johnson came into this game ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 70th-best edge defender out of 92 eligible players. That’s why it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Johnson erased in this game to the point Clarke was actually getting more snaps than normal.
The day that Will Clarke is more effective than Michael Johnson, MJ and his $20 million contract need to take a hike.
Jesus. Bodine.— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) October 9, 2016
Need I say more?