The Cincinnati Bengals had a tough matchup against the Giants in Week 10 and, in many cases, the coaches didn’t make it easy on their own team. When looking at the scope of the play-calling for the entire game, most of the team’s major coaches on the Bengals’ staff failed their team in the heart-wrenching 21-20 loss.
One could look at the first half as the apex of the issues, as it led the team to have a 14-10 deficit at the half. Marvin Lewis, Paul Guenther and Ken Zampese were all culprits of the team’s issues and some of their decisions boggled the mind.
Offensive Coordinator Ken Zampese:
With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Bengals faced a third-and-nine from their own six-yard line. At the time, another failure on an incompletion from Andy Dalton to Brandon LaFell marked the team going an atrocious 0-for-8 on third down, with the average yards to-go sitting at just over 10 yards.
Then, on another 3rd-and-10 early in the fourth quarter, the Bengals had an inexplicable delay of game penalty, as Dalton tried to adjust things at the line. Luckily, the Bengals were bailed out by a defensive holding penalty on Janoris Jenkins to minimize this frustrating circumstance.
Look back to the final three Bengals’ offensive possessions in the first half. The Bengals came away with just three points, even though two of those drives started with great field position. One was near midfield and another was deep inside the red zone because of a Dre Kirkpatrick interception. In a game that was decided by just one point, it’s simply an unacceptable output in those situations.
One can also look at the lack of trying to run the ball in the first half. After gaining 423 total rushing yards in Weeks 7 and 8, the Bengals had six combined rushing attempts in the first half against the Giants.
What’s more, the defense bailed out the offense after a poor throw from Dalton that led to a fourth quarter Landon Collins interception. The ensuing drive, as well as another immediately following a defensive stop, the Bengals combined for seven plays for nine yards. That’s in crunch time in the fourth quarter in a must-win game, folks.
The best and most consistent plays in Zampese’s 2016 offense include broken-down plays where Dalton scrambles and throws up a prayer to A.J. Green. When you’re 2-for-11 on third downs (AKA the most important down in the game), you’re not going to win many games. Oh, and the protection was abhorrent up front throughout most of the night.
Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther:
Vontaze Burfict covering shifty Giants slot man Sterling Shepard in the red zone without help in the third quarter? Odell Beckham, Jr. making a big catch with no defensive players in the frame in the first half? These were part and parcel of some of Guenther’s schemes on Monday night.
Granted, Guenther’s unit was the most sound along with the special teams crew, as they racked up two interceptions, but questionable decisions were prevalent. Aside from scheme, personnel choices in those formations were another issue. In the past couple of weeks, Guenther noted the potential of playing some younger defenders, as an effort to light a fire under some vested veterans, but Lewis largely squashed the notion.
Karlos Dansby, the team’s prized outside free agent acquisition this offseason, simply can’t cover opposing receivers the same way he’s done for so long. Yet, Guenther abated to Lewis’ preference to relying on savvy veterans to mixed results. Meanwhile, a third round rookie linebacker, Nick Vigil was on the bench while P.J. Dawson (2015 third round pick) is now on the practice squad.
As if that wasn’t enough, the defense crumbling in crunch time in an obvious run situation late in the fourth was akin to the pre-Marvin Lewis Bengals.
Two weeks. That’s how long Lewis and his staff had to prepare for this critical matchup that might eventually write the story for the rest of 2016. Some still won’t admit a primetime issue, nor will they accept both body language and errors that don’t normally come with Lewis and his staff, as they often look like deer in headlights on the big stage.
In the first quarter, the Bengals made two consecutive decisions that helped to shape a frustrating first half. Rookie receiver Tyler Boyd looked very close to getting a first down, but was marked short. Replays showed inconclusive evidence, yet Lewis decided to channel his inner-mid-2000s form and challenge the spot. After review, the spot on the field was upheld.
Then, Lewis decided to punt. The decision itself wasn’t a bad one, as the Bengals were on New York’s side of the field, but why waste a challenge when you might have punted anyway? Sure, it being a close call plays into a decision, but if it wasn’t a first down, why waste a timeout when you were going to punt anyway? The decision ended up playing into the team’s “strategy” before the half.
The Bengals fell behind 14-10 before the half and received the ball with 1:17 left. Seemingly indecisive on what to do, the Bengals initially seemed to decide to sit on the ball, as they ran a play with Giovani Bernard. Then, they decided to hurry things up—but, just a little bit.
As our own Jason Marcum and The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Dehner, Jr. noted, the dichotomy of throwing the ball with a lack of a hurried pace showed a total miscommunication from head coach to coordinator and coordinator to his players. What could have led to a much-needed field goal try led to a missed Hail Mary attempt.
Between the lack of execution off of a bye and the recurring issues we saw once again on the national stage, Lewis’ control of the team has to be questioned.
Should the coaches be blamed for the Bengals’ 21-20 loss to the Giants?