The Bengals’ offense again failed to score enough points to win, while the defense disappeared at moments, especially to start off the game. And to top it all off, the team saw A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard exit with bad injuries. Bernard is done for the season and Green is out for at least a few weeks. Oh, and Mike Nugent continues to be Mike Nugent. With all that taking place, what did Lewis say about the trainwreck that is 2016?
Question: In five of the last seven games, your defense has allowed the opposing team to score on the first possession. Do you see any common threads that might explain that?
Lewis comments: No. I just think we have execute our jobs better. In those jobs, there’s no question about it, there’s been third downs that have been converted. That’s probably the biggest thing in those drives.
Commentary: It’s interesting that Lewis says there is no common thread, and goes on to say that converted third downs are the common thread. Of course, another common thread is the defensive unit on the field, and their inability to stop the offense at the start of games.
Question: Do you think Green will be back by the end of the year?
Lewis comments: I think he’ll be back by the end of the year, yes.
Commentary: The bigger question is if he should be brought back at the end of the year. Bringing him back could open him up to re-aggravating the injury. The arguments made for bringing him back would be to finally see him named First Team All-Pro, which is an honor that has alluded his stellar career. And, he’s a player paid millions of dollars who should be playing when healthy.
Question: The last two weeks, you’ve given up 16 and 21 points, and the defense has gotten some turnovers as well. Have you seen cumulative improvement with the defense over the last two weeks?
Lewis comments: We’ve made improvement, but the ultimate improvement is winning the football game...
Commentary: The more important question might be why the Bengals lost at home to a Bills team that had lost 3 straight, and only scored 12 points against a team that had given up 100 points over their last three 3 games.
Question: After looking at the film, what did you think of how Tyler Boyd, James Wright and Alex Erickson looked, considering they may have seen more snaps or worked into some spots they maybe haven’t before?
Lewis comments: Tyler Boyd played in his normal spot, and I thought he took some steps forward yesterday, which is good. But we’ve got to keep going. James Wright, it was the first extended snaps he’s had. He did some good things, he’s got some things he’s got to clean up and do better. Obviously you expect that when a guy gets extended and gets more opportunity than he’s had. He’s going to continue to do better. And then Alex. He lined up wrong once, but other than that, he carried and handled himself very well.
Commentary: Actually, James Wright is getting less opportunities this year than he did as a rookie, behind Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Already in his third year, it’s puzzling to wonder how much better they expect him to get at this point. As far as Erickson, one reception for seven yards hardly seems like the description of handling himself well.
Question: Given Giovani Bernard’s injury, is it now more valuable to bring back Cedric Peerman from Reserve/Injured?
Lewis comments: We’ll make that decision here coming up.
Commentary: Since the Bengals have never really used Peerman as a running back, the question makes little sense. In 2012 he only mustered 36 carries, despite wielding a hefty 7.2 yards per carry average. And in his other five seasons as a Bengals, he is averaging less than six carries per season. He played running back more in last season’s Pro Bowl than he did during the entirety of the 2015 season. If the Bengals are actually going to play him at running back, then maybe this becomes more of an interesting question.
Question: It’s been a long time since you’ve experienced any sort of losing streak. Is it at all difficult in your experience to keep the team together, or does the fact that the playoffs are still within reach help with that?
Lewis comments: That’s what we have to continue to work at. We continue to let opportunities slip away. At some point, we’ve got to go and win games, or we will be out of it. We’ve got to keep going. As coaches, we have to continue to pull the details out of our guys and pull the good plays out of our guys. Encourage, empower and get them going.
Commentary: The implication seems to be that the Bengals are suffering through a losing streak this year which is worse than any they have suffered in recent seasons. But this doesn’t quite line up with reality. The Bengals’ longest losing streak this year is two games. Their longest losing streak last year was also two games. Their longest losing streak the year before was two and a half games (depending on how you want to count the tie against the Panthers), and the longest losing streak the year before, was, you guessed it, also two games.
Question: You said yesterday that it was too early to comment on Mike Nugent’s status. After sleeping on it, have you given it any more thought?
Lewis comments: I’ve given it a lot of thought. We’re going to move forward with Mike. As I said last night, I think some other things kind of contributed. But all in all, we expect Mike to make those kicks. On one, we didn’t have a perfect snap...
Commentary: Lewis may expect Nugent to make those kicks, but none of the fans expect him to. Over his last three seasons, Nugent has made only 79% of his field goal attempts, and in three of his seven seasons as a Bengal, he has been below 80%. This is not new territory for Nugent, but rather familiar ground. Also, Nugent has only made 94% of his extra points since the league moved the distance back. To expect Nugent to make those kicks is to expect Nugent to not be Nugent – and any such fantasy should be dead.
Question: Is there anything you can do to help Nugent through it? Is there a specialist he can work with on technique? Is there anything he need to do differently?
Lewis comments: He can rectify what he needs to do likely quicker than any of us. And I think Darrin (special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons) is very capable of helping him make the correction through these, with his hits on the ball and so forth. I’m really confident that Darrin can work Mike through this.
Commentary: In his seven years as a Bengal, Nugent has not been able to work through his struggles with kicking accurately. Based on their track record together, there is no reason to expect that now, after seven seasons, Simmons will finally be able to help Nugent gain some measure of accuracy.
Question: If you bring someone new in there’s the unknown. Is that the biggest thing, not knowing what the other side would be?
Lewis comments: It’s always a comparison, no question. It’s easy for everybody to say to make that change. But, as you said, when that change doesn’t work out, what do you do? I’m way more comfortable with helping Mike get corrected and through this...
Commentary: And that is why many fans are more than ready for Lewis to be relieved of his coaching duties after this season mercifully concluded. When your head coach is “way more comfortable” with a track record of below average performance over trying to actively remedy the situation by trying to find a player who can produce better, your head coach clearly doesn’t have winning as his top priority.
Question: There was a video that was caught on the broadcast that showed Vontaze Burfict flipping off the fans, or at least in the direction of the fans. Were you made aware of the video? Do you think he’ll be fined for that?
Lewis comments: I don’t know...
Commentary: This is pretty much the standard answer Lewis gives when pressed about player behavior during the game, or elsewhere. He apparently watched a lot of Hogan’s Heroes, as he reprises the Sgt. Schultz sentiment well, “I know nothing!”