The Bengals aren’t mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but, realistically speaking, the Bengals will not make it back to the postseason for what would be the sixth straight time. The plentiful arsenal of talented players on the Bengals’ roster has hardly shown this season as the Bengals are 3-7-1 and find surprising ways to lose each week.
In Sunday’s game against the Ravens, the Bengals had countless opportunities to make plays and win the game. But, they also had countless plays where they allowed the Ravens to take advantage at their expense to win the game. Andy Dalton had his worst completion percentage of the season (54.2%), completing 26 of 48 passes and accumulated 283 yards in the air, good for 5.9 yards per play, also his lowest mark of the season in that category. Dalton had 1 touchdown, was sacked 3 times and fumbled four times, two of which were lost to Elvis Dumervil of the Ravens. If you lose the turnover battle, you usually lose the game and such was the case for the Bengals in Baltimore as they came away with one interception on Joe Flacco and saw Dalton fumble away the ball twice, including once in the final minutes of the matchup.
Here are some of the biggest factors that determined the loss.
Bengals defense allows another opening drive touchdown
The Bengals defense has now allowed their opposition to score a touchdown on the opening drive in six of the last eight games. And in one of the two games they didn’t allow a touchdown, the opposition scored a field goal. The Ravens offense easily marched down the field on the opening drive of the game, putting together an 11 play, 75 yard drive with five first downs that ate 4:45 off the clock.
Consider us unimpressed with the Bengals’ defense when it comes to the opening drive. That touchdown ended up being the only one the Bengals defense allowed all day. The team must figure out why the defense is starting slow so regularly and fix the issue. Though, it’s too late in the season for it to really matter.
Vontaze Burfict forces Steve Smith Sr. into an unnecessary roughness call
Burfict flopped onto the field after getting head butted in the stomach by Steve Smith Sr. and the Ravens receiver was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The action came after a third down play and forced the Ravens to attempt a 51-yard field goal. Justin Tucker is as good as kickers come and made the kick, with ease. That brought the score to 10-0.
I've seen Steve Smith kill people for less than this. https://t.co/HQmzrddATh— Eroc RDT (@BarstoolRDT) November 27, 2016
Carlos Dunlap tipped balls hands Rey Maualuga an interception
Carlos Dunlap was active early in the game, and throughout, notching a sack, three tackles and multiple tipped passes. His second deflection came in the second quarter and allowed Rey Maualuga to intercept Joe Flacco and take the ball 9 yards to the Ravens' 28-yard line.
Unfortunately, the Bengals offense continued to self-implode when they got the ball back. Russell Bodine snapped the ball on third-and-seven with Andy Dalton clearly not ready or looking and Dalton subsequently fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Elvis Dumervil at the Baltimore 19 yard line.
The team was so unprepared for the snap that I thought it could have even been a false start on the Bengals as offensive linemen were in motion and not set. The Ravens didn't end up scoring on the ensuing drive, but that hardly matters. It was just another example of the Bengals not capitalizing on an opportunity handed to them. It’s also interesting that the Bengals offense was carrying the team for much of the first half of the season, but the defense has been the stronger unit for the last four games.
Russell Bodine benched
The Bengals did something that fans have been clamoring for endlessly. The team benched Russell Bodine. What followed was the Bengals’ first touchdown of the game against the Ravens, and a drive that backup center T.J. Johnson was in on throughout. Bodine, as mentioned above, had an early snap that caused Dalton to lose a fumble. But, the benching didn’t last and Bodine was put back in during the fourth quarter. At least the Bengals acknowledged that Bodine is an issue. Though, he’s far from the only problem the coaching staff is juggling.
Right tackle among the bigger issues
Cedric Ogbuehi is not getting the job done for the Bengals at right tackle. This is so much the case that after Ogbuehi botched his coverage and allowed Dalton to be strip sacked, Ogbuehi recovering the fumble was one of his best moments of the game. Eric Winston came in for Ogbuehi on multiple occasions, but didn’t fare much better on Sunday. Through Week 11, only five players in the NFL had allowed more total pressures and sacks than Ogbuehi. The Bengals starting right tackle isn't suited to be starting games in the NFL and the Bengals need to work on improving his play for the long-term. After spending a first round draft pick on the former Texas A&M tackle, the investment has not paid dividends. Many analysts have praised the Bengals’ drafting ability during the past decade, but, let’s consider the Bengals’ last four years worth of first round draft picks:
2016: William Jackson III - Spent all season on Injured Reserve.
2015: Cedric Ogbuehi - Likely the worst starter on the team.
2014: Darqueze Dennard - Finally starting to earn playing time deep into his third season and was largely responsible for the Ravens’ only touchdown on Sunday. He also spent the better part of his first two years in the league on the bench or only playing on special teams.
2013: Tyler Eifert - Among the Bengals’ best players.
As of now, only one of those last four first round picks was a great selection. We need to see what Jackson is capable of, which we’ll be waiting for until next year. We’re seeing that Ogbuehi needs a lot of work. Dennard is far from what we hoped he’d be when he was drafted. And, that leaves Eifert as the only player from that group who we can say with certainty was worthy of his draft billing.
At least Rex Burkhead was good
Without Giovani Bernard for the rest of the season, it’s finally Rex Burkhead’s turn to show what he’s capable of. He played quite admirably on Sunday and actually took more snaps than Jeremy Hill (by one).
Bengals final HB snap count: Rex Burkhead 38, Jeremy Hill 37. Out of 75— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) November 27, 2016
Burkhead finished the game with 29 yards rushing on five attempts including a long of 17. He also caught two passes on two targets for 19 yards. That was a welcomed sight and even though the Bengals’ season is all but done, it will be nice to see what Burkhead is capable of in the coming weeks. The 2013 sixth round draft pick will be a free agent after this season and now has a chance to make an impression on the league.