The Bengals still have five games left to play in the 2016 season, but it sure feels like the season ended on Sunday as the Bengals fell by a score of 19-14 to the division leading Baltimore Ravens. Now at 3-7-1, the Bengals are two and a half games behind the Ravens and Steelers, who are both 6-5, with one head to head game left to play against each team, as well as a matchup with the Browns (0-12) in two weeks.
A combination of poor coaching, poor game management, and poor play resulted in the Bengals’ inability to ever grab a lead during the game and ultimately lose in pathetic fashion.
It was obvious that the offense missed the contributions of A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard this week, as evidenced by some of the worst grades of the season handed down from Pro Football Focus. The unit was led by Tyler Eifert (81.4), Russell Bodine (79.9), Andrew Whitworth (73.9), and Kevin Zeitler (72.3). Every other player on the offense rated below average or worse this week, including Tyler Boyd (69.0). A player the Bengals benched (Bodine) actually was the second highest rated offensive player, that’s how bad the unit was.
Things were, once again, different on the defensive side of the ball this week. Vontaze Burfict (84.3), Dre Kirkpatrick (82.3), Josh Shaw (81.3), Adam Jones (80.4), and Carlos Dunlap (80.4) led the unit with above average grades. Unfortunately, given the struggles of the offense, the good defensive efforts weren’t enough to lead to a win.
Sunday was another rough game for Andy Dalton (49.1). He struggled mightily against the blitz, posting a poor quarterback rating of 54.3. He only completed 11 of 25 passes when pressured or blitzed and took two sacks in the process. He didn’t throw any costly turnovers, but he did fumble the ball four times, losing two of them.
That said, it’s not like he is receiving much help from his offensive line, a line that has allowed 32 sacks this season, the fourth most in the NFL. Things got so bad this week that two offensive linemen (Ogbuehi and Bodine) were benched in favor of Eric Winston and T.J. Johnson, respectively.
Weirdly enough, Bodine actually graded fairly well this week (79.9) due to solid pass protection and adequate run protection. But, his errant snaps became a serious issue. Dalton can’t lean on the struggles of his offensive line to justify every bit of his bad performance, but it’s hard to accomplish much when you’re blitzed or pressured on nearly half of the plays.
In the absence of weapons in Green and Bernard, star tight end Tyler Eifert had to pick up the slack, and he actually did a good job of it. His performance alone wasn’t enough to inject life into an otherwise lifeless offense, but he earned the fourth highest grade among tight ends this week (81.4) due to his five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. Were it not for a poor disciplinary grade (21.1) that came as a result of a holding call that negated an 18 yard third down catch, he might have graded as ‘high quality’ or maybe even ‘elite’ this week.
As heavily as the offense struggled this week, the Bengals’ defense looked solid, other than on the opening drive. Vontaze Burfict, in particular, looked absolutely electrifying as he led the team with 10 solo tackles, three assisted tackles, seven run stops, and a QB hurry. He was really bad in pass coverage (38.5), allowing a reception every time he was targeted. But, he pulled it together in every other aspect for the ninth highest grade among linebackers so far this week. Burfict has been failing in coverage with frequency and it seems teams are starting to catch on, intentionally throwing his way when he’s in single coverage. The Giants caught on, including on a fourth down touchdown.
The Bengals saw strong performances out of multiple secondary players including Dre Kirkpatrick (82.3), Josh Shaw (81.3), and Adam Jones (80.4). Each player graded among the top 20 cornerbacks in the NFL. Unfortunately, Darqueze Dennard (44.6) wasn’t able to live up to those heights and allowed receptions on all five of his targets for as many yards and a touchdown. But, back to more of a positive, rookie safety Clayton Fejedelem now has a 73.4 grade from PFF after his first defensive snaps of the season.
It was a mixed bag from defensive linemen this week as Domata Peko (41.0) looked absolutely lost on a regular basis, not registering a single QB pressure or tackle throughout the entire game. Peko is clearly playing too much. But, Pat Sims (75.4) picked up the slack by shredding various members of the Ravens’ offensive line, despite only playing 13 snaps. During that time, he managed to record four run stops, proving he needs to eat into Peko’s snaps. Sims struggled as a pass rusher, but he performed well enough as a run stopper that it didn’t matter too much.