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Film Room: Bengals offense falls flat without Green and Bernard

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The offense was without Giovani Bernard and A.J. Green for the first time this week - it showed.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Everyone knew the Bengals offense would struggle without two of its top playmakers in A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard. It certainly didn’t look good, and it didn’t leave me optimistic about the rest of the season. That said, things are never as good or as bad as they appear to be and I think that holds true here. The Bengals were counting on some of their depth to step up. Some, like Rex Burkhead and Tyler Boyd, did well. Others did not. Let’s take a closer look at just what went wrong, what went right, and where the Bengals stand as an offense going forward.

Tendencies come to bite you

I want to start this review by saying Andy Dalton does NOT look good this year. You can blame that on him, his offensive line, his lack of receiving talent, his coaching, or all of the above. In the end, none of it really matters outside of the fact that Dalton has looked shell shocked more often in 2016 than he’s looked like his 2015 MVP caliber self.

This stop/smoke screen pattern is a look the Bengals have been running with a lot this season. The play is a check at the line from Dalton depending on what he sees. Notice at the snap of the ball the offensive lineman are firing out forward, this is because the play call is a run, with Dalton having the option to take the quick pass. If the corner is far off the receiver, Dalton pulls up out of a one-step drop and hits his receiver. Tavon Young must have been doing his homework, as you can see him creep up pre-snap, expecting Dalton to do this. This is simply a bad decision by Dalton, and a veteran-like movie from the rookie cornerback. A pro with as much experience as Dalton shouldn’t be baited into that play at all, let alone by a rookie still adjusting to the NFL.

It’s not all bad up front

While the offensive line has certainly been the most disappointing unit for the Bengals in 2016, especially after being so dominant a year ago, they’re still capable of making nice plays. Here’s an example of them picking up a blitzing nickel corner on a first down throw to Brandon LaFell:

If you freeze the GIF about a second into it, you’ll notice the safety stacked over top of the nickel corner on the slot receiver, Boyd. This is a solid giveaway (I’d say it’s about 95% accurate) that the nickel corner is blitzing. Of course the pre-snap creeping is the dead giveaway, but these things are usually easily sniffed out even if the defense wants to disguise it. Andrew Whitworth and Clint Boling easily adjust a good slide protection, with Boling picking up the outside linebacker and Whit getting the man coming off the edge. This gives Dalton more than enough time to find LaFell sitting in between the zone to pick up a first down and more. Give credit where credit is due!

Getting Eifert involved

It’s no secret to anyone, but if the Bengals want to have a shot at winning a game before A.J. Green comes back, it’s going to likely require a great effort from Tyler Eifert. And with teams able to key on Eifert more than ever without #18 to worry about, the job isn’t going to exactly be easy. That’s why nice play action passes like the one we saw on Sunday should continue to be utilized.

Zachary Orr, a North Texas product, has been playing well for the Ravens this season. But he’s not a perfect player yet, and still makes far too many mistakes. In fact, I would say the mistake here is thinking he could match up with Eifert in the first place. A nice power run fake by Dalton is just enough to draw Orr up the extra two yards to allow Eifert to get behind him for a 20 yard gain up the seam. Of course, Eifert was punished by Eric Weddle for making that catch, but it added on another 15 yards, so Eifert likely didn’t mind too much, as he popped right back up.

A different kind of cardiac cats

There are good football plays and there are bad football plays. Then there are the football plays that are so bad that they make you question why you even bother watching. The latter is how I would describe the Bengals final offensive play of the day.

The first part that upset me about this play is that it was because the Bengals’ right tackle isn’t worth the cost to print the check they use to pay him, let alone the numbers written on said check. The second part that upsets me is that it’s Eric Winston, because I can’t even yell at Cedric Ogbuehi, and now I have to wonder why either of these men are seeing the field instead of Jake Fisher.

Elvis Dumervil just flat out speed rushes Winston and there’s nothing he can do about it. Dumervil gets the edge, uses some excellent bend to stay low and keep leverage on the offensive tackle, and strips the ball from Dalton before the quarterback can even look at what he has to work with. The rest of the line does their job for the most part, but that’s how things have gone so far, with each man taking their turn to cost the offense a key play.

The play shut the door and sealed the seventh loss of the season for the Bengals, on a play where they likely could have tied or won the game. Then again, Marvin Lewis would have been too conservative for his 3-6-1 team with nothing to lose to try and go for two. And even more, the conservative call would have likely blown up in his face as Nugent can’t be trusted to even make an extra point. With that said, maybe it was for the best that the game ended how it did.