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Bengals’ offense unable to get going in loss to Texans

The Bengals’ offense looked lost for parts of Saturday’s game in Houston and 10 points simply can’t cut it against a playoff team, which the Texans now are.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals' offense could hardly move the ball on Saturday night against the Texans and at the end of the game, the rushing offense accounted for 50 yards. Jeremy Hill had only one more yard (8) than attempt (7), which says enough in itself. Rex Burkhead fared somewhat better, generating 42 yards on 16 carries for 3.5 yards per attempt.

The Bengals were never down by more than one possession and led for much of the game, so the underutilization of the run game makes little sense, especially against the Texans’ No. 2 ranked passing defense. Considering the Bengals were without A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, Andy Dalton really tempted the Texans, throwing the ball 41 times for 28 completions, 268 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He finished with an 84.2 passer rating, which ranks as his sixth worst rating of the season.

A big chunk of the passing offense came by ways of a Brandon LaFell 86 yard touchdown catch, the longest passing touchdown of Dalton's Bengals career, though it wasn’t LaFell’s longest.

With the defense holding the Texans’ offense to 12 points, the Bengals should have been able to do enough to churn out a win. Instead, the offense looked incapable of moving the chains for most of the first half and parts of the second. There’s many areas blame can be placed, and one of them is on the offensive line. A new look for the line featured Cedric Ogbuehi at left tackle, Andrew Whitworth and left guard and Jake Fisher in his second start at right tackle. Ogbuehi was responsible for two of Dalton’s sacks and Fisher for the other. It was somewhat painful to watch and surely painful for Dalton, too. With that in mind, maybe the 19 total rushing attempts make more sense as the line couldn’t pave way for much movement.

The Bengals and Texans both punted the ball eight times, six each in the first half. But, the Texans scored one more field goal than the Bengals, even though Randy Bullock was given a chance to win the game with seconds left on the clock. His 43-yard attempt went wide right and an image of recently-cut kicker Mike Nugent flashed through Bengals fans’ minds.

This season did not turn out the way we expected, but Saturday played out exactly on trend with how this season has gone. The Bengals have played too many games where it looked like they would win, and where the game was in their hands, until they let it slip away, one way or another. The offense, defense and special teams have all been given chances to win games for the Bengals throughout the season, and on more occasions than not, it doesn’t work out. In Houston, it was on the offense. You can’t punt eight times and expect to win a football game. This trend is well reflected in the team’s 5-9-1 record.

The Bengals’ final game of the season is one week away and Green and Eifert are not expected to play. The offense will look mostly the same against the Ravens as it was against the Texans, give or take Clint Boling and Tyler Kroft. And what we see next week could dictate some forthcoming changes for 2017. That’s because the Bengals cannot think this offense is going to get the job done next season. Changes are necessary to get this team playing like a playoff-caliber team and the Bengals need to figure out how to make the offense operate at its 2015 level, not at the level of the 10 point effort we saw on Saturday night in Houston.