As the weeks pass and the losses rack up in a continuously disappointing 2016 Bengals season, it becomes more and more difficult to describe the multitude of issues plaguing the team. On one hand, Cincinnati has been oh-so-close to wins over the past couple of moths, but multiple issues, including self-inflicted ones, have led to a 5-9-1 record.
Here are the best and worst from the Bengals’ 12-10 loss on Christmas Eve to the Texans.
Brandon LaFell: The veteran receiver just keeps putting forth a quality resume for a job opportunity in 2017. After stepping up recently with A.J. Green out of the lineup, LaFell had his highest yardage output of his career with 130 on Christmas Eve. His 86-yard touchdown scamper off a slant was the second-longest in his seven-year career, as he continues to be a nice option for Andy Dalton.
Younger players stepping up: Green, Tyler Eifert, and Vontaze Burfict were among those who missed the Saturday night matchup in Texas, so Cincinnati had to rely on a number of unproven guys to contribute. On offense, C.J. Uzomah and Cody Core combined for 13 catches, while Rex Burkhead was the most effective weapon not named Brandon LaFell. Defensive end Will Clarke also played well with limited snaps.
Geno Atkins: Holy moly, what a night from No. 97. The perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle absolutely tossed Texans guard Jeff Allen around, recording a sack, along with 4 QB hurries on Tom Savage, as well as 3 stops in the run game. After Atkins and the defensive line have had an inconsistent year, it was great to see one of the Bengals’ best defensive players dominate on the national stage once again, while guys like Wallace Gilberry also helped the cause (1.5 sacks).
Holding Tom Savage in check: Any time your defense allows an opposing quarterback to 12 points in his first start while playing an away game, it should be a win. While the third-year quarterback didn’t throw a pick, Cincinnati’s defense made life relatively miserable for Savage, as he only had 176 passing yards with a long gain of 24 yards on the evening.
Jeremy Hill and the offensive line: The big back charged with carrying the offense in Giovani Bernard’s absence had just seven carries for eight yards. While the Houston defense is No. 1 overall, Hill having a long gain of four yards on the evening made for an incredibly painful viewing of offensive output by the Bengals. Of course, this is a combined effort with the offensive line, but with Rex Burkhead having a better night on the ground, one has to wonder what is going on with Hill’s inconsistency.
Tyler Boyd’s layup of an interception: It’s been a pretty solid season for the rookie receiver overall, aside from being kept out of the end zone, but an already-pedestrian two-catch, 25-yard performance was marred by one particularly ugly play. Dalton put a high throw with some heat on a short route to Boyd, but the rookie let it bounce off his hands for a pick.
What the viewers had to sit through: A lot of folks may have watched the holiday primetime game on a casual basis and they weren’t handed any favors. A 3-0 Bengals halftime lead, with minimal offensive plays made for a totally “blah” type of game. Hope you enjoyed a nice meal and gifts with family and friends, as the game flickered in the background, rather than making this point-desperate mess the focal point of your Christmas Eve.
The Bengals’ five-win lineup: When you trot out a non-playoff team with an embattled head coach, a number of players who have been largely unknown tend to get significant playing time. While it was good to see some of the younger guys making significant plays, it also points to an inherent need for a replenishment of overall roster talent.
Randy Bullock and the continued search for a long-term kicker: For Bengals fans truly looking to 2017 and beyond, Bullock’s missed kick at the end of regulation may have been a relief. After all, if Cincinnati is to miss the postseason, they might as well get the highest draft pick possible, right?
Even so, Bullock’s miss against his old team seemed like just another wasted Bengals effort from the rest of their team this season. No NFL game is just on a kicker, but with the Bengals’ last six losses/ties coming with an average margin of victory of 2.7 points, one has to look at the coaching staff and their decisions on kickers for answers. Did you let loose a sarcastic laugh when Bullock’s kick sailed wide right?