The Bengals followed up their devastating loss to the Steelers with a meaningless, but still frustrating loss against the Texans. When analyzing this week’s grades from Pro Football Focus, we can see exactly where the problems were this week.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Bengals’ problem this week was on offense. In fact, the only offensive player to record an average or better grade was Brandon LaFell (78.4). Otherwise, the unit was led by Andrew Whitworth (69.2), Kevin Zeitler (68.9), Jeremy Hill (67.2), and Cody Core (53.6). That’s right - one of this week’s top five offensive grades was labeled as ‘poor’ by PFF. Essentially no one outside of LaFell on offense should be listed in the top of anything for their Week 16 performance.
The Bengals’ defense was substantially better this week. The unit was led by Geno Atkins (84.8), with George Iloka (84.6), Carlos Dunlap (84.0), and Karlos Dansby (83.0) close behind. Vincent Rey (79.6) just barely missed out on having an ‘above average day’, but still rounded out the top five grades on defense.
The Bengals’ offensive line continued to struggle this well. It had a lot to do with Clint Boling not playing and the rest of the line being shifted around as a result. Yes, the offensive line saw two players who record top five grades on offense. But, the offense was so bad this week, so that doesn’t really mean much. Andrew Whitworth played at left guard in Boling’s place, while Cedric Ogbuehi filled in at left tackle.
Whitworth was poor as a run blocker, but only gave up one quarterback pressure in pass protection. Ogbuehi continued his season of major struggles, this time on the opposite end of the line. Talk has been that the Bengals think of him as more of a natural left tackle, but he gave up two sacks, a QB hurry, and plenty of pressure in the running game in his first outing at the position. His overall grade (44.3) was awful and perfectly summed up how he has performed in his first full season.
Jake Fisher started at right tackle for the second week in a row and recorded an even worse grade (35.6). That was a result of one sack and five QB pressures allowed. Eric Winston also recorded snaps a few snaps but wasn’t much better as he allowed a QB pressure and was decisively beaten in the running game.
Things were equally bad at center, where Russell Bodine regressed to his 2015 form. He gave up three QB hurries and was very poor in the run game, allowing two tackles for loss. He was also beaten two more times in the run game. His 38.2 overall grade was his lowest of the year and lowest of all centers this week. He was going up against stiff competition in veteran Vince Wilfork, but that's no excuse.
PFF also didn't love Whitworth’s performance in his move to guard, which should be expected when playing a new position. Whitworth gave up only one QB pressure in pass protection, but struggled as a run blocker earning a 41.2 run blocking grade.
It is worth noting that Andy Dalton looked good this week when he wasn’t pressured, recording a 94.8 passer rating, 250 passing yards, and a touchdown, while completing 23 of 31 passes. But, he was pressured so often during the game that he ended up with a poor overall grade (58.0). When pressured, which occurred on 13 of his 44 dropbacks, Dalton was just five for 10 for 18 yards, took 3 sacks and had a mediocre passer rating of 56.3. He finished the game with an overall grade of 58, making him PFF’s 16th rated quarterback (before Monday night's games).
It helped that he had Brandon LaFell to throw to, who was the Bengals’ one bright spot on offense this week. His six catches on eight targets for 130 yards and a touchdown, plus some good run blocking gave him the only decent grade on the entire Bengals’ offense this week.
Carlos Dunlap bounced back this week with four quarterback hurries and a sack for a solid 84.0 overall grade. It was only the third best grade on the team, but it was also the seventh best grade among all defensive ends this week. It’s good to see because he hasn’t been playing particularly well the last two games. He and Wallace Gilberry (78.4) had a very solid game to help out the Bengals’ defensive end position. It feels good to say that after watching the line be a spot of weakness for much of the season.
Geno Atkins recorded the best grade on the team this week as a result of one sack, four QB hurries, and three run stops. He has been one of the few bright spots for the Bengals all season, recording an 86.3 overall grade through 15 games. Only five other interior defenders in the NFL rank ahead of him and Fletcher Cox, who also has an 86.3 overall grade for the season.
The Bengals saw a large discrepancy in performances in the secondary. While George Iloka recorded a great overall grade (84.7), as a result of three run tackles, two stops, and only allowing one catch for two yards, Adam Jones recorded a very poor grade (37.8). It was Jones’ worst outing since Week 8 and he ranked behind 77 other cornerbacks (not counting Monday nights game). He allowed five receptions on seven targets for 52 yards, more than half of which came after the catch.
Overall, the Bengals’ defense was noticeably better than the offense. The unit held the Texans to no points in the first half and only 12 in the second half, which really should have been enough to come away with the win. But, a combination of offensive and kicking futility gave the team virtually no chance.