For a team as talented as the Bengals, penalties should not be an issue. Cincinnati features an excellent offensive line and a talented secondary, meaning, holding and pass interference calls should be at a minimum. Meanwhile, with such high-character leaders on the team, such as Andy Dalton, Andrew Whitworth and A.J. Green, immature and unsportsmanlike plays should not even be an issue. And yet, somehow discipline appears to be the most obvious area in need of improvement.
We all know two costly penalties committed by Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones set the Pittsburgh Steelers up for a game winning field goal. (Yes, Jeremy Hill is the culprit for why the defense was even on the field, but we're hoping and believing he's corrected his fumbling issues.) However, discipline was actually a problem the entire year. According to nflpenalties.com, the team committed an unacceptable 141 penalties in 2015. Needless to say, cleaning that up has been a point of focus this offseason for Marvin Lewis and the coaching staff.
But will that be enough to guarantee the Bengals can take advantage of their star-studded roster and win a playoff game? We debate in the first ever podcast edition of "Sorry If I Spit When I Speak" (you can also listen and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes):
Before we chalk up Cincinnati's problems in the playoffs to discipline, it's worth remembering that the Bengals trailed 0-15 heading into the fourth quarter of the Wild Card loss. And while you can say Dalton would have played better than backup AJ McCarron, the defense did not play particularly well either. The team allowed 167 yards on the ground on only 29 carries (5.78 yards per attempt) to Pittsburgh, even though the Steelers were down to their third and fourth string running backs, Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman. This, after Cincinnati allowed just 92.3 rushing yards per game during the regular season, good for seventh best in the NFL. Meanwhile, the talented duo of Giovani Bernard (who exited late in the third quarter after a concussion) and Jeremy Hill only managed 91 yards on the ground. In other words, the Bengals as a team underperformed in the playoffs once again.
So, is there a larger issue with the Bengals, something tweaks may not fix? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and poll below.