After losing a tough battle in Pittsburgh, the Bengals are now 1-1.
Things just didn’t go the Bengals’ way in multiple respects, as Cincinnati couldn’t get anything going on offense throughout the entire game. The Bengals’ offensive line performed much better than it did in Week 1, preventing the Steelers from consistently getting pressure on defense, but it couldn’t carve out any running lanes for the team’s backs, which proved to be a major offensive problem.
Cincinnati’s secondary — especially Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones — was fantastic, for the most part, limiting Antonio Brown to four catches and 39 yards on 11 targets. Both Kirkpatrick and Jones intercepted passes in Sunday’s action after the duo combined for three interceptions in 2015, all of which came from Jones. It seemed to be the recipe for a Bengals win, yet somehow it didn’t play out that way.
Tyler Eifert was missed, as the Bengals were terrible on third down and in the red zone, converting just three of their first 15 third downs and kicking three field goals when driving to score. Rookie receiver Tyler Boyd stepped up admirably, even though a late fumble was credited to him when it probably shouldn’t have been.
A relatively uneventful first quarter ended with the Steelers having a 7-3 lead over the Bengals, thanks to a 20-yard touchdown catch by an unlikely Steelers hero, Xavier Grimble. The Bengals responded late in the first quarter with a drive of their own, boosted by back-to-back 21-yard catches from A.J. Green and Tyler Kroft, which moved Cincinnati into field goal range. It set up a 25-yard Mike Nugent field goal, getting the Bengals back into the game on the road.
After one quarter, Green had just one catch for 21 yards on three targets, and Brown had only one catch of his own for 16 yards on two targets. Green finished the game with two catches and 38 yards on eight targets, but he managed to pick up a huge pass interference penalty deep downfield, which helped him account for more total yards than the Steelers’ superstar wideout. Regardless, it was a poor performance from Green, who repeatedly torched Darrelle Revis in Week 1.
Both offenses really struggled to move the football during the second quarter. At the end of the first half, Dalton was 14-for-27 with 160 yards, while Roethlisberger was 9-for-21 with 128 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions — the second of which coming from Kirkpatrick, who did not allow a single catch throughout the first half.
Dre Kirkpatrick with an interception. https://t.co/xTg1P0rcSl— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 18, 2016
Field goals by Chris Boswell and Mike Nugent made the score 10-6 in the Steelers’ favor at halftime. An incomplete pass intended for Green was one of the more notable plays of the first half, as Steelers safety Mike Mitchell blatantly targeted the wideout after a Dalton incompletion. Bengals fans weren’t pleased, as you can see the egregious effort below:
Scumbag Mitchell tried to head hunt. pic.twitter.com/5mopc6I7Qb— Joe Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) September 18, 2016
The announcing by Dan Fouts and Ian Eagle throughout the first half was also pretty strange, especially when referring to the Bengals. Fans heard Fouts saying Jones was “playing possum” for taking a play off with a cramp despite returning on the next play and putting a big hit on Steelers receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Fouts also pointed out several missed holding calls which should’ve helped out the Bengals, like the play below:
How many offensive holds did you count? https://t.co/FSqGvw50Ek— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 18, 2016
The Bengals’ offensive line and secondary performed well throughout the first half, but Cincinnati really couldn’t get anything going on offense. Dalton struggled with ball placement, and aside from a nice 24-yard catch from Giovani Bernard, the running backs couldn’t seem to get going.
After the Bengals failed to put points on the board in their first drive of the second half, the Steelers -- aided by Sammie Coates’ second long reception against Bengals corner Darqueze Dennard -- scored another touchdown. Tight end Jesse James caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger, giving his team a 17-6 lead over Cincinnati.
The Bengals, however, wouldn’t go down easily. Big catches by Boyd and Alex Erickson, as well as a forced pass interference penalty from Green, brought Cincinnati into the red zone late in the third quarter.
It appeared as though Dalton connected with C.J. Uzomah for what should have been a touchdown, but the tight end’s catch was ruled out of bounds. The team didn’t challenge the play and went on to miss a third down conversion.
Is this a TD? https://t.co/AN2P9bpkNp— Connor Howe (@HoweNFL) September 18, 2016
The Bengals were unable to capitalize on the red zone opportunity, despite having a first down on Pittsburgh’s 1-yard-line. The Bengals settled for a field goal, narrowing their deficit to eight points with a score of 17-9.
The Bengals’ field goal wasn’t enough and unfortunately, trading field goals for touchdowns began to caught up with the Bengals in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh killed the clock with a six minute, 54-second drive, eventually scoring a touchdown via a four-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to DeAngelo Williams. There appeared to be some defensive miscommunication between Jones and Williams to leave the Steelers’ running back wide open.
Cincinnati continued to fight back, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown, courtesy of a 25-yard pass from Dalton to Bernard. Down just eight points with a 16-24 score, the Bengals held on for dear life, desperate for the defense to come up with a big play.
And just like that, the defense showed up once again. Two huge stops against the run, as well as another incompletion to Brown, gave Cincinnati the ball with plenty of time to march back down the field. It appeared as though the Bengals were set to make a push down the field, but Tyler Boyd was called for a fumble on a very questionable call.
Tyler Boyd's knee was down.. wasn't it? https://t.co/UlXei0bl6n— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) September 18, 2016
And with that, the game was over. The Bengals fell short, losing 24-16 to their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The chance for a Cincinnati redemption from their January 2016 Wild Card loss will have to wait until Week 15, when the teams clash in Cincinnati on Sunday Night Football.