The Bengals recorded their first loss of the 2016 NFL season in disheartening fashion against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. With the Ravens recording a win over the Cleveland Browns this week, the loss means the Bengals have slipped to third place in the AFC North as the Steelers and Ravens are tied for first. It is definitely not an ideal position to be in, but we are only in Week 2, so it doesn’t mean much at this point.
The most notable story of the game was a couple of controversial calls by the refs. A touchdown catch by C.J. Uzomah that was ruled out of bounds, despite the fact that he potentially had one knee down in the endzone, was huge. But, the more memorable one, written about by many, including Eric Anderson of Yahoo Sports, essentially destroyed any hopes of a miracle comeback at the end of the game.
After the Bengals’ 24-16 loss to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, he was asked what he said to rookie Tyler Boyd, who fumbled away his team’s last chance to tie the game Sunday in the last two minutes. Replay showed Boyd’s knee might have been down before James Harrison popped the football loose. The officials called it a turnover. Replay upheld it. So instead of second-and-short at the Steelers’ 33, the game was basically over.
“First of all, I thought it was a [expletive] call,” [Adam] Jones said. “That’s what I thought it was.
Even NFL.com writer and unabashed Steelers fan Dave Dameshek thought that the call was questionable at best.
Wow...now THAT's a loco call against Boyd.— Dave Dameshek (@Dameshek) September 18, 2016
C'est la vie, right?
However, you simply can’t blame everything on the refs. The fact of the matter is the Bengals put themselves in the position to have a few bad calls make that much of a difference. Going forward, if they want to reverse their fortunes and prove that they are a contender this year, they’re going to have to perform a lot better in some key areas. In particular, as USA Today explains, the Bengals would probably do well to record more than 46 yards on 18 attempts in the rushing game.
The Bengals ran for just 46 yards on 18 carries and didn't have a run over 10 yards. Through two games Cincinnati is averaging 2.78 yards per carry. The inability to get anything going on the ground forced the Bengals into a ton of third-and-longs Sunday, a main reason Cincinnati went 4 of 16 (25 percent) on third down. The Bengals failed to reach the end zone on two trips inside Pittsburgh's 20.
"It made a difference in the football game," Lewis said. "We didn't have enough positives on first down, and we didn't convert the third downs."
The Bengals’ running game was particularly abysmal yesterday. But, as John Clayton of ESPN notes, it was a tough day on the ground for both teams. While the Steelers’ DeAngelo Williams performed better than both Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard combined, he still only recorded 94 yards on 32 attempts for a measly 2.9 yards per run.
Steelers and Bengals are showing early this is not going to be easy running the ball in this game, particularly with the rain.— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) September 18, 2016
It was another week in which the Bengals had to put together a comeback effort due to a slow start. Unfortunately, as Zac Jackson of NBC Sports points out, the Bengals let the Steelers walk all over them too much in this game. One botched play at the end of the game, as controversial as it was, was enough to derail the entire rally.
Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes, but the Steelers couldn’t exhale until Bengals rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd fumbled in the final two minutes with the Bengals in Steelers territory. Cornerback Robert Golden recovered, and the Steelers moved to 2-0.
The Bengals didn’t get in the end zone until the final seven minutes, when Andy Dalton hit Giovani Bernard on a 25-yard touchdown pass. The Bengals got a stop and got the ball back, and they’d moved inside the Steelers’ 40 when Boyd fumbled with James Harrison closing quickly.
It was the caliber of comeback attempt that the Bengals have pulled off in the past. But, they simply shouldn’t be putting themselves in that position to begin with, as they so often do. That analysis was echoed by ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith, another unabashed Steelers fan in the national media.
It is also worth mentioning that the two teams have come a long way from their embarrassing affair in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. That day, emotions ran high and both teams combined for over $80,000 in fines due to their personal conduct. This time around, according to the Associated Press in an article for Fox Sports, things were much different. You had to expect them to be less out of control than the last game. But, you never know between the Bengals and Steelers.
The rematch of the Steelers' ugly 18-16 win in the wild-card round in January was downright tame. The teams combined for just 10 penalties and only one personal foul, a marked departure from that chaotic night in Cincinnati nine months ago.
As many of us remember, things started off bad before the game even started in the playoffs and only deteriorated from there. Before this week’s game, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network made the observation that things were already starting off much tamer.
That said, as we can see in this Tweet from Bleacher Report, that doesn’t mean tensions weren’t high.
...but it doesn't get more fierce than Bengals/Steelers. pic.twitter.com/5u5HoPrM3U— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 18, 2016
It just means that the two teams didn’t embarrass themselves like they did last time.
If there are any particular positives to take away from this loss, the fact that the Bengals kept their cool in the face of enormous pressure to lose it is a good thing. In addition, as Katherine Terrell of ESPN displays, the Bengals’ secondary absolutely shut down the normally electrifying Antonio Brown.
When asked about how the Cincinnati Bengals fared against Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown on Sunday, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones turned the question around.
"How many yards did he have?" he asked.
The answer: four catches for 39 yards.
"How many touchdowns?" he continued.
"Looks like we did our job," he responded.
Though the Bengals ultimately fell to the Steelers 24-16, for the second week in a row, the team was able to take the best receiver out of the game. That was the goal coming into Sunday.
"Our goal: We didn't want to see no dancing," said Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Unfortunately, as Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer pointed out, the Bengals’ superstar wide receiver, A.J. Green, didn’t have a good performance in Pittsburgh either.
If you want more, here are some other interesting reactions to the game found on Twitter:
A lot of you are asking about the fumble at the end of Bengals/Steelers game.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) September 18, 2016
Here are my thoughts pic.twitter.com/ezLmazRfUc
10 minutes into this Bengals-Steelers game and there have been zero fights. #FreeBurfict— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) September 18, 2016
NFL wants a clean game in Bengals-Steelers, unless it doesn't https://t.co/0hs1kDo0TF— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) September 18, 2016
You can read more Tweet reactions here.