All of that optimism after Cincinnati’s week 5 win against Buffalo quickly melted away as the Bengals fell back on old habits in Sunday’s dismantling in Pittsburgh.
This was the main topic in this week’s version of The Flying Pigskin podcast, which this week was hosted by Scott Kyser and Keenan Singleton with Tanya O’Rourke out. The show also featured Mo Egger, the host of Sports Talk on 1530 AM, and myself, will appear each and every week from my home in China.
After a strong start Sunday, Cincinnati’s offense looked completely lost against a clearly superior Pittsburgh defense for most of the second quarter and all of the second half. The Steelers looked like football’s version of Floyd Mayweather, the superior fighter who toyed with his opponent that he did not respect.
Most of the blame that fell on the shoulders of the Bengals’ coaching staff, who managed to write both A.J. Green and Joe Mixon out of the game plan for the second half. Neither of Cincinnati’s main playmakers touched the ball in the final two quarters of play.
Mixon’s lack of touches had the panel scratching its collective heads. Why draft a guy with baggage, and put up with all of the criticism that entails, and that not play him, especially when he had established himself as a threat in the first half? Mixon had 48 yards rushing on just seven carries in the first half, including a 25-yard scamper.
Speaking of things that made no sense, you did not have to look much further than Andy Dalton’s pass on fourth-down-and-two with the game potentially hanging in the balance late in the fourth quarter. Dalton scrambled out the pocket, and then lofted his pass out of bounds where no one had a chance to make a play.
It was not a good look for Dalton or the Bengals. And the failure to play to the team’s strengths, and the apparent resignation to defeat on the part of Dalton, reflects squarely on the head coach who, rather than taking responsibility for the loss, attempting to deflect the blame to his assistant coach.
The defense, which had looked historically good coming in, fell down to earth as well after pedestrian performances by Vontaze Burfict, Geno Atkins and Dre Kirkpatrick.
The loss dropped Cincinnati to 2-4 and left it 2.5 games behind the Steelers in the race for the AFC North title. It is one thing to lose to the Steelers, who are consistently one of the best teams in the AFC, when you give it your best. It is another thing altogether when you lose and choose not to utilize your best players.
With 10 games remaining on the schedule, the Bengals still have a chance to turn their season around, but it will probably take an 8-2 finish to get them into the playoffs.
Cincinnati has an opportunity to take a step in the right direction this week when it hosts the lowly Indianapolis Colts, who will probably be without the services of quarterback Andrew Luck for the remainder of the season. But the Bengals follow that game up with a tough three-game road stretch, and are still in search of an identity on offense.
The Bengals need to figure out who they are in a hurry, and need to find a way to eliminate the lapses that seem to crop up on a regular basis in all aspects of the game. And these are lapses, not just on the part of the players, but on the part of the coaches, as well.
And it is looking more and more like a change at the top may be the only thing that will put Cincinnati back on top. After all of the talk of an A.J. McCarron trade, here’s a new one for you – McCarron for Hugh Jackson, as we finally say goodbye to Marvin Lewis.
As usual, you can check out the Flying Pigskin on Twitter and let us know your thoughts. In addition, you can now call in and leave a voicemail at 513-449-0716.
Be sure to tune in to The Flying Pigskin podcast this week and every week. The show airs live every Monday afternoon. Who Dey! Who Dey All Day!