A win is a win, as they say, but Cincinnati’s victory over Indianapolis still spotlighted some issues with this year’s team. Even so, there were a number of positives to also be taken from the victory.
Young guys making plays: Josh Malone had his first career catch and touchdown on Sunday, while Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson III had nice afternoons defending the pass. The rookie defensive end duo of Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson also made their mark, with Lawson notching another quarterback sack and Willis blocking a Colts punt.
Still getting after the quarterback: Although the Bengals’ defensive front has been as consistent in recent weeks, they did bring down Jacoby Brissett four times on Sunday. Lawson, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Dre Kirkpatrick all got into the action.
Through the first half of the season, this defense has shown us who they are this year. They can get after the quarterback and largely get off of the field with minimal damage, but struggle to create turnovers.
The stars on the defensive line: Dunlap and Atkins had good days for the Bengals on Sunday. The former has been named AFC Defensive Player of the Week with his pick-six and racking up of his second sack of the season, while Atkins was seen pressuring Brissett and bringing him to the ground once.
A lack of explosive plays: Things are better with Bill Lazor at the helm, but there are still noticeable dry spells by the offense. Sure, Andy Dalton had a 67-yard pass, but it was off of a screen to Joe Mixon, in which he did most of the work.
The 25-yard touchdown reception by Malone was nice, but I think we expected more of a “bombs away” approach on offense against a beleaguered Colts defense. John Ross was only on the field for about a half-dozen snaps, making the entire scenario around his rookie year just seem totally odd.
Bad cases of fumblitis: Alex Erickson fumbled twice and lost one on punt returns, while Brandon LaFell barely avoided disaster with his own bobble on the sideline. Mixon lost another fumble that was at a critical time and led to a Colts field goal. If the Bengals want to get on a hot streak, putting the ball on the turf four times and losing it twice is not part of a successful formula.
Coaching: There are so many things that could be called into question with this staff on Sunday. Paul Alexander’s offensive line unit is a total mess and both he and Marvin Lewis refuse to try out recent draft picks like Christian Westerman and J.J. Dielman as interior options.
Darrin Simmons’ special teams unit was all out of sorts, allowing the Colts to remain in the game on multiple occasions. Lazor’s group looked inept in many aspects against a very weak Colts defense and he didn’t seem to let A.J. Green be, well, A.J. Green.
Then, Lewis inexplicably said that Ross wasn’t part of the game plan going into this week. The first time their top-10 pick was healthy in weeks, while facing the then-31st-ranked passing defense seemed like a great opportunity to get the explosive rookie involved. Nope.
Special teams: Yes, they blocked a punt and Erickson had a 20-yard punt return, but the Colts were allowed back in the game because of many gaffes by Simmons’ unit. It started with a blocked Randy Bullock field goal attempt and snowballed from there.
Kevin Huber had the worst net average of the season with a 34.3 average on four punts, with zero pinned inside the Indianapolis 20-yard line. As mentioned earlier, Erickson muffed two punts and the coverage group allowed a 20-yard punt return. Just a bad day from a usually-sound unit.
The offensive line: What can we say? Another week, another awful performance. The group allowed another three sacks on Sunday, which seems to be what we should regularly expect, while the leading rusher was Mixon with 11 carries for 18 yards. Yuck.
The rushing “attack”: There were times that the Bengals’ passing offense has struggled and the team was able to lean on the running game. As weird as it sounds, some might miss the BenJarvus Green-Ellis “three yards and a cloud of dust” run game.
In 21 rushing attempts on Sunday against the supposedly-terrible Colts defense, the Bengals only netted 58 yards on the ground. It amounted to 2.8 yards per carry and five of the rushes resulted in negative plays. Something has to change here to take heat off of Dalton.