The Cincinnati Bengals traveled to Nashville in what was a gray day weather-wise, and it didn’t get much brighter for a Queen City team that needed a win to save their season. The game hit major hot and dry spells of action, with a scoreless third quarter, it got exciting late, as both teams exchanged touchdowns in the final minutes.
Unfortunately, the Bengals folded in the critical moments of the game and fell to 3-6. Here are the some of the individuals and units who stepped up and who didn’t in Week 10.
Brandon LaFell: While LaFell’s peaks and valleys with the Bengals over the past two seasons have been frustrating, he had a nice day against the Titans. The highlight of his day was a 37-yard touchdown grab, but he made many other catches, including a nice 25 yard scamper off of a shovel pass.
In a week where the Bengals needed ancillary weapons aside from A.J. Green to step up, LaFell had his best game of the 2017 season. He finished with six catches, for 95 yards and a score.
Geno Atkins: The Bengals’ pass-rush has dropped off a little after a great start, but big No. 97 made his presence known. He had a sack of Marcus Mariota early on, giving him six for the year.
Carl Lawson: This kid has been the steal of the 2017 NFL Draft. When he’s not actually bringing down a quarterback for a sack, he’s constantly pressuring the passer. Even though he has been taking a back seat to other edge players this year, he racked up another sack and consecutive pressure on Mariota in an important third quarter drive. We also saw him pressure Mariota on the final drive, as he absolutely drove Taylor Lewan into the quarterback’s lap to force an incompletion.
A.J. Green: Many wondered how Green would rebound after his fight and subsequent ejection last week. Though his number wasn’t called often, Green had a monster day with five catches for 115 yards and the gigantic 70-yard score.
Paul Guenther: The unit can’t get off of the field on third down, they are totally inconsistent at rushing the passer from others than Atkins and still can’t figure out how to corral a nimble quarterback. The allowing of a field goal right before the half was also unacceptable—especially after allowing an opening drive touchdown to Tennessee.
Who’s coaching the tackling? Andrew Billings missed a big one on DeMarco Murray on his way into the end zone, while it seems as if it’s the third or fourth attempts to finally get a running back to the ground. The Titans run a lot of gadget plays, which also always inexplicably throws the unit off-guard, as do plays to tight ends, given Delanie Walker’s big day.
In two drives that spanned the end of the third quarter and into the fourth quarters, the Bengals’ defense had three penalties on third-and-long situations to sustain drives. And, while they held strong, in terms of points, in the second half, they folded in the most important drive of the game, allowing a game-winning touchdown reception to DeMarco Murray.
While we can look at Guenther’s unit playing a solid third quarter, the absolutely folded like origami in clutch situations. Of the team’s 11 penalties, six of them came from the defense to allow automatic first downs on third down situations. Additionally, of the 24 points the Cincinnati defense allowed, 17 of them were allowed on the opening drive (touchdown), the one before halftime (field goal) and on the final Titans drive of the game (touchdown).
Randy Bullock: Look, it was the first missed extra point of the season—we get it. However, this is not only the kicker the Bengals kept over rookie Jake Elliott, but also the one who forced them to shake up the roster and eventually lose safety Derron Smith to the Browns. It also didn’t help that he very nearly missed another extra point right before the half.
This was a game in which the Bengals needed every single point possible in an effort to get back into the playoff picture and the veteran missed a gimme kick. It’s especially frustrating after this was such a prevalent issue last season and it forced the Bengals to try for a last-ditch touchdown instead of a field goal opportunity to tie.
Dre Kirkpatrick: Over the past two offseasons, the Bengals have invested big money in both of their starting corners. Through the first 10 games of this season, Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones have yet to log an interception in 2017 and have been beaten repeatedly.
On a critical third down in which the Bengals had the Titans initially pinned at their own one-yard line, yet Kirkpatrick allowed rookie Corey Davis to convert. Later in the same drive, Rishard Matthews sneaked past Kirkpatrick for what should have been another big touchdown catch and had another big reception on No. 27 at the end of the third quarter.
Vontaze Burfict: There’s no doubt he’s a great player when he’s on the field, but he’s proven again and again that he isn’t a reliable teammate. The personal foul and touching a referee penalties seemed ticky-tack, but No. 55 just hasn’t learned that the league has placed a giant target on his back for his past antics.
Making matters worse is the fact that the Bengals rewarded his past behavior with a big extension this offseason. Will he ever learn? If the Bengals have a coaching overhaul this offseason, will the new crew embrace him as one of their core players?
Cedric Ogbuehi and Andre Smith: Another week and another dumpster fire of a performance from the Bengals’ “bookend” tackles. After Cincinnati caught a big break by Ryan Succop missed field goal in the second quarter, Andy Dalton’s offensive line let him down.
Smith had struggles in the passing game, while also being flagged with an illegal block penalty early in the game. Ogbuehi was badly beaten by Brian Orakpo off of the edge and the sack caused a fumble that was recovered by Tennessee.
The perfect microcosm of the Bengals’ offensive line play this year could be seen on the final Hail Mary play by Dalton. Even though the Titans just rushed three in a prevent defense mode, they found pressure against the Bengals’ front five, forcing a back foot throw by Dalton that didn’t even get to the Tennessee 10-yard line.