For the second week in a row, the Cincinnati Bengals allowed their opponent to hold the ball for more than 40 minutes. Somehow, though, the Bengals managed to stay close to the Tennessee Titans throughout their Week 10 battle, and actually had an opportunity to win the game after an A.J. Green touchdown with just more than five minutes left.
But the defense once again ran out of steam, and here I am looking at five things I think I know about the Bengals after yet another disappointing loss.
1) Burfict is still Burfict
Any progress Burfict had been making in controlling his emotions went out of the window Sunday as the former Pro-Bowl linebacker picked up his first unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the season in the second quarter, but that was only the beginning.
And, you can say that was an unfair call, but at that point, Burfict should have been on alert that he needed to watch himself.
Midway through the period—just moments later—Burfict got involved in a skirmish on the sidelines after a Marcus Mariota run moved the Titans to the Bengals’ 1-yard line. And then, to top it off, he made contact with an official and got himself kicked out of the game.
There’s also footage showing Burfict stepping on the arm of a Titans player during this situation, which could come into play, too.
Here's a great angle of the @King55Tez ejection. You make the call. @Local12 pic.twitter.com/jHnvhWEKp6— Jed DeMuesy (@Local12Jed) November 12, 2017
Undoubtedly, Burfict’s actions will almost certainly result in a suspension, so it is likely that Jordan Evans will become much more of a factor in the Cincinnati defense in a hurry.
Last week A.J. stood there and answered every question about his ejection.— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) November 12, 2017
Today, Burfict refused to talk.
Last week A.J. stood in front of team and apologized.
Asked two veteran leaders if Burfict did that today. Both said "no comment."#Bengals
2) LaFell answers the call
Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau decided that he was going to take away A.J. Green and force another receiver to beat them. And Brandon LaFell stepped up to do just that.
LaFell caught a 37-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter to put the Bengals on the scoreboard and gave notice that there was another receiver on the field capable of putting the Cincinnati offense on his back. LaFell grabbed another 25-yard pass late in the second quarter, and went into halftime with five catches for 87 yards.
Except for a meaningless 8-yard reception toward the end of the game, LaFell was shut out in the second half. But his success in the first half forced the Titans to go to more man-to-man coverage and gave Green an opportunity to do what he does best. Green’s 70-yard touchdown reception gave Cincinnati its first lead of the day at 20-17 with less than six minutes to go in the game.
3) Defense still playing hard
Whatever else might be going on in Cincinnati, Geno Atkins continues to show why he is a perennial All-Pro. Atkins increased his season sack total to six, tying him for the league lead among interior linemen, with a sack late in the first quarter that stopped Tennessee’s second possession in its tracks.
Chris Smith got in on the action when he sacked Mariota for a 2-yard loss early in the third quarter, then added another one midway through the fourth quarter that resulted in a 12-yard loss. Smith’s total for the season now stands at 3.5. William Jackson III came back from a holding penalty to add a 7-yard sack of Mariota to his resume, too.
Then, early in the fourth quarter with Tennessee looking to extend its lead, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick punched the ball out of the arms of Titan receiver Cory Davis just before Davis crossed the goal line. The fumble was recovered out of bounds by Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray and the ensuing touchback gave the Bengals the ball at the 20.
Unfortunately, the defense kept putting itself in a position where such plays were necessary. On back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter, holding penalties on Cincinnati gifted Tennessee first downs in third-and-long situations. The Bengals gave the Titans six first downs on penalties throughout the day.
And, like last week, Bengals defenders rarely got a chance to catch their breath. Cincinnati went three-and-out three times in the second half, helping give the Titans a 40:09 to 19:51 edge in time of possession. Tennessee ran off 84 plays to just 50 for the Bengals.
Third down once again proved to be the Achilles’ Heel for the Bengals. Tennessee converted on seven of 15 third-down opportunities, including a third-and-7 that Murray converted into the game-winning touchdown with 36 seconds left in the game.
4) Ogbuehi is terrible
Ryan Succop saw his NFL record of 56 consecutive field goals made inside the 50-yard line snapped when he missed a 48-yard field goal midway through the second quarter. The Bengals got the ball back in good field position, only to see Cedric Ogbuehi show the world why he is one of the worst offensive linemen ever to suit up for the Bengals.
Ogbuehi let his man, former Washington Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, blow right past him en route to a blind-side hit on quarterback Andy Dalton. Tennessee recovered Dalton’s ensuing fumble at the Bengals’ 27-yard line and marched right into the end zone to stretch its advantage to 14-6.
5) Dennard can be special
Darqueze Dennard, a first-round selection of the Bengals in the 2014 NFL Draft, is finally getting the chance to prove his worth this year, and has not let that opportunity go to waste. Dennard picked up his first interception of the season, and only the second of his career, in the second quarter Sunday.
And the interception could not have come at a better time. Cincinnati had driven all the way to the Titans’ 9-yard line late in the second quarter when Dalton fumbled the snap and Tennessee recovered.
On the very next play, Dennard picked off Mariota at the Titans’ 23-yard line and returned it all the way to the three. Joe Mixon took over from there and his touchdown run brought the Bengals within one at 14-13.