The good news about last week was the Bengals’ offense looked much better than it did against the Jaguars the week prior. The team was able to be more effective running the football and had some big plays in the passing game. The bad news is that there are still too many mistakes and inconsistencies for this to be a winning football team. While it was nice to see some nice burst plays for quick touchdowns, the inability to sustain drives and let the defense rest is what ultimately led to the Bengals’ demise.
The Bengals offense held the ball for just under 20 minutes on Sunday. The defense was on the field for an astounding 84 plays compared to the offense’s 50. So it’s no wonder the Bengals defense wasn’t able to hold the Titans on what would be their game winning drive: they were completely gassed. No amount of conditioning can prepare you to play 84 snaps. So you’re either leaving talented players on the field sucking wind, or you’re taking your best players out for rest and putting lesser talent out to compensate. Cincinnati’s 10 percent third down conversion rate and 12 total penalties were big players in this result as well.
Big plays are nice
To reiterate what I brought up earlier, it was definitely refreshing to see some nice chunk yardage plays from the receivers - Brandon LaFell and A.J. Green in particular.
Green runs a nice post route but really the majority of this is him just being able to evade defenders. It’s a good throw by Dalton too, don’t get me wrong, but had this ball been thrown to LaFell or Tyler Boyd there’s zero yards after the catch happening. This has got to be a season that’s weighing heavily on Green, so it’s nice for him to still be able to produce. At least my fantasy team thinks so. Full disclosure, I started Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray too. I have no regrets.
I’m not completely throwing LaFell under the bus with my previous comments though, the guy came to play this week. And although he doesn’t have the insane athleticism of someone like Green, he still runs nice routes and can be designed to get open.
Where the Green touchdown was pure athleticism, this was all scheme. Green on the bottom of the screen runs an inside release fly route to draw the safety, with Tyler Kroft running the corner route to occupy the other safety. This leaves LaFell in the slot able to break the deep middle weak spot in the Cover 2 for an easy score. Great play call.
...But sustained plays are nicer
While it’s nice to have that “capable of scoring at any moment” aspect as an offense, it’s much more important to be able to chew clock and build those long 10+ play drives. This offense can’t do that. Whether it’s missing assignments, giving up sacks, or throwing bad balls, the 2017 Bengals can’t establish a rhythm. Take a look at a pretty clear comparison of present to past.
This is the Bengals’ counter trey play. They run it out of a few different looks, but the team really loves this play. Both weak side linemen pull across the formation, with the guard kicking out the end, and the tackle leading through. This is actually blocked really well by everyone except Cedric Ogbuehi who never turns up field and lets Joe Mixon run straight into a defender. This is the difference between an eight yard gain and a 30 yard gain.
Compare that to Jeremy Hill’s rookie season in 2014 when the Bengals run the exact same play against the Denver Broncos for much more success.
And yes, I realize this play isn’t even blocked as cleanly on the interior as the one with Mixon, but some teams are capable of running the ball and some aren’t. The 2014 Bengals were, and it’s extremely clear the same cannot be said of the 2017 team.
The Bengals clearly need to move on from the disaster that is Cedric Ogbuehi in 2018. But with the team on the verge of a new coach and currently in position for a top five draft pick, you have to wonder if the team might take a chance on a franchise quarterback. Andy Dalton’s contract is very trade friendly and there would certainly be teams interested. Plus, there’ll be plenty of chances for the Bengals to use their other picks on offensive linemen. I can’t think of many linemen (besides Chaz Green) who would do a worse job in pass protection than this:
Just something to consider as the year winds down, folks. You don’t always get a shot at a top QB.