The Bengals won their fourth game of the season, a narrow margin victory over the Broncos in Denver. This was the Bengals' sixth game that was decided by four points or less and the third win in such situations. Yet, this win was one of the most important this year. With a win against the Browns in Cincinnati next week (knock on wood), the Bengals will play the Steelers in Week 13 at Paul Brown Stadium to level their record. Right now, the Bengals are playing just well enough to get our hopes up, but not well enough to keep them there.
There is no way a team that had to fend off a fourth quarter comeback from Brock Osweiler is in playoff form. Nonetheless, there were some positives from the game. Here’s what we learned from the Bengals in Week 11.
The young receivers need the ball more
It seems like I say this every week, but I will keep saying this until either I am proved wrong or the Bengals actually do this.
The Bengals started two of their three scoring drives in plus territory thanks to turnovers. On the one scoring drive that started in Bengals’ territory, Tyler Boyd and Alex Erickson both had crucial catches. Boyd caught an important third down conversion and Erickson grabbed his first career touchdown. On the last scoring drive, Erickson had his second catch of the game on third down and moved the Bengals to striking range.
First of all, Erickson is one of the most underrated talents on the team. He’s tough, both physically and mentally, and gets his job done whenever he is called upon. Erickson only had eight yards less than A.J. Green, even though he was targeted seven times less and had two less receptions. Get Erickson the ball more.
Second of all, Marvin needs to stop it with this John Ross crap. The Bengals didn’t draft him ninth overall so he could be a healthy scratch against a top five pass defense in the NFL. Either he is a first round talent and benching him is inexcusable, or drafting him the in first round was a mistake, which is also inexcusable. Either way, Marvin’s handling of John Ross is inexcusable.
In any event, the Bengals’ game plan would have had to feature some receivers other than Green and Brandon LaFell knowing that Aqib Talib and Chris Harris would swallow them up. That didn’t seem to be the case, so Andy Dalton targeted his top two wideouts 14 times, completing only seven of those passes. Dalton was eight for 11 throwing to everyone else. Maybe the offense would have looked better if he had thrown to those guys more often.
That being said...
Green is the best weapon in the arsenal, Dalton should use him
Yes, I just said that the passing game should feature the young guys. But I also think that Green didn’t get the ball enough.
And yes, Green was lined up across from one of two All Pro cornerbacks for most of the game.
But if the Bengals want to win games, they should get the ball in those sticky hands of Green more often. Get him matched up against Bradley Roby. Let him make a play in the open field. Just throw the ball up and let him use his giant frame to nab it.
Should Green get the ball more? Yes. Should the other guys get the ball more? Yes. How?
Start by taking plays away from the worst run game in the NFL and call more passing plays. Then, convert a few more third downs and win the time of possession battle for once. Let Dalton have more plays to throw and win the game with the offense for a change. If Dalton spreads the wealth in the passing game, keeps the offense on the field, and keeps the defense off the field the Bengals will be much tougher to stop.
When you consider the Bengals’ defense was on the field for 30 more plays than the offense, you can easily see how more receivers should be getting the ball: by being on the field for a longer amount of time! With how much the defense has been playing, it’s almost like they’ve played a full game to two games more than the offense over the last three weeks.
The Bengals need to keep winning the turnover battle
Sunday’s game was a clear illustration of why turnovers are so important. The Bengals’ two takeaways set up two touchdowns, resulting in 13 of the 20 points the offense scored. Denver never had the opportunity to get points out of turnovers. If they had, the score would likely have been much different.
Not only did the offense get points off of turnovers, but both turnovers came when the Broncos looked like they were about to score. And not only did the turnovers create points for Cincinnati, they effectively took points off the board for Denver.
If the offense refuses to convert third downs and if the defense insists on staying on the field, turnovers could continue to make a difference.
Plus, without a forced fumble from Vontaze Burfict, we wouldn’t have this fun banter: