The Cincinnati Bengals came out on top during a road trip against the Denver Broncos 20-17 to secure a win that has (for now) saved their hopes for 2017. The team at 4-6 still trails the .500 Baltimore Ravens and the AFC-leading 8-2 Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately for any Bengals fans still holding out hope, this performance wasn’t really one to get excited about. The Bengals defense won this game for the team, as they have all season long, and yet again the offense disappointed. This week they posted a measly 190 yards of total offense and earned 12 first downs. They also once again lost the possession battle, this week holding the ball for less than 25 minutes and running 30 less plays than the Broncos’ offense.
Whatever offense did come from Cincinnati was coming through Joe Mixon and A.J. Green. The rookie running back and veteran receiver accounted for 52% of the total yardage gained by the Bengals on Sunday. Andy Dalton was efficient, completing 15 of 25 passes for 3 touchdowns, no interceptions and a rating of 117.3.
The lackluster performance by the offense throughout the season has plenty of people in Cincinnati scratching their heads, including ESPN’s Katherine Terrell. Terrell was quick to point out that while sloppy, the Bengals showed they aren’t giving up on their current campaign just yet:
The Bengals can't afford to make any more mistakes this season, and they made a lot of them against the Broncos, whose defense had given up 92 points in the two games prior to meeting the Bengals. However, the Bengals still managed to get a win on the road after a topsy-turvy few weeks, which shows they haven't thrown in the towel, despite their struggles.
So while the team may not have thrown in the towel, where does the offense go from here? Some, including Joe Goodberry, believe that the Bengals’ inability to use Giovani Bernard effectively is hurting the team.
In 10 games last year, Gio touched the ball 130 times.— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) November 20, 2017
In 10 games this year, Gio has touched the ball 49 times.
It’s certainly strange to see how the backfield has evolved over the course of the season. When the regular season start it seemed like the plan at first was an even split between Joe Mixon, Jeremy Hill and Bernard. Then as Mixon took more of the workload Hill began continuing to get touches, including entire drives to open halves, while Gio’s workload was reduced. Now with Hill on IR, you would assume the smart thing is to get Bernard involved more. Instead, the workload is almost entirely on Mixon alone. Mixon is the best pure running back on the team, I don’t question that. But Gio’s ability to work in space and cause matchup problems, especially in the passing game, is far superior to Mixon’s ability in that area right now.
As mentioned before, the Bengals defense played savior in a win once again. With the Bengals able to become at least somewhat respectable in time of possession, the defense was able to stay rested and lay hits on Brock Osweiler led offense. Of course, nothing went as planned, and Dre Kirkpatrick’s 100-yard non-touchdown interception is a perfect microcosm for their current season. “Unable to capitalize on opportunity” should have been on the camp shirts.
Dave Lapham, being the best Dave Lapham at calling football games, reacted the way any Bengals fan did during the play.
Here's a transcript of the Dre Kirkpatrick INT. Keep in mind that Dan Hoard's part is actually continuous while Dave Lapham is playing the role of Dave Lapham.https://t.co/4hWU9Md9tT pic.twitter.com/x0hHh0Mlds— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) November 20, 2017
Where does the team go from here? It’s tough to say. The offense is still bad. Historically bad when it comes to keeping the ball, in fact.
#Bengals average 55.1 plays per game.— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) November 21, 2017
Over the last decade, no team averaged fewer than 56.7.
CIN is averaging 48.8 plays since Week 5.
So while there are plenty of things that need to improve if the Bengals want to truly salvage their year, there are still some positives to take pleasure in for the mean time. Young Bengals defensive back Keivarae Russell had a blocked field goal before the half that proved to be the deciding point differential in the contest after Marvin Lewis successfully iced kicker Brandon McManus at the end of the first half.
It’s not about the amount of opportunities you may NOT recieve... it’s more about what you do with the ones you DO recieve. #Patience it’s gon come ⏳ #whodey #makethemnotice @Bengals pic.twitter.com/6dNGcJ5lBb— Keivarae Russell (@Keivarae1) November 20, 2017
The Bengals are anything but a contender right now, but at least for this weekend everyone can show up at the water cooler not having to talk about how bad Sunday was, right? The Bengals play the still winless Browns at home this Sunday, which is perhaps the only trap game a 4-6 team has ever played in the history of the NFL.