Drama began early on Sunday morning when both the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars announced that their starting running backs would be inactive. The Jaguars made Leonard Fournette inactive for violating team rules, while Jeremy Hill injured his ankle sometime before the game. Hill’s status meant that Joe Mixon would get his first career start.
Neither player’s absence seemed to matter as the Jaguars dismantled the Bengals and came away with a 23-7 defeat.
The Bengals failed to produce any meaningful yardage on offense and failed to contain the Jaguars. Jacksonville’s offense converted 71 percent of their third down conversions as the Bengals converted 13 percent of theirs.
The Jaguars more than doubled the Bengals in time of possession, plays and total yards. The Bengals had no answer to anything the Jaguars did on offense or defense, and even allowed their special teams unit to score.
On the opening drive, the Jaguars drove down to the red zone where Chris Smith put a stop to the offense. The former Jaguar met T.J. Yeldon in the backfield and forced the ball out, which Shawn Williams dove to cover up on the 25-yard line. It was the first fumble recovery for the Bengals’ defense since the Week 5 Cowboys game in 2016.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was nearly perfect on his first two drives as the Jaguars made it to the red zone on a second consecutive drive. They nearly left more points on the field as Williams failed to haul in a deflected pass, which went right into his hands. After missing on his final two passes of the drive, Bortles watched as Josh Lambo put the Jaguars on the scoreboard with a 32-yard field goal. Jacksonville took the first lead of the game, 3-0 with 2:28 left in the first quarter. They would never give up that lead.
On the next drive, Bortles hit his stride again and went three for three on third down. The Bengals were completely helpless on defense, giving up 6.4 yards per play on the possession. Bortles found Marqise Lee in the end zone to give the Jaguars a 10 point lead. Lambo’s extra point was good and the Jaguars were up 10-0 with 6:53 left in the second quarter.
The Bengals got the ball back and finally found a spark on offense. After gaining a minimal 39 yards on offense, Andy Dalton found Tyler Kroft, who broke several tackles en route to a 59-yard gain. Joe Mixon continued to move the offense with a 10-yard reception and a seven-yard touchdown. The Bengals extended their streak of seven touchdowns on seven red zone possessions on the road this year with Mixon’s second NFL touchdown. Marshall Koehn made his first career kick and cut the Jaguars’ lead to three points. The Jaguars would receive the kickoff with 4:13 left in the first half, up 10-7.
The Jaguars played out the four-minute drill the same way they had been playing all game. Bortles threw for more third-down conversions as the Bengals defense gave the receivers too much cushion. The defense finally stopped Jacksonville on third down for only the second time in 11 attempts. This led to a 56-yard field goal by Lambo, which was a new career-long for him. The Jaguars gave the Bengals the ball back with 28 seconds left in the half with a 13-7 lead. From there, craziness ensued.
Following the kickoff, the Bengals tried to bleed the clock with a handoff to Mixon. During the two-yard rush, A.J. Green and Jalen Ramsey started fighting and were both ejected from the game. While Ramsey is known for his smack talk, Green is one of the most calm and collected players in the game. After Ramsey pushed Green at the end of the play, Green threw Ramsey to the ground and punched him in the head four times. With all the hotheads on the Bengals’ roster, Green is the last player one would expect to let emotions take over.
Whether or not it was due to Green’s suspension, the Bengals failed to find any semblance of offense in the second half. The Bengals only gained 17 yards and one first down.
The Jaguars dominated on both sides of the ball. Through the first half, they controlled the time of possession with a 21:37 edge over the Bengals, and ran 43 plays to the Bengals’ 17. Their third down conversion rate of 82 percent allowed them to move the ball downfield with ease. If it wasn’t for Yeldon’s fumble and Kroft’s huge reception, the Jaguars could have easily had a more significant lead over the Bengals going into halftime.
Tensions were high during the opening drive second half. After the end of almost every play there would be more pleasantries exchanged. Bortles kept picking the Bengals secondary apart, but failed to convert on third down in the red zone. Lambo made a 25-yard kick, and the Jaguars extended their lead to two scores, up 16-7 with 6:51 left in the quarter.
The Bengals finally forced the Jaguars to punt, but penalties created a fourth-and-15 scenario from their own five-yard line. Kevin Huber punted from his own end zone, and Jaydon Mickens returned the punt 63 yards for the score. That would pretty much seal the game for the Jaguars. With 14:35 left in the fourth quarter, the Bengals saw the game put further beyond reach, now behind 23-7.
Toward the end of the fourth quarter, the Bengals’ defense was worn out. Bortles, Yeldon, and Chris Ivory continued to chip away and convert third downs. This was enough to let the clock bleed out and walk away with the victory.
The fewest plays the #Bengals have ever run in a game in 38. They have 36 today and may not get the ball back.— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) November 5, 2017
Dalton finished 10/18 for 136 yards and a 79.9 passer rating. Mixon was the leading rusher with 31 yards and Kroft was the leading receiver with 79 yards. Yeah, that is not going to win a game.
Here’s a look at the Bengals' possessions through the game: Punt, punt, touchdown, end of half, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt. You can’t think you’re going to win when that’s how the game plays out, can you?
The Bengals are now 3-5 and play the Titans next week in Tennessee. It’s very possible Green will be suspended for the game.