It’s really not surprising that the Cincinnati Bengals are exactly where they should be, given how poorly they performed against the lowly Indianapolis Colts last week.
And where they are is staring at yet another defeat in a season that is quickly getting away from the Bengals. And this one was never even competitive, from start to finish.
Jacksonville put together drives of 10 plays, nine plays, 15 plays, 11 plays and nine plays on its first five possessions of the game in completely dominating the Bengals and exposing ever more of Cincinnati’s weaknesses.
Where do I begin?
Dalton cannot throw deep
Cincinnati had an opportunity to turn this into a football game early when A.J. Green got open against Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey down the sidelines, but Andy Dalton threw the ball out of bounds.
What should have been an easy touchdown that gave the Bengals a 7-3 lead turned into an incompletion on a drive that ended in a Kevin Huber punt. The Jaguars drove for a touchdown on their ensuing possession, and this game was all but over.
Then, on the opening play of the fourth quarter, Dalton had Malone open deep and overthrew him. Two passes that should have resulted in at least seven points ended up accounting for nothing. And a game that might have been close ended up being a laugher for the Jaguars.
Bengals’ defense is undisciplined
Missed assignments plagued Cincinnati as Jacksonville receivers had a field day in the first half, and nearly everyone got into the act. Tight end Marcedes Lewis was wide open down the middle on a number of occasions, and only a Blake Bortles overthrow stopped an easy touchdown. Marqise Lee found himself running free a couple of times, as did running back Chris Ivory.
Then it was penalties that gave the Jaguars the advantage in the second half. Jacksonville, thanks to a pass interference penalty on Dre Kirkpatrick and a facemask penalty against Adam Jones, went on a 9-play, 71-yard drive on its first possession of the second half en route to a field goal that extended the Jacksonville lead to 16-7.
Defense cannot stop the run
Or anything else for that matter.
For the second week in a row, a Cincinnati opponent looks to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ blueprint and runs the ball right up the middle. And the Bengals cannot stop it. Period.
It did not help that Bengals nose tackle Pat Sims went out of the game early with a calf injury, but the fact remains. The key to beating Cincinnati remains the same – run the ball right up the gut and dare the Bengals to stop it, because they cannot.
But the run was not the only thing the Bengals could not stop. Cincinnati allowed Bortles to complete 24 of 38 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown, good for an overall rating of 91.9.
Jacksonville converted on 12 of 18 third-down tries and made it look easy against a defense that had somehow been rated among the NFL’s best. The Bengals were 1-for-8 on third down.
And the Bengals’ defensive front, which had been turning out sacks at a near-record rate before being shut out last week, could not get anything going against the Jaguars. They gave Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles all of the time he needed to pick the Cincinnati secondary apart.
Jacksonville finished with 407 yards of total offense on 78 plays and consumed more than 40 minutes off of the clock. Cincinnati, meanwhile, finished with 148 yards of total offense off of only 37 plays, and they managed a whopping eight first downs all day.
A.J. Green frustrated
To say that A.J. Green is frustrated is an understatement of monumental proportions. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green had three catches for 41 yards. The following week against the Colts, Green had three receptions for 27 yards and one touchdown.
Then, against Jacksonville this week, Green breaks open against a formidable defender in Ramsey, and the pass sails out of bounds. He had one more reception for a meager six yards in the first half, and that was it.
At the end of the half, Green and Ramsey got into it in a manner more reminiscent of the UFC’s George St-Pierre than the usually nonplused Green. After being pushed down by Ramsey, Green jumped up, put Ramsey into a choke hold, threw him to the ground and started throwing punches. Both players were ejected.
Special teams not very special
With the exception of Kevin Huber, the special teams of the Bengals are not very good. Last week, the unit gave up a blocked punt. This week, after a 52-yard punt by Huber, they gave up a 63-yard return for a touchdown by Jaydon Mickens that featured a missed tackle.
Huber, however, is back to the Pro Bowl form he displayed back in 2014, putting his first three punts within the Jacksonville 20-yard line and not allowing a return.
Lewis said it
Someone asked Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis what former New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, now the executive vice president of football operations for the Jaguars, brought to the table. Lewis summed it up in one word – "Direction." Cincinnati could use a lot of that.