I don’t even know where to begin. I could go with the usual comments. The offensive line needs to protect Andy Dalton better. The defense needs to defend tight ends better. Dalton needs to throw to A.J. Green more. Those are all easy assessments to make.
But I think there is more to learn from the fact that I make these same observations every week. I’ve been criticizing the offensive line since training camp. I’ve been complaining about the rushing production since Week 1. I’ve been wary of some members of the secondary for a while now.
All of this is to say the Bengals have had issues all year that they have failed to iron out. We’ve been saying things like, "Once Bill Lazor takes over, the offense will move the ball better," or, "Once some defenders get back from suspensions, the defense will be more effective." That bad news is that none of this is happening.
These things are all symptoms of a disease. The Bengals have left the symptoms untreated and allowed the disease to spread. It’s time to stop looking at the product on the field and start figuring out what is causing it to suffer.
We know the Bengals are sick. The losses are humiliating, and the wins are unimpressive. The only game in which the Bengals have looked good was against the Browns, the most diseased team in football.
The Bengals’ last win was against the Colts, who is also one of the most unstable franchises in the league. In order to claim victory in that matchup, defensive end Carlos Dunlap had to score the go-ahead touchdown.
What is causing the sickness? I think we all know the answer to that.
If we learned one thing on Sunday, it’s this:
Marvin Lewis is losing the team
There are many interesting stats to pull from this game to show how poor the Bengals’ performance was. For instance, the offense had more yards on their longest drive (80) than they did in every other drive combined (68). How about this one: the Jaguars ended seven of eight offensive possessions in the Bengals’ half of the field, with six inside the red zone and four in scores. Better yet, the Bengals only ran 37 plays on offense, which is the fewest in the NFL this year and fewest under Lewis.
But the Bengals don’t need to see these stats to know that they were not performing up to their potential. The can feel it.
Cedric Ogbuehi felt it. He appeared to have no desire to do his job and protect his quarterback. The former first-round pick who plays arguably the second-most important position on the team has all but given up.
Brandon LaFell felt it too. He said after the game, "We have to stand up and be a man and stop letting the guy across from you dominate. Point blank, that’s it."
Adam Jones felt it too. He sounded pretty critical for someone who was "trying to stay positive." After the game, he went on to say, "At a certain point, do you really want to win? That’s my question to some of the guys. How much do you want to win?...But what I’m talking about is heart and playing with a passion. At this point, we’re not playing with any beeping passion."
Dre Kirkpatrick felt it too. Earlier this year, he admitted that the Bengals "suck." But he was not shy about pointing the finger this week.
But most importantly, A.J. Green felt it. He felt it and decided to take it out on Jalen Ramsey.
Yes, Green said that his slump had nothing to do with the punches he threw at Ramsey. He went on to say that the brawl was purely about the shove. I’m sure he believed it, but it would be naive to say that’s all it was. Green has been in the NFL for seven years now; surely that wasn’t the first time he was shoved. It was the first time he threw punches, though.
Of all the players on the Bengals roster, Green is the last person any of us would have expected to see in a fight. What does it take to break someone like that? A shove? Or maybe weeks of frustration building from an offense slowed to a halt and a deteriorating locker room? The shove was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
If Green of all people was getting crushed by his emotions, every single player in the locker room must be feeling it too.
The Bengals are frustrated by this newfound culture of losing. For all that Lewis has done to bring the Bengals back from the grave throughout the first part of his coaching career, he is doing nothing to bring them back again. His fingerprints are all over this mess. Keeping Ken Zampese on his staff for too long, drafting a player in the first round he would never use, and failing to get the ball to the playmakers during a pivotal game are all mistakes that he is responsible for. To follow all of that up with a game in which the offense, defense, and special teams show no signs of life is unacceptable.
The players feel it. The fans feel it. Lewis’ seat just keeps getting hotter. Its high time the Bengals found a solution.
Don’t forget, we still have "Fire Marvin" t-shirts, which are only going to get more fashionable the longer he is still employed.