If you were hoping for the Cincinnati Bengals to make a quality rebound against the Chicago Bears to keep their postseason pulse going this week, we can only apologize for your now-obvious disappointment.
Chicago came to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday and thoroughly dominated Cincinnati in almost every facet of the game.
Here are the best and worst performances from the Bengals in their 33-7 loss in Week 14.
Michael Johnson: There really only seemed to be two players who showed up for the Week 14 game and they both are in the “good” category this week. Johnson has been a target of ire from fans lately, but he has found a productive niche on the interior of the line in passing situations at the end of his career.
Johnson made quite a few nice plays on a day where the defense was totally dominated. The veteran had two sacks of Mitchell Trubisky and two other tackles for loss on Chicago running plays.
Giovani Bernard: The other player who actually seemed to have avoided the zombie-like virus the rest of the Bengals caught was Bernard. As usual, No. 25’s effort was among the best on the team, as we saw him block, catch and run with tenacity.
With Jeremy Hill (Injured Reserve) and Joe Mixon (concussion) sidelined, Bernard took the lion’s share of the touches. When the offense actually had the ball and called his number, he was productive. He finished with 11 carries for 62 yards and was the team leader with six catches for 68 yards.
A 2017 season mercy-killing and the likely ushering in of a new regime: Look, we all wanted the Bengals to make a storybook turnaround to end the year, sneak into the playoffs and see what would transpire from there. But, when you can’t close out games against quality opponents on primetime and then completely get steamrolled the subsequent week, it’s better to focus on the ensuing rebuild taking place this offseason.
The game against Chicago taught us a lot about the Bengals and who they have been since their 2015 Wild Card loss. They have lost too much quality personnel (both players and coaches) the past two offseasons, they are weak in critical areas of the roster (offensive line), and the head coach has failed to inspire the team. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but a dosage we all needed right now to be able to move forward with realistic expectations.
The quarterbacks: Last week, Bill Lazor and Andy Dalton drew up a successful plan to get the ball out of his hands quickly. Dalton shredded the Steelers defense in the rain, but when they tried it again this week, it was a completely different story. His passes were often batted away and it seemed as if No. 14 was sometimes throwing to receivers regardless of how the coverage was looking.
Dalton finished the day just 14-of-29 for 141 yards, one touchdown and one interception—his first in five games. AJ McCarron came in and went 4-of-8 for 47 yards, but it was just generally disheartening to see Cincinnati put in their backup because they were getting throttled.
The linebackers and safeties: After vocalizing the importance of the Steelers game last week, George Iloka was part of a team-wide collapse on Monday Night Football. He ended that game with a head shot to Antonio Brown on the game-tying touchdown, and had to appeal a suspension to play this week.
One would have thought he would have been a reliable veteran to lean on with so many injuries this week, but he was seen to be a step behind many plays made by Kendall Wright and Adam Shaheen. Kevin Minter wasn’t much better, as the defensive unit let up 232 rushing yards, while he personally gave up both a pass interference play and a touchdown to Shaheen on consecutive plays.
The inability to cover a tight end...again: What’s it going to take? When Reggie Nelson and Mike Zimmer were in Cincinnati, this didn’t to seem to be as big of a problem as it has been over the past two seasons.
Shaheen and Dion Sims combined for six catches, 76 yards and a score. The linebackers were ineffective in coverage, with the aforementioned Minter being a big culprit to Shaheen’s success. The safeties weren’t much help, either, and the team had to put William Jackson on Shaheen at one point to help remedy the situation.
A.J. Green: Sunday had to be one of the most confusing and frustrating performances we have seen from Green in a Bengals uniform. Green still grabbed five catches for 64 yards, but it was a tough day at the office.
There were a few contested throws that Green could have come down with, even if they would have been highlight-reel type of grabs, but coverage was consistently tight on the afternoon, regardless. With the Bengals clinging to life at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Green had an inexplicable fumble to put the proverbial nail in the coffin. He wasn’t a fan of his own performance on Sunday, either.
AJ Green: “I️ played like s*** today.”— Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) December 10, 2017
An apparent hangover from Monday night: It’s understandable how the team was tired and emotionally drained from the loss to the Steelers, but they looked like they didn’t even want to be playing a game on Sunday.
Guys put forth little effort to tackle, while the offense appeared to either be not paying attention, or was going through the motions. A pretty fitting, albeit sad way to say goodbye to the 2017 postseason.
A depleted team who seemed to have packed in the 2017 season: Despite Marvin Lewis’ best effort to dissuade those who actually watched this game, the effort level was almost non-existent by the Bengals. We knew this would be a tougher matchup for Cincinnati than what it looked like on paper because of injuries and their backs against the wall, but the team looked totally disinterested.
This was particularly shocking because, theoretically, the Bengals’ playoff hopes were still alive. They had a chance to redeem themselves in front of a home crowd against a team with just three wins and they fell flat on their faces.
The run defense: We knew that the Bears had an exciting running back duo, but they also employ a rookie quarterback. There’s no doubt that Paul Guenther’s unit should have been prepared to sell out on the run, yet they didn’t and Trubisky cruised to a win.
Tarik Cohen (80) and Jordan Howard (147) tore through the Bengals’ defense and often had chunk plays. The Bears also had three scores on the ground—two by Howard and one from Trubisky.
Massive statistical differentials: Time of possession has been a major issue with the Bengals this year and this Sunday was a prime example. The beleaguered Chicago Bears offense hogged the football for 38:09 to Cincinnati’s usage of just 21:51 of the game clock.
Additionally, Trubisky and Co. had more than twice the total yardage than the Bengals’ offense on Sunday. Chicago netted 482 yards to Cincinnati’s 234.