It is easy to point fingers after another lopsided Bengals loss, and it is a lot harder to find something good to say. But here are a few things that I think I know about the 2017 Bengals following their 34-7 loss to the Vikings in Minnesota.
Bengals youngsters are dealing with a learning curve
Minnesota moved down the field at will on its opening drive of the game en route to a 7-0 lead that left Cincinnati fans wondering just how bad things would get. The Bengals’ young defenders seemed to settle in after that for a while, and stemmed the tide, at least temporarily.
The Vikings had three plays of over 20 yards on that first drive, but Bengals defenders held them in check over the next 15 minutes before things completely unraveled. Keenum hooked up with McKinnon for a 41-yard gain. A 20-yard pass to Stefon Diggs made it 24-0.
By the time Minnesota had stretched its lead to 34-0, the Vikings had seven plays of over 20 yards. Three times, Minnesota turned a short pass to an uncovered running back into gains of 24 yards or more.
The Bengals have a lot of young players starting and playing due to a host of injuries, especially on defense. That’s being seen as the youngsters are trying to catch up, but it’s too little, too late. Hopefully, it helps them for the future as we’ve always wanted to see the young guys play and now they are.
Historical futility is showing
Things could not get much worse for Cincinnati’s offense. Through the first half of Sunday’s play, the Bengals had 42 yards of total offense and one first down. It marked the third fewest first-half yardage of any Cincinnati offense in the Marvin Lewis era. The Bengals got their only third-down conversion of the game at the three-minute mark of the third quarter.
Andy Dalton finished with 11 completions on 22 attempts for 113 yards, two interceptions (including one that was returned for a touchdown) and had an overall passer rating of 27.3. He was also sacked three times for 17 yards of losses.
The Bengals were already on pace to set a club record for the fewest plays in a 16-game, non-strike season, and Sunday’s effort against the Vikings won’t help to right that wrong. Through the first half, Cincinnati ran 23 total plays to 33 for Minnesota and the Vikings almost had a two-to-one edge in time of possession, 19:09 to 10:51.
Minnesota took its foot off of the gas in the second half as the game got out of hand, and Cincinnati closed the gap on the number of plays run. The Bengals finished with 51 plays to 61 for the Vikings, who outgained Cincinnati 347 yards to 161. Minnesota had a significant advantage in time of possession, 35:52 to 24:08.
Defense keeping pace
As bad as the offense was, the defense was just about as bad. For the second week in a row, Cincinnati allowed the opposing quarterback to have his best game of the season. Keenum completed 20 of 23 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and finished his day with an overall rating of 138.4.
The Vikings made three trips to the red zone Sunday, and scored three touchdowns. Going back to last week against Chicago, the Bengals had surrendered 61 unanswered points before a Giovani Bernard touchdown run stopped the bleeding with just more than six minutes left.
Cincinnati had one defensive stand all day when three plays resulted in a loss of 12 yards. Shawn Williams did manage an interception against backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but it was only the Bengals’ 12th takeaway of the season, tied for second worst in the NFL.
Punting a bright spot
Kevin Huber continued his Pro-Bowl caliber season with eight punts for a 45.6-yard average, two of which were downed inside the Vikings’ 16-yard-line. He’s one of the few good things about the Bengals this year.
Geno Atkins is still Geno Atkins
Despite everything else that is swirling around the Bengals, Geno Atkins continues to show the world that he is one of the best defensive tackles in the game today. Atkins recorded two sacks on Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum in the first 12 minutes of the game.
Uncharacteristically, Atkins did get shoved aside a couple of times in the second half, but, on the whole, he turned in another strong effort. PFF gave him the highest grade of any player in the Bengals vs Vikings game (89.1 which is 0.9 below the elite grade). Atkins' season has been great so far by PFF’s standards as he has an overall grade of 91.7.