The Bengals went down in humiliating fashion for the second week in a row. Here are four things we learned from the debacle that took place in Minnesota.
Paul Guenther and Bill Lazor blew a huge opportunity
The Bengals’ top assistant coaches looked the most likely internal candidates to replace Marvin Lewis. However, Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday that special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons might be the next Bengals head coach. As that report surfaced, one would think that Guenther and Lazor would want to give a good showing against the Vikings.
Both coaches blew this opportunity to make an impression. The Bengals were completely outmatched on both sides of the ball. The defense suffered from poor organization, blown assignments, and missed tackles. 346 yards of offense and four touchdowns don’t even begin to describe how out of hand this game was.
Offensively, the only touchdown was scored in garbage time, aided by the great field position given to them by the Shawn Williams interception. The Bengals had to wait until the second quarter before getting a first down and until the third to cross the 50-yard-line.
This game was a complete embarrassment for everyone who had something to prove. Simmons’ special teams was the only unit that was even remotely in the game.
Guenther and Lazor really needed to look good. Even if it’s not for Cincinnati’s head coaching vacancy, they might find themselves out of a job if Mike Brown and the new head coach clean house. If other teams looking for new assistants might watch this game, they will almost assuredly keep looking elsewhere.
The depth at linebacker is not that deep
One of the most surprising stats from the game is that Minnesota running back tandem of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon gained 142 receiving yards. Compare that to their 100 rushing yards. That’s the linebackers’ fault.
McKinnon ran rampant through the Bengals defense thanks to total confusion and chaos on defense. The injuries to Bengals linebackers have taken their toll, and the Vikings took full advantage.
Now, with Vincent Rey possibly out for the rest of the season, the Bengals are going to try to put any warm bodies they can out on the field. Vontaze Burfict did not pass concussion protocol, Nick Vigil is still out, and Kevin Minter was still nursing a sore hamstring. If the Bengals were to play again tomorrow, they would have to start Jordan Evans, Hardy Nickerson, and Brandon Bell at linebacker.
Though Evans made the 53-man roster out of training camp, he has mostly been relegated to special teams until injuries forced him to play defense. Nickerson and Bell were recently signed off the practice squad. None of the three linebackers looked impressive in Minnesota.
Even though Evans tipped a pass that resulted in Shawn Williams’ interception, the first three quarters were less than spectacular for him or for Nickerson. Starting at the weak side and strong side, respectively, Nickerson moved to the middle when Rey was injured. Both Evans and Nickerson were responsible for many of the missed tackles and blown assignments.
If Burfict doesn’t return, then Nickerson will be the quarterback of the defense at middle linebacker. Perhaps Burfict will go back to his natural position at the weak side if he does, and Nickerson will still be calling plays. No offense to Nickerson, but the Bengals don’t want someone who has only been with the first team for a few weeks to anchor the defense.
Hopefully, the Bengals will go out and sign a free agent that can walk in and start to alleviate some of the pressure from the young players. They did not stand up to the pressure against the Vikings. Hopefully, they can survive the Lions.
Shawn Williams will have to step up in a huge way
Williams might be the only player in the back seven that has regular starting experience. He needs to continue his run of dominance against the NFC North against the Lions.
Even though William Jackson was out there shutting down everyone he lined up against, Williams was doing just about everything else. He was locking down the opposition in the passing game, making tackles at the line of scrimmage, and nabbing the only takeaway of the game. He was the second-highest ranked player according to PFF behind only Geno Atkins.
Now with George Iloka injured, Williams will be out there all by himself leading a young group of defensive backs and linebackers.
The Bengals are going to miss Cedric Ogbuehi
That felt wrong. Anyways...
After Ogbuehi was injured on a play that resulted in a sack, Eric Winston came in to protect Andy Dalton’s weak side. OK, maybe protect was not the right word, since we found out why Winston was available halfway through the season.
It seems weird that there is a left tackle that makes Ogbuehi look good, yet here we are. Winston gave up a sack and several hurries in only three quarters of work. Stuck with only Winston and Andre Smith, which would not be a bad tandem if it were 2012, the Bengals would do well to reach out in free agency and get some depth (though some talent would be nice, too).