It was games like the Bengals vs Steelers Monday night clash that will take years off of my life as a Bengals fan. This one will be filed under “More reasons to fire Marvin Lewis.”
After lighting up the scoreboard in the first half, the Bengals rolled over and gave the game up.
After watching that emotional tailspin of a game, here’s what we learned:
Marvin Lewis should believe in halftime adjustments
The Bengals head coach, whose seat grows hotter each week, has often been criticized for his lack of halftime adjustments. So it’s no coincidence that the Bengals are dead last in second half scoring in the NFL. In fact, with all of the analytics in sports nowadays, it’s quite remarkable that Lewis has never noticed this connection.
The importance of halftime adjustments was perfectly illustrated on Monday Night Football against the Steelers. Andy Dalton and the Bengals jumped out to a hot start, but ended up blowing a lead that would make the Atlanta Falcons proud.
Cincinnati scored 17 points to open the game, but let the Steelers walk down the field in the last 31 seconds of the first half, and that’s where things started going downhill. After falling behind 17-3, the Steelers would go on to outscore the Bengals 20-3 in the second half. That’s unacceptable. With the season on the line, the Bengals would do well to come back out of the locker room.
All the Bengals had to do was not screw up in the second half. But they gave Le’Veon Bell a free 33-yard reception. Then they gave him a free 35-yard touchdown. Couple this with the Bengals inability to score in the final two quarters. Before you know it, the Bengals’ three-score lead had disappeared.
How hard is it to not blow a 17-point lead? The Bengals lead for nearly 45 minutes. The Steelers led for exactly zero seconds. How do you lose a game you were winning for three-fourths of it?
The Bengals need to stop getting in their own way
It’s hard enough to beat the Steelers; it’s even worse when you have to beat yourselves too.
For starters, the defense was doing so well until Bell’s reception in the final minute of the second quarter. They were able to stop the run for the most part, which forced the Steelers into second- and third-and-long situations.
However, mistakes on the opened up the game for the Steelers and cost the Bengals dearly. Silly mistakes like forgetting to tackle Bell let the Steelers back into the game. Going into next week, the Bengals need to shore up the defense and keep from making those careless mistakes.
The second thing the Bengals need to do is stop committing so many penalties. How could a team possibly win when they lose 173 yards due to flags? Even if you want to go with the bad officiating argument, the Bengals probably could have still broken the franchise record for penalty yards without the help of the referees.
Who knows? Maybe George Iloka’s unnecessary hit on Antonio Brown was the difference in the game. The Bengals started their next drive with bad field position because of it and ended up punting when they needed to score.
The Bengals and Steelers need to clean things up
I’m all for good, old-fashioned hate, but things are getting out of hand. From JuJu Smith-Schuster’s hit on Vontaze Burfict to Iloka’s hit on Brown, too many players are being unnecessarily hurt. As a fan, I don’t want to watch this kind of football. This isn’t fun anymore.
Antonio Brown yelling “Karma” during the press conference was a very classless move that we need less of. Saying that Burfict deserved his concussion is another. But at the end of the day, they are just players trying to do their jobs. There is no need for some disrespect.
If four players removed from every NFL game because of head/neck injuries, people would stop playing football. Let’s add some sportsmanship to the game. I don’t care if it's against the Steelers or the Browns. Enough is enough.