Though Week 3 gave us the best performance of the year from the Cincinnati Bengals, the end result was familiarly disappointing. Escaping Green Bay with a win might have been just what the team needed to turn their season around after an 0-2 start, but they just couldn’t hang on to their lead in the second half.
Even though the end result wasn’t what the doctor ordered, there were still far more positive takeaways this week than we’ve seen for a while. Here are the best and worst from the Bengals’ 24-27 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Bill Lazor feeding his most explosive players: While the offense was a bit of a mixed bag, given the second half struggles, the Bengals’ new offensive coordinator still showed some nice play calls to get the ball in the hands of the team’s best offensive players. Joe Mixon had the lion’s share of the carries on Sunday and finished with 101 total yards, while A.J. Green finished with 10 catches for 111 yards and a score.
Lazor also dialed up some nice pass plays to Giovani Bernard, as he took one to the house as well. It’s going to be interesting to see what Lazor does when John Ross and Tyler Eifert finally return to the lineup.
First-half Andy Dalton: When Cincinnati stuck to their offensive script in the early parts of the game, Dalton was accurate and made a few very nice throws. The dart to Green in the end zone was in a very tight window and he also had zero turnovers for the second straight week.
The young cornerbacks: We’ve been waiting to finally see some quality play from Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson III and they delivered big time. In fact, both seemed to play better than both Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick. Apparently, the coaches made a conscious decision to rotate their corners, as Green Bay was unseasonably warm on Sunday.
Dennard finished with 10 total tackles and a sack, while Jackson had an interception return for a touchdown. Jackson’s pick-six was just the second in Aaron Rodgers’ career and was a major shot in the arm for the team.
Carl Lawson leading a strong pass rush: The rookie edge rusher abused Kyle Murphy and others to the tune of 2.5 sacks, giving him three for the year. He, like other rookies on the roster, are making a bid to get more playing time, as he’s been incredibly productive when given snaps.
Carlos Dunlap also had a sack, with Chris Smith sharing one with Lawson and Michael Johnson grabbing one of his own. Six sacks on Rodgers usually breeds a formula for a win, but alas, Cincinnati just couldn’t make it happen.
The other first-round corners: Jones and Kirkpatrick had moments of struggles on Sunday, including giving up a 72-yard reception in overtime. While Jones had some exciting plays against Houston in Week 2, he showed some rust in coverage that carried over to Sunday.
We expect both guys to bounce back in the near future and it’s understandable that a Hall of Fame player like Rodgers got the best of them, but they should have been able to make more plays with the defense supplying six sacks.
Missed opportunities for points in the second half: Whether it was Dalton missing open throws, Randy Bullock missing a field goal, or the defense giving up 20 points in the final two quarters, there is plenty of blame to go around for the loss. Still, there are just mental mistakes, bad decisions and many other little things that keep plaguing the team.
The offensive line: Whether it’s in not calling out the right protections, failing to consistently open up running lanes, or overall protection of the passer, the line is just a continuous problem this year. I will say that this was probably the best they have looked in the three games this year, as Dalton did scramble away from phantom pressures, but giving up nearly four sacks a game isn’t a recipe for success.
Other stats: The Bengals were just 4-of-12 on third down conversions (33 percent), while allowing the Packers to go 7-of-15 (46 percent) in the critical situations. Throw in six punts and seven penalties for 68 yards and some may say the Bengals were fortunate to get 24 points.
The whole Randy Bullock/Jake Elliott situation: Bullock nailed a 46-yard attempt on Sunday, but missed a critical 48-yard kick in the third quarter. We give him a little bit of a pass, as Dalton took an inexplicable sack to lose eight yards on third down, undoubtedly making the attempt more difficult, but the veteran has now missed three clutch kicks (two in the regular season and one this preseason) and it’s becoming problematic.
Meanwhile, the rookie the Bengals cut for Bullock recently latched on with the Eagles and nailed a 61-yard game-winning kick the very same day. While we’re happy for the youngster, seeing him being carried off the field on the shoulders of his Philadelphia teammates definitely stung after seeing Bullock miss a big one.
Not getting back into the AFC North race: The Bears did the Bengals a huge favor by beating the Steelers in overtime, while the Jaguars destroyed the Ravens in London earlier in the day. The struggling Indianapolis Colts took care of the Browns, paving the way for the Bengals to get back into the divisional picture with a road win against a good Packers team.
Cincinnati couldn’t hang on to a 14-point halftime lead at Lambeau Field, thus becoming unable to get out of the cellar. A 1-2 record with a win on Rodgers’ home turf would have the fan base feeling much better than the now 0-3 start to the season.
Grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory: This idiom should be on the “Bengals 50” crest. While we have to give credit to the team’s first-half performance, Marvin Lewis and his team found yet another way to lose a heart-breaker. If they want to have success the rest of this season and turn the franchise’s culture around, these are the type of games that they need to consistently win.