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What we learned from the Bengals’ loss to the Packers

The Bengals offense finally showed signs of life against the Packers. Here’s what we learned in the process.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Green Bay Packers Adam Wesley-USA TODAY Sports

They did it! The Bengals finally scored a touchdown. On one hand, it feels like a big accomplishment. On the other hand, the Bengals need to win some games and scoring a touchdown in an NFL game is hardly an accomplishment. However you feel about the Bengals offense, we can probably all agree that while the Bengals have overcome several obstacles since Week 1, there is still much work to be done.

Bill Lazor has taken over the offense and given the Bengals a new look. With all the changes going on, there is a lot to learn.

Swapping Ken Zampese for Bill Lazor was a good move...

Not only did the Bengals finally score a touchdown, they more than doubled the total amount of points scored this season (with the offense accounting for 14 points and the defense 7).

The offense looked much better on Sunday than it had all season. They actually looked threatening in the first half. A.J. Green matched his number of receptions from the first two games combined. Joe Mixon, who had 17 carries in the first two games had 18 carries on Sunday. Even Tyler Kroft looked better on Sunday than Tyler Eifert has all year. The Bengals were finally fun to watch.

Of course, the most important player on the field is the quarterback. Andy Dalton completed 77.8 percent of his passes, while throwing for two touchdowns and no interceptions. His rating of 124.1 is the highest of the season by an enormous margin.

Overall, we saw most of what we wanted to see: Green with more catches, Mixon with more carries, and points on the board.

...but there’s more the Bengals can do

The Bengals ran into the locker room at halftime with 21 points on the scoreboard. After they returned to the locker room following halftime, they only added to their total by three, and that included an overtime period in which the team failed to score after getting the ball first. The Bengals scored two touchdowns on their first three drives, and then didn’t score again until Randy Bullock’s field goal late in the fourth quarter. After the first three drives, five of the next eight drives ended in punts, one ended with a missed field goal, and one ended upon the conclusion of the fourth quarter.

If it wasn’t for William Jackson’s pick-six, the Bengals might not have even forced overtime. While the Bengals scored a touchdown, which is a massive improvement from the impotent offense seen in the opening two weeks, the Bengals have more work to do.

Perhaps Lazor just needs more time with the offense. As he gets more comfortable, the offense will start to groove. Or at least, that’s what we hope. At this point in the season, it feels like hope is all we have.

And, considering the Bengals defense faced Aaron Rodgers, that unit had a solid game, too. So, let’s not let the offense have all the attention.

The Bengals’ front four is one of the best in the NFL

Pro bowler Geno Atkins, who has been one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL this season, leads the defensive front for the Bengals. Even though he snapped his streak of consecutive games with a sack, he helped draw double-teams (and even the occasional triple-team) to help his fellow defensive linemen put pressure on Aaron Rodgers.

Michael Johnson moved to the interior and gave the best showing he has had in a while. Chris Smith, the backup defensive end who impressed everyone during training camp and preseason, helped out by getting half a sack and a quarterback hit.

But the excitement came from the edges. Carlos Dunlap continued to do Carlos Dunlap things. From the right side, he recorded a sack and a couple quarterback hits. On the opposite side, a certain rookie out of Auburn stole the show.

Carl Lawson was one of the best players on the field on Sunday. If it wasn’t for a 12 men on the field penalty, he would have had 3.5 sacks on Sunday, which would be half a sack less than the team’s total from the first two weeks. As it stands, Lawson was probably satisfied with his 2.5 sacks, three quarterback hits, and two tackles for a loss.

It seemed like Lawson was in the backfield on every single play. Rodgers is normally a quarterback who moves around the pocket frequently, but Lawson made him move round even more. He showed strength, speed, tenacity, and perseverance. On the defensive side of the ball, he was by far the most fun player to watch.

With this front four, Bengals opponents will be working under a lot of pressure. As well as Lawson and Johnson performed on the left side of the line, imagine what chaos will ensue when Vontaze Burfict returns this week.

There are young playmakers all throughout the defense

Apart from Lawson, other youngsters contributed to the Bengals’ defensive effort. Linebacker Nick Vigil had seven tackles, and should look to complement Burfict who will play opposite him this week. Darqueze Dennard led the team with 10 tackles and even recorded a sack. William Jackson III managed to intercept Rodgers, which is rarely done, especially at Lambeau field. Not only did he force the only turnover the Bengals had against a stingy quarterback, he returned it for a touchdown for only the second time in Rodgers’ career.

Time to panic?

It may be time to come to grips with a losing season. The defense is seriously good, but the offense has been unable to match that production. Ideally, if Lazor sticks around and cleans up the offense, the Bengals will be able to make a playoff push as soon as next year. The defense has the youth and talent to keep the Bengals competitive in the upcoming years, the offense just needs to catch up, and that starts with a much-improved offensive line.