The Bengals played their worst game of the season on Sunday night, and looked terrible doing it. The offense was helpless the defense was lost.
On the bright side, Kevin Huber had some good punts; but everyone knew going into this game that if the Bengals punted just once, they would probably lose. Huber punted five times on Sunday.
What can be said about this performance? It was just plain bad. A.J. Green manufactured 117 of the offense’s yards, or about half of their production. The offense had less than 200 total yards until Jeff Driskel came into the game during garbage time. Meanwhile, the defense gave up 551 yards and let the Chiefs convert 75 percent of their third down attempts. As if losing by 35 points wasn’t humiliating enough, the Bengals looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL.
So what did we learn about the Bengals from this game?
Andy Dalton needs his arsenal back
Earlier this season, A.J. Green said that his quarterback had been playing at an MVP level. The truth is, Andy Dalton can’t carry an offense on his own. But given weapons, he can use them as well as any quarterback in the league. So without his offensive arsenal, Dalton can’t play at the same level.
When Green said Dalton was playing like an MVP, Tyler Eifert was still playing, John Ross was still healthy, and Tyler Boyd was his number one target.
Dalton couldn’t carry the offense, so Green had to. Green was targeted on 14 of Dalton’s passes and received 117 of his 148 yards.
Other than Green, Boyd (who has been the team leader in receptions until this week) only caught three passes, all of which were on one drive. Joe Mixon caught three passes, C.J. Uzomah caught two, and Alex Erickson caught one.
Despite having an incredibly talented running back in Mixon, the running game was essentially nonexistent.
The Bengals had one of the best offenses in the first four weeks of the season. But Eifert, Ross, and Giovani Bernard all suffered injuries. So when the Bengals played the Steelers and the Chiefs, two of the worst defenses in the NFL, they only mustered 31 points between the two games.
So, yes, Dalton had been playing out of his mind early this season, the offense took a huge step back when the injuries started piling up.
Vontaze Burfict has off days occasionally
We watched some brutal defensive games this season thinking, “it’s only __ weeks until Vontaze Burfict returns.”
Burfict is one of the team’s best defensive players and playmakers. He the leader of the defense and one of the most impactful players on the team.
That being said, he was the worst defensive player on the field on Sunday.
He only had two total tackles on Sunday night, well below his average of 8.4 per game over the course of his career. It’s not that he didn’t have any opportunities, though. He missed too many tackles to count. A large reason Kareem Hunt gained 141 total yards and scored three touchdowns is because the linebackers couldn’t seem to bring him down. More specifically, Burfict had trouble bringing him down.
In a game where the defense gave up 45 points for the first time in four years, the Bengals needed their best player to step up.
Teryl Austin’s defense needs work
Burfict wasn’t the only defender off his game. Seemingly everyone else was, which seems like a coaching error more than anything else.
Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap should be terrorizing quarterbacks in the backfield, but the two of them only have one sack apiece over the last two games. Andrew Billings was the best defensive lineman on Sunday night, which is a sign that something is wrong. Not that Billings isn’t good, but he is no Atkins. The fact that Michael Johnson is out-snapping the all of the defensive ends except Dunlap is also alarming.
The linebackers were such a mess, though it doesn’t help that Nick Vigil is out for the season, so the Bengals will have to go without their best coverage linebacker. Hardy Nickerson had 13 snaps, which was 13 too many. There is no universe where Nickerson is better than Vincent Rey, or even one where he should ever see the field when it is not an absolute emergency.
In the backfield, the defensive backs were so lost most of the time. Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins were running free downfield, with confused defenders left in their wake. Patrick Mahomes was playing Madden on rookie mode, and his 358 yards were evidence of that. The defensive backs had absolutely no idea what they were doing out there, aside from Shawn Williams’ interception late in the game.
How is it that all three units on defense had their worst game of the year on the same day? Could it be coaching, scheme, playcalling, or even the primetime curse? It's probably a combination of all of those factors.
Marvin Lewis and Teryl Austin have some work to do before next week. The Buccaneers are probably licking their chops right now watching the film from Sunday night.