Another day, another sixty minutes of the Bengals defense getting picked apart by a rookie quarterback.
It’s one thing to let Drew Brees or Patrick Mahomes to tear apart a defense like that. It’s another thing if the quarterback is Ryan Fitzpatrick, Lamar Jackson, or this time, Baker Mayfield.
What did we learn from this game?
The defense was just pitiful, but we already knew that. The Bengals organization is dreadful — tell us something we don’t know. The offense is tame without A.J. Green. Again, old news.
But with all the mess going on in Cincinnati lately, what did we actually learn?
The Jeff Driskel era will at least be entertaining
When Driskel came in to relieve Dalton, who injured his thumb and is now out for the year, he at least made the game interesting. His final stat-line was 17 for 29, 155 yards and a passing touchdown, while also rushing for nine yards on three carries and a touchdown. But more importantly, he was fun to watch. With Dalton now done for the season, this is Driskel’s show to run.
Driskel was whipping the ball into tight windows that Dalton is too conservative to even attempt. He was fairly accurate with the ball for most of the day. Most of his incompletions were either drops or at the end of the game when the defense was really battening down the hatches in the passing game. When the Bengals were hopelessly behind, Driskel made it feel like the Bengals still had a shot to win.
If Driskel brings this kind of excitement into the game, it will be fun to watch. Driskel is nothing if not competitive. The best look we’ve had at him up until now was the preseason. Let’s remember that he entered every game either tied or trailing and won three out of four. That kind of competitiveness, plus a different style of offense that the team sometimes plays when Driskel is in the game, will be exciting.
The Bengals should never forget about Joe Mixon
Mixon had a wonderful game on Sunday; by far the best game of any Bengal. He rushed 14 times for 89 yards while snagging all seven of his targets for 66 yards.
On both of Driskel’s touchdown drives, Mixon combined for 36 rushing yards. At a time when the Bengals were hopelessly down, they remembered the run game and stuck to it. Yes, Driskel did pass the ball almost 30 times in two quarters, but they never got away from the ground game. Even when Mixon had negative yardage to show for his first five carries, the Bengals kept feeding him the ball, and he ended up tallying nearly 100 yards on the ground and over 150 total.
Whenever Green is out, Mixon is going to be the best playmaker on the field. It would be foolish to keep the ball out of his hands.
The defensive line needs to act like the best unit on defense
Not only is (or was) the defensive line the deepest unit on the defense, it is also the most expensive. However, the Bengals did not get their money’s worth out of the front four against the Browns.
With names like Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, the best player on the defensive line was Andrew Billings. Good for him, but he is nowhere near the same caliber player. The two Pro Bowlers need to act like Pro Bowlers again.
It’s no coincidence that the defensive line started struggling during the Bengal’s current losing streak along with the rest of the defense. The play starts at the line of scrimmage, so the defense should make a better attempt to control it. The Bengals did not force a sack against Mayfield, and only recorded one tackle for a loss and failed to even hit Mayfield once. If the quarterback is going to torch the Bengals’ back seven — which seems more likely than not at this point — then the least the line can do is to force the quarterback to throw more quickly than he wants to.
That’s what they’re being paid to do, but that’s not what they’re doing.