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3 things we learned from Round 2 of Bengals vs. Browns

The offense and defense both need work, but it would help if the offense was on the field more often.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The last head coach in Cincinnati to get swept by Browns in one season was Dick LeBeau, and he was canned after the season ended.

Marvin Lewis will probably not suffer the same fate, but should any head coach keep their job after such a disastrous season? No, but Lewis will.

Not only did the Bengals lose, but they made Baker Mayfield look dangerous once again.

All of the same problems keep cropping up, like bad offensive line play, bad linebacker play, and bad coaching decisions.

But with all of these repeated mistakes, what did we actually learn from this game?

The offense needs to add something—anything

An NFL team went into the locker room at halftime in Week 16 with -15 passing yards. The quarterback of this team had only three yards of passing. This team was the Bengals.

The Bengals have been bad on offense in the last several years, but this is a brand new low. It’s a miracle the Bengals walked out of First Energy Stadium with any points at all.

But when the Bengals couldn’t manage to score until the fourth quarter against the Browns, things are bad.

The frustrating thing is that the Bengals keep trying the same things and they just aren’t working. They keep throwing Alex Redmond out on the offensive line when they have two perfectly good guards that could potentially replace him. We won’t know what they can do until we see them play, so why not give Christian Westerman or Trey Hopkins a spin? If Marvin Lewis is concerned about throwing off the line’s rhythm and chemistry, he shouldn’t be because the right side of the line has none.

Same goes for Bobby Hart. Right now the tackle position is thin, but why not try Clint Boling at tackle and move Westerman or Hopkins to left guard? Or even Andre Smith at this point?

Jeff Driskel has struggled, but he has been given a bad team to work with. His line keeps giving up unrelenting pressure, which is one reason he has only passed for more than 170 once in his first four starts. Another reason is that he doesn’t have anyone to throw the ball to.

With A.J. Green — and likely Tyler Boyd — out for the season, the Bengals have no proven receivers left. John Ross has become a touchdown machine, but until the Bengals get into the red zone he is practically invisible. Plus, opposing teams could very easily double him and force Driskel to find someone else. Who else is there?

There is Alex Erickson, who is not a No. 1 receiver by any means, but steps up whenever he is called upon. When questionable penalties aren’t negating his gains, he always creates enough separation for a good window and almost always catches the ball when it is thrown his way. Over his career, he has caught a higher percentage of his targets than Cody Core, John Ross, and A.J. Green.

If they don’t want to go to Erickson, then why not see what Josh Malone or Auden Tate can do? We have seen nothing from them all season. Why not at least see what we have to work with?

The point is, the current set up is not cutting the mustard. Trotting out the same guys week after week will do nothing to improve things.

The Bengals have already been eliminated from playoff contention, so what do they have to lose? Marvin Lewis’ job?

The Bengals need to keep the defense off the field

Yes, this has been a critique of the Bengals’ defense all year, but the problem has really come to a head in the Week 16 game.

Part of the reason the offense was so unproductive is because they barely had the ball. Driskel only threw the ball 19 times. Combined with his sacks and scrambles, there were only 26 passing plays. The Browns had over 40 and actually threw the ball twice as much as Driskel.

In addition, Joe Mixon only ran the ball 17 times. Over the last few weeks the Bengals have been trying to get him over 20 carries a game. Driskel was the only other back to have more than one carry, but only one of those was a designed run. The other two players to have a rushing attempt were Ross and Clayton Fejedelem — two guys who are obviously not vulturing carries. So Mixon isn’t getting the ball, but not because the Bengals aren’t trying. There just aren’t enough snaps to go around.

The Bengals ran 46 plays to the Browns’ 66. This deficit is very difficult for any team to overcome. Both teams scored about .39 points per play, so it’s not as if the Bengals’ offensive was less efficient by a wide margin like the score indicates.

Having a good offense also keeps the defense off the field. Keeping the worst unit in the NFL off the field might help the Bengals give up fewer points.

The Bengals can’t win at the line of scrimmage

The Bengals spent a lot of money this offseason on keeping their best defensive linemen around, but it didn’t do much good on Sunday.

The Bengals had no sacks, no quarterback hits, and only one tackle for a loss. The defense is losing at the line of scrimmage, and that helped Baker Mayfield feel comfortable in the pocket in both of their games against him. With a young quarterback (and four upcoming divisional games against young quarterbacks next season), the defense is going to need to get him off his spot and make him uncomfortable.

Of course, the offense winning at the line will help the offense too, but there’s no need to beat that dead horse again.