They say that patience is key and timing is everything.
That especially holds true with football, where timing between and quarterback and his receivers makes the difference between success and failure – between winning and losing.
And, as anyone who has played the game will tell you, it just takes one person being off by one step to throw the whole operation out of whack.
“There definitely have been some execution issues,” Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton said after Sunday’s game.
Second-year receiver Auden Tate, who has all of 15 career receptions, 11 of which had come this season, got the start Sunday, along with fourth-year return man Alex Erickson, who had only six receptions this year and 44 on his career.
Once Erickson went down with an injury in the Bengals’ first possession of the second quarter, he was replaced by rookie undrafted free agent Stanley Morgan, who was just plucked off the practice squad this week. Also seeing action was fellow rookie undrafted free agent Damion Willis, who has all of five catches in limited work this season.
Of course, there is also Tyler Eifert, who set a Bengals’ record for tight ends in 2015 with 52 receptions for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns. Of course, Eifert has been plagued by injuries ever since and has only 11 receptions this season as the Bengals try to preserve his health.
Rounding out the group was Tyler Boyd, who came into the game with 27 catches for 283 yards, but was still seeking his first touchdown reception.
There was no doubt that something was off early on. The Bengals’ only trip into the red zone in the first half ended in a field goal. Dalton went into intermission having completed only 4 of 10 passes for 22 yards. Three of those incompletions were drops, including one by Tate that would have resulted in a touchdown on that first trip into the red zone.
Cincinnati’s second trip into the red zone did not produce any better results. On their opening possession of the third quarter, the Bengals drove to a first down at Arizona’s 8-yard line before a false start on rookie left guard Michael Jordan pushed them back five yards. It was a mistake Cincinnati could not overcome, and the Bengals had to settle for yet another field goal.
But the offense was starting to come alive. The quarterback and his receivers were starting to find a rhythm. After completing just four passes in all of the first half, Dalton connected on 7 of 10 passes for 47 yards during the drive.
Cincinnati turned the ball over on downs at its own 42 late in the third quarter, but held the Cardinals to a field goal. After a three-and-out by the Bengals, Arizona tacked on a quick touchdown to go up by a score of 23-9 and seemingly put the game out of reach. But maybe not.
The Bengals’ next two possessions ended in touchdowns. After Tate grabbed his first touchdown reception of his career on a 2-yard slant, Boyd tacked on his first touchdown of the season with an impressive 42-yard reception on a post pattern that saw the Pittsburgh grad outrun the coverage and Dalton drop a perfect pass right into his arms.
Dalton finished the day with some pretty impressive numbers. The ninth-year pro out of Texas Christian University completed 27 of 38 passes (23 for 28 in the second half) for 262 yards, two touchdowns and an overall rating of 107.6.
Despite the results, Dalton has thrown for the fifth-most yards in the NFL with 1,412 through five games, and his yards per game of 282.4 is eighth best in the league. His overall rating of 86.9 is only good for No. 24 (he is still well ahead of Baker Mayfield!), and his completion percentage is near the bottom of the league, so there is still lots of work to do.
Boyd, who had only one reception for four yards in the first half, finished with 10 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. He now has 37 receptions on the season, tied for fifth-most in the NFL, and his 406 total yards ranks him at No. 8.
Willis contributed four receptions for 38 yards, Tate had three catches for 26 yards and a score, Morgan and Erickson each had a reception and Eifert hauled in a pair of catches for 14 yards. It took a while, but it finally started to come together.
“The day that it comes, and flips, it’s going to be good times around here,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said after the game. “So just hang with us.”