Something had to give when two winless teams met on Monday Night Football. Unfortunately, it was the Bengals.
The 27-3 score doesn’t quite reflect the severity of the beating the Steelers gave the Bengals.
The Bengals’ could barely get anything going on offense, and when they did, they turned the ball over. The only scoring drive for the orange and black came when they recovered a fumble in the red zone; then they only gained five yards and were forced to kick a field goal. The Bengals could not withstand the Steelers’ pass rush and gave Andy Dalton no opportunities to get set in the pocket.
On defense, it was the same old story. They made so many mistakes that they let a 0-3 team look like they were in total control the whole night. Mason Rudolph only threw four incompletions all night and put up a Pro Bowl worthy stat line.
This game was ugly, but what did we learn from this embarrassment?
The offensive line needs help
Over the last several years, we have been saying that the Bengals offensive line is bad, but that doesn’t accurately describe it anymore. This offensive line simply can’t function at an NFL level.
This group just can’t do it. The Bengals cannot continue with this same group of five players.
The good news is that Cordy Glenn practiced last week, so he should be returning sooner rather than later. However, given the length of his injury, there is no guarantee that he will be back as soon as next week.
Some more good news is that Alex Redmond comes back from his suspension. Sure, he did pretty poorly last season, but he gives the Bengals another option to plug and play on this fractured unit.
This line is costing the Bengals points and wins. That’s just not acceptable.
Same defense, same dumb mistakes
The problems that reared their heads against the 49ers repeated themselves against the Steelers on Monday night.
First of all, the Bengals have had trouble with their linebackers covering sideline to sideline. This turned out to be a huge problem, as the Steelers easily turned plays that should have only gone for two or three yards into seven- or eight-yard gains. James Conner and Jaylen Samuels looked like Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida.
Another killer that kept plaguing the defense was missed tackles. This has been a problem for Nick Vigil and Preston Brown, who are normally reliable tacklers. But this has not been their year, and this game was symptomatic of their condition. The defense cannot afford to miss tackles like that next week when they play the Cardinals, and face elusive players like Kyler Murray and David Johnson.
Because of these issues, the running backs got the ball often and quickly. Conner and Samuels had eight receptions each, which tied them for the team lead. They were so effective that they had nearly double the number of receptions and yards that the wideouts had.
In total, they combined for 36 touches, 208 yards from scrimmage, and two touchdowns. Are they just that unstoppable, or did the defense just give them great opportunities?
Because the running backs were so effective at gaining yards, the defensive line was essentially taken out of the game. Mason Rudolph got rid of the ball so quickly and the running backs were out of the backfield so quickly, not one defensive lineman had a sack or a tackle for a loss. Vigil and Dre Kirkpatrick recorded all three TFLs, and no one on the entire defense could get Rudolph to the ground.
It doesn’t take a whole lot of ineptitude to break the defense. Just a few small problems can cause the team some serious pain. The Bengals are quickly learning that lesson.
Zac Taylor has to take responsibility at some point
The Bengals looked good in the season opener, but have looked quite the opposite since. None of the problems are necessarily his fault, but he is failing to address them. The longer they go on, the more burden he bears.
How much of it is first year growing pains? It’s hard to say, but he’s not exactly setting up the Bengals for success.
He’s got to help Andy Dalton with his play calling. He knows that line can’t protect, so he’s got to draw up either some better protection schemes or plays that can get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands more quickly.
He’s got to do something about the mistakes on defense. The Bengals are giving opponents too many opportunities by missing tackles. Either he has to coach them directly or he has to pressure Lou Anarumo to fix the issues.
At the end of the day, Taylor is the head coach of a winless franchise. It’s on him to turn things around.