They tease, yet they just don’t know how to close. The Cincinnati Bengals remain winless and it’s largely because they can’t come up with the clutch plays.
Turnovers, drops and other mental mistakes plagued the Bengals once again, as they fell to 0-7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here are the biggest winners and losers of the Cincinnati Bengals in their Week 7 loss.
Geno Atkins: We have been waiting for one of those trademark explosive games from Atkins and he spearheaded a stout defensive performance by the Bengals early in the contest. He finished with six tackles and two sacks.
Lou Anarumo: Whether it was in giving up just six points in the first half, despite the offense punting five times (with three three-and-outs), giving the team a goal line stand to start the game, or adjusting the defensive line to the Jags’ power run game with Leonard Fournette, Anarumo’s unit played its best game of the year. Through three-and-a-half quarters, Jacksonville had four red zone possessions and only came away with nine points.
Through the first seven games, Anarumo’s unit has had the Bengals in five or six of their games, points-wise, which may be a sign of the rookie defensive coordinator’s overachievement, given the amount of injuries he’s had to endure. The Bengals ended up allowing 27 points, but that’s with the offense surrendering four turnovers.
Kevin Huber and the punt coverage unit: In the first half, Cincinnati had two punts downed inside the Jacksonville five-yard line. Brandon Wilson did run into a Jaguars returner in the third quarter, but, for the most part, this remains one of the stronger aspects of this struggling team.
Darqueze Dennard: Without any help from Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson (both injured), Dennard stepped up in a big way against Jacksonville. He had three passes defended in the first half alone, including a would-be touchdown before the half to Dede Westbrook.
Alex Erickson: We had heard rumors about how the Bengals looked at the veteran receiver/returner in a similar vein to that of Cooper Kupp. He hadn’t had too much of an impact to this point, but had six catches for 110 yards in the first half alone. He had a bad drop on a potential big play at the onset of the third quarter, but it was an overall solid day of work with eight catches for 137 yards.
Sam Hubbard: The second-year defensive lineman was part of a stout defensive line, who contributed with two quarterback hits (one nearly led to an interception), a tackle-for-loss and four total tackles.
B.W. Webb: The veteran defensive back has been pressed into starting action with the absences of Kirkpatrick and Jackson and didn’t respond all that well. In the first quarter, Webb literally and metaphorically let an opportunity for the Bengals to get early control of the game go through his hands with a would-be pick-six.
He also allowed a couple of big completions to Chris Conley at the end of the first half to set up the Jaguars with a critical field goal. To complete the rough afternoon, Webb dropped another would-be interception late in the fourth quarter that also could have been taken to the house.
Andy Dalton: Whether it was in a standard-type of offense, or the no-huddle, Dalton struggled in the first half once again. Up until just before the first half’s two-minute warning, Dalton was just 3-of-11 for 23 yards, with missed passes (including an under-thrown ball for a potential big play by Tyler Boyd), another drop by Boyd and a batted pass at the line.
The first four drives of the game were punts by the Bengals, with three being three-and-out and the other lasting just four plays. And, in a career where he has been so careful with the football in the red zone, No. 14 threw another interception in the critical area in the fourth quarter.
As has long been the case with Cincinnati, they let things snowball on them, with Dalton throwing two more interceptions in the subsequent drives. He did have a touchdown pass and one on the ground, though.
Jessie Bates III: Missed open field tackles (the end-around in the second quarter was a prime example), a step late on passes and a lack of any kind of impact by No. 30 has been the storyline of his second season. It’s been a very disappointing follow-up to a great rookie year, and it has had a hugely-negative impact on the Cincinnati defense.
The offensive line: The dynamic right-side duo of Bobby Hart and Alex Redmond made its glorious return this past Sunday. And, wouldn’t you know it? Missed blocks, penalties and the inability to run the football were part-and-parcel of yet another Sunday afternoon. You can’t sustain drives and/or win games without some semblance of running the football, so having less than 20 yards on the ground deep into the fourth quarter spelled doom for Cincinnati.
Tyler Boyd: One would have to guess that this was one of Boyd’s worst career games. He had three drops, had another under-thrown deep ball get jarred loose and lost a fumble in the third quarter.
He didn’t have a great game last week, either, so the hope is that he’ll get past this rough stretch soon after such a nice start to the year. Boyd had five catches for 55 yards on 14 targets.
Tony McRae: Like Webb and Dennard, McRae has been forced with an increase of snaps and it hasn’t been ideal for the defense. With Anarumo’s unit playing well in the first half and looking to stifle the Jaguars’ attempt at points before the half, McRae allowed an inexcusable 33-yard completion to Westbrook on a 3rd-and-15.
McRae was also on coverage of Keelan Cole on his go-ahead touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter, as well as the subsequent two-point conversion. These were just a handful of examples in which he was victimized on Sunday.
Zac Taylor: Aside from the aforementioned struggles from the offense early in the game once again, Taylor lost yet another challenge, putting him at just 2-of-6 for the year. Dalton is having immense trouble finding a rhythm in the beginning quarters, while the run game is an absolute joke.
We understand that it has been a tumultuous week and the roster is littered with injuries to important players, but he and his offense are not getting it done. Rigidity in their formations, a lack of creativity with the running backs and four turnovers from that unit put Taylor and Brian Callahan directly under the microscope.
The viewers: Before the Bengals’ touchdown at the end of the first half, the two teams combined for nine punts, including seven of them consecutively. The two teams combined for two wins coming into the matchup and with their accrued injuries, it definitely showed. Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon toed the CBS company line by attempting to keep the viewers engaged, but they may have had the toughest job of the week.
Former Bengals players being honored: Names like Anthony Munoz, Chad Johnson, Dhani Jones, Ken Anderson, Willie Anderson, Ickey Woods and others were honored throughout the weekend and into halftime on Sunday. Not only were they made aware that there is still no official Bengals Ring of Honor, but they were witness to an 0-6 team struggling to put 17 points on the board while at home.