0-5. The Cincinnati Bengals are officially looking to the 2020 offseason, as rookie head coach Zac Taylor is still looking for his first win in the league.
In some ways, the Bengals didn’t seem to recover from their loss against Pittsburgh, but, in others, they played a much better brand of football. Here are the best and worst performers in the Bengals’ 26-23 loss to the Cardinals.
Sam Hubbard: In just his second season, Hubbard may have cemented himself as the best player on this Bengals’ defense. He swarmed in the run game and harassed Kyler Murray relentlessly. Hubbard finished with five tackles and a sack.
Randy Bullock: It was not the greatest day, in terms of weather, but the veteran kicker did his job. After Cincinnati’s offense continued to fail in the red zone, Bullock was called upon three times for field goals and two others for extra points. He made all attempts to keep the Bengals in the game, totaling 11 of the team’s 23 total points.
Trey Hopkins: The Bengals’ offensive line was abysmal once again, save for Hopkins. Pretty much every great Joe Mixon run came from behind Hopkins, one of which included two great blocks on a16-yard gain in the second half.
Tyler Boyd: The veteran receiver stepped up at the end of the game, nearly giving the Bengals a shot at an unlikely win. He also stepped in to aid in punt returns after Alex Erickson left with a concussion. Boyd finished with 10 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Joe Mixon: It’s been a struggle just one year after Mixon led the AFC in rushing yardage, but he got off to a hot start against Arizona. On the first drive alone, Mixon had five carries for 57 yards, but cooled off before half. He picked it back up in the second half, finishing with 19 carries for 91 yards, as well as having a 16-yard reception.
Giovani Bernard: Mixon had a lot of the big plays, but Bernard is the utility guy this offense needs. He pass blocks with far more effectiveness than Mixon, while also adding in the receiving dimension (Mixon does that well too, though).
Bernard finished with two carries for 10 yards and three catches for 16 yards and a trio of first downs. As color commentator Chris Spielman said of No. 25: “All you get is all he has”.
Bob Bicknell: There are two areas in which the Bengals’ wide receivers coach lost on Sunday. Injuries have and continue accrue at the position, as Alex Erickson left the game and Tyler Boyd took a shot to the dome in the first half. At one point in the second quarter, the injuries were piled so high, that Bicknell had two undrafted rookies (Stanley Morgan and Damion Willis) and a former seventh-round player (Auden Tate) to accompany Boyd.
Still, drops plagued this group. Bicknell had to have an idea as to who he’d be fielding on Sunday and his unit didn’t seem overly-prepared to step up and contribute.
Zac Taylor: “Missed opportunities”. Those were the words Taylor used to FOX Sports’ sideline reporter, Shannon Spake. Unfortunately, many of those have come at the hands of mental errors. Before Tate’s touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati’s offense had gone almost nine full quarters without scoring a touchdown.
What in the world was that play-call on fourth-and-1 from their own 42-yard line? The Bengals’ winless start can largely be attributed to three words, though: red zone inefficiency.
As if any of those weren’t enough reasons, Taylor also took a bad hit on the sideline that caused him to limp. Credit Taylor for his team fighting back for a late tie, but they still don’t know how to set up, nor seal a win.
Lou Anarumo: Cincinnati’s defense continues to show its warts. Even though Anarumo’s unit had the team in it late by giving up just 13 points through the first three quarters, it would have been a lot worse against a better team.
Midway through the fourth quarter and a Arizona needs a key 2nd-and-10? No problem. Offense ties it up with two minutes and Cardinals need a game-winning drive? You got it. The allowance of first downs on long-distance situations is maddening, while the regression of key players is downright upsetting.
B.W. Webb: In the second quarter alone, Webb allowed Larry Fitzgerald to grab two huge first downs on long-distanced situations. On the first instance, “Fitz” just took Webb out of the play with a jostle to push him to the ground to convert a third-and-10 to lead to a field goal.
The second time around, Webb just let the savvy veteran work the zone without even pressing him at the line (Preston Brown was to blame as well) to move the chains on a second-and-14. This led to more points right before halftime. He had a couple of nice plays as well, but he was a liability at times.
Michael Jordan: The pro game just seems too much for Jordan right now. On what looked to be a designed flip pass to Boyd, Jordan missed his blocking assignment while pulling and also had a false start penalty on the same opening drive of the second half to help stall out what looked like a march for a touchdown.
Nick Vigil: No. 59 is the ultimate mirage of a football player. When looking at the stat line, seeing 13 total tackles would normally point to a solid outing from a linebacker.
However, more missed tackles and the inability of both he and Brown to make lateral plays continue to kill this defense. The 24-yard pass to David Johnson on the Cardinals’ game-winning drive encapsulates the deficiencies of both Vigil and the entire defense.
Germaine Pratt: Speaking of linebackers, what in the world is going on with the rookie? LaRoy Reynolds is seeing snaps on defense over Pratt, who was only out there on a handful of plays. It’s understandable that Anarumo wants to go with heavy defensive back formations, but could things really be worse with the third-round pick getting substantial snaps?