The Cincinnati Bengals have yet to taste victory in the Zac Taylor era. Needless to say, an 0-5 start (1-8, if you include the preseason) is not how anyone drew up the ushering in the supposedly-exciting new hire.
After the most recent loss, we took to Cincy Jungle’s Facebook page and The Orange and Black Insider Bengals podcast YouTube Channel to discuss the state of affairs for Cincinnati. In fielding questions from our readers/listeners, one thing was clear: Taylor’s play-calling prowess is under immense scrutiny.
On Sunday, there were more than a couple of instances in which things should have been questioned. However, just a small handful of decisions could have had the contest go with a different result.
Early in the first quarter after the Bengals had stopped the Cardinals on their initial drive, Cincinnati marched down the field, courtesy of Joe Mixon’s legs. Cincinnati faced what became a critical go-to-goal situation, in which they settled for a field goal.
The focus was on Auden Tate’s dropped pass for what would have been a touchdown, but there were more strategic gaffes under the surface. For instance, on second-and-goal from the Arizona four-yard line, Cincinnati dialed up yet another run to Mixon, even though their entire defense clogged the front. It netted minus-one yard.
From there, Cincinnati ran the play that called on Tate’s number. Yet, it was a play where the Bengals subbed out their best red zone weapon in Tyler Eifert. Between that poor substitution decision, the team not running a play-action pass on second down and their not going for it on fourth-and-goal (more on that in a minute), it set a dull tone instead of an emphatic one.
Later in the third quarter, Taylor decided to finally be aggressive in a much more risky situation. Cincinnati faced a fourth-and-1 from their own 42-yard line and decided to go for it.
Conventional wisdom would say that the play to be called, if you were to actually run one in this tenuous situation, would be a quarterback sneak on a quick snap, or a run to the back who has been the most effective on the ground. Instead, a read option out of the shotgun was the call and the play was stuffed. It led to a Cardinals field goal.
Of course, in any loss, any small set of questionable plays can be placed under the microscope. When a team is 0-5 they’re up for extensive scrutiny.
If you were to look back at Week 1 against the Seahawks, flea-flickers, misdirections, effective substitutions and other “set-up plays” were part and parcel of a near-win. Since, the creativity has been lacking.
Of course, losing A.J. Green and Cordy Glenn (who have both been out since Week 1), John Ross, Alex Erickson and others have hurt the team’s ability to be creative. Still, even with the notable absences, seemingly-simple situations have been overthought to a crippling degree.
Also on tap for discussion after the Week 5 loss:
- Are we really to believe the trade rumors? Will Mike Brown actually part with some star players in an effort to rebuild the roster?
- Is there a tangible plan in place in the future years of the Zac Taylor era? If so, should we be confident in it?
- These close losses come down to a small handful of plays. Many of them not being made could indict the coaching staff, as the errors seem more mental than physical.
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