The Bengals played an odd game against the Raiders on Sunday.
Derek Carr completed all but four of his passes against a secondary that was pretty much giving him everything. Yet somehow, with less than two minutes to play, the Bengals had a chance to tie or win the game.
Of course, they still had to win the damn thing, and like the 10 weeks prior to Sunday, they proved incapable of doing such a thing. The Bengals ended up losing 17-10 for yet another one-score game.
Joe Mixon led the Bengals’ rushing attack to their best game of the season, while the defensive line helped limit the Raiders’ ground attack. Rushing was an issue that plagued both sides of the ball, so there’s some pretty clear improvement in that area.
However the passing game is dead in the water for both phases. The defensive secondary let Carr do pretty much whatever he wanted, while the Ryan Finley-led Bengals passed for 115 yards. To put that in perspective, Raiders running back Josh Jacobs rushed for 113 yards.
What did we learn from the Bengals’ loss to the Raiders?
The Bengals are running the ball much better
Even though the injuries to the offensive line have not let up, the Bengals have been rushing like crazy over the last three games. The Bengals rushed for 104 yards in Week 8, 157 yards in Week 10, and 173 yards in Week 11.
The Bengals have pushed their average rushing yards per game to 80.6, which is 28th in the league. A month ago, the Bengals were in last place with a measly 56.5 yards per game.
Giovani Bernard averaged ten yards per carry, and Tyler Boyd got ten yards the only time he ran the ball. Ryan Finley had an average of 15.7 yards per rushing attempt also.
Joe Mixon not only scored his first rushing touchdown of the year, but he also gained 5.7 yards per carry.
The Bengals have clearly been trying to get the run game going, and it has been working. Finley probably appreciates this luxury that Andy Dalton didn’t have. This is about the only thing the Bengals have going for them at this point in the season.
Ryan Finley is not a long-term solution
The Bengals’ offense looked pretty good last week, relatively speaking. They took one giant step back in Oakland, in large part to Finley.
The success the Bengals’ had last week reflected more on how they changed to suit Finley than Finley himself. This week, though, there was no amount of scheming the Bengals’ could do to protect the offense from Finley.
The numbers speak for themselves. Finley completed 13 passes on 31 throws, averaging 3.7 yards per attempt. If you go back and watch the game, count how many times Finley threw the ball for more than 15 yards. It wasn’t a lot.
Finley doesn’t have the arm to push the ball down the field or to the outside. This is a defensive coordinator’s dream, since the defense only has to cover such a small part of the field.
It’s a miracle that Finley’s lack of arm strength didn’t hurt the run game. The Bengals are definitely in the market for a quarterback in the 2020 draft, because Finley won’t get the Bengals back into the playoffs.
The defensive line finally looks like it is supposed to
The Bengals’ defensive line is supposed to be the best unit on the defensive side of the ball, but they have looked pretty bad for most of the season.
On Sunday against the Raiders, the defensive line got five tackles for a loss, three sacks, and a forced fumble. They’re finally back to where they should be.
Geno Atkins looked like his normal self, getting a sack and a half, two QB hits, and a TFL. Playing next to him and having the best game of his career was Josh Tupou. The third-year pro had seven tackles, a TFL, and a forced fumble.
The line the reason that Derek Carr imposed his will in the passing game, yet only scored 17 points. The rushing defense has been the best that it has been all year, only giving up 113 yards. That mark is over 50 yards shy of the season average, so that’s a win for this defense.
Even though the Bengals’ secondary made Carr look like an MVP, the Bengals’ weren’t out of the game until there were less than two minutes to go in the game. The defensive line was the reason.