Going into Week 1, not many people gave the Bengals a chance. After all, Cordy Glenn was still out with a concussion, the Seahawks had just acquired Jadeveon Clowney, and A.J. Green was still wearing a walking boot.
In a surprise twist, the Bengals absolutely dominated the Seahawks. The Bengals racked up 429 yards on offense, ran 70 plays, and won the time of possession game. On defense, the Bengals kept the Seahawks to only 12 first downs, a 33% third down conversion rate, and 233 total yards of offense.
Somehow, the Bengals lost.
The Bengals suffered a one-point defeat against an 9.5-point favorite. In some ways, that’s even more disappointing than a blowout. On the other hand, it feels like a moral victory.
Unfortunately, there is no column for moral wins, only for regular wins and for losses (and ties too, but don’t get me started).
So after starting off 0-1, what did we learn from the Bengals’ 21-20 loss to the Seahawks?
The Zac Taylor offense is friendly to the passing game
Everyone saw Andy Dalton slinging the ball all over the place on Sunday, setting a new career high with 418 passing yards. He averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, which is one yard higher than his career average. His passer rating of 106.5 is 27.5 points higher than his career average. This new offense is a huge boost for Dalton.
If you take Dalton’s passing numbers from Week 1 and extrapolate them out for a whole season, the only season he has had with similar numbers was 2015. If this passing attack looks anything like that, this season will be very interesting.
John Ross had far and away the best game of his young career, which we will talk more about in a second. The improved passing game also led to some great games for Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah, and a decent NFL debut for Damion Willis.
The point is, Zac Taylor, who is a former quarterbacks and wide receivers coach, put together the best passing offense the Bengals have had in several years.
The Zac Taylor offense is not friendly to the running game
In the preseason, the Bengals couldn’t run the ball, but we kept making excuses.
“The offensive line is still up in the air,” we said. “Joe Mixon isn’t playing yet. Zac Taylor is trying to keep his playbook closed.”
Well, it’s the regular season, so those excuses no longer explain why the Bengals could only rush for 34 yards in Week 1.
Mixon couldn’t find any holes, racking up only 10 yards on six carries before being sidelined with an ankle injury. Giovani Bernard had a little easier go of it, with seven rushes for 21 yards. However, this is still something we don’t want to see.
Part of the reason Dalton dropped back 56 times was probably because the Bengals were slugging out only 2.4 yards every time a running back carried the ball.
Perhaps the offense was so pass-happy was because the Bengals had a healthy respect for the Seahawks’ front seven, and wanted to get the ball into the secondary as quickly and as often as possible.
But this is a trend that has gone on long enough. With Mixon being one of the best players on the offensive side of the ball, the Bengals need to get more than 17 total yards out of him a game. As good as the passing game was, the ground game needs work to take this offense to the next level.
John Ross III might just turn into a good football player
Few players around the NFL had a better day than John Ross did on Sunday. Seven receptions, 158 yards, and two touchdowns looks pretty refreshing for someone who has absolutely struggled over the last two seasons.
The biggest difference for Ross is probably confidence. Taylor has been restoring Ross’ confidence in himself that Marvin Lewis systematically crushed.
Ross’ day wasn’t perfect. In fact, his second touchdown was set up by a wide open muff that he had on the previous play. The fact that he came around after a shaky first half shows that he has the mental strength to succeed.
Ross has the physical tools to be a star, but his biggest problems over the last couple season have been between his ears. It looked like on Sunday, he got his brain and his body in synch.
The defensive line looks scary
Carlos Dunlap and Sam Hubbard feasted off the edge on Sunday, combining for three sacks, five QB hits, and four tackles for a loss.
The defensive line was in Russell Wilson’s face the whole game, and the pressure they generated is what kept the game as close as it was.
geno atkins (5), sam hubbard (4) carl lawson (3), carlos dunlap (2): 14 pressures— john sheeran (@John__Sheeran) September 9, 2019
bobby hart (6), andre smith (5), michael jordan (4): 15 allowed pressures
The #Seahawks offense struggled mightily for most of the game yesterday:— Joe Fann (@Joe_Fann) September 9, 2019
- 10/14 drives went for 11 yards or less
- 6/14 drives went for negative yards, which is... suboptimal.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to overcome mistakes made in the secondary, on special teams, or in the replay booth. But in a historically bad defense with most of its players returning, its good to see at least one unit show some improvement.
Stupid mistakes lost the game
In a game where many favored the Seahawks going in, the Bengals had to take advantage of every opportunity in order to come away with a win.
Four out of the six drives in the second half ended in Seahawks territory, and the Bengals only had three points to show for it.
Perhaps you could blame the missed field goal and Dalton’s only fumble of the game on the elements. But that still doesn’t excuse Dre Kirkpatrick’s unnecessary roughness penalty that led to a Chris Carson rushing touchdown, or the lapse in coverage that led to Tyler Lockett’s touchdown.
If the Bengals had avoided all of those mistakes, the score would have looked very different, and the Bengals would be tied with the Ravens for first place right now.