The Bengals were ugly in their home opener. There is no way to sugarcoat it.
Every metric out there tells you that the Bengals were severely outplayed. The 49ers gained 572 total yards to the Bengals’ 316. The 49ers converted 27 first downs, while the Bengals only got 14. The 49ers bested the Bengals in third down conversions, red zone efficiency, and time of possession.
The Bengals poor performance came on the heals of an encouraging loss against the Seahawks. In Week 1, the Bengals looked new and improved. In Week 2, they looked like the squad that finished the 2018 season 1-9.
So what did we learn from the Bengals’ terrible, terrible loss?
The offensive line needs help
Cordy Glenn is still sidelined while going through concussion protocol, and it shows. Andre Smith had a terrible first quarter, until he eventually left the game with a groin injury. His substitute, John Jerry, did not do well either.
The whole day, the Bengals were having to work around penalties, sacks, and tackles for a loss. Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard had no room to run anywhere and were tackled behind the line of scrimmage a combined nine times. Andy Dalton was constantly under pressure and was sacked four times.
This line is costing the team. It cost them points when penalties moved the offense back beyond field goal range. It cost the defense much needed rest when they couldn’t convert on any third downs.
This offensive line is not only bad, it’s a liability.
Lou Anarumo has work to do on defense
There were some brilliant play calls from Kyle Shanahan that helped the 49ers offense explode. For the most part, though, the defense was just outplayed.
The defense was missing tackles. Defenders were getting fooled by screens. Linebackers and defensive backers were getting caught with their eyes in the backfield. The discipline on defense was just sloppy.
The play-calling really could have been better as well. The defense ran out of the nickel formation on almost every single play, which is great for defending the pass. However, the 49ers ran the ball 42 times and passed the ball 26 times. If you think the opposing offense is going to run, you want to have bigger bodies in there that can eat up blocks instead of smaller defensive back who get swallowed up easily.
Lou Anarumo was correct when he said that everybody has to look in the mirror. There was a whole lot of bad on Sunday. But he and Taylor should both take a good look too, because they are responsible for preparing their team to play on Sundays. This team did not look prepared in any sense.
Lou Anarumo on defensive struggles: We got to come away with everybody looking in the mirror and taking accountability ... Half (the 49ers) yards came after missed tackles and screens. We gave up over 160 yards after contact and 100 yards of screens. #Bengals— Tyler Dragon (@TheTylerDragon) September 16, 2019
Zac Taylor has to realize what he does or doesn’t have
It looked like Zac Taylor was play-calling for the Rams on Sunday. Those playcalls probably would have worked if he had the Rams’ personnel. Unfortunately, there is a vast disparity of talent between the Rams and the Bengals.
Taylor has to realize that his offensive line can’t block for the run or pass protect. It’s not the end of the world if you can call up the right scheme. This means he has to spread the defense out when running the ball, or getting the ball out of the quarterbacks hand on passing plays.
The play-caller has to realize what his players have the talent to do, and stop asking them to do things they can’t. He shouldn’t be asking Tyler Eifert or C.J. Uzomah to do a lot of blocking, since their strengths are more suited to receiving. There was even a play in the first quarter where he essentially had Alex Erickson lined up at tight end and tasked him to block a linebacker (spoiler alert: it didn’t end well).
Taylor and Anamuro have to realize what they have on defense. The defensive line is as good as any in the league, but the linebackers are lacking in coverage. Maybe this means they scheme towards their strengths. Maybe it means they have to cycle in Germaine Pratt more. Either way, they’re trying to do things that work with players they don’t have.
If Taylor is the head coach the front office thinks he is, then he’s going to have a long day in the film room. There is a lot to work on, but it’s not necessarily a death sentence for the Bengals. One thing is for sure: they can’t keep doing what they’re doing. The only question is, will they make the adjustments?