Some things are better left unsaid.
Like, “It’s tough to beat good teams on the road.”
Yeah. We know that.
And it’s even tougher when you are not a very good football team. When you come in with a record of 1-3-1, and with two of those losses having come by five points or less.
Which is why, when you have a team down by 21 points early in the second quarter of Sunday’s game in Indianapolis, you have to put your foot on their throat. If you stop dancin’ with the one who brung ya...
“Everybody could have done one more thing to help us get this win and that’s all of us,” head coach Zac Taylor said after the game. “It’s the coaches and the players and everyone’s gotta be accountable for that.”
Let’s tell it like it is. This one belongs to the coaches, and particularly to the head coach.
The Bengals came out on fire. After new addition Xavier Williams recovered a fumble at the Indianapolis 43-yard-line less than one minute into the game, Cincinnati scored three straight touchdowns to open up a 21-0 lead just four seconds into the second quarter.
Cincinnati was firing on all cylinders. The offensive line was pushing the Colts’ vaunted defensive line back, opening holes for Joe Mixon and giving Joe Burrow all the time he needed to exploit what is one of the better secondaries in the NFL.
The Bengals’ make-shift defensive line was having its way with the Colts’ highly-regarded offensive line. After the fumble, Indianapolis went three and out, three and out. Then things started to unravel.
Philip Rivers, who finished the day having completed 29 of 44 passes for 371 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, completed three of four passes for 34 yards in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Rivers torched the Bengals’ secondary for 234 yards and all three of his touchdowns.
“So not for one second do you relax and change the way that you’re calling anything and I felt like we didn’t do that,” Taylor said when questioned about the sudden turnaround. “I should say, I felt like we stayed with the plan that we believed in and didn’t alter just because we had a lead and again, we just didn’t execute well enough.”
Say what you want, but the results say something different. The results paint the picture of a team, and a coach, that is not used to playing with a lead. They paint the picture of a coach who saw his team up big, threw away the aggressiveness that had gotten him to that point and started to play not to to lose.
After Indianapolis scored its initial touchdown to pull within 21-7, Cincinnati drove 46 yards in nine plays before settling for a 47-yard Randy Bullock field goal that extended the lead to 24-7. Cincinnati’s next four plays netted three yards, and they went into the half up 24-21.
After racking up 201 total yards in the first quarter alone, Cincinnati managed 197 yards the rest of the way, including 168 total yards in the entire second half.
Indianapolis, on the other hand, managed 34 total yards in the first quarter but added nearly 400 more yards over the rest of the game. Say what you will, but the stats tell the story.
“We come out and start that game strong and put them in a tough position,” Taylor said. “Our defense plays with their hair on fire and then a couple things didn’t go our way. Again, if we would’ve put points on the board on offense at the beginning of the third quarter, late in the second quarter, then the defense kind of has that pressure off of them a little bit and can go back and play like they were in the first quarter, but it’s on this entire team.”
More specifically, a large portion of it is on the coaches, and on Taylor himself.
“I have a ton of confidence in the players in that locker room,” Taylor said.
OK. But how much longer will they continue to have confidence in you?