The Bengals got out to an early lead, let the other team gain some ground, fail to make adjustments, and ultimately lost. How Marvin Lewis of them.
There were some positives from this game. Joe Burrow was back over 300 yards. Tee Higgins hit the century mark. Jessie Bates played at the same Pro Bowl level he’s been at this year.
But there was one huge negative. The Bengals lost. Again.
If the Bengals had scored one more touchdown in each of their games this season, they would be 5-1 instead of 1-4-1. We would be talking about Zac Taylor as a Coach of the Year candidate.
In reality, fans are asking how much longer he will be wearing a headset for the Bengals.
Here are three things we learned from the loss on Sunday.
A.J. Green was back
A.J. Green led the Bengals in receptions and had 96 yards.
This is the A.J. Green we’ve been waiting for.
We’re not ready to sign him to a long-term deal yet, but this was a good start. Green needs to start putting together games like this. It’s only one game, but one can turn into two, and so on.
The only flaw from this game was another missed deep ball. Those pesky deep passes have been missing Green all season, but the one he let go was the most catchable of the year. He still needs to work with Joe Burrow on that.
But other than that, Green was outstanding. We’ll see if this game was a one-off, or if this is the start of a trend.
The Defensive line is a mess
No position group has been hit with more injuries than the defensive line.
In the offseason, it looked like the trio of Geno Atkins, Mike Daniels, and D.J. Reader were going to be rotating in and out, giving offensive lines a tough outing. Now the latter two are on IR, and the former is on a pitch count.
The Bengals Week 1 defensive line was Carlos Dunlap, Reader, Daniels, and Sam Hubbard. In Week 7, the starting line was Amani Bledsoe, Christian Covington, Xavier Williams, and Carl Lawson.
It has been a total overhaul due to injuries, but also due to some odd coaching decisions.
During the Week 7 game against the Colts, the Bengals defensive line got absolutely no pressure. This allowed Phillip Rivers to just sit back in the pocket and pick the defense apart.
The Bengals’ solution was to start blitzing linebackers, but Rivers would take advantage of the decreased number in coverage and keep passing to practice squad signees like Marcus Johnson and DeMichael Harris.
There was also Zac Taylor’s controversial decision to limit Dunlap’s and Aktins’ playing time, especially on a potentially game-winning drive.
The defensive line was supposed to be the strength of this defense. Now, it has turned into a liability.
Zac Taylor has questions to answer about his coaching
Aside from Dunlap’s and Atkins’ playing time, there are some coaching concerns from this game.
In a general sense, blowing a 21-point lead is pretty egregious. This is the kind of thing that former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn got fired over.
The Bengals scored three touchdowns on their first three possessions, then only scored six points the rest of the game. That shows that the Colts’ defense made adjustments, and the Bengals failed to counter-adjust.
The Colts went scoreless on their first three possessions, then scored on five of their next seven. That shows the Colts’ offense made adjustments, and the Bengals failed to counter-adjust.
From a more specific standpoint, there were some questionable calls in crunch time.
For example, calling a fullback dive on third-and-one was a curious call. But even if you agree that it was the right call, why give the ball to Samaje Perine? No offense to Perine, but that was his first offensive in his Bengals career (if you don’t count the victory formation, which the Bengals have only run three times in the last two seasons).
After that play, Taylor settled for a 56-yard Randy Bullock field goal. Bullock has been with the Bengals for a while now, and we know what he is. He is a kicker who is extremely accurate from up close, provided his calves are in good shape. Once you get beyond 50-yards, Bullock is now 11 for 22 in his career.
The Bengals this season are nine for 10 on fourth down conversions.
Would you rather have your coach call a play with a 50 percent chance of working or a 90 percent chance of working?
If the Bengals wanted to blow early leads and fail to make adjustments, they could have just kept Marvin Lewis.