It was another painful weekend for Bengals fans, but looking back at this game with a clear head, there are some positives particularly in the passing game.
The pass protection looked pretty good, and A.J. Green finally had a productive day.
The offense showed improvement in the red zone and on 3rd-down conversions.
There is, however, one area of Joe Burrow’s game that stands out as an important area where the rookie can improve.
We will get to that, but let’s start with one of the game’s biggest highlights.
This was a thing of beauty!
The Bengals have struggled to pick up 3rd downs this season. They have also struggled to overcome penalties that push them back.
On this drive, a false start on 2nd and 4 and a dropped pass on the following play led to 3rd and 9. This spelled trouble in earlier weeks, but not here.
The Colts sent pressure, knowing that the Bengals pass protection has been an issue, but the protection was excellent on this play. Right guard Alex Redmond starts out helping Trey Hopkins with the defensive tackle, then comes off to pick up the blitzing linebacker. Running back Giovani Bernard comes from the other side of the formation to pick up defensive back Kenny Moore, who is also blitzing. Bernard gets pushed back a bit, but overall the protection is excellent.
Knowing he has a one-on-one matchup, Burrow goes deep to fellow rookie Tee Higgins for the biggest gain of the season. Higgins picked up 67 yards before being brought down by Rock Ya-Sin.
This was huge play.
The Bengals have also struggled in the red zone, but they were 3-for-3 Sunday.
This appearance didn’t start off well, as a false start pushed them back from the 2-yard line to the 7-yard line, but Joe Mixon would not be denied.
The offensive line gets a big push, and Mixon fits right in to the blocks and following them into the end zone.
Mixon seemed much more decisive in this game and followed his blocks rather than trying to make something happen by himself.
No reason to leave this pocket when he did pic.twitter.com/zM1zGxK0oh— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) October 20, 2020
The Bengals certainly did some good things, but I have a concern.
Their pass protection was much better this Sunday, but it was troubling to see Burrow escape the pocket when he shouldn’t.
In this clip he scrambles to the right and Green smartly drops behind the defender and gets open for the 1st down. It was a good play by Green, but Burrow should have never scrambled.
The defensive end comes around Jonah Williams’ block, but not until well after Burrow has already taken off in the other direction.
Burrow needs to stay in the pocket and let the routes develop.
As the linebacker runs vertically with the tight end, Tyler Boyd comes open on the dig underneath him.
Throwing it to Boyd may not have netted many yards more, but that’s not the point.
The quarterback has to know when to leave the pocket, but he also has to know when to stay put.
This time Burrow still managed to make a play, but that will not always be the case as we saw later in the game...
This was 3rd and 10 on the last drive of the game.
The Colts send another blitz on this play, and the Bengals pick it up once again.
Tight end Drew Sample is running up the seam, wide open, and Burrow has plenty of time, but for some reason he decides to tuck the ball and run, only picking up a yard.
He has got to stay in the pocket and make that throw.
I have too many thoughts on this one to cover in the number of characters Twitter gives me— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) October 20, 2020
Stay tuned to Cincy Jungle pic.twitter.com/HpzkuMqxR8
The Bengals scored a touchdown on each of their first 3 drives. The 4th drive was looking good as they broke the huddle for this 2nd-and-10 play on the 30-yard line.
Burrow drops back and looks to his left.
Michael Jordan, who was initially helping Hopkins, comes over to assist Williams. Whether it was seeing the defense tackle after Jordan came off or feeling Williams getting pushed back, something spooks Burrow.
Sometimes the quarterback needs to stand in the pocket at take the hit. If he had thrown the ball to Boyd just as he was making his break, it would have led to 1st and Goal. Instead, he tries to escape and is sacked.
The Bengals settled for a field goal after a short gain on 3rd Down.
This play was truly frustrating, but do not fret. Burrow can stand and deliver, and I have proof.
Siri, show me a tight-window throw pic.twitter.com/B4kXuXWajs— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) October 20, 2020
Williams and Jordan each fall victim to an inside move and Burrow is in trouble.
What does he do?
He zips a beautiful ball into Higgins who has 3 defenders around him. This was an incredible tight-window throw under pressure.
Burrow takes a hit, but not before making the throw for a 1st Down.
The Bengals’ pass protection was better in this game than it has been in previous weeks, which helped them to convert on 3rd downs at a higher rate.
They have had issues with their pass protection at other times this season, but Burrow cannot let that phase him. He needs to understand when to escape the pocket and when to stay put.
Overall, Burrow has looked very good as rookie, but this is an area where he needs to improve after this game.