What has gotten into the Bengals lately?
First, they upset the Steelers on Monday night football, then they win on the road?
Who is this team, and what have they done with the Bengals?
The Bengals defeated the Texans 37-31, not only winning two in a row for the first time under Zac Taylor, but winning their first road win with Taylor.
The Bengals proved that their win on Monday Night was not a fluke. The Bengals proved that they are not going to tank for a better draft spot. The Bengals proved that they are trying to build a winning culture.
And suddenly, the Bengals have as many wins with Joe Burrow as they do with Ryan Finley and Brandon Allen.
What did we learn from this game?
Brandon Allen is a great QB2
Four weeks ago, I thought if Brandon Allen started every game for the rest of the season, the Bengals would lose every game for the rest of the season.
His first two starts for the Bengals were, simply put, not great. In two starts, he completed 28 of his 48 passes (which is 58.3 percent) for 289 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions while taking seven sacks.
But in his third start, Taylor came up with a game plan for him. Over his last two starts, he completed 56 of his 73 passes (which is 76.7 percent) for 588 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and has not taken a sack.
Not only did he win, but he carried the team. Tee Higgins and Alex Erickson helped, but Allen made the big time plays to get the ball in their hands.
The Bengals would do well to retain Allen after this season. He has a clear grasp of the offense, and has proved he can win when he has to. If the Bengals can get him back, then Allen will make a great backup for Joe Burrow.
Thank you for beating the Steelers, Ryan Finley. We will always remember that game fondly. But there’s a new No. 2 in town, and his name is Brandon Allen.
Zac Taylor is getting hot at the right time
If Taylor goes 2-13-1, then we might be talking about a new head coach in 2021.
But Taylor has gone on some sort of run, winning two in a row for the first time in his career, and winning on the road for the first time.
Not only has Taylor won two straight games, but he has done so without his franchise quarterback, left tackle, running back, leading receiver, opening day defensive end, two starting defensive tackles, and a starting cornerback.
You might be thinking In last weeks’ What We Learned, you criticized Taylor’s coaching. What changed?
The two things I criticized were (1) the offense’s inability to manufacture points and (2) general struggles in the second half, specifically the third quarter.
To the first point, the Bengals had five (5!) drives of 70 or more yards against the Texans. They had four in the previous three games, and only one against the Steelers.
In the upset on Monday Night Football, the Bengals scored 27 points thanks to three turnovers from the defense. Only one score did not come from a short field.
In Houston, however, the offense only got help from the defense and special teams twice. The first time was in the first quarter, and resulted in a missed field goal. The second was off of Sam Hubbard’s strip sack, and it led to the final field goal.
So 34 of the Bengals 37 points were created by the offense. That’s awesome.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with getting help from defense. But if you are relying on your defense to help your offense score, that’s a problem.
To point number two, the Bengals only had two third quarter possessions, but scored touchdowns on both. The last time the Bengals scored two third quarter touchdowns was in Week 4 against the Jaguars. In fact, in Weeks 5-15, the Bengals had a total of ten third quarter points.
The biggest problems the Bengals had, they seem to have fixed.
But just as impressive as that is how Allen has developed over the last few weeks. You can refer to the previous section to see how far he has come over the last month.
It’s like the Bengals have had a brand new coach in the last two weeks.
The run game got it done
Whether you want to credit on the Texans’ bad defense or a new boost of energy for the Bengals, the running game looked rejuvenated.
Samaje Perine had a career day. He set a new personal best both in longest run, rushing touchdowns. Perine had 95 yards on only 13 attempts, averaging 7.6 yards per carry. He also had 41 receiving yards.
Giovani Bernard also had a big day, with 16 carries, 65 yards, eight catches, and 88 receiving yards.
Not only was rushing important, but the Bengals invested heavily in the screen game. The Bengals needed effective screens to neutralize J.J. Watt and the Texans’ pass rush.
In total, the Bengals rushed for 169 yards on 32 carries. This helped the Bengals reach 540 total yards on the day.
A.J. Green is most likely leaving
This is something we have feared, but every week it seems more and more likely.
Yes, A.J. Green made some plays that looked like the A.J. Green of old. Unfortunately, the emphasis here is on “some.”
Green can look like his usual self, but he won’t always. You don’t pay him $18 million to be good sometimes but not all the time.
This game was a window into what the back nine of Green’s career probably looks like. He had his moments with some great catches, but had others where he just couldn’t get any separation.
The Bengals can’t pay for another franchise tag (which would equal over $21 million) with those kinds of returns. The kind of contract that Green’s play merits is probably going to disappoint him greatly.
Unless Green takes a decisive pay cut, he’s not coming back.