The Cincinnati Bengals have lost in a number of ways over the last few years, but they found a new way on Sunday.
In case you just got back from Mars and didn’t hear about the game, the Bengals and Packers combined for five missed field goals in the last three minutes and overtime.
Both teams had handfuls of opportunities to win the game, and neither could clinch it.
On one hand, yes, it is impressive that the Bengals went to overtime against a team that went to the NFC Championship in each of the last two seasons with an MVP quarterback.
On the other hand, it was a game that the Bengals could have, and should have, won.
The Bengals started the season 3-1, the first time they’ve done that since 2018. Of course, in 2018, the Bengals ended up 6-9-1 and Marvin Lewis lost his job after 16 years. If the Bengals don’t learn from this game, they could end up with a similar result this season.
So, what did we learn?
Let Joe Cook!
The Bengals remind me of when I was in school, and I could only be motivated do my assignments unless they were due the next day.
The Bengals only seem to score when they’re trailing. In the last two weeks, the Bengals have scored only one touchdown when they were leading. In fact, between the last two weeks, the Bengals have only led by a touchdown for four and a half minutes against the Packers (even though they kept a one-point lead a little longer thanks to the missed extra point).
There’s an extremely predictable pattern that the Bengals have followed so far. First, the Bengals play a very conservative offense. Then they either fall behind or keep the game close. Then, they open up the playbook right before the end of the half and score. Then another conservative third quarter, and an action-packed fourth. The Bengals either find a way to win in the fourth, or fall just short.
The reason they score so often late in each half is because Zac Taylor puts the game on Burrow’s shoulders. Or, to put it another way, he gets out of Burrow’s way.
But in this game, Taylor started meddling when the Bengals got into field goal range, which led to some Evan McPherson missed field goals.
The Bengals’ best work comes when Taylor lets Burrow take hold of the offense. Taylor needs to let Joe cook.
The Bengals pass rush is human
While Trey Hendrickson had two sacks against Aaron Rodgers, the rest of the pass rush took the week off.
The Bengals’ pass rush has been quite impressive this season, and they have returned on the hefty investment the Bengals put into it. But against the Packers, they had trouble producing outside of Hendrickson.
In the first quarter, Rodgers completed three of seven passes for 37 yards and an interception. This was due to the defensive line getting him outside the pocket and making him throw on the run.
After the first quarter, the Bengals couldn’t get to Rodgers. This game him the time he needed to let Davonte Adams get open, and gain over 200 yards.
While the Bengals pass rush has been playing at such a high level, they proved that they were human beings on Sunday. They couldn’t even get to Rodgers with a backup playing center.
Can we pretend the 2019 draft never happened?
The Bengals only have three players left from the 2019 draft, Taylor’s first as the Bengals’ head coach. Jonah Williams, Drew Sample, and Germaine Pratt are the last men standing on the active roster.
This class had a rough day on Sunday. Williams gave up a sack, Sample had several dropped passes, and even Pratt looked slow at times.
Williams is the only player worth re-signing by the looks of it. Sample has done little since joining the Bengals, and Pratt is in danger of losing snaps to Akeem Davis-Gaither.
The Bengals have had several great drafts since 2019. But in 2019, Taylor was involved in the Rams’ Super Bowl run and didn’t have as much time to focus on the upcoming draft in the offseason.
So with the exception of Williams, let’s just pretend that draft was a bad dream.