The Cincinnati Bengals were at their highest last week, and were brought to their lowest this week.
After defeating the Ravens 41-17, they went to MetLife Stadium and lost 34-31 to one of the worst teams in football.
The Bengals had an 11-point lead, then gave up two unanswered touchdowns to finish the game. After making a key stop on third-and-11, Bengals’ hopes were ground to a halt with a highly controversial personal foul called on Mike Hilton.
The penalty didn’t cost the Bengals the game, but it did end the game prematurely.
As Zac Taylor said in the post game press conference, the Bengals shouldn’t have been in a position where that call would matter.
If the Bengals had converted their fourth down attempt in the first half, done a better job on kick coverage before halftime, or come up with a way to stop Mike White at all in the second half, then that penalty would have just been slightly inconvenient.
Yes, the call was absolutely nonsensical, and if anything it should have gone the other way. But the Bengals lost the game before that even happened.
Anyways, here’s what we learned:
Zac Taylor didn’t prepare the Bengals properly
I gave credit to Taylor for his game plan against the Ravens, but I’m going to have to take some of that back this week.
He admitted that he got outcoached by Robert Salah, and he was absolutely right. The offense wasn’t bad, scoring 31 points when all was said and done. But the Bengals did stuff like running right into the strength of the Jets defense when they were in the red zone.
The offense did score above their average on the season, but they definitely could have done more.
The other troubling thing about this game is that the Bengals have struggled against the three worst teams they have played. They lost to the Bears in Justin Fields’ first significant appearance, and until last week Fields has looked out of his depth in the NFL this year.
They defeated the then-winless Jaguars without ever leading until the final field goal. And the Bengals gave up 405 yards to a backup quarterback on one of the worst teams in the AFC.
Taylor has done a great job of getting the Bengals prepared against teams like the Steelers, Packers, and Ravens. He has not prepared them for some of their worst competition. Playoff teams take care of the teams they are supposed to take care of, and the Bengals have not done that well this year. The fact that they blew out the Lions is an outlier, and that’s alarming.
Lou Anarumo’s new and improved defense hiccuped
Same goes for Lou Anarumo. He had a great game plan against the Ravens, and then took the week off.
This Bengals defense has been really good, and they have faced some great offenses. They gave up 21 points to the Vikings, 24 points to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, only 17 to the Ravens. As we mentioned last week, the Bengals gave Lamar Jackson one of the worst games of his career.
Then, White came off the bench to wreak havoc on the Bengals’ defense.
There are a lot of different metrics we can look at to analyze how bad of a loss this was. The simplest way is just to say that this is the first time the Bengals have given up more than 25 this season, and the first time the Jets have scored 30 in two seasons.
It’s not like White was slinging the ball all over the place. The Jets employed an extremely conservative game plan on offense that should never have worked that well. Just like with any backup, they gave him short, easy passes and just hoped that White wouldn’t mess up too bad.
White was likely just a placeholder until Joe Flacco was ready to start for the Jets.
The fact that the Bengals couldn’t figure out this simple offensive plan is embarrassing.
The missed tackling on defense was also inexcusable. The Bengals did so well a week ago against the ever-elusive Jackson, but struggled to bring down the Jets’ skill players.
Let’s be real—how many elite athletes do the Jets have on their offense?
The season is not over, but the Browns come to town next week. The Bengals can make up for the loss in New Jersey with a division win, but they will have to step it up.