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Bengals’ offense needs to help the defense out

While they’re scoring points, Joe Burrow and company need to sustain drives longer.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have a good offense.

Headed by Joe Burrow, stabilized by Joe Mixon, and made explosive by Ja’Marr Chase, they can score points. They’re currently seventh in the NFL in that category, with 27.5 points per game.

Still, they could do a much better job of keeping the defense off the field.

The Bengals are 24th in time of possession, holding the ball for only 28:45 of games. And that number has gotten worse over the last three contests (29:14).

For a team that scores as much as they do, you’d expect them to be in the top ten of time of possession, besting their opponents by a minute or two.

These numbers are clearly reflected in the team’s snap counts. Burrow, who has played all but twenty offensive snaps, leads the offense with 467 snaps. That is significantly fewer than four guys on defense: Vonn Bell (548), Eli Apple (519), Logan Wilson (496), and Jessie Bates (490).

Thankfully, the team (and the defense) is relatively young, so they aren’t going to be worn out as easily as some other defenses put in that position. But if you’re wondering how the Bengals lost to the New York Jets despite turning the ball over two times fewer, just consider the following areas in which the Jets were better:

  • Time of possession - NYJ 36:21, CIN 23:39
  • First downs - NYJ 32, CIN 18
  • Passing first downs - NYJ 23, CIN 13
  • Total plays - NYJ 78, CIN 54

The two teams had somewhat similar averages in terms of yards per play (6.6 for NYJ, 5.9 for CIN), but the Bengals simply didn’t sustain drives as much. Rather, they did a lot of their damage on big plays.

Cincinnati’s offensive total (318 yards) included a 54-yard completion to Tee Higgins in the third quarter and a 46-yard completion to Tyler Boyd off a flea flicker in the second quarter. Burrow also hit Higgins on a 26 yarder in the second quarter, which would have been the biggest play of the day for the Jets, who gained 511 yards total.

In other words, the Bengals can hit the home runs. They just need to get on base a little more often. That comes down to playcalling, which is somewhat dictated by the play of the line. There’s also an element of unfamiliarity; Cincinnati has seen a lot of roster upheaval, and communication and learning the tendencies of one another is constantly increasing. All that is to say, this is a problem that should be reduced as the season progresses.

For more on how the Bengals can bounce back against the Cleveland Browns in this week’s game, watch the video below, an interview with the editor of Sports Illustrated’s Browns Digest, Pete Smith:

You can also listen on iTunes or using the player below: