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Tuesday Trenches: Temple of the Dog

The Bengals defense that ranked among the NFL’s best through the first seven weeks was terrible over the last two.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Being a Cincinnati Bengals fan is nothing if not stressful. When you don’t expect anything, they look like a contender. When you start to expect them to look like a contender, they look like a pretender. I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll die younger than I would had I grown up in a different city with a more consistent NFL team. Being a Bengals fan will take years off my life.

On Sunday, the Bengals dropped their second straight loss, this time to the Browns by a score of 41-16. They were dominated by the Browns in their own house in every facet of the game from the first snap to the last. After their two-week losing streak, they have gone from the No. 1 seed in the AFC to the 10th seed in the conference with a 5-4 record. They’re still very much in the hunt, but they’re not quite sitting on top of the world like they were after beating the Ravens.

Here’s just a lot that went wrong.

Bobby Boucher’s tacklin’ fuel

Over the last two weeks, the Bengals defense that held every opponent, including the Ravens and Packers, to 25 points or less, was gone. It was replaced by a defense that struggled at getting to the quarterback, couldn’t cover receivers downfield and completely forgot how to tackle. On Sunday running back Nick Chubb shed weak tackle after weak tackle and racked up 137 yards rushing on only 14 carries. That works out to an insane average of 9.8 yards per carry.

The Bengals defense that ranked among the top in the league through the first seven weeks of the season was terrible over the last two weeks and it’s the first, second and third thing the Bengals need to address during their Week 10 bye.

Covering all the bases

The Bengals offense doesn’t match up well against the Browns defense. With defensive ends like Myles Garrett and Jadevion Clowney, the Browns don’t need to send a lot of extra pressure at the quarterback. That allows the Browns to drop seven back into coverage at times. The Bengals overabundance of talent at the receiver positions doesn’t mean much if a defense is able to cover all areas of the field and still make Joe Burrow uncomfortable in the pocket.

Obviously, the Browns defense isn’t unbeatable, but the Bengals plan to attack the Browns the same way they attacked other defenses this year wasn’t going to work as well. Burrow was pressured 15 times and sacked five times.

I’m not saying the Bengals didn’t game plan, but I am saying whatever plan they had didn’t work and there was little done to make adjustments.

Wasting time

The Bengals had the ball on offense 11 minutes longer than the Browns did, which is almost an entire quarter, and still only scored 16 points to the Browns’ 41. They gained 249 yards on 42 plays in the first half, but only had 99 yards on 28 plays in the second half. While they moved the ball fairly well at times, turnovers, dropped passes and missed opportunities killed drives throughout the afternoon.

It’s not often that a team outscores another by 35 points while only gaining 13 more yards than their opponent.

Joe Dirt

All great quarterbacks have occasional bad games, and make no mistake, this was a bad game by Joe Burrow. He completed 28 of 40 passes for 282 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 69. To cap off the team’s first drive, Burrow tried to force a ball to Ja’Marr Chase on an out route. Cornerback Denzel Ward stepped in front of the pass, intercepted it on the one-yard line and took it 99 yards for the first score of the game.

Later in the third quarter, Burrow threw a pass slightly behind Chase in a tight window. The ball bounced off of Chase’s hands, and it was again picked off by Ward.

The loss doesn’t fall on Burrow’s shoulders alone, but he didn’t do much to help.

Looking ahead

The Bengals are on a bye this week and will get much-needed rest to get everyone healthy and hopefully exorcise the demons that have plagued the team over the last couple weeks.

To wrap things up, some random Week 9 thoughts

  • I was at this game, sitting in the North end zone area, and maybe it’s just where I was, but the place was full of Browns fans to the point I felt like I was at an away game. It was absolutely insane. If you were at the game, was this your experience?
  • The Bengals offensive line was bad last year. It’s better this year, but it’s not where it needs to be. Upgrading the offensive line should be a top priority for the Bengals in the offseason.
  • The Browns scored on eight consecutive possessions, five touchdowns and three field goals. The defense was embarrassed.
  • Offensively, the lone bright spot was running back Joe Mixon. He had 110 total yards and scored the teams’ only two touchdowns.
  • Hakeem Adeniji started at right guard in place of rookie Jackson Carman. He had the lowest grade in pass blocking and run blocking of any Bengals lineman on Sunday according to PFF.
  • There was a lot of talk about all the Odell Beckham Jr drama heading into the game. It turned out the Browns were not distracted at all.
  • Trae Waynes has already been ruled out for team’s Week 11 matchup against the Raiders. That means more Eli Apple, who was burnt to a crisp on a long touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones. Apple was targeted four times and gave up four receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.
  • Good teams play bad games. The Bills lost to the Jaguars on Sunday. There is no reason to panic. I truly do believe the Bengals are a good team. They’re ahead of schedule on their rebuild and with a few more of the right off season additions in free agency and the draft, they could be a contender. Remember, getting into the playoffs doesn’t rely on a committee to judge a team’s wins and make decisions based on which teams bring in more money. I mean, can you imagine a system where a team who has lost to a low-ranked team gets awarded a playoff spot over a smaller-market team that is undefeated. I mean, that would be crazy. The point I’m making here is the Bengals are still in the hunt and there is a lot of football left to be played.

Who Dey!