The Cincinnati Bengals have a lot to work on during the bye week.
In Week 7, the Bengals had the top seed in the AFC.
Then they lost to the fighting Mike Whites. Just a fluke, right? They’ll be ready for the key divisional matchup against the Browns.
As it turns out, the Bengals weren’t ready, and the Browns won 41-16.
By the end of Week 9, the Bengals were suddenly out of the playoff picture.
Doesn’t this remind you of the Bengals we’re used to watching?
Anyways, here’s what we learned.
Joe Burrow is too comfortable with Ja’Marr Chase
The Burrow to Chase connection is getting good. Too good.
How is it possible to have too much of a good thing?
Burrow has gotten so comfortable with Chase that he has started sleepwalking through games, and it caught up with them during the Browns game.
On the pick-six, Burrow telegraphed his pass to Chase, and Denzel Ward did a great job of reading it. The throw was a little behind, Ward jumped the route, and the Bengals were suddenly down 7-0.
Throws like that happened all game. Burrow targeted Chase 13 times but only completed six of those passes. Burrow was much more accurate going to Tee Higgins.
But Burrow feels so confident in his connection to Chase, he throws his direction even when the play isn’t there.
This isn’t that uncommon. In fact, there was a stretch when Andy Dalton had a lower passer rating to A.J. Green than he did to his other receivers. This is something that Burrow will have to focus on during the bye week.
Samaje Perine isn’t a receiving back
The Bengals went for it on fourth down twice against the Browns. The first time, Burrow targeted Samaje Perine. The throw was a little low, but Perine took his eyes off the ball and it bounced off his hands.
Later in the game, the Bengals faced a third-and-12. Burrow threw a screen to Chase, but Perine couldn’t hold his block, and the Bengals ended up punting.
Perine has inherited Giovani Bernard’s old role, even though they drafted Chris Evans to do that.
In the only game Perine has missed so far, Evans scored two touchdowns. It’s obvious that Evans fills that role very clearly, but Perine doesn’t.
That’s not to say that Perine doesn’t have value for this team. He’s great between the tackles and can rush effectively when spelling Mixon. But when the Bengals need a receiver or a pass blocker, they should put #25 on the field.
The Bengals had five sacks against the Ravens, the most in Lamar Jackson’s career. But, the Ravens just added Cedric Ogbuehi to their 53-man roster, so that tells you the state of their offensive line.
In the last two weeks, the Bengals have played the Jets, who also have a beat up line, and the Browns. While the Bengals have had two sacks, they haven’t had much pressure on opposing quarterbacks outside of Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson.
Not only did the pass protection go limp, but the Bengals’ defensive front got obliterated in the run game. The snap count shows that the Bengals tried to stop run at the line with more down linemen, but even that didn’t work.
With Cam Sample playing through an injury, it seems like a poor gamble exposing Darius Hodge to the waiver wire. The Bengals need some fresh legs on that defensive line to keep the opposing offense on their heels.
If the Bengals’ can’t put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, no matter how good the back seven are, they won’t be able to stop opponents from gaining yards.
The Defense needs to improve tackling yesterday
Nick Chubb is notoriously hard to tackle.
The Bengals tried to prevent this by stacking the box. But when they did this, they left the secondary exposed. It left plenty of room for Browns receivers to run, and for Baker Mayfield to complete seven of his eight passes in the first half.
The deep touchdown to Donovan Peoples-Jones was a great example. The Bengals had a lot of bodies at the line to stop the run, and had one-on-one coverage on the back end. Peoples-Jones beat Eli Apple deep.
The defense needs to improve their tackling. Not only will they tackle better, but they will also improve coverage on passing plays.
Of course, point #3 would help too. If the line plays better, the whole defense can step up.