The two muffed punts by Darius Phillips in an overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers were bad. Real bad. But they were part of a larger trend.
Ja’Marr Chase has dropped some passes (or worse, tipped one of them into a defender’s hands).
Joe Mixon had a terrible fumble just when Cincinnati was making a comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Jessie Bates could have won the game had he held on to a potential pick-six late in the fourth quarter against the 49ers.
So it’s not just one position group. It’s a team-wide thing across all three phases: offense, defense, and special teams.
So what is going on?
Here’s my theory (and feel free to refute it and provide alternative explanations): The team has an issue with concentrating and staying in the moment.
As it has become abundantly clear that the Bengals are loaded with young, talented players, the expectations have been raised rather quickly. And now their bodies are moving in accordance with the end result, which is still in the distant future, though their minds are not keeping up. They must learn to stay in the present and focus on the smaller things while trusting that the bigger plays and meaningful victories will happen in due time.
Put differently, these men know what they are capable of accomplishing. And they’ve seen glimpses of it in blowouts against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Now they can’t stop thinking ahead, expecting a 41-17 blowout to happen every week, even on every play. They want those homeruns badly, and it’s preventing them from allowing the game to come to them.
For more on where the Bengals stand in the playoff picture and what they need to do to get back on track against the Denver Broncos, watch our preview below:
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