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Bengals among the bottom in deep passes thus far

The Bengals’ conservative approach on offense is a big reason why.

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Football Team
Zac Taylor
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “aggressive” as “determined to win or succeed and using forceful action to win or to achieve success.”

Perhaps Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has a different definition.

“If we want to do great things here, we’ve got to go get them,” Taylor said after the Bengals’ season-opening victory over the Minnesota Vikings. “We’ve got to be aggressive. We can’t let them fall in our lap and come to us. You’ve got to go take it.”

Yet Sunday, in the disappointing 20-17 loss to the Chicago Bears, Cincinnati threw just two passes longer than 16 yards, and one of them was completed for a 42-yard touchdown to rookie Ja’Marr Chase.

“We should have been (doing) that, bro, to be honest,” Chase told Paul Dehner, Jr. after the game. “We waited until the last minute to take shots. We knew they was sitting the whole game. I was telling Joe. Tee (Higgins) knew. We just got to capitalize on the stuff we see early in the game.”

In fact, of the 57 passes quarterback Joe Burrow has attempted so far in 2021, only seven of them have traveled 15 or more yards in the air. That equals one of the more conservative approaches in the league, and ranks Burrow among the bottom 10 in deep passes.

“Sometimes it’s not as simple as throw the ball deep more,” offensive coordinator Brian Callahan told Jay Morrison. “That’s a very blanket statement. There are a lot of things that go into that. At the end of the day, we didn’t make anywhere near enough explosive plays to win a game.”

What came first? The chicken or the egg?

How do you make explosive plays if the coaches are not calling them? How does an offense that was predicted by some to be among the best in the league reach that pinnacle if the coaches won’t let its best players play?

The Bengals offense needs to find an identity, and needs to do so in a hurry. Aggressive or conservative, winner or loser. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. It’s not too late to save the season. Unleash the beast. Let Joe Burrow play.