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5 things we learned from the Bengals’ last second loss to the Ravens

Something is off... and it’s not the offensive line anymore.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Joe Burrow went from being a below average deep passer his first year to an outstanding one his second year largely because of the addition of Ja’Marr Chase. Now defenses are taking that dynamic away, and we’re seeing Burrow struggle to throw downfield.

Despite facing a defense that had been giving up a ton of yards in the Baltimore Ravens, the Bengals simply could not find success in the deep passing game. So what did we learn from a disappointing showing on offense on Sunday night?

Burrow and Chase can’t do it alone

With Tee Higgins missing most of the game with an ankle sprain, the passing game stalled. Yes, everyone wants Tyler Boyd more involved. But Chase simply can’t get going with the amount of attention he’s getting from defenses.

So even though he had 12 targets, he ended up with just 50 yards, and Burrow ended up with just 217 passing yards on 35 attempts.

So Burrow played it safe. Safer than he ever has before.

In fact, it was Hayden Hurst and Mike Thomas making the biggest plays of the night. Of course, that should change this week when the former LSU teammates will probably be looking to put on a show in their return to Louisiana to play the New Orleans Saints.

Vonn Bell is emerging as a big-time playmaker

We always knew the strong safety could hit (just ask JuJu Smith-Schuster), but Bell now has three interceptions in his last two games. Most importantly, these are momentum-shifting plays.

Right after Bell picked off Lamar Jackson, the offense started humming, especially Joe Mixon and the running game. The veteran ball carrier had big runs of nine and twelve yards, Thomas had his 33-yard reception, and Hurst had his inspired touchdown dive.

Hayden Hurst is the perfect tight end for this team

Speaking of Hurst, in the tight end’s return to the city that drafted him, he had his best game in stripes yet, catching six of seven targets for 53 yards and one riveting score.

As our good friend Mike Santagata points out, the safety decides not to stay with Hurst, and the athletic pass catcher makes him pay. This can be huge going forward as the Bengals look to attack the middle of the field more often to draw attention away from their two dynamic threats on the outside.

And Hurst, not known for his blocking, is even helping out in the running game.

Yes, he’s not Travis Kelce, but Hurst is always ready to make a big play when his number is called, and that’s exactly what a team with three excellent receivers needs. Plus, Hurst has a great attitude and desire that is valuable for a team struggling to come back from a last minute Super Bowl loss.

The offensive line is no longer the biggest issue

Yeah! Right? Well, the biggest issue now actually seems to be that the offense is just out of sync, and so far that’s costing them games. But let’s be positive for a second.

Burrow had a clean pocket on the Hurst touchdown above. He also had a nice pocket on the big throw to Thomas.

And guys like Alex Cappa are starting to set a tone.

But we saw the pass protection trending in the right direction against the Miami Dolphins as well. The most recent development is that the run blocking is getting there as well.

In other good news, Jonah Williams had his best game of the year.

The playcalling is the problem, and creativity isn’t the answer

Creativity for the sake of creativity is not what’s going to score points. The Philly special and the shovel pass attempt from two yards out late in the third quarter were “creative” but they didn’t make sense in that context. Zac Taylor is clearly feeling the heat now, and he’s making it clear that the playcalling is a collective effort, i.e., nothing will change if he hands over duties to Brian Callahan.

So where do we go from here? Well, there are no quick fixes. We have to hope that Taylor is smart enough to continue to learn from his mistakes and get the recipe right. After all, he does have perhaps the most talented roster in franchise history to work with.

We talked about the issues with the playcalling, Burrow’s hesitation to throw deep, and more in our recent show.

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