I thought the Bengals would bounce back from their terrible Week 1 loss to the Steelers by beating the tar out of the Dak-less Cowboys, but instead the same team that lost to Pittsburgh showed up in Dallas and completely shat the bed.
Joe Burrow was sacked six times against the Cowboys and again had no time to throw. When he did have time, he looked like a shadow of the Joe Shiesty we got to know throughout the 2021 season. Cowboys star outside linebacker and pass-rushing extraordinaire Micah Parsons made the Bengals tackles, especially La’el Collins look laughably bad. The Bengals could not generate any pass rush of their own and allowed backup quarterback Cooper Rush to look like a seasoned veteran starter. The Bengals only lost by three in overtime, but the score does not accurately reflect how one-sided the game was.
Here are some things:
Big Play Blues
The Bengals led the league in big offensive plays last year. That’s one of the big reasons they went to the Super Bowl. They were capable of scoring at any time from anywhere on the field, and that was with a line that allowed the quarterback to be sacked 70 times. Burrow only had one pass that traveled more than 25 air yards on Sunday in Dallas. They average an embarrassing 3.8 yards per play on Sunday, which is almost as bad as the 4.3 yards per play they averaged in Week 1.
That puts them at second worst in the league after two games, ahead of the Texans.
The Bengals replaced four of the five offensive lineman in the offseason, leaving Jonah Williams as the lone returning starter. The line has gotten off to a slow start, but the interior offensive line was not the problem in Dallas. Left guard Cordell Volson, center Ted Karras and right guard Alex Cappa had a solid game, earning PFF grades 87.6, 70.1 and 63.7 respectively. They gave up only one sack collectively (Cappa’s) and Karras and Cappa had solid scores in run blocking as well.
Collins and Williams were a different story, though. Williams had a 51.6 grade as a pass blocker and Collins scored an abysmal 27.3.
It is worth noting that Collins had a great score when it comes to run blocking (95.1).
Man of Steel
His real name must be Kal-El, and he’s the best nose tackle in the NFL, and, right now, the best player on the team.
Snap (Count) Into a Slim Jim
For the second week in a row, first-round rookie defensive back Dax Hill got next to zero playing time. This could be because the Bengals were focused on slowing down Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard so they opted to go with extra linebackers instead of extra defensive backs, but it’s clear that Hill can play. I’m not saying I want him to replace Jessie Bates, but I’d like to see him on the field more.
The same goes for running back Chris Evans. He isn’t as good as Joe Mixon, and Samaje Perine has earned his role as back up running back, but neither of them have shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield or lineup at wide receiver like Evans has. Like Hill, he barely touched the field on Sunday.
A look ahead
- If there ever was a must-win game in September, the Bengals Week 3 road game against the Jets is it. Their chances of making the playoffs after starting out 0-2 are already low. In fact, it hasn’t been done since 2018, and both of the teams that did it that year lost in the first round. If they start 0-3, their chances of playing in late January are almost nonexistant.
- They’ll face another backup quarterback in Joe Flacco, who helped lead the Jets to a comeback win against the Browns in Cleveland in Week 2. Flacco completed 26 of 44 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns without throwing an interception (he did lose a fumble), and he was only sacked twice. If the Bengals let him sit in the pocket like they did Rush, Flacco will find open receivers.
- The Bengals already had to deal with TJ Watt and then Parsons. This weekend they’ll place against a familiar face in Carl Lawson, who left for the Jets in free agency after the 2020 season. Lawson lost his entire season last year after suffering an achilles injury, so he’ll face the Bengals for the first time on Sunday since he departed. He has 0.5 sacks on the year so far, so he’s not lighting the world on fire, but we know what he’s capable of. The Bengals tackles had better get things figured out.
- The Jets allowed both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to collectively average 4.8 yards per carry on Sunday, and the best way to help Burrow get back in the swing of things and have more time in the pocket is by running the ball. The Bengals need to establish the run early and pound the ball with Mixon often. That will open the play action game and the offense in general.
To wrap things up, some random thoughts.....
- It’s not time to panic. Yet. However, if the Bengals lose on Sunday and start 0-3, you can feel free to hit that button and exclaim the sky is falling.
- Play calling has been an issue. Hopefully as the line and Burrow settle in and play better that will be better too.
- The last offensive drive of regulation was 19 plays and 8:53 long, which was incredible. Then they got the ball back with 2:13 left in the game and they went three-and-out from the shadow of their own goalposts, which set up the Cowboys with good field position for their game-winning drive.
- While the Bengals defense hasn’t been able to generate much pressure, they have been overall pretty good. They kept the Bengals in both of these games, giving the plodding offense multiple chances to win the game. However they faced Mitch Trubisky and Rush. What happens when they face an established solid quarterback without being able to pressure him?
- Drew Sample should never be allowed to block a defensive end one-on-one. In fact, I can’t think of a single tight end who will consistently win that battle. I don’t ever want to see the Bengals try that again.
- New long snapper Cal Adomitis did his job well, and when a long snapper does his job well, you’ll never know they did anything at all.
- Eli Apple had the best year of his career last season and even though he struggled at times, he was a fairly average to slightly better than average cornerback in 2021. He played fairly well in Week 1, but he was awful against the Cowboys, and Dallas’ offense picked on him all day long. He gave up four receptions on four targets for 59 yards, which is 14.8 yards per target.
- Burrow is tucking and running too much, and sometimes he’s doing it too early when he should look to dump the ball down to a running back or a different safety valve. The more he runs, the more likely he is to get hurt.
- The Bengals can still turn things around. The season isn’t lost yet, but turning it around has to start with a Week 3 win on the road against the Jets. Cincinnati is the better team. Hopefully they show it.