I’m not really sure what to say.
I’ve defined myself as an optimistic person. It’s a part of who I am, and it’s helped me as a Cincinnati Bengals fan. Every year, I go into the season bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and most of the time I come out of the season covered in mange and with at least one infection. But I have a short memory, so by August I’m back on the “this is our year” wagon.
I’m fine with it. I love football and I love the Bengals, and that includes when they suck, and on Sunday they sucked.
Having said all that, I’ve come to some uncomfortable conclusions, and now I’m going to make them your problem.
Here are a few things I noticed during the game on Sunday.....
- The fact the Bengals had ZERO success when it comes to running the ball tells me everything I already knew about this team. This was never going to be the team to win the Super Bowl this season. There were major flaws from Day 1, and I’m not just talking about Joe Burrow’s calf. The offensive line, despite the fact the Bengals have spent a ton of money on the position group, has been a problem, and at this point it all comes down to coaching. Joe Goodberry says it best:
When I say they don't execute as run blockers well enough. These are VETERANS. pic.twitter.com/dBu0PifeRJ— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) November 27, 2023
- Lou Anarumo’s defense doesn’t have the same teeth in 2023 as it did in 2022 and 2021. They’re allowing way too many explosive plays down the field for a good defense, and they let Kenny Pickett and the garbage Steelers offense gain over 400 total yards for the first time in 59 games. The Steelers only scored 16, but that wasn’t necessarily because the Bengals defense was good. The Steelers offense just sucks.
- It’s pretty clear Zac Taylor, Brian Callahan and company just walked out on the field with the Joe-Burrow playbook and figured it would be fine with a different quarterback. It wasn’t. I haven’t watched it for the second time yet, but I didn’t see anything that stood out to me as a new wrinkle to help Browning get the offense going in the right direction. I get it’s hard to install a new offense in a week, but what did they think was going to happen if they called the game like Burrow was playing?
- Trey Hendrickson continues to play great football, and having Sam Hubbard back was great as well. What excites me the most about the Bengals defense, though, is the future of the secondary. With Cam Taylor-Britt and DJ Turner at corner, and Dax Hill and Jordan Battle at safety, the secondary is loaded with young and athletic talent.
Next week the Bengals head to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars on Monday Night Football. It was once billed as a heavy-weight bout that could have huge playoff implications, but has since devolved into a game most fans wish was flexed out of a primetime slot. Instead of telling you some things we could see from the Jaguars, here are a few different things I’d like to see from the Bengals:
- I want to see the Bengals offensive line impose its will on the defense. I want to see all five linemen fire out and push the opposing defense a yard off the ball, giving the running game a chance to get going. If Mixon is going to run like he’s plodding through sand, it would be good to let him get a yard or two before he gets touched.
- I want to see more DJ Turner at CB1, see below:
Without CTB, the Bengals let DJ Turner be CB1 and follow Pickens.— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) November 28, 2023
He was in his fucking pocket!
Those are some buttery hips and quick feet. pic.twitter.com/2zPTOrPmSb
- I’d like to see the Bengals defense limit the explosive plays on Monday night, which will be much easier said than done against the Jaguars instead of the Steelers, but this is almost the same defense that went to back-to-back AFC Championship games. Holy hell, I want to see them play like it.
- Finally, I want to see something from Tee Higgins if he plays. It’s been a rough season for Higgins and I’d like to see him have a good game. Hopefully he can string a few great games together at the end of the year, even if it’s without Burrow.
Here are a few random thoughts on the Steelers game, and just the season in general:
- Things were so bad with the Bengals running game on Sunday that I think coaching changes are necessary. Not right now, because what’s the point, but when the season is over I think it would be best for the Bengals to look outside the organization for a new offensive line coach and offensive coordinator.
- For those of you who say “Zac Taylor calls the plays, changing the OC won’t matter.” You’re wrong. Zac Taylor does call the plays, and the playbook was designed by Brian Callahan. That playbook produced the worst running game in the NFL and a mediocre passing attack this season. It’s not all on Burrow’s ankle either.
- The Bengals came into the 2023 season with some major gaps in their depth chart that they hoped wouldn’t create problems for them. That’s not out of the ordinary because every team does that. Unfortunately, the lack of tight end help, the lack of depth along the d-line and at running back really hurt them.
- I refuse to believe that Josh Dobbs can get of a plane and win a game for the Vikings on his first day with the franchise and Jake Browning can’t with a team he’s been on all season. Browning still has a better team around him than most quarterback’s in the league. It all comes down to execution.
- Ja’Marr Chase is something special. Not only did get almost all of the attention due to Higgins being out, but he led the team in yards (81), and two of his four receptions were tipped before he caught them. The fact he was able to still catch them and turn them into positive yardage is nothing short of amazing.
- I do like how the Bengals are using their tight ends. All four had at least one reception against the Steelers, and the team’s only touchdown was scored by Drew Sample.
- Myles Murphy looked good, flashing his power and athleticism, and notched his first sack.
- Slot corner Mike Hilton had a solid game again on Sunday, making eight tackles against his former team. I will always look back fondly on memories of Mike Hilton wearing a Bengals uniform and taking it to the Steelers. That will never get old for me.
- A note for Browning: Let it fly, man. Throw the ball. Now is not the time to be gun shy. This is the opportunity you’ve dreamed of your whole life, and the worst thing that can happen is you’ll do exactly what most people will expect you to do: screw up. But what if you don’t? What if Chase catches the pass you threw into double coverage? What happens if Higgins is able to make that catch with his long arms. There’s only one way to find out.... let it fly.
It’s not the end of the world. The Bengals have some things to clean up. They’re much closer to the promised land than most other teams in the league, and I truly believe they have the right head coach. The culture is there, and that’s Taylor’s job. Let’s get someone new in to figure out the scheme now, huh?
Next year is our year.
I know it.