It's officially scary in Cincinnati now. Pro Bowl players are out of the lineup with regularity, the once proud Bengals look deflated and the coaching staff seems to have the inability to make necessary in-game adjustments. It's led to the tune of a 0-2-1 record and a point differential of minus-53 the past three games.
Soak this one in: it's been just about a month since the Cincinnati Bengals have won a football game.
The 27-0 road drubbing against the Indianapolis Colts had a Scott Mitchell-type of offensive feel about it, didn't it? Was that Danny Farmer and Ron Dugans out there catching passes? Did I see Paul Justin warming up on the sidelines for the second half?
Nope. That was the same Bengals team coming off of three straight playoff berths and a divisional title just last year. In fact, that Colts team was one that Cincinnati beat late last season by two touchdowns. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
In essence, this article is pretty easy this week. Not much can be placed in the "good" category, as it will be more about discerning what is/was "ugly" and what was just "bad". Let's have some fun.
Carlos Dunlap: If there is one player who could and should be this team's MVP through the first seven weeks, it would have to be Dunlap. He has been the lone defensive player to continually show up every week and has made some plays to turn the tide for the team. Against Indianapolis, Dunlap had a sack, a forced fumble, a recovery, two hits on the quarterback, five total tackles and two passes defensed. That's J.J. Watt-like right there.
Kevin Huber: With his eleven punts on the day, Huber tied a franchise-high in the category. Three of the punts were inside the opponent's 20-yard line and he netted a 47.7 yards-per-punt average. His 558 yards on punts was more than the Bengals' offense had in their five quarters of play against the Carolina Panthers last week (513). So, there's that.
Depth Not As Deep As We Thought?: All offseason, this team was lauded for the amount of talent across the roster. Many positions were thought to have backup players that could start for other teams. In the most sobering of ways, the Colts dashed that notion on Sunday. Vincent Rey is a nice backup, spot player and special teamer, but he isn't a starter. Margus Hunt and Devon Still aren't bringing any pressure to the quarterback when in the game, which happened to be their fortes in college. A plethora of talented players were out on offense, but the absolutely pitiful performance by the offense shows that this team still needs a consistent threat--even when A.J. Green is playing.
Vontaze Burfict's Neck/Head Issues: The Bengals' shining example of "coaching up a player to monumental success" is starting to look like it might be more of a flash-in-the-pan thing. After having a solid 2012 season and a Pro Bowl year in 2013, Burfict hasn't completed a full game of football this season. The overtime game against the Panthers was about as close as he has been able to get, but numerous concussion and neck issues keep taking him out of games. Ironically, the hits he keeps injuring himself on are ones to quarterbacks. A linebacker simply can't play the game of football if he gets hurt every time that he attempts a tackle.
Winning The Turnover And Penalty Battles, But Still Getting Smoked: When you have less penalties and turnovers, you win in the NFL, right? The Cincinnati Bengals never cease to amaze us. After recovering two Colts fumbles that could and should have turned the game completely around, the Bengals squandered opportunities to even make this a relatively close game because of the ineptitude of the offense. The worst part is that this game could have been way worse than 27-0.
Andy Dalton: It was one of the worst, if not the absolute worst performance of Dalton's career on Sunday. Even the few times that he had protection, balls sailed and players had to make difficult catches. "Bad Andy" made his return and the uber-confident quarterback we have seen for most of this year disappeared. A lot of this was a by-product of other issues (more to come on that).
Hue Jackson's Offensive Game Plan: Going into this one, Jackson was admittedly down a number of weapons. Still, he had to have known that the Colts defense had been incredibly stout on third down to opposing offenses. The game plan should have been simple: mix and match an even distribution of Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill to set up manageable third and short situations. Running the ball effectively would also force Andrew Luck to be off of the football field. Instead, weird passing play calls and the affinity to throw a screen pass of any variety was all that the Bengals threw at the Colts on Sunday and they were ready for it.
The Running Game: Bernard had 17 yards on seven carries (2.4 average) and Hill had four carries for 15 yards (3.8 average). Not exactly the smash-and-dash approach that everyone imagined from these two.
The Offensive Line: When right tackle Andre Smith wasn't a turnstile, he was committing a penalty of some sort. Nobody blocked well in any capacity, as the aforementioned running game was putrid and Andy Dalton was pressured constantly when he dropped back. They were absolutely embarrassed by the Colts' front.
The Offensive Statistics (Or Lack Thereof):
- 135 Net Yards
- 103 Passing Yards
- 32 Rushing Yards
- 1/13 on Third Down Conversions (7%)
- 2.5 Average Yards Gained Per Offensive Play
- 11 Total Punts (Ties Franchise Record)
- 8 Consecutive Three-And-Outs
The Leon Hall Dropped Pick-Six: Trailing by seven points late in the first quarter, the Colts were driving for a touchdown again. Luck tried to catch the Bengals napping and quick-snapped a play on a first and goal from Cincinnati's seven-yard line. The ball inexplicably floated into Hall's lap, where he had open daylight to take it to the house, as we've seen him do a few times the past couple of seasons. Instead, Hall drops the pick and Indianapolis gets a field goal. Just like that, a ten-point swing and the Bengals never recovered. This play, along with Mike Nugent's missed overtime kick for a win, signal a team grasping at straws for things to start falling their way during this tough stretch.
A Soft Middle Of The Defense: It feels like this is part of the negatives every week, but the defensive tackle positions and the linebackers behind them are not making plays. Geno Atkins used to dominate both phases of the game on defense and through seven games, he has seven total tackles and zero sacks. Domata Peko is getting blown off the line with high frequency and Devon Still isn't faring much better. Losing Burfict and Rey Maualuga certainly hurts behind them, but the physicality and swagger that this defense usually plays with starts up front and it isn't happening.
The Difference In Team Attitudes: Indianapolis looked and played like a team ready to win their fifth-straight game, while the Bengals had that familiar deer-in-headlights look about them. Good opponent, road game and an absolute blow out. The Colts were flying to the football and were able to overcome mistakes, whereas the Bengals couldn't get anything going. The fatigue factor from a draining game the week prior is understandable, but the output on the field was putrid. Every coach on this staff needs to take a long look in the mirror and then find a way to inspire this team to get back to their winning ways.