In the first two “measuring stick” games against division rivals, the Bengals have come up a TD short each time. And while the losses sting a little bit, we knew the growing pains had to come. That was why we wanted Dalton to start from Week 1, right?
The defenses of the Steelers and the Ravens have exposed some of the weak spots in the Bengals’ game. (Fortunately, they are correctable issues, not total mismatches.)
– Five INTs in two games. Dalton was picked off only 7 times in the first 8 games, but the Steelers and Ravens gotten him for 5 in the last two games. All but Ed Reed’s pick came to the right, 5-12 yards off the LOS.
– Secondary still a primary concern. They have surrendered 515 yds thru the air over the last two games. Allowing 257.5 yds/game would drop them to 27th in the league.
– Third down efficiency. The Bengals converted 5/12 against the Steelers and 5/15 against the Ravens. These are not terrible numbers, but they aren’t great either. Increasing that 37% conversion percentage would move them from 18th to 9th in the league.
All that said, we’ve seen that the Bengals can play the big boys and keep the game within reach. They were 7 yards away from erasing a 17 point deficit in the 4th qtr. Fans of other AFC North teams who understand what they are seeing (I know that eliminates most of those fan bases) see the storm that is building in Cincinnati.
– Passing. Despite his mistakes, Andy Dalton hung 373 yds on a Ravens team that was averaging giving up 193.3 yds/game. (He increased their average for the entire season by 18 yds/game yesterday.) The game was his highest as a passer, the 2nd over 300 yards and 5th over 200 yds. He is on pace to throw for 3582 yds, which would be good for 3rd most as a rookie QB behind Peyton Manning and Jim Kelly (although Cam Newton is on pace to shatter Manning’s number).
– A.J. Green. I can’t help but wonder if Andy might have gotten over 400 yds had Green been available. These two will be a fantastic pair for a long time.
– Rushing. Despite a lack of big runs, the Bengals ran for 109 yds on Pittsburgh (+12 over average) and for 119 yds on Baltimore (+26 over average). Adding a hard runner who can break a big run is just what this team needs in the offseason.
– D-Line. I don’t have to elaborate on this one.
– High Draft Picks. These are going to be a lot of fun to talk about for 3 months as we dream about how to build the Bengals into the team that makes coaches mumble “Oh ****” when they look at their schedules.