The Bengals lost a game they couldn’t afford to lose. I know that we as fans can sometimes overreact to a loss. The Bengals made the playoffs last year at 9-7 after all, and the eventual Super Bowl Champion Giants also finished the regular season with some head-scratching losses and a 9-7 mark. The bottom line is, anything can happen in the postseason, but you need to get a ticket to the dance first.
Cincy’s chances of getting a golden ticket took a blow with a loss to an inferior AFC opponent at home. With team like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh (twice), Baltimore, Denver, Dallas, and the aforementioned Giants still on the menu, the Bengals could ill afford a pooch screw like Sunday’s.
Nonetheless, it happened. The only thing they can do now is avoid another similarly defecated bed this week in Cleveland.
So without further ado, here’s this week’s muted and unenthusiastic hit list.
Goats—These Bengals simply didn’t get it done.
- Andy Dalton: The Red Rifle was off on Sunday. His accuracy wasn’t where it usually is, with a few overthrows and two costly interceptions. It was troubling to see the passing game fail to click, and it seemed Dalton was the primary reason. I maintain full confidence in “Roadhouse” to respond this week, however.
- BJGE: 14 yards on 9 carries doesn’t get it done. We can blame the offensive line, predictable play-calling, or Kevin Coyle’s familiarity with the Bengals, but none of that holds water for me. It was clear that Coyle was playing 2-deep and cloud coverage most of the game which should have allowed for more room to run, and Bernard Scott performed much better against the same fronts and personnel. After an impressive first game in Baltimore, the Law Firm has had fumble problems and a poor per-carry average. I see more Leonard and Peerman in the future, and the team should be kicking tires on Joseph Addai and Steve Slaton if things don’t get better soon.
- Rey Maualuga: Because I just hate him now. Nothing particularly stood out aside from one coverage he admitted to blowing. He had one nice stop on 3rd-and-one, but he needs to improve.
- Manny Lawson: He struggled in coverage.
- Mike Nugent: 42-yard miss hurt. Bad. We need to rely those as automatic at that distance. Especially with the wind at his back.
Heroes—These Bengals held up well in the loss
- Michael Johnson: Another good game from the emerging DE. 4 tackles and a sack.
- Geno Atkins: Another sack and regular pressure up the middle.
- Jermaine Gresham: Solid game with 5 catches for 60 yards, including a big fourth-down completion. He’s having his best season yet, and might finally be getting used enough.
- A.J. Green: 9 catches and 65 yards, plus a touchdown despite constant double and triple coverage. His two fumbles are a bit troubling, but they neither hurt the team, and both were the result of him working for extra yards. I’m confident he’ll get that cleaned up.
- Vontaze Burfict: Another solid game. Seven total tackles and the big fumble recovery of the muffed punt in the first quarter.
MVP: Bernard Scott
For one precious possession, he should us that these Bengals can in fact run the football—even on a vaunted run defense. I give him the MVP because I wonder what would have happened down the line had he not gotten hurt—not just Sunday but for the year. In think it’s safe to say he’d be starting this week if not for his injury.
B-Scott just can’t catch a break, and it’s yet another fallen warrior to add to the ever-growing IR list.
Random Observations: No Haikus
- Dalton needs to adjust his strike zone to Andrew Hawkins. He may be too used to throwing to tall guys like Green and Gresham. Hawk needs the ball in his hands, and if Tom Brady can hit both Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker, Red can too.
- Speaking of Hawkins, why no bubble screens or reverses to him on Sunday? I liked the little inside pitch play, but Gruden needs to find more ways to get him the ball in space. Rich Gannon called Hawkins “Slippery” in the open field. Truth.
- Big ups to the Defense for continuing to get better. They held MJD in Jacksonville and Reggie Bush last week. Both guys are top running backs and it was good to see the team getting back to sound run defense. Trent Richardson had his way with them in week two, so here’s hoping he’ll find a harder slog this week.
- I agree with Coach Lewis’s decision to kick the 42-yard field goal with 3 minutes to go. I know others have been very critical of the call, but it was the right one. The Bengals had only found the end zone once all game, and it seemed clear to me that they’d get the ball back one more time if they went ahead and kicked. Two field goals would have won the game just as one touchdown would, and to me two field goals was the higher percentage move.
- Third down conversions are a problem. For a solution, see #2 above.
- Congrats to A.J. Green for becoming the first man in NFL history to record 100 receptions, 1500 yards, and 11 touchdowns in his first 20 games. Think about that. It is a feat that current superstars like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Terrell Owens, and Randy Moss never achieved, let alone Hall-of-Famers like Steve Largent, Tim Brown, and Jerry Rice. That’s impressive.