After the Bengals’ 34-24 loss to the previously winless Cleveland Browns, light shined back onto the reality that Cincinnati has a team that is still in transition. Fresh off back-to-back defeats of the Redskins and Jaguars, the Bengals’ passing offense was performing efficiently and the defense led the league in sacks heading into a Week 5 showdown with the Dolphins.
The Dolphins game exposed weaknesses in the Bengals, but at the same time Miami has one of the game’s best rushing defenses, allowing them to make the Bengals even more one-dimensional on offense. Cincinnati’s defense did not perform extremely well, but by bottling up Reggie Bush and staying alive throughout the game, a down week against an up-and-coming team with a emerging young quarterback in Ryan Tannehill is nothing to be ashamed of.
However, it still remains that the Bengals have holes throughout the roster and were not widely expected to make the playoffs, despite Pittsburgh’s weakened state. Nevertheless, A.J. Green was still shredding defenses and the run defense was improved enough to appear ready to provide a formidable match-up against Trent Richardson. A Bengals win was deservedly expected.
But, most telling overall in the Bengals’ defeat was the turnover battle. Andy Dalton coughed the ball up four times – 3 INTs and 1 fumble – compared to a single Brandon Weeden interception off a batted ball.
The first interception was snagged in the Bengals’ own 39 and returned to the 25. The Browns only gained five yards and kicked an easy field goal without any success offensively. The second was returned for a touchdown, requiring exactly zero offensive success from the Browns. The last was meaningless on a last-second shot at a touchdown, but Dalton’s fumble did kill a drive. The Bengals had 2nd-and-goal on the Cleveland 9-yard line at that point.
Overall, the turnovers represented at least a 13-point swing.
These were all crucial mistakes made by a quarterback pressured by the absence of an explosive running game. An intimidating rushing offense would set up the play-action pass upon which Jay Gruden’s offense thrives.