4. 3rd Down Conversions
This wretched statistic could be the underlying cause of all the Bengals woes. Prior to today’s outing, Cincinnati was 30th in the NFL in 3rd down completion percentage, and despite the earlier notes about the near identical similarities to in this game, the Bengals only converted 5 of 14 on 3rd Down while the Broncos converted 9 in a similar 4 attempts. Somewhat telling, this is a statistic that isn’t even recorded on Cincinnati Bengals team website, but it is on several of Denver’s.
Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden has started to show his play-calling pattern and it’s a tartan – colorful, but simple and repetitive. In what can only be referred to as “arena minded”, the Bengals seem to only be able to play on first or second down, as if actually thinking about the first down somehow causes the offense to lose focus, over compensate, or simply not have a play drawn up that meets the situation. In short, this rugby mentality 3-and-out becomes long-ball oriented rather than play-developing, which was evident during several botched screen plays as well as the multitude of trick plays we’ve already seen from the Bengals this season. Regardless, a mild genesis of sorts seems to be occurring inDalton’s coaching. Early in the game,Daltonwas visibly working on his pocket poise, giving pause and letting plays develop, something he has been criticized over this season. However, once an emotional rhythm took hold of the Bengals after interceptions or clutch turn-overs,Dalton’s more reflexive lightning snap-to-release notably resurfaced. This is part of quarterback development and experience, something he, like all young successful quarterbacks, will likely grown into and tame.
5. Running Game
There isn’t one. BenJarvus Green-Ellis only managed to compile a meager 56 yards on 17 carries with 6 yard carry as the longest of the day. What further dwarfs this sad display is that not only did back-up running back Brian Leonard have a 6 yard run play but so did A.J. Green and Andy Dalton; Dalton actually ran for 11 yards on one scramble, which was the longest run by any Bengal all afternoon. More concerning, besides completely tossing aside his record for ball security with multiple fumbles earlier this season, Green-Ellis is also debunking his ‘out of the backfield’ passing threat. Today, he was thrown to twice, both for a loss.
Are the 3rd Down issues because of the offensive line or is the lack of a running game to blame? Maybe it’s both, or could the play calling be the anchor to all of this? The mind reels at the inter-connected patchwork of deficiencies. But with 8 starting running backs in the NFL (one-fourth) racking up +100 yard games this week already; it’s hard to undervalue the position or its essential nature to a West Coast Offense. After today’s performance, limited and injured though it was, there is no reason why Brian Leonard shouldn’t be starting at running back.