Bengal fans know better than to look a gift horse in the mouth, but the best feeling to describe Thursday’s win is…well, uneasiness.
Cincinnati was completely outplayed in the second quarter in turning a 10-0 lead into a 13-10 halftime deficit, and it took a bizarre stretch where the Eagles turned the ball over four times in succession to allow the Bengals to retake the lead and ultimately pull away for a 34-13 victory.
As all of you are aware, that final score does little to describe the manner in which the Bengals performed throughout the night. There are several areas of concern for Marvin Lewis heading into the Week 16 showdown with Pittsburgh, but here are a few of the more notable problem spots:
It wasn’t so much that the previously toothless Eagles pass rush sacked Andy Dalton seven times (although that is rather incredible) but more the manner in which they were able to do it. Philadelphia rushed just four down linemen for most of the game, and the Cincinnati offensive line was bulldozed all night long. This allowed the Eagles to drop more defenders back into coverage and give Andy Dalton fewer open targets.
Even with the fierce pass rush, Dalton still had some chances. But not only did he miss open receivers on multiple occasions, there were three instances (two to AJ Green, one to Jermaine Gresham), where a poor ball from Dalton forced the receiver off balance as he made the grab and limited yards after the catch. This cost the Bengals a first down on one particular throw to Green. We know Dalton doesn’t possess the strongest of arms, making it even more crucial that he makes correct reads and accurate throws.
There is no way Cincinnati can beat the Steelers if they make these kinds of errors. Adam Jones: Do not head butt an opposing player. Carlos Dunlap: Do not shove the quarterback to the ground after the whistle has blown the play dead. Defensive line: Do not allow a rookie quarterback fool you into jumping offsides four times (though only one was actually accepted).
Punt return team
Next time, let’s try to only get whistled for one crack back block at a time, rather than two.
Was anybody really surprised at that play where he fielded a punt at the 1-yard line?
Delay of game on first-and-goal, two Dalton fumbles, continued issues with dropped passes, and injuries to three starters.
That the Bengals were able to play like that and still cruise to a three touchdown win shows just what a Superfund Site Lincoln Financial Field has become. Committing that many mistakes certainly won’t fly against Pittsburgh or Baltimore though. Bengal fans can only hope the extra few days of rest after the Thursday night game will give Cincinnati enough time to work out some of these issues before taking on the Steelers.