Penalties – 6 penalties for 50 yards – though I will count it as 5 for 40 since I can’t fathom how Nelson got a taunting penalty based off the replay. Either way, 5 penalties for 40 yards is still too many and they were critical penalties. Kirkpatrick got his token penalty out of the way with a 15 yard face mask on the first play of the game (ironically it was probably the only tackle he didn’t miss all night).
That allowed Pittsburgh to flip field position and started the Bengals demise. Andre Smith got a false start on 1st down inside the Bengals own 20 to put a drive in an immediate hole. Ghee received likely the first false start I have ever seen on a gunner and Whitworth had 2 huge penalties (false start and holding), each coming on a 2nd and 10 and pushing the Bengals back to a much less convertible 2nd and 15 and 2nd and 20.
They failed to convert both.
Drops – According to Pro Football Focus, the Bengals receivers had 5 drops! Hawkins had another drop which killed a drive and lead to 14-0 deficit, and Green, for all the great things he does, continues to drop too many catchable balls.
Sure, the amazing catches he makes may cancel it out, but that is no excuse. He is now tied for 4th in the NFL with 7 drops.
James Harrison Injury – The injury to Harrison, especially as early as it happened, was huge for the pass rush. Without Harrison, the Bengals struggled getting pressure on Ben and paid dearly for it.
Vontaze Burfict – I went the entire game without noticing him. Sure, he lead the team in tackles (12) like he always does, but he failed to make make any big plays. The only play I remember seeing him on was allowing Bell to beat him on the 4th down conversion.