Facing Tom Brady is always a chore for any defense. But, for the Bengals, defending Brady and Co. after an embarrassing loss will be a true test.
The Cincinnati Bengals are headed to Foxboro and a battle with the Patriots. Tom Brady is coming off a masterful performance against the Cleveland Browns. The AFC North champion Bengals are reeling on defense and looking shaky on the other side of the ball. Things need to be fixed on special teams also. Week 6 could be a nightmare if the problems aren’t addressed.
What happened? The Bengals went into last Sunday’s matchup against the Dallas Cowboys with confidence. Suddenly, after being handed their arses on a platter, the Orange and Black are sitting at 2-3. The Bengals got outplayed in every phase of the game. In fact, it looked like the team was more concerned about the Patriots game than the club they were playing.
Marvin Lewis has been criticized for not having his teams prepared for the big game. Well, it happened once again. The loss to Dallas wasn’t a primetime matchup but it was a huge game that held playoff implications. Cincinnati was in Jerry’s World as the nationally televised second game of a doubleheader. They promptly fizzled like a burned out sparkler.
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Easy Peasy Zampese?
I’ll be the first to admit I may have been wrong. Ken Zampese seemed to have the credentials necessary to keep the offense humming. Yet, it looks like the Bengals are starting all over. If this is the same playbook, why does it look so complicated? Yes, there were a few parts removed. But, Lewis and Co. assured the fan base everything would be fine.
Beware of guys in top hats selling snake oil.
Let’s give the scheme and Zampese’s playcalling a break. What’s going on with the O-Line? The Dallas Boys were creating holes that looked like bulldozer paths on I-75. Here’s where the benefit of the doubt comes in. Let’s say a running play broke down. It got blasted to smithereens (always wanted to say that). Ezekiel Elliott still had monster cutback lanes to use. Why aren’t the Bengals manhandling defensive linemen?
Andy Dalton isn’t getting time to throw the ball. The pocket is collapsing quicker and he’s looking like Fred Astaire or Chris Brown before he launches a pass. Because of the threat of sacks, Dalton isn’t looking downfield long. Suddenly, he’s trying to connect with his check down receivers before a route is completed.
Another sign that the O-line is slipping? Both Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are struggling at 3.8 and 3.5 yards per carry respectively. Coming into the season, Bernard was hitting stride at 4.7 ypc.
What’s Going On With Erickson?
The big play has been absent from special teams. During the preseason, Alex Erickson was the darling of the moment. Since the regular season has started, the Bengals aren’t using him as the X-factor he could provide. Erickson is not Mohamed Sanu or Marvin Jones but he could add another dimension to the offense. For the moment, he needs to get a better handle on when to bring the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs.
Defensive Overhaul Time
Simply put, the defense is in need of a severe attitude adjustment. The front four isn’t providing the push to collapse pockets. The defensive showing against Miami was entertaining to watch. But, truthfully, the Cowboys game exposed the truth. Adam Jones promised a “gut check” for the Patriots and beyond. Going forward, coaches need to be held accountable for the lack of production.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was not happy. Along with calling the unit’s performance “unacceptable,” and “uncharacteristic,” he spoke about the coaches working together to make things click.
"“Some of the things with the new coaches, like I explained to you before, it’s the first time going through some of these things. We made some adjustments at halftime that helped out. It’s all part of it.”"
Sunday may not be D-day for the Bengals…but they need to fix what’s wrong before it’s too late.