3 Important Keys To Bengals’ Second Half Success

Oct 23, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (27) against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 23, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (27) against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

Starting with Week 10, the Bengals have no room for error. To make the playoffs for a sixth straight year, they’ll have to develop razor-sharp focus.

Going into their Week 10 battle with the New York Giants, the Bengals are again facing adversity. After a lukewarm showing in London, Monday Night Football will be Cincinnati’s proving grounds. Every game of the second half is considered as must-win. How did the Bengals find themselves in this situation? Unfortunately, the combination of a lackluster defense and a sputtering offense.

There was widespread speculation that the Bengals could continue the torrid style of offense from last season. With the departure of Hue Jackson to Cleveland, quarterback coach Ken Zampese was elevated to offensive coordinator. In the first half of the season, Bengals faithful have been waiting for the numbers to once again explode. But, the learning curve has lasted longer than expected. 

Here’s a look at what they need to do for success in the second half of the campaign.

Guenther’s Gang Has To Deliver

Without a doubt, the Bengals’ defense has struggled at an alarming rate. What was thought to be the strength of the defending AFC North Champs has turned into a liability. During the 2015 season, one thing was certain. The Bengals’ D would come through with a play to seal a victory. 

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One key ingredient is missing from the field this year. Reggie Nelson is a solid fixture in the Oakland Raiders’ secondary. His experience is sorely missed. But, should that cause such a dramatic shift in coverage? So far, the secondary has been victimized for a ton of yardage while Nelson is doing his thing for Oakland. In fact, the Raiders’ Week 9 win over Denver was sealed by a Nelson interception. Those kinds of heroics were typical when he was in stripes.

The point is simple. In order to get back into the thick of the playoff hunt and division championship, Gunther’s unit has to get mad. They have to play with an intensity that will pull the entire team together under their passion. During the Bye Week, players were challenged and jobs put up for grabs.

"“I watched every individual player and I wrote some notes and I met with those guys about some things they need to clean up and hopefully we can get it done.”"

According to ESPN, Guenther went back and looked at every defensive snap of the season. That, my friends, is true frustration. Hopefully, the message rings clear and the defense gets things going. Otherwise, this could be a long year of change.

Zampese Has To Find Balance

It wasn’t a huge surprise at all. Whether you’re a Bengals fan for life or just a casual onlooker, you knew it would be different. The changing of the guards with Jackson and Zampese was bound to be traumatic. Even though the Bengals are wallowing in the funk of a 3-4-1 record, the offense has still been decent. In fact, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have carried the show.

If not for the aerial acrobatics of the Dalton-Green show, Cincinnati’s record could be much worse. Consistency in the red zone should be the mantra for the remaining games. Getting Tyler Eifert back into the fold will do wonders. But, Zampese has to remember the running game. Jeremy Hill looks primed to have a huge year if the O-line can create the blocking and holes.

Marvin Lewis Has To Be Coach Of The Year

Not really. But, he does have to get the troops motivated. The Bengals have once again created a mountain out of a molehill (always wanted to say that). It all starts with MNF and continues with seven enormous games. For each of those battles, Lewis has to get the most out of his players.

Next: Bengals And Giants Clash

For five years, the Bengals have been a fixture in the postseason. Unless Lewis can get the fire going, this could be the end of that run.