With another tough opponent in front of them, the Bengals once again folded. Cincinnati came out flat and was out-played in all three phases of the game as its playoff hopes dwindled in the Sunshine State.
The Cincinnati Bengals had a 13 percent chance to make the playoffs going into Jacksonville on Sunday, based on a postseason simulator by the New York Times. A win against the Jaguars would’ve bumped Cincinnati’s chances to 29 percent. Instead, the Bengals were embarrassed at EverBank Field and their playoffs chance dropped to just 5 percent.
Here are some game notes from Cincinnati’s 23-7 loss.
Sunday’s loss extended the Bengals’ recent struggles away from Paul Brown Stadium. Over the last two seasons, the Bengals have won just three of 12 road contests. Two of those wins were at the Browns’ palace of ineptitude adjacent to Lake Erie.
The 2017 season is not over yet. In fact, there’s still have a regular-season slate to take place. But the Bengals have back-to-back road games coming up at Tennessee (11/12) and Denver (11/19). Realistically, nine is likely the minimum amount of wins they’d need to be in the playoff picture. Winning on the road is not optional if Cincinnati wants to save its season.
If you thought to the Bengals’ offense was not on the field much against Jacksonville, you’re right. The Jaguars had the ball for a whopping 40-plus minutes, leaving the Bengals with just 37 offensive snaps.
Important to note that two of those snaps were kneel-downs at the end of each half.
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The 35 actual offensive plays did not fare very well, either. The Bengals managed just 148 total yards, putting them in contention with the Dolphins (playing tonight against Oakland) for the league’s worst offense.
A.J. Green, the usual cool-headed Pro-Bowl wide receiver, lost his temper in a big way against the Jaguars. Late in the first half, the Bengals were simply trying to run out the clock and take a six-point deficit into the intermission.
A three-yard run by Joe Mixon turned out to be a highlight-worthy play for all the wrong reasons, though. Green was shoved to the turf after the play by Jalen Ramsey and retaliated by sneaking up behind the second-year corner, putting him in a chokehold and delivering a few closed-fist blows to the black and gold helmet.
Green is going through one of the worst stretches of his seven-year career. Over the last three games, he has just seven catches for 74 yards, this after a 189-yard effort against Buffalo.
Although still on pace for over 1,000 receiving yards this season, Green could face a possible suspension from the NFL. However, because he is a first-time offender, a hefty fine could be coming his way.
No Fournette, No Problem
Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette was a surprise inactive just 90 minutes before the game. The LSU product apparently broke a team rule and was deactivated by first-year head coach Doug Marrone.
It didn’t matter, though, as the fresh legs in the Jacksonville backfield made plenty of progress against the Bengals’ 18th-ranked run defense. The numbers aren’t staggering – Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon combined for 111 yards on 31 carries, but the Jaguars were able to consistently pick up chunks on the ground, making other life easy on quarterback Blake Bortles.
The Jaguars converted 12 of their 18 third-down tries as Paul Guenther’s defense struggled to get off the field.
The Knockout Punch
Lost on Sunday was the fact that the Bengals’ defense only allowed 16 points. But with the constant struggles on offense against the Jags’ feared pass rush, it was overlooked. At 16-7, the game felt sealed in the loss column for Cincinnati. The final blow didn’t occur until early in the fourth quarter when undrafted rookie Jaydon Mickens capped the game’s scoring with a 63-yard punt return touchdown.
It was the first punt return score allowed by the Bengals to someone not named Antonio Brown (A.B. made house calls on Kevin Huber punts in 2011, ’13 & ’14) since Jacoby Jones returned a punt 73 yards in a 35-6 loss to Houston in 2008 that dropped Cincinnati to 0-8.
Shawn Williams jumped on a T.J. Yeldon fumble on Jacksonville’s first drive of the game. That turnover snapped Cincinnati’s 18-game streak without recovering a fumble. Its last fumble recovery prior to Sunday was Dre Kirkpatrick‘s scoop of a Carlos Dunlap strip-sack off Dak Prescott in week 5 of last season.