Bengals 0-13 third downs versus Steelers set franchise record

Nov 15, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Bengals failure to convert a third-down conversion in 13 attempts in their loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday set a franchise record.

The Bengals futile no third-down conversations in 13 attempts is a franchise record. Third down conversions records have been kept by Pro Football Focus since the 1991 season. The last time Cincinnati failed to convert a third-down was in a 51-14 loss to New Orleans in 2018 when the Bengals went zero for six.

No Bengals team ever went zero for 13 until Sunday. Cincinnati is a respectable 17th in the NFL converting 42.5 percent on third down including the loss to Pittsburgh. Take out the 0-13 on third down against the Steelers and Cincinnati would convert 48 percent of their third-down conversions.

Cincinnati has converted 48 third-down conversions in 113 attempts this season. In the three games before the loss to Pittsburgh, the Bengals were on fire on third downs converting 24 of its last 41 attempts. New Orleans leads the NFL with a 51.4 percent conversion rate on third-down.

Cincinnati converted 58.1 percent of its third downs in losses to Indianapolis and Cleveland last month and a win over Tennessee on November 1. Pittsburgh entered the weekend 20th in the NFL in third-down defense. The Steelers allowed opponents to convert 44.25 percent of its third-down conversions in its first eight games.

The Bengals were frequently in third and long which was a big reason they were 0-13 on third down. Pittsburgh put Cincinnati in an average of third and 9.61 yards to go. Even with a passing offense as good as the Bengals that put them in what turned out to be on Sunday an impossible situation.

Two of the Bengals’ third downs led them to go for it on fourth down. Cincinnati entered Sunday’s game converting a nearly improbable 16 of its last 17 fourth-down attempts. The Bengals were 2-2 plus a field goal on fourth down on Sunday. Joe Burrow completed a two-yard pass to Tee Higgins for the only Cincinnati TD Sunday.

The Burrow to Higgins TD pass came in the second quarter and reduced the Steelers lead to 12-7. Safety Shawn Williams took a fake punt 39 yards for a first down on fourth and 13 in the fourth quarter. Randy Bullock would add a field goal in the fourth quarter to close the scoring in the 36-10 Cincinnati loss.

Burrow was 3-11 on third down for 10 yards. The other two third-down attempts resulted in sacks. The Bengals had six third down and 10 yards to go. Cincinnati faced third and five or less only five times. Cincinnati is a more dominant passing team, but they were not in traditional third downs they were in a position to run.

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Cincinnati could have run the ball on the third and goal from the two. Burrow threw an incompletion, then connected with Higgins on the next play for their only TD of the afternoon. The ineptness of the Bengals on third down on Sunday was likely an aberration, just as the 24-41 was the three previous games.