The Cincinnati Bengals fell to 10-7 on the season in a 21-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Despite losing, the Bengals can walk out with their heads held high with the knowledge that the outcome of this game did not affect their playoff status, as they had already clinched the AFC North title a week ago with a win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
In a game that featured almost entirely second-stringers for the Bengals, there are multiple things to be taken away about the Bengals’ second unit.
Brandon Allen should not be Burrow’s backup in 2022
The story of the game was the poor play of Bengals’ backup quarterback Brandon Allen. In a game that remained relatively close throughout, Allen’s inability to get the offense rolling was one of the key factors that led to the Bengals’ bench being unable to pull out an upset over the mostly-first team lineup that the Browns fielded.
With a final stat line of 15 passes completed on 29 attempts for 136 yards and one touchdown, Allen hardly completed 50% of his passes. In addition to his poor passing performance, the former Arkansas quarterback also struggled with pocket awareness, allowing himself to be sacked unnecessarily on more than one occasion.
Allen’s performance on Sunday made it clear that if Burrow were to get injured during the playoffs that the Bengals’ season would be practically guaranteed to end prematurely.
While it may seem obvious that a team’s starting quarterback going down would end their Super Bowl hopes, there have been instances in the past where that wasn’t the case. The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018 after Carson Wentz had left for the season, with Nick Foles leading the team on a miracle run.
While the story of Foles and the Eagles is not the norm, it is the goal. To have a team and a backup quarterback that are both solid enough to withstand an injury to the lead quarterback is ideal. With the Bengals’ elite group of weapons, it’s possible that a highly serviceable backup could win a game in the playoffs, but Brandon Allen is not that backup.
In the offseason, the Bengals should pursue former-top draft picks who have turned into solid backups, such as a Marcus Mariota or Mitchell Trubisky.