Throughout the year, the Cincinnati Bengals have been dealing with disappointing statistics that have plagued the team. Some of them are more recurring than others.
However, these past two weeks have shown that the Bengals can win when they send us scurrying for different disappointing stats other than those we have harped on all season.
The Bengals gave up zero sacks against a team that was second in the NFL in that category. The defense only gave up two “explosive plays” rather than seven to nine. They stuck with the running game, rushing the ball 32 times for 111 yards. The team ran the ball more than they passed against the Colts.
There was a lot to be excited about in this game. One of the most promising aspects is Cincinnati’s ability to adjust to what has ailed them this season.
However, a few things did not go well for them on this outing. Here are four negative stats from their victory over the Colts that will hopefully get fixed, just as some of the other flaws seemingly have.
A turnover makes the list of unfortunate stats for the second consecutive week. Last week, Tyler Boyd threw an interception that made this list. This week, it was the Bengals quarterback who threw a pick-six.
Ronnie Harrison Jr. was the beneficiary of a slightly off-target pass intended for tight end Tanner Hudson. Hudson's one-handed attempt at a reception slowed Browning's lazer pass. It may have fallen incomplete otherwise. Harrison returned the ball 26 yards for the score.
Fortunately, like against the Jacksonville Jaguars, this week’s interception did not cost Cincinnati the victory.
Cincinnati was up 14-6 with less than two minutes left in the first half. After a successful two-point conversion, instead of the Bengals going into halftime with the lead and getting the ball after the break, the game was tied. It could have been a complete momentum-killer.
Lou Anarumo’s squad had the Colts in a third-and-long situation in the second quarter. Instead of getting off the field, Trey Hendrickson was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty.
The costly infraction set off a string of unfortunate events that culminated in the Bengals going from 14-0 to 14-14 at halftime.
It was an unnecessary penalty from the Bengals’ star edge rusher, who hit Gardner Minshew well after the ball was released.
Cincinnati was in firm control of the game up until that point. While the penalty did not directly turn into points, as the defense still had opportunities to stall the Colts’ drive, it was the catalyst for the Indy tying the game heading into halftime.
Nevertheless, Hendrickson had two sacks, two tackles for loss, and two QB hits. He more than made up for the penalty that set off the chain of events that led to 14 unanswered Colts points.
Hendrickson was a major factor in why Cincinnati’s defense held the Colts to only seven points.
2 Tee Higgins drops
Jake Browning threw a perfect pass to Tee Higgins early in the fourth quarter. It was a throw made all the more impressive because of the pressure Browning was under.
Another reason why that pass was crucial was because Browning would leave the game due to cramping in his thumb on that play. It was something that appeared to be worse initially.
Backup A.J. McCarron came into the game, but instead of having a first down, he had to deal with a third-and-long situation.
That was the second drop of the game for Higgins, who has had a few of those this season. Heading into the game, the wideout was credited with four drops in eight games. That is the most drop from any receiver who has played less than ten games this season.
Higgins is still a great and valuable receiver. We saw that with his big play later in the game.
Higgins, like Hendrickson, has made a few mistakes. However, like Hendrickson, Higgins’ talent is undeniable, and he more than makes up for any drops he has during a game.
Unfortunately, drops could affect how the organization approaches the contract talks in what will likely be spirited contract negotiations in the offseason. That might not be the best thing for us who want to see Higgins back in stripes next season.
27% third down conversion rate
One negative stat that the Bengals have struggled with this season that turned its head in this game is their third-down conversion rate. The Bengals rank 23rd in the NFL.
Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati converted 57% of their third-down attempts. This was a phenomenal achievement for a team that has underwhelmed in that category this season.
This week against Indianapolis, the Bengals plummeted back to reality. Their 27% against the Colts was below their season average. However, it matched Indianapolis’ 27%, as both teams converted only three of 11 attempts.
However, the Bengals overcame their lackluster performance in third-down situations to score 34 points. The Colts’ offense was not as fortunate. A lot of that had to do with the Bengals' offense generating explosive plays, whereas Cincinnati’s defense did an excellent job of not allowing those this week.
The easiest fix for a team struggling to convert third-downs is not to get into those situations in the first place. The Bengals did a great job of that against the Colts.
These negative stats are nitpicking but they are also refreshing. They are not the usual categories we are used to talking about after a Bengals loss. It shows that if the team can avoid the negative stats that have played a crucial role in their losses, Cincinnati will be tough to beat down the stretch.