4) 17 vs. 10 in the first half
There was a lot of talk about the tight end position this offseason surrounding the team. The prevailing thought was that the team did not need to invest an early-round draft pick on a tight end because of how Zac Taylor uses or does not use his tight ends. It would appear that the running back position may be viewed in the same light.
It is tough to justify running the ball when your team is down 24-3 at halftime. However, Cincinnati could have run the ball more before halftime and before the game got out of hand. Nevertheless, here we are again.
In the first half, Burrow threw 17 passes, totaling 77 yards. He averaged 4.5 yards per pass. In the first half, running back Joe Mixon averaged 5.2 yards per rushing attempt.
As some continue to want Coach Taylor to rely on the running game more, the Bengals had 10 designed runs in the first 30 minutes that went for 51 yards. Joe Mixon had nine carries for 47 yards and averaged more yards per carry than the team averaged per pass in the first half.
Those rushing numbers are acceptable. What continues to be unacceptable is not leaning on it more often. This is particularly true when Burrow was repeatedly hit by the Titans' pass rush while in the pocket.
Mixon finished the game with 14 carries for 67 yards and an average of 4.8 yards per carry.
The running game was effective. However, the offense chose to abandon it in favor of incomplete passes. For example, late in the first, after a seven-yard run by Mixon on first down, the Bengals elected to throw on second and third downs, resulting in two incompletions. The Bengals continued the drive as beneficiaries of a penalty on the Titans.
Another frustrating aspect of the run game is that it is almost as if the better Mixon runs, the less he is used. Last week, he ran the ball 19 times and averaged 3.4 yards per attempt. In Week 2, he got 13 carries and averaged 4.5 yards. This week, despite running well, he had fewer carries than when he rushed for a 3.4-yard average.
Yes, he would have received more carries if the Bengals were winning. But with Tennessee’s defensive line teeing off on Burrow and the team only scoring three points anyway, it was a perfect opportunity to give Mixon and the other running backs more touches. Instead, the plan was to unnecessarily leave a vulnerable Burrow in the pocket and take even more hits in a humiliating loss.