The Bengals offense zigs when experts want them to zag

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor talks to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) in
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor talks to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) in / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

A couple of weeks ago, the Cincinnati Bengals and head coach/offensive coordinator Zac Taylor were called out for an uninspiring offensive game plan. Rightfully so because the offense was not living up to what we expected coming into the season so, the experts sounded off. Of course, the Bengals and Taylor listened... or not. 

In an ESPN segment that made its rounds in Bengaldom, the crew found the source of all Cincinnati’s offensive woes. It turns out that the Bengals spent too much time in shotgun as opposed to under center. Their solution was to have Joe Burrow under center more. A trend that was becoming more prevalent in the huddle, as Mina Kimes pointed out.

The Bengals absolutely took that to heart. What did they do against the New Orleans Saints to have their biggest scoring output of the season? You guessed it. Cincinnati ran two plays from under center. Two! 

One of those plays was a kneel down. The other was a quarterback sneak. Two!

Cincinnati zigged when everyone wanted them to zag, but, in the process, they proved Robert Griffin III correct. 

Burrow had his most efficient game of the season, completing 75% of his passes on his way to throwing for three touchdowns, 300 yards, and a passer rating of 126. Ja’Marr Chase caught seven passes for 132 yards and averaged 18.86 yards per reception. 

The Bengals accomplished what all the experts wanted to see from them. Burrow looked otherworldly, and Chase had a fantastic showing. The team scored 30 points for the first time this year. 

What about the running game? So glad you asked.

Joe Mixon only carried the ball eight times. However, that was partly because the Bengals played catchup for most of the game. On the day, Mixon rushed for a season-best 5.63 yards per attempt. You read that correctly -- Mixon averaged the most yards per carry for the season while not having Burrow under center. 

Mixon also contributed in the passing game, coming up with a critical touchdown to tie the game.

The ESPN segment was well-received for many reasons. It had many thinking that the NFL was moving back to a game when quarterbacks operated primarily from under center. Mina Kimes even mentioned how funny it is that the game is so cyclical, so much so that it makes her sick.  

So, of course, the Bengals would spend most of their time under center in the game when Joe Burrow was at his best and Chase had the game everyone was waiting to see from him. 

To quote the God of Thunder, Thor, “Of course. Of course.”

The Bengals will run plays from under center this year but it is clear that Taylor will do what he thinks is best for the offense given the situation opposing teams present. From the “Never-Taylors” to the “Forever-Taylors,” one thing we all know is that he will do it his way. No matter the criticism or where it comes from, even if it is from the experts. 

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All stats provided by Pro Football Reference.