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If you like the exercise of doling out chunks of blame to those that were complicit in a decisive, pathetic, embarrassing loss, there's plenty to be handed out. I'll even bring back a different version of last season's Wheel of Blame.
A loss like yesterday's doesn't fall on any one person's shoulders, even as bad as some of the main particulars were. This was a collective effort, a suck-job by nearly the entire team that's left me as dismayed as I've been about a season-opener since before Marvin Lewis became the Bengals head coach.
Certain individuals were God-awful, though.
Andy Dalton played his worst game since the Thursday night disaster against the Browns in 2014. Yes, he was under a lot of pressure, but he missed open receivers all afternoon, made horrible decisions, and committed five turnovers. Even a few of his five sacks seem like they could've been avoided. Andy had done a good job in 2015 and 2016 of raising his proverbial ceiling and not being a total disaster when he was having a bad game, throwing only 15 interceptions over the past two seasons while posting commendable adjusted interception rates in both '15 and 16.
Yesterday, Andy was terrible. His team's margin for error it too thin for them to overcome performances like yesterday's.
And yes, I wanted the Bengals to turn to AJ McCarron too.
Ken Zampese was terrible. I'm not big into crushing playcalling, because very, very few of us actually knows what goes into calling a play. That said, Zampese's approach didn't just lack creativity, it made no logical sense whatsoever. When the Bengals did move the ball, it was on plays that featured no real dropbacks - RPO's, quick throws, and runs. Unfortunately, Zampese had Andy dropping back and waiting for plays to develop too often behind an offensive line that couldn't sustain - or at times, even begin - blocks. The results were predictable.
The offensive line was garbage. It's almost like not allowing defections of you top two offensive lineman - one being one of the best in franchise history and the other being in his prime and among the best at his position - was a bad idea.
By the way, the respective Pro Football Focus individual player grades of Andrew Whitworth (76.1) and Kevin Zeitler (80.2) yesterday were higher than any of the grades given to individual Bengals offensive linemen against Baltimore.
Ogbuehi: 36.8Boling: 38.9Bodine: 42.7Hopkins 33.9Fisher: 49.9
That group is gonna block JJ Watt and company this Thursday? God helps us.
Without Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals cannot cover the middle of the field. This was a theme early last season, both when Vontaze was missing for the first three games and when he was playing his way back into shape in the weeks leading up to the bye. The defense as a whole didn't play poorly - in fact, the line and the secondary actually played quite well - but without its best player, the gaping holes in the middle of the field looked a lot like the ones we saw a season ago.
There. I think we covered the mechanical stuff.
Here's the bigger issue for me: the staleness of yesterday. The entire lack of energy in the stadium, and from my seat at least, what appeared to be a lack of energy on the sideline. For all the talk of wanting to get rid of the stench of last year's six-win season, and all the conjecture about a renewed sense of urgency based on the contact status of the head coach, the same stagnant, fusty, vibe was felt throughout PBS, and I'm guessing by those who watched or listened from afar as well.
That staleness dominated 2016, with the head coach openly admitting that his messages weren't getting through. Despite the often-discussed urgency, and the infusion of youth on the roster, a team that was supposed to "run on it own gas" sputtered like it was running of fumes. The Bengals had nine months to prepare for this game yet looked barely ready to take the field, much less compete against a division rival.
The entire feel of the game was painfully familiar to anyone who paid attention to last season. This Bengals team is different than last season's in many ways. It's younger. It's healthier. But yesterday, it still felt stale.
A reminder, perhaps, that its head coach is the same.