The Bengals lost to the Panthers. People wrote stuff. Here's what they wrote....
If the Carolina Panthers defense made particular adjustments in the second half, they must have disguised them masterfully.
A cross-section of Cincinnati Bengals offensive players said scoring just seven points after halftime wasn’t about being fooled. It was about playing foolishly: Committing turnovers, breaking off pass patterns and failing to convert third downs. That was their explanation for the Panthers prevailing 31-21 at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.
However, something sure changed. While the Panthers are 2-1, the defense has lacked any real consistency in busting up drives. That continued early Sunday: Two of the Bengals’ first three possessions resulted in touchdowns in remarkably similar fashion. Each went 75 yards to the end zone. The first one took 11 plays and six minutes, the second took 12 plays and five minutes.
Andy Dalton giventh and Andy Dalton taketh away. This game was a textbook example of everything that's good about Dalton, but also everything that's bad. Dalton kept the Bengals in the game with 352 passing yards and two touchdown passes, but he also threw four interceptions. Although one interception came on the final play, the other three were still costly: The Panthers turned those three picks into 17 points. Dalton definitely wasn't on the same page as John Ross, who was the target for two of the picks. Of course, the biggest concern for the Bengals might be a defense that gave up 230 rushing yards, marking just the second time since 2010 that Cincinnati has surrendered that many yards in a game on the ground.
The Bengals struggled to stop the run in this one, but it wasn’t really the fault of their defensive line. Guys like Carlos Dunlap and Ryan Glasgow were actually very solid in the run game, causing havoc and closing holes that the offense was trying to set up. While they were let down by their linebackers missing tackles, they were looking solid up front.
I still want to believe in this Bengals offense. Cincy (2-1) spent Sunday without bell-cow Joe Mixonand lost star wideout A.J. Green to a groin injury, but did just enough to hang around. The jettisoned talent put extra pressure on Andy Dalton to make up for a ground game that managed just 66 yards on the ground. The Bengals passer threw a costly first-half pick and was downright unlucky to see a third-quarter tipped lob land in the hands of Nigerian-born, London-sourced Panthers defensive end Efe Obada. Both turnovers triggered Panthers touchdowns, but Dalton (29-of-46 passing for 352 yards) authored a pair of clock-chewing, 75-yard scoring drives before the break and brought the Bengalsback into the game with a 27-yard touchdown rope to Tyler Boyd in the third quarter. The Glowing Ginger Man crumbled from there, though, unfurling a third pick off a wayward deep strike before closing shop with a game-ending interception at the buzzer.
The Bengals knew they were going to get a heavy dose of Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey on Sunday. They prepared for it all week. They talked about the importance of staying assignment-sound.
And none of it mattered.
McCaffrey had one of the biggest rushing games an opponent has ever had against the Bengals in the Marvin Lewis era, rushing for 184 yards on 28 carries.
I’m not a convincing-enough hot take artist to label Ross a bust, not three games into what in many respects is his rookie season. But what Ross did on Sunday did little to quiet the small but growing contingent of observers and fans who are wondering if the Bengals got it wrong when they selected Ross ninth overall in the 2017 draft.
It was frustrating to watch the Bengals flounder their way toward having the league’s lowest-ranked offense in 2017 with Ross unable – for various reasons – to provide any help. Even though he did catch a touchdown pass in the season opener against the Colts, the fact that a player that many thought and hoped would have a breakthrough 2018 wasn’t a huge contributor through the first two games only fueled more doubt.