The Bengals won. People wrote stuff. Here's what they wrote.
It’s not something you see any more in the NFL, but if ever a player deserved to be carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates, it was Bengals kicker Randy Bullock.
And the offensive players should have been fighting with the defensive guys over who got to give Bullock the triumphant ride after both units collapsed in the second half Sunday, blowing a 21-point lead that necessitated a 44-yard field goal at the gun to rescue the Bengals from themselves.
Bullock’s kick lifted the Bengals to a 37-34 victory at Paul Brown Stadium after a curious ghosting by the offense — four consecutive three-and-outs in the second half followed four consecutive touchdown drives to end the first half. And yet another defensive disaster that finds coordinator Teryl Austin’s group mired in one of the worst runs of futility in NFL history.
One week after surrendering 551 yards at Kansas City, the Bengals gave up 576 to the Buccaneers.
Lost in this wacky game was the offensive production of three key Bengals: Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green. The latter made a good portion of his living on the final drive to set up the game-winning field goal, while the other two paced the Cincinnati offense for much of the day. Boyd caught his first five targets and finished with nine receptions (on 10 targets) for 138 yards and a touchdown (and was painfully close to another), while Mixon racked up 123 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Cincinnati's offense was humming -- until it wasn't. The Bengals twice went three and out in the fourth, then punted after an eight-play possession. That allowed Tampa Bay to make up ground and necessitated the game-winning kick. There are reasons to continue to be encouraged, but the Bengals right now seem like a puzzle with a piece or two missing.
The bye week couldn't come at a better time for the Bengals, who need to do a serious reassessment of their defense, which has given up at least 480 yards of offense in each of their past three games. Their offense has been inconsistent for weeks. And their injury list has seriously piled up, with seven starters out before Sunday's game. Clint Boling also left the game because of an injury and Lawson tore his ACL and is out for the season.
Those mixed feelings will linger over the next week. While everything is in front of the Bengals in the second half of the season, the past few games probably leave them with a bitter taste in their mouths.
The Bengals’ defensive line had the Bucs quarterbacks scrambling around often all day. Geno Atkins was a menace on the interior, picking up a handful of hurries while also winning a good amount of blocks that did not result in pressure. Atkins was also stout in run defense, proving very difficult to move for the Buccaneers blockers.
The Bengals had a hard time stopping the Bucs’ offense, especially through the air. They were able to intercept four passes and dropped a couple more would-be interceptions but relied on a mistake by the Bucs in order to get off the field. Communication on the back-end was an issue, as they gave up two long touchdown passes due to a breakdown in coverage.
A.J. Green did A.J. Green things, but the difference for this Cincy passing attack has been the emergence of Tyler Boyd. After a quiet game last week at Kansas City, Boyd added yet another performance – fifth time in eight games – where he earned a receiving game grade of at least 72.1. Boyd collected eight-of-nine targets on the day for 129 yards and a touchdown on a seam route in the coverage of linebacker Adarius Taylor.
The Bengals will forgive running back Joe Mixon for a drop on a draw screen in the fourth quarter after racking up over 120 yards rushing and a pair of touchdown runs. Providing the dynamic ground attack missing when he was injured, Mixon found the end zone in the first quarter between the tackles and again on outside zone blocking for an eight-yard score in quarter two.
When this defense forces turnovers, they are just fine. Otherwise, life can unravel fast. Hence, why no lead feels safe nor was this one on Sunday giving up a 19-point lead.
At the halfway point it's fair to wonder if the defensive group is beyond repair after giving up an unreal 576 yards to the Bucs. That's 1,127 the last two weeks, 101 more yards in a two-game stretch than any in franchise history.
"It's broke. It's broke," Dre Kirkpatrick said. "It's something we have to fix."
Still, pressure from the likes of Geno Atkins, Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap helped make poor decisions possible from Winston. They deserve credit. As do Shawn Williams and Jessie Bates for making plays when presented to them.
The Cincinnati offense continues to be enigmatic. One half they rip off four consecutive drives for touchdowns. Limitless potential.
The next they rip off four consecutive ugly three-and-outs. Staggering failure.
Almost seems impossible.
They almost bungled away a big home lead against the Buccaneers, which would have been disastrous after their losses to the Steelers and Chiefs. The Bengals desperately need a bye to regroup and heal in their defensive back seven. They need to host the Saints, however, in Week 10, and they also have road games coming up against the Ravens, Chargers and Steelers. The Bengals are not looking like a playoff team in the end.
The Bengals defense isn’t just bad. It’s historically bad.
Cincinnati allowed the Chiefs to gain 551 yards last week, which is 1,127 in the past two weeks combined. That’s 101 yards more than the Bengals have allowed in a two-game stretch in franchise history, via Dehner.
“It’s broke. It’s broke,” Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “It’s something we have to fix.”
The Saints gave up 7,042 yards in 2012 to set the NFL record for most yards allowed in a season. The Bengals are on pace to allow 7,164.