The Bengals got shellacked. People wrote about them. Here's what they wrote...
Rightfully, Cincinnati's absolutely absent defense has been the story. Over the past five games, the Bengals have been allowing 3.3 points per possession on defense. To put that in context, the league average is 2.1 points per drive. The second-worst defense in the league over that time frame has been the Raiders, who are closer to the Jets in 19th place than they are to the Bengals. The Bengals have been allowing 9.3 yards per pass attempt, which is about what Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff are averaging this season.
You can win with a bad defense. The Rams rank in the bottom five in both points per drive and yards per attempt over that same time frame, but they have a great offense. The Bengals haven't had a great offense once A.J. Green went down. In 2018, Andy Dalton has posted a 96.5 passer rating and a 71.6 Total QBR with Green on the field. In 116 dropbacks with Green on the sidelines, Dalton's passer rating has fallen to 72.6 with a Total QBR of 49.3. In terms of the numbers, that's like going from Tom Brady (96.3 passer rating, 69.0 QBR) to C.J. Beathard (81.9 rating, 49.0 QBR).
Cincinnati is about cooked. Three of its final five games are on the road, and while its home games are against the Broncos and Raiders, the Bengals are going to need to beat either the Chargers or the Steelers away from home to have a realistic shot of making the postseason. There just isn't much evidence that Marvin Lewis' team has a win over a big team in it.
The downward spiral of the Bengals franchise began at the 7-yard line in the north end of Paul Brown Stadium three years ago when Andy Dalton suffered a season-ending broken right thumb after throwing an interception and trying to tackle Pittsburgh defensive end Stephon Tuitt.
The Bengals were 10-2 at the time. Dalton was in the conversation for NFL MVP. And offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was a hot head coach prospect.
In the 1,079 days since, the Bengals have gone 20-27-1, Jackson was hired and fired as head coach in Cleveland with three wins in 40 games and the idea of losing in the first round of the playoffs has devolved from an annual frustration in Cincinnati to a pipe dream.
Sunday afternoon the Bengals’ spiral sped into a free fall that ended with a Wile E. Coyote like thud and poof of smoke at, of all places, the 7-yard line in the north end of PBS.
The offense was already handicapped without star receiver A.J. Green; then they lost quarterback Andy Dalton to a hand injury late in the second half. In came Jeff Driskel, who submitted a solid effort. He was able to connect with receiver Tyler Boyd on a 28-yard touchdown to close out his second drive and also sneaked into the end zone to bring his team within 15 points.
Left tackle Jake Fisher was also forced to leave this game early, but that didn’t hinder Tyler Boyd from putting together a line of seven receptions on eight targets for 85 yards, and the 28-yard touchdown catch from Driskel. His day would’ve been all the more impressive if not for an illegal shift that negated a 46-yard pickup where he out-jumped both Joe Schobert and Damarious Randall.
Cincinnati yielded 84 rushing yards to Nick Chubb on the day, but it took him 28 carries to get there. They actually defended the run pretty well, with their biggest stops coming on run stunts.
Vontaze Burfict was the biggest liability on defense. He allowed several catches in coverage and was far too physical against receivers. He got called for two penalties in coverage and probably got away with a third.
In a stadium where cheers for the Browns were often louder than those for the Bengals and trailing by 21 to the team which lived in the AFC North basement for the better part of two decades, the Bengals' first-round pick sailed a snap over the head of the quarterback to get him hurt in a must-win game.
Think about that sentence for a minute.
This came on a day where Cleveland traveled to Cincinnati talking trash the whole way and definitively backed it up against a Bengals team that looked beaten from the outset.
The Bengals were punked and demoralized. By the Browns.
Final score: 35-20. It wasn't near that close.
Say goodbye to the listless Bengals (5-6). Missing wideout A.J. Green, cover man Dre Kirkpatrick, left tackle Cordy Glenn and linebacker Nick Vigil, this simply isn't the squad that showed such promise out of the gate in September. Today they're a club trying to move the ball without their All-Pro wideout and a deep-threat in John Ross who doesn't look like the same player due to a groin injury. Joe Mixon(14/89) unfurled a handful of pretty gains, but the injury bug bit again when Andy Dalton was ruled out with a concerning right thumb injury. Down 35-7, frisky backup Jeff Driskel fought hard to bring Cincy back with two long scoring drives, but it was too much to ask anyone to make up for one of the worst defenses in the league.
There is no fixing the Bengals this season. It's clear the team has too many problems to run the table and get into the playoffs. They were thoroughly mocked by the Browns, a team the Bengals previously had dominated. Even A.J. Green won't help them now with the Chargers and Steelers ahead on the schedule. The Bengals aren't eliminated yet, but considering how their season has unraveled, they might as well be finished.
Bringing in Hue Jackson definitely didn't do anything to help the Bengals. As a matter of fact, it might have actually made things worse. In a loss that can only be described as humiliating, the Bengals fell behind 28-0 before they finally showed some life. The Bengals season appears to be circling the drain and it's not going to help things that Andy Dalton had to leave the game -- and never returned -- after suffering a thumb injury.
This is the absolute worst place to be, both for me as a fan and as someone whose vocation involves applying their interest in the team to content creation. I’m tapped out on the Bengals, emotionally and otherwise. I’ll watch them play out of obligation as much as anything, but the tank is empty. I’ve run the entire range of emotions that one can feel watching decades worth of unfulfilling football, and try as I might, I simply have nothing else to say. I’ve become more interested than ever in watching fun teams that I have no connection to play compelling games that reverberate for days after their completion. The NFL, for all of its faults, is staging an immensely fun season filled with all kinds of interesting teams, coaches and players. Even the Browns, long the league’s punching bag, and still with a ways to go before they can actually contend for anything, are at least interesting.
(Photo: Getty Images)