The less said of this effort by the Bengals, the better. But that doesn’t make for good writing.
As mentioned in the preview – in the NFL, there’s incentive for players to play hard, even after playoff elimination. Seasons end, but careers go on. That’s a reality everyone on the field knows, but there’s times when the loss of contention crushes team morale regardless. There’s little else to explain the abject failure of an attempt to win the game that the team exhibited Sunday.
Regardless of injuries the team may have, it’s been the most embarrassing loss the team has had in 2017. Certainly the worst since the first two weeks, when the Bengals failed to score a touchdown and looked rudderless on offense.
It would be surprising, given the organization, if any rash decisions about head coach Marvin Lewis were handed down tomorrow. Still, at this point in the season, hot-seat coaches have been prematurely ejected for less egregious failures.
Maybe the Bengals didn’t enter the day fully out of the playoff picture, but today’s team never had a shot. We’ll see, sooner or later, which heads roll for it.
Quick Notes from Sunday’s Action:
1.) As well as Dalton performed against the Steelers last Monday, the performance against the Bears was anything but. It wasn’t entirely his fault – A.J. Green accomplished very little on his end – but that’s immaterial as a quarterback. His streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception, which lead the league, was broken in the third quarter. It was on the seventh drive of the game, and the seventh of seven offensive plays in the quarter. The eighth drive ended in another turnover; by the tenth drive A.J. McCarron had come in to close out the game.
2. A.J. Green finished the game with five catches for 64 yards, but for all intents and purposes he was invisible. The team’s two turnovers came on a target to him, deflected for an interception, and a fumble stripped from him. Several times in the first half, Green was targeted, had a chance to make a play, and failed. The receiver was given lip service from Brady Quinn in the booth about how ‘when he’s covered, he’s still open’. That’s nice, and a reputation he legitimately has, but at no point in this game was that statement validated.
There was a play in the first half where Green ran an inside fade, gaining outside leverage on Kyle Fuller. Dalton threw the ball slightly ahead, far enough for Green to get a hand on but fail to catch it. In a vacuum, even if that play could’ve been, not making it was excusable. But it was one of several plays early that Green may or may not have left on the table. Julio Jones – an example of the type of receiver Cincinnati needs Green to be – wouldn’t have dropped that whole stretch.
3. It was painfully obvious early on that the Bengals were lacking starters on the back end of the defense. The Bears first drive lasted four plays: one incomplete pass, one 16-yard pass, two combined 35-yard runs. It was a schematically limited drive, with the completed pass going to a flat receiver after a bootleg by Trubisky. The defense simply didn’t fill run gaps properly or cover well in the short area.
Later on, the same coverage issues were notable further down the field. Twice (although once called back on a penalty), Kendall Wright ran a deep cross and was left entirely uncovered downfield. The flat receiver from the first drive, Josh Bellamy, picked up another big gain on the same concept. Adam Shaheen, a rookie tight end for the Bears, looked like the most dynamic receiver on the field, either team. Shaheen – a physical mismatch for most players – is somewhat forgivable, some of the time. Aside from William Jackson, who again did well in isolated coverages, the rest of the secondary needed to be better.
4. If you weren’t aware heading into the game that the Bears had recently signed kicker Mike Nugent, you know now. After cutting ties with Connor Barth weeks ago, then losing Cairo Santos to injury, Nugent is the Bears’ third kicker. Brady Quinn in the booth, and the fans in the stands, were both well aware of this. A chorus of ‘NUUUUUUUGEEEEENT’ could clearly be heard every time the former Bengals kicker lined up.
He missed the first extra point of the game, but at least fans in attendance had something to cheer for.