Fans of the Cincinnati Bengals went through an emotional rollercoaster in the course of less than four hours this Sunday. The Bengals finally showed a spark of what they are capable of being, but the ecstatic feeling fans felt after the team’s first drive was short lived. The Bengals came up short on their upset attempt allowing the Green Bay Packers to come back, and seemingly falling apart in overtime. In the aftermath of this calamity, we must examine what happened and what it means for the team moving forward.
The offensive line will continue to be a weakness throughout the season, but this weekend they performed at a level which gave the team a chance at success. Andy Dalton looked much better, as did his receiving threats, despite the absence of both Tyler Eifert and John Ross. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Bengals performance was the use of the running backs. While Joe Mixon led the Bengals in rushing, Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard both contributed to the offense’s production. While new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor did get production out of his unit, the play calling left something to be desired. Lazor needs to have a better plan for the big moments in the game and instill in Dalton a better understanding of situational football. The most obvious example is overtime where the Bengals seemed to approach the moment as if it were any other drive and not an opportunity to put the game away. Hopefully with his first game as coordinator under his belt, Lazor will focus on these details in future game plans.
The addition of Carl Lawson has given the Bengals an extremely productive pass rusher opposite Carlos Dunlap. The Bengals’ defense struggled in the red zone and gave up a huge play in overtime, which was the difference in the game. Fortunately, with Vontaze Burfict returning this week, the Bengals’ defense will only be getting better in the weeks to come.
If you remove the context of the game and simply look at the fact that the Bengals took the Packers to overtime, it seems pretty impressive. Since the Bengals started the season so poorly, everyone was hoping for one shining moment that would prove that the Bengals could turn this season around. Unfortunately, change tends to come in small increments and the Bengals still have a long way to go. They need to continue to improve every week and hopefully by the time they figure it out, they are not buried too deep in the loss column.