A picture’s worth a thousand words. Ezekiel Elliot ran all over them, and another rookie, Zach Prescott, pitched a flawless game at quarterback. The two best rookies in the league single-handedly beat the Cincinnati Bengals.
Sunday was another example of why it’s hard to anticipate the next Bengals game – and all too often even harder to watch when game day rolls around.
The Bengals were totally outclassed, outplayed, and from appearances…outcoached in a humiliating 28-14 loss to the now 4-1 Dallas Cowboys. With the loss the Bengals fall to 2-3, but worse, in five games they’ve yet to resemble, even briefly, the team that was a dominating force in the AFC North last season.
“We just didn’t get ’em stopped in the first half, starting with the first drive of the game,” said Marvin Lewis. “They had a 90-yard drive, an 80-yard drive…it was disappointing. Too many explosive runs during the game, too many third down passes across the field, we just didn’t play well enough to win. They outplayed us, and we have to look hard at ourselves and get better.”
Really? Where do you start when the reasons you get beat like Sunday are recurring things?
– This is a team that is all too often of getting off to slow first half starts. Sunday Dallas outgained the Bengals 264 to 146 in the first half.
– This is a team that all too often shoots itself in the foot with penalties at the most inopportune times. Sunday, on their second drive of the game with some momentum, guard Kevin Zeitler stalls that drive with back-to-back penalties for procedure and holding. Kevin Huber ended up punting the ball away. And after twelve minutes to think about it at halftime, Andrew Whitworth started off the second half…with a holding call!
– This is a team whose receivers simply fail to get open at critical times. Example: Facing man-to-man coverage from the Dallas secondary for the first three quarters the Bengals receivers could not create space. The Cowboys’ receivers, by contrast, were open all over the field against a defense touted before the game to be one of the five best in the entire league!
– This is a team that’s consistently highlighted for having one of the league’s biggest, and best, offensive lines. Yet, the pocket collapsed early around Andy Dalton Sunday, who statistically had a brilliant day (29-41 for 264 yards and two touchdowns). His quarterback rating was 104.6. But his yards per pass number was barely 6 yards. Dalton was clearly frustrated. And why not? He got no help…from either side of the ball.
– This is a team that says every week that they’re a running team – that they’re mode of operation is to punish opposing defenses with power football. Yet, while they started out doing exactly that on Sunday (Gio Bernard ran for 40 yards in the first quarter, finished with 50), by halftime and trailing 21-0, they had abandoned their mode of operation. Jeremy Hill left the game in the third quarter with a collarbone injury.
– This is a team billed every week for the strength of their defensive line play. The CBS crew of Jim Nance and Phil Simms talked about it pre-game Sunday – the Bengals’ strength against the Cowboys’ strength on their offensive line. Yet, the Cowboys offensive line literally kicked the Bengals’ a__.
– This is a team built on too many cliches. In Texas terminology, they write too many checks they can’t cover. To wit, Marvin Lewis was quoted pre-game for saying the team that wins in the trenches wins the game. He ALWAYS says that. And yet it seems…every time he says it they get rocked.
All the above, and apparently a team that didn’t figure out at halftime that Ohio State rookie Ezekiel Elliot was having a career day against them.. To wit, on Elliott’s first touch of the second half he sprinted through the middle of the Bengals’ line, linebackers, and secondary untouched for 60 yards and a touchdown. Elliott finished the day with 15 carries for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
“They just blocked us good,” said linebacker Vinnie Rey, post-game. “They block us good and they had a great runner, a strong runner. They got us today. They just got us today. Hats off to them.”
We get that. But “today” happens too often to this team when it plays the Steelers, the Broncos, the Cowboys, and next week…the New England Patriots.
“I don’t want to get down on this team,” said play-by-play man Dan Hoard in his post-game comments. “But the final score is no indication of the difference in these two teams today.”
He was being kind. In plain street talk, Hoard’s words were an understatement. The Bengals’ two fourth quarter touchdowns passes to Brandon Lafell came as a result of the Cowboys simply taking their football off the gas.
Rookie quarterbacks, by the way, aren’t supposed to strafe veteran teams touted to be contenders for the Super Bowl. But Zach Prescott, a 4th-round choice out of Mississippi State, who rarely took a snap under center in college, finished 18 for 24 for 227 yards, a touchdown, and was sacked but once. His quarterback rating for the afternoon…117.7!
Dallas finished with 402 total yards; the Bengals finished with 349 yards. Just 53 yards difference.
But “Who Dey” fans out there, if you watched you know. It wasn’t that close!