Greg Hoard
Greg Hoard

Born in Indiana and educated in Georgia, Greg Hoard came to Cincinnati in the winter of 1979 as a columnist for the Cincinnati Post sports department, and joined the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1984 as the beat writer for the Cincinnati Reds.  He has received numerous awards for his work. In 1990, he left journalism for television. Hoard worked for WLWT-TV from 1990 through 1993 as sports director and spent 12 years as sports director at WXIX-TV. His written work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, Baseball America, Baseball Digest and NFL Game Day. He has appeared on ESPN and NBC’s The Today Show. Greg is the author of three books: Joe, Rounding Home and Heading for Home; Gary Burbank, Voices in My Head; and, most recently, Hannan’s Way, An Unlikely Trek Through Life. He is currently working on a baseball memoir, parts of which he will share here.


It’s not that players did not make big plays or allowed big plays. It is – that once again – we see a one-dimensional offensive attack against a quality opponent, and an inability or unwillingness to adapt.

CINCINNATI — The general consensus is that the Bengals have a talent-rich roster, one of the best in all the NFL. Yet, here they stand: one win, two losses and looking a little – well –shopworn.

The defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos rolled into town this week and dropped a 29-17 loss on the locals; did it with a kid quarterback who had never started a game on the road in his brief NFL career, who’s got them on a 3-0 roll.

Trevor Siemian, last quarterback taken in the 2015 draft, hangs 312 yards passing on the Bengals, connects on 23 of 35 attempts, completes four touchdown passes, utilizes nine different receivers and doesn’t throw an interception.

“Nobody knew about him,” said Denver receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who reeled in nine catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns. “Now, everybody is starting to talk about him.”

In the history of the NFL no first-year starting quarterback has ever matched Siemian’s numbers in his first road show.

mark_knupp_284x150That’s saying a little something, and it says quite a bit about the Bengals. It’s also the broadest and most obvious flaw in their most recent outing.

In three games, more holes are showing but it’s more than fair to start looking at the coaching rather than the players.

After Sunday’s loss, a less than ebullient Marvin Lewis had this to say:

“When you allow the big plays, you are not going to get the job done…What’s disappointing was giving up so many third down conversions, and three of those led to first downs, allowing them to continue drives.

“Our execution was not good. We have players who make plays but today they didn’t (make plays) long enough or well enough.”

He went on to mention a dropped pass by A.J. Green that came on third down in the fourth quarter ending a crucial drive and two opportunities for interceptions that were missed. He spoke about penalties, nine of them — four of which led to first downs. He said what everyone already knew. “We are not doing a good enough job right now.”

He looked around the room as if an answer was floating out there somewhere, as illusive as smoke.

“Execution,” he said, finally and flatly. “Our execution just wasn’t there.”

He could have continued his list of complaints:

  • Once again, the tackling was not crisp
  • Their efficiency on third down was mediocre (5 of 11)
  • Twice they were in the red zone and had to settle for field goals, a continuing problem
  • Andy Dalton was sacked four times, sometimes the Broncos used a blitz, sometimes just a four-man rush, but they got to him
  • The DB’s bit on double-moves all day, leading to passes that ate up acres of ground: 41 yards to Sanders, 55 yards to Demaryius Thomas, 29 yards to former OSU standout Jeff Heuerman
The Keyhole is proud to sponsor coverage of the Bengals on Press Pros Magazine.

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“We saw that on tape this week,” said Thomas, who was good for six catches, 106 yards and a TD. “It just looked like they were vulnerable to that move. So, when we couldn’t run the ball, we went for it and Siemian did a job.”

And, there we go. That’s the thing. That’s what is becoming evident. Denver adjusted and had the capability to do so. The Bengals did not adjust and may not be utilizing this wealth of talent to its full extent.

For instance, in the past two weeks the Bengals have shown no running game. They averaged 51 yards on the ground in their meetings with the Jets and Steelers.

So, all week long they talked about the need and importance of establishing a running game against Denver. Game starts and it’s clear they are going to run the ball no matter what; come hell or high water, and at first, it works.

Jeremy Hill breaks fee for 50 and then caps the drive with a three-yard touchdown run. It’s 7-0 Bengals. Hill ends up with 97 yards, but 50 of that comes on one play.

When Denver responds with a field goal, they keep it up.

Dalton, who has routinely put up 300-yard plus games, is relegated to handing the ball off, secondary status. They leave that weapon in the holster.

Meanwhile, on the other side, Denver coach Gary Kubiak says, Hmm, can’t run the ball; let’s throw it.

“When they took the running game away—and they did—we had to be aggressive,” the Broncos coach said. “This is not an easy team to throw against. They’re tough against the pass. But we thought we saw a couple things…and the kid (Siemian) did a nice job. He got away with a couple, but, overall, he did a nice job getting the ball to our receivers.”

In short, Denver adjusted.

By the time, the Bengals tried to adjust – it was pretty much too late. The game had reached the point where the intent was obvious.

True, the Bengals led in the fourth quarter, but it was a thin lead, 17-16, that was secured by another failed trip inside the Broncos’ 20, Cincinnati settling for a 34-yard field goal by Mike Nugent. At that point, there was no sense the Bengals were on a roll.

Quite the opposite, Denver countered with a 15-play, 60-yard scoring drive that ended with a 1-yard scoring toss to tight end John Phillips that gobbled up over eight minutes, 8:17 seconds.

A two-point conversion failed and the Bengals were within five, but they came up empty on the next possession, ending when Green dropped a simple pass on third down.

At that point, Denver came out gunning. Simian connected with Thomas for 55 yards and the score. It was 29-17 and that’s all she wrote.

And what stands out most in all this?

It’s not that players did not make big plays or allowed big plays. It is – that once again – we see a one-dimensional offensive attack against a quality opponent, and an inability or unwillingness to adapt.

Could it be, should it be, that Lewis needs to take a good look at his coordinators – (OC) Ken Zampese and (DC) Paul Guenther; that he takes a look at himself, and says: “What’s wrong here?”

Obviously, the Bengals players were falling on their swords Sunday afternoon. That’s what they do.

“We’re still trying to find ourselves,” said Green. “We got to be more consistent.”

Andy Dalton trotted out the time worn and dismissive statement, “It’s early. We’ll be okay.”

Hoard_inset1123There’s an element of truth there, but it’s also true that this collection of talent—if, in fact, it is as good as everyone says—would benefit from better game plans and broader approaches on offense and defense.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, about three hours after the game, young Trevor Sieman was posting on Facebook. He wrote:

“I’m damn proud to be a part of the group, dudes. Seriously!”

Even sounds like a quarterback.

NOTES: The Bengals started the season last year 8-0. Since then, they are 5-8…Things get no easier. They have a short week, meeting Miami at Paul Brown Thursday night. Then, it’s at Dallas and at New England…They best cinch ’em up.

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