Sunday, January 5, 2014
Rapid Reaction: Cincinnati Bengals
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 27-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers:
What it means: Sunday's loss means the Bengals are the exact same team they have been for more than 20 years: losers in the postseason. Yet again, with the regular season over, they couldn't come away with a victory. The city of Cincinnati, one that has waited so long to taste playoff success, certainly appears cursed. The Bengals still haven't won a playoff game since 1990. This loss also means that quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green are 0-3 in the playoffs since getting drafted in 2011. In those three games combined, the Bengals have scored just 33 points.
Stock watch: Quarterback Andy Dalton -- falling. Most of Dalton's issues came in the second half, when interceptions became bugaboos and pressure forced him into making ill-advised decisions. He was trying to jam passes into tight windows that he didn't need to. After his first interception of the game early in the third quarter, Dalton never looked the same. He finished the game 29-for-51 for 334 yards and one touchdown. It was a bizarre ending after a rather impressive first half. Dalton was 12-for-17 for 164 yards and a touchdown through the first 15 minutes.
Adding the kitchen sink: In the opening quarter of the game, the Bengals threw everything including the kitchen sink on offense at the Chargers. Although there were no overhauls to the scheme, they did make a pair of noticeable tweaks. Defensive tackle Domata Peko entered as an extra blocker on three consecutive third-and-1 plays in the first quarter. They had been strictly reserving him for goal-line situations in earlier games this season. Twice with him in there, the Bengals picked up a first down, including once on a 7-yard BenJarvus Green-Ellis run. Along with Peko's inclusion, the Bengals also used offensive tackle Dennis Roland in key situations as an extra blocker on the right edge. He was being used as an extra tight end of sorts for the second straight game. In last week's regular-season finale, he was there because the Bengals were without their top two tight ends thanks to injury.
Missed tackles: Although a lack of offensive firepower was what ultimately hurt the Bengals late in the game, their defense struggled early to bring anyone to the ground. Missed tackles led the Chargers to compile 80 yards of rushing offense in the first half. That rushing performance seemed to give San Diego life and confidence early, making it a closer game at halftime than the Bengals likely anticipated. Cincinnati led just 10-7 at the break. Entering this game, the Bengals had averaged more than 34 points per game at Paul Brown Stadium this season.
What's next? The offseason. Free agency, the NFL draft and OTAs are all that's on the horizon for the Bengals now. What many believed was a Super Bowl year is now no more.