Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Morning stripes: Bengals rarities on display
By Coley Harvey
Good Tuesday morning to you, folks.
We're now two days removed from the so-called Shocker at Soldier Field, the Cincinnati Bengals' 24-21 loss that was the result of a late-game Chicago Bears rally and a poor decision or two by the road team in the final quarter.
With the division opener against Pittsburgh on the horizon, the Bengals have already started putting the past behind them and focusing on Week 2. It's time, they say, for a new game plan to be created.
That may be how the players and coaches spend their Mondays and Tuesdays, but we're not players and coaches. Let's continue to debate away about everything that went right and everything that didn't in the first-week defeat:
Something that so often went in the Bengals' favor last year was quarterback hurries that resulted in sacks. Against Chicago's Jay Cutler on Sunday, the exact same unit that posted a team-record 51 sacks a year ago put up a nice, round zero in that column. Cutler's elusiveness allowed him to run for daylight on plays when he was flushed out of the pocket. He also handled the pressure well in the passing game, converting 80 percent of his passes when more than five Bengals were in his face, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Dayton Daily News' Jay Morrison writes a little more about what prevented Cutler from being touched. Morrison said it was just the second time in 44 games the Bengals haven't recorded a sack.
Another Bengals rarity occurred on offense Sunday, Morrison wrote in this other Dayton Daily News blog post. All three of the Bengals' scoring drives came on possessions of 80 yards or more. Two of them happened when Cincinnati started inside its own 10-yard line. The two scoring drives from beyond 90 yards -- they were from 91 and 97 yards out, specifically -- were the first two in a single game for the Bengals in 22 years. On Sept. 22, 1991, Boomer Esiason led a 92-yarder and a 90-yarder for Bengals scores. Like Sunday, though, the efforts weren't enough. Cincinnati lost that day to Washington, 34-27.
You can read more about it on the ESPN NFL Nation Bengals page, but here's Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson's quick take on offensive coordinator Jay Gruden taking blame for the second-down play late in the second quarter that some (somehow) believe cost the Bengals a field goal. (Personally, I do believe it was a pivotal play call, but there was no way at the time to predict that by not trying to better position themselves for a first down the Bengals would have set up a scenario where Chicago would have been awarded an additional 15 yards on a subsequent punt due to a personal-foul penalty, and that its kicker would go on to make a 58-yard field goal that would have been good from 70. But, I digress.) In Hobson's note, you'll see how Gruden has second-guessed himself. He's thinking he should have run instead of passed.
The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy wrote a little more about the supposed second-down fiasco. It was interesting to note that of the 33 throws quarterback Andy Dalton attempted, so much attention was being placed on the one of the seven he couldn't complete. At a 78 percent clip, he enjoyed one of his better outings as a Bengal. Receiver A.J. Green had his own stellar performance overall, but he and his teammates still were hung up on the pivotal second-down drop, as well as the drop earlier in the quarter that led to a Charles Tillman interception. Sunday was a mixed bag for Cincinnati.
The Enquirer will be posting items after games all fall that highlight the key statistical items Pro Football Focus gleaned from that week's win or loss. One big note: Of Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham's 35 yards receiving Sunday, 29 of them came after the catch. He forced three missed tackles as he plowed his way to three first downs on his five receptions.