CINCINNATI -- From his vantage point on the Cincinnati Bengals' sideline, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden could see the carnage that was getting ready to ensue. He hoped his quarterback did, too.
Andy Dalton did, alright, but with the play clock ticking toward zero, he ran out of time to make the necessary line-of-scrimmage adjustment.
So, on a pivotal fourth-and-1 late in the second quarter of Sunday's game at Cleveland, instead of running for a first down, the Bengals "ran into a slaughter."
That was the way Gruden described to reporters Monday afternoon the sequence that resulted in running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis' two-yard loss on an important play that had originally been designed to gain two yards. As he took scribes through the play, Gruden came to an important conclusion: next time, someone, anyone, has to call timeout and get a new play put in place.
"Hindsight, running down on the clock, fourth-down-and-1 on such an important play, take a timeout," Gruden said. "That's on me more so than anybody, probably."
Little did the Bengals know at the moment Green-Ellis was laid out by two defenders that that would be the closest they would come to picking up a touchdown the rest of the afternoon. When the day ended, they had lost their second game of the season, this time by a 17-6 margin. With the six points coming off a pair of field goals, the loss marked the first time in three seasons that Cincinnati had not scored a touchdown in a game.
"For us to score six points anywhere against anybody is shocking, quite honestly," Gruden said. "It's something we have to fight out of."
On the play involving Green-Ellis, one that multiple players cited "miscommunication" as being the reason it didn't work, Gruden said a scenario presented itself in which the Browns' defense slipped a defender into a spot that was not accounted for by the Bengals before the snap. When that linebacker shifted down into place, it allowed the fateful "slaughter" scenario to take shape.
Gruden said Dalton saw the shifted defender and attempted to make a change at the line to account for blocking him and running around him. But the combination of a loud FirstEnergy Stadium crowd and a dwindling play clock made it impossible for the audible to be made.
Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth put it this way: "half the people were thinking one play and the other half ... it was just a cluster, basically."
"Yeah, miscommunication, so to speak," Gruden said. "It was good defense by them. Clogged up the holes pretty good. We didn't get a lot of movement. It was not like we didn't have a play that couldn't work at all. We still had a chance to get the first down, but we didn't get any movement up front and ran into a slaughter."
The play came while the Bengals were on Cleveland's 7. Cincinnati had just driven 66 yards and was threatening to take the lead. At that point, the Browns were leading, 7-3.
Cincinnati went on to amass just 266 yards of total offense, 63 of which came on the ground. It was the third time this season the Bengals had been held to less than 100 yards rushing.
"Yeah, it's embarrassing," Gruden said of the offensive issues. "You put a lot of work in your gameplan, a lot of work into practice, and we have a very talented team. For us to go out there and lay an egg like we did, it's not a good feeling. Hopefully it's motivation for us more than embarrassing. Hopefully it doesn't happen again. It can't happen again."