Cincinnati Bengals Week Three: Make Or Break Time

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals signals to teammates from under center during the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on September 22, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo defeats Cincinnati 21-17. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Bengals week three outing against the Buffalo Bills had flashes of brilliance. In the other three quarters, Bengals fans were raising their hands in confusion and frustration. Thus, for the second time in three years, the Bengals lose their first three games. There have been times where it feels like the Bengals should be 2-1 and can beat anyone. Other times, the Cincinnati Bengals look like it would struggle against the University of Cincinnati. Here are a few takeaways from the Bengals week three tilt.

Cincinnati Bengals Week Three: Make Or Break Time

Terrible Turnovers And Time Of Possession

Through three games, Cincinnati is tied for the third-worst turnover difference at minus four. To break that down, the defense has forced and recovered two fumbles and recorded two interceptions. On offense, they have lost five fumbles and thrown three interceptions. Those eight turnovers are good for worst in the league, tied with the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers. Any team averaging almost three turnovers a game is going to have a tough time winning.

Sitting at 24th in the league, Cincinnati averages 28:52 in time of possession. Naturally, eight turnovers in three games would hamper any hope of establishing a game plan. You can’t score if you don’t have the ball. It’s about as simple as that. Considering Cincinnati has yet to record a defensive or special teams touchdown, the offense must take care of business. Cincinnati has been shut out of a total of four quarters this season, two of which came in the first half of the Bengals week three debacle. The offense was anemic on Sunday, resulting in only 23 minutes of possession. Buffalo sure surprised everyone with their revamped defense, but this was excessive. If Cincinnati wants to earn some wins, they have to control the ball and win the time of possession and turnover battle.

Offensive Line Still Needs Work

Feels like “Groundhog Day,” doesn’t it? It seems like we are constantly discussing how horrible the offensive line is week after week. Across the board, the Bengals week three offensive line was Andre Smith, Billy Price, Trey Hopkins, John Miller, and Bobby Hart. Price stepped up with the injury to fellow Ohio State alumn Michael Jordan and actually played pretty well. The issue here is the fact that through three games, Andy Dalton has hit the dirt eleven times. Last year’s AFC rushing champion was Joe Mixon, but he only has 88 yards and has yet to find paydirt.

If there is a silver lining, it would be that 66 of Mixon’s yards came in week three. Of course, it did take the offense until midway through the third quarter to figure it out. According to Evan McPhillips of Pro Football Focus Cincinnati, Smith, Miller, and Hart graded out as terrible. Hopkins continued a solid campaign and was graded as the fourth-best center and Price certainly improved from week two. If the Bengals cannot drastically improve in the trenches, it’s going to be a very long year for both Dalton and Mixon. Unfortunately, a top-five pick cannot play every position. Honestly, they only need a middle-of-the-pack offensive line to win this division.

Andy Dalton: What To Do?

Patrick Mahomes is leading all of the NFL in passing yards. Okay, that’s about as obvious a statement as one could find, but who is second? It’s the “Red Rifle” himself, Andy Dalton. At 978 passing yards, Dalton is on-pace for 5,216 which would be career-best by nearly 1,000 yards. The question is will Dalton be like his 2013 self or 2016? The difference is 20 interceptions versus 8, respectively. Considering he has already thrown three interceptions through three games, it looks like he will be closer to his 2013 campaign since he is on-pace for 16 picks.

Offensively, Zac Taylor has been a godsend for Dalton. Taylor’s offense runs via establishing the run and capitalizing with play action. When it’s going well, Dalton looks like a legitimate franchise quarterback. With a running back like Mixon, this approach should be lethal. Unfortunately, the offensive line needs to be better. Dalton can’t throw when he’s on the ground. In the Bengals week three game, Dalton passed for 249 yards and a touchdown. He did manage to complete two passes to Tre’Davious White, the star corner for the Bills. Dalton has been solid and the offensive line has been terrible, but Dalton needs to be better in certain situations. John Ross has been off to a good start, but he should have another touchdown on his stat line. Why doesn’t he? Dalton managed to overthrow the fastest man in the league when he was wide open down the sideline.

Can’t Blame The Refs

Were the officials off their game on Sunday? Absolutely. They missed a crucial holding call when Andrew Brown got tackled trying to sack Josh Allen. They made a questionable holding call on Auden Tate on the Darius Phillips kick return touchdown. And the most crucial of all, they ruled that White “gave himself up” on his game-sealing interception with 20 seconds to go in the game. I wasn’t aware that falling on the ground when you dive for the ball and getting right back up was giving yourself up, but I’m not a full-time NFL official. White subsequently ran out of the back of the endzone which should have resulted in a safety and the Bengals should have gotten the ball back only down two points.

Considering this is professional football, Cincinnati should not have allowed the game to be decided by the officials. If they don’t manage to completely lay an egg in the first half, perhaps the Bengals week three result would have been different. You can’t blame the officials when you play badly.

Can’t Start 0-4

The Cincinnati Bengals are set to take on their hated rival the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football in week four. The Steelers come in with an identical record but have lost their franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season. Pittsburgh has been having their own woes on both sides of the ball. Beating down a division rival on their home turf could certainly right the ship. The Bengals cannot afford to start 0-4. That is unless they are unofficially tanking. As of today, they are projected to pick fourth in the 2020 NFL draft. As a Bengals fan, I would be satisfied with the season if Cincinnati goes 2-14, picks at the top of the draft, and beats Pittsburgh twice.

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