As a die-hard fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, it’s impossible not to be concerned about the team’s shaky start to the 2023 NFL season. With three wins and three losses, we find ourselves at the halfway point of the season. But hey, it’s not all doom and gloom; there are some silver linings and plenty of potential for a spectacular comeback.
How the Cincinnati Bengals Are Turning the Tide
Defense Comes to the Rescue
One of the standout positives in the Bengals’ performance so far has been their opportunistic defense. We’ve seen this trend of game-changing defensive plays continue over the past two seasons.
Just before the bye week, cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt‘s interception return for a touchdown was a game-changer against the Arizona Cardinals, giving the Bengals their first halftime lead of the season. And the Seahawks game wasn’t any different; the defense showed its teeth with two interceptions and solid red zone defense.
Cincinnati is currently ranked fourth in the NFL for interceptions per attempt, showing that the defense has a knack for making big plays when it matters most. The defense’s performance inside the red zone has also been commendable, ranking 11th in defensive red zone efficiency.
Creating turnovers has played a vital role in their success under defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. Against the Seahawks, the team had 14 strip attempts, showing the determination of the players to regain possession of the football. These turnovers have undoubtedly contributed to wins and are a testament to the resilience of the Bengals’ defense.
Offensive Struggles: A Cause for Concern
On the flip side, the Bengals’ offense has been a source of frustration. The offensive scheme was designed to accommodate Joe Burrow‘s lack of mobility following a calf injury during training camp. While Burrow has shown signs of improvement in recent games, the offense is still sputtering. Failing to score a touchdown after the first two drives against the Seahawks was disappointing, and it’s not where we envisioned the offense being at this point in the season.
To make matters worse, Cincinnati is currently ranked 29th in points per drive. Bengals coach Zac Taylor has openly admitted that the lack of points is the most frustrating aspect of his offense. The inability to create explosive plays or sustain drives has been a significant factor in their offensive woes. Cincinnati is dead last in the NFL when it comes to yards per attempt, a far cry from its leading position in that category just two years ago when they made it to the Super Bowl. In 2022, the Bengals were sixth in total first downs and fifth in touchdowns per drive. Unfortunately, this year, that efficiency has disappeared.
Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan has also pointed out that the blame doesn’t fall on one person; it’s a collective effort. Missed throws, dropped balls, and sacks have all contributed to the offensive struggles. The key to turning things around is improving the consistency across the board. This isn’t the high-flying offense we’ve become accustomed to, and it’s frustrating to watch their potential go unrealized.
The Road Ahead: Challenges and Opportunities
While the situation may appear bleak, there’s still hope for the Bengals in the 2023 season. They are still in contention for a playoff berth and a division title, despite the odds being stacked against them. According to ESPN Analytics, the Bengals’ chances of making the postseason stand at 18.2%, with a 5.4% chance of winning the AFC North.
Yes, Cincinnati has the toughest remaining schedule, which includes daunting matchups against the San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, and Kansas City Chiefs. However, this is football, and anything can happen. We don’t need to rely on standings checks just yet; there’s plenty of football left to be played.
One intriguing suggestion from Coach Callahan is to put Joe Burrow under center more often. In 2021 and 2022, the Bengals operated from under center on 29.3% of all offensive plays that weren’t kneel-downs. This year, that number has plummeted to 2.2%, largely due to Burrow’s calf injury. Returning to a more balanced offensive approach could help improve the run game and play-action passes. As Burrow gets more comfortable and closer to full health, this adjustment could make a significant impact on our offense.
We’ve seen the Bengals go to the Super Bowl and we’ve witnessed their resilience in the face of adversity. It’s a tough season, but it’s far from over. The defense is stepping up and, with a few offensive tweaks, they can turn things around.
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