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Three Things We Learned in the Cincinnati Bengals loss to the Chicago Bears
On Sunday afternoon in Chicago, the Cincinnati Bengals found themselves departing the Windy City as the victims of an unappetizing 20-17 loss at the hands of the Bears.
Despite a strong defensive performance from the Bengals, they lacked momentum and willpower from the jump. Now, they’re left to pick up the pieces ahead of their Week Three match-up with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1 - Somehow, Zac Taylor Has a Hotter Seat than Matt Nagy
The window for Zac Taylor to turn around his tenure as the Bengals head coach is starting to rapidly close. Playing the Bears, he faced one of the few coaches with a hotter seat than his own, squaring off with Matt Nagy.
Across the span of four quarters, Nagy made it quite clear who the superior coach was between the two.
Clearly, the Bengals were the less-prepared team on Sunday afternoon. Consistently, their placid mix of quick passes and interior runs stifled any shot at offensive momentum.
After the game, quarterback Joe Burrow and rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase both expressed frustration with Taylor’s playcalling.
“We waited until the last minute to take shots. We knew they was sitting the whole game. I was telling Joe. Tee (Higgins) knew,” Chase told media members. “We just got to capitalize on the stuff we see early in the game.”
With the loss, Taylor moves to 7-26-1 as the head coach of the Bengals. Unless the wins pile up in a hurry, it’s becoming hard to imagine he’ll have time to greatly alter that record.
2 - The Offensive Line Still Isn’t at An Acceptable Level
One of the key areas the Bengals had to improve this season? Their ability to protect Joe Burrow.
So far, it seems they’ve once again put a less-than-acceptable group out on the field to keep their franchise investment upright.
In two games, Burrow’s absorbed the second-most sacks in the NFL (9).
Considering the quarterback took a brutal hit that ended his season in a catastrophic fashion just nine months prior, the output is embarrassing.
However, part of this issue is once again on Taylor.
Currently, the line’s hand is being tipped by the sheer amount of predictability in the Bengals’ playcalling.
Clearly, the Bears didn’t seem to respect Cincinnati’s deep-ball ability and therefore had no problem putting the heat on Burrow.
Open up the deep ball (or at least tease it) and defenses could very well back off the line; for now, they don’t have to worry about Taylor’s offense beating them deep.
In the short term, it’s time to see what second-round rookie Jackson Carman can provide as a starting right guard.
Journeyman veteran guard Xavier Su’a-Filo has underwhelmed in run blocking and pass protection; Carman is at least a more gifted athlete who could provide a high-end burst of impact for this floundering line.
3 - Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals Defense Might Be Pretty Good
Somehow, amidst all the early struggles from the offense, the team’s defense looked remarkable on Sunday against Chicago.
Granted, their first two tilts have been against two underwhelming offenses, against the Bears and against the Minnesota Vikings.
Regardless, the group has made clear strides and looks vastly improved from a season ago.
They were the worst run defense in football over the past two seasons.
In match-ups against Dalvin Cook and David Montgomery, they’ve held runners to 3.4 yards per carry, which is tied for the sixth-best mark in the NFL. They’ve also allowed only one rushing touchdown and no runs over 20 yards.
Further, they’re tied for the fourth-most sacks in the league with six as a team to start the year. As a whole, the club only tabbed 17 sacks in 2020; they’re currently on pace for 51 (or three per game) sacks by the year’s end.
The additions of Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi have clearly been quick pay-offs for this defense and make a huge difference from their horrendous 2020 pass rush.
Their young linebackers Germaine Pratt, Akeem Davis-Gaither, and particularly Logan Wilson have all seemingly taken a step forward.
Seemingly, one side of the ball has taken major steps in the right direction. For now, Bengals fans will have to hope the offense follows the defense’s lead in a hurry.
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