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The Season Isn’t Over in Cincinnati, But Zac Taylor’s Play-Calling Is Killing Wins
Entering the 2022 season, you would think the Cincinnati Bengals were primed to have one of the most electric offenses in the league. Instead, through five weeks and a 2-3 record, they rank at the bottom of the league with just 12 explosive passing plays (20+ yards), alongside the Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, and Chicago Bears.
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Certainly, some of the blame falls on the shoulders of Joe Burrow, who hasn’t been quite as sharp to start the campaign. However, it’s hard to look outside of Zac Taylor’s play-calling sheet to find answers for these offensive shortcomings.
Ranking 23rd in offensive yardage (335.6) and 16th in points per game (21.6), the Bengals offense has not yet found a way to kick it into gear.
Further emphasized by their 31st-ranked 4.8 yards per play, a key offensive metric, it’s hard to find much to feel good about for this group.
Sure, if this was a Marvin Lewis-era Bengals offense, most fans would shrug their shoulders and move on. However, this is an era led by Burrow at quarterback, with incredible weapons like Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and Joe Mixon.
While it’s not always a mess out there, it’s far too inconsistent for this team to reach its ceiling at this point. Further, it puts them in tough spots when it comes time to close games.
Numbers Are Bad, Situational Playcalling Is Worse
On Sunday night in Baltimore, the playcalling reared its ugly head in a key goal-line situation. After holding the Ravens to a field goal after a rough intreception from Joe Burrow, the Bengals moved down the field and used a pass interference call against Hayden Hurst to put the offense at the 2-yard line. The sequence from there:
● 1st down: Burrow throws incomplete to the left for Hurst, who was tangled up with a Ravens defender
● 2nd down: Bengals attempt one of the worst Philly Specials you’ll ever see, ending up with a 14-yard sack on Boyd
● 3rd down: Burrow completes over the middle to Chase for a 12-yard gain, down to the Ravens 2-yard line (again)
● 4th down: Bengals attempt a shovel pass to their fifth-string wide receiver Stanley Morgan, which yields an incompletion and turnover.
At that point in the game, the Bengals were down 13-10 and had the opportunity to tie. After the turnover, the Ravens drove down the field, hit a field goal, and made it 16-10 with 9:42 remaining in regulation. While the Bengals took a late, one-point lead, that drive just about guaranteed Justin Tucker would have a shot at the end to win it; and he did just that at the buzzer.
Time and time again, it’s these situations, where the Bengals need points and can’t get across the pylon, that kill the team. At this point, Taylor needs to consider handing off the playsheet… and fast.
My suggestion? Let Joe Burrow be Peyton Manning and call the offense himself. That’s his destiny regardless, it’s just a matter of when that time comes knocking. If that doesn’t work, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan should be empowered to handle the calls.
Generally, Zac Taylor has done a good job managing games and being a leader. It’s the play calling that’s burying his otherwise decent resume. Until the sheet gets handed off, it’s hard to see the Bengals offense reaching its peak form; and that's a shame for all football fans.
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