First Response: Bengals come out blazing, lose 27-24 OT nail-biter

After a close game than many expected, the Bengals conceded their first ever loss to Aaron Rodgers.

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Sep 24, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) scrambles under pressure from Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Carl Lawson (58) during the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) scrambles under pressure from Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Carl Lawson (58) during the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

What a game.

Staying positive for the moment: what a game for new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.

After going two full games without a touchdown, it took the Bengals ten plays to score one on Sunday. With the first possession from their own 21-yard line, Cincinnati had five gains of ten yards or more, with only one incompletion, through their 79-yard drive.

Although the scoring element dried up over the course of the game, Lazor made his new offensive identity abundantly clear. After the numerous complaints about how directionless the unit was under Zampese, that’s an important win for him today. It didn’t result in a team win today, but greater teams have lost to Rodgers-offsides inanity up north.


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Quick takeaways from Sunday’s action:

1.) Quarterback Andy Dalton is who he is. He’s not a playmaker. He’s mobile, but not an elite athlete. He doesn’t stand tall in the pocket with pressure in his face, nor has he reestablished himself well outside of it. He can’t – as the expression goes – make chicken salad out of chicken excrement.

Lazor, by giving him something better than that to work with, helped Dalton look substantially better than he did through two weeks. He highlighted what Dalton actually is, when good: a quick thinker, who finds the right read and hits the target when the play proceeds on schedule. With what Lazor has to work with, those conditions are maintainable.

2.) Joe Mixon looks like the guy. With 21 total touches to the combined 13 between Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, Mixon was used regularly snap-to-snap from the second snap onward. He ran into his share of walls earlier, but similar runs were broken for big gains later on, with the defense tired and Mixon knowing where to look for holes.

That isn’t a knock on Bernard or Hill – it gives them an identity as much as it gives Mixon one. This was an unorganized backfield under Zampese. With Mixon as the down-to-down leader of the unit, Bernard is the clear receiving/elusion back while Hill is the clear downhill thumper. Each has a better chance to excel if they have a defined role.

3.) A related concern with Zampese – he didn’t effectively use the best talent available to him. Coming off a game in which Dalton infamously threw an uncatchable ball on fourth down to Alex Erickson, lead receiver A.J. Green finished second on the team with 10 receptions and 111 of Dalton’s 212 yards.

Without tight end Tyler Eifert or first-round pick John Ross available to him, Lazor has yet to bring the offense’s full might to bear. Based on his successful usage of what he had, it stands to reason that he’ll capitalize when he has a full deck.

4.) The defense gave up some critical big plays down the stretch, but it was a strong unit overall and locked the Packers down in the first half. The first drive that went for a touchdown was largely the result of an incidental pass interference penalty on a deep shot. The second drive ended abruptly in a pick-six for William Jackson, who ran untouched into the end zone.

Jackson was the first of several players to hear their names called in this one – linebacker/edge rusher Carl Lawson nearly had a hat trick of sacks (2.5 total, one was called back by penalty), with defensive end Chris Smith accountable for the other .5 attached to that total.

5.) “Football and politics don’t mix easily. Fans come to NFL games to watch great competition on the playing field and that’s where our focus should be.”

So read a statement from the organization following the kickoff of Sunday’s game. In response to an already-sufficiently-covered speech from President Trump, the number of national anthem protests around the NFL spiked.

For those who care: the Bengals’ sideline display remained relatively tame. All but five players (Russell Boding, Randy Bullock, Kevin Huber, T.J. Johnson, Cedric Ogbuehi) stood with arms locked. No player knelt – as none have since the conception of the protest. On a day where voices sounded off across the NFL, the Bengals remained characteristically quiet.

 

– Andrew Hammel is the managing editor for cover32/Bengals and covers the Cincinnati Bengals for cover32

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