The Cincinnati Bengals surprisingly lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on the first day of play. The offence committed five turnovers – there was a lack of answers to the Steelers defence for long stretches. The switch should be flipped against the Dallas Cowboys.
Munich – It was supposed to be the starting signal for an extraordinary season. The first important step in the race for the contested playoff spots in the AFC. But against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals, especially the offence, went off the rails right from the start of the season.
Quarterback Joe Burrow, who has become the Bengals’ saviour since his spectacular performance last season, threw four interceptions. The offence stumbled its way through the game, rarely finding a rhythm.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, the Bengals want to get back on track: “Early in the season, you have to be able to make adjustments quickly. We have smart players and I think we’ll get it done,” Burrow said during a press conference.
Few solutions against Steelers defence
Adjustments needed after 20-23 loss to Steelers. Because the Steelers tamed the Bengals, literally pulled the wool over their eyes. Head coach Mike Tomlin’s team did a particularly good job of preventing the notorious explosive plays. Burrow completed only one pass for 20 yards, a 24-yard completion to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
Running back Joe Mixon, despite a 31-yard run, averaged just three yards per run. The Steelers defended passively for long stretches, setting up two deep safeties on many plays to prevent the vertical passing game and double Chase.
Thanks to the individual quality of the defensive line, they were still able to stop the run game even with fewer personnel near the line of scrimmage. And from that “passivity” on defense, they collected two of their four interceptions (the interceptions by T.J. Watt and Cameron Sutton were individually strong plays) because they played wait-and-see and speculated on turnovers at the right moment.
Head Coach Zac Taylor asked
Head coach Zac Taylor is in demand against this wait-and-see form of defence. His play selection, however, left much to be desired against Pittsburgh. Burrow, especially in the first half, seemed unable to find answers to the Steelers’ coverage. After the injury to wide receiver Tee Higgins, Taylor did not deviate from his favoured 11 personnel (consisting of three wide receivers, a tight end and a running back).
Fresh groupings of players might have presented the Steelers defence with new problems for which they were not prepared.
Across the ground, for example, the Bengals coach had his running backs run through the middle far too often, eleven times to be exact, without any success.
Twelve yards on eleven running attempts they collected this way. This resulted in a number of second and third downs, with Burrow having to get out through the air for many yards for the new first try.
Those situations, in turn, revealed that the Bengals’ offensive line is still not completely patched up. Burrow took a total of seven sacks, though some of those were on him.
Too early for the panic button
And yet the offense also showed some bright spots. Ja’Marr Chase was on the field for 100 snaps and impressed with his catching ability. The performance of Burrow, who was probably shaking off some rust in the first half, he at least looked a little more rounded in the second half.
That’s another reason the Bengals are optimistic going into the game against a banged-up Cowboys team.
“We want to score early and then play with the lead behind us,” Taylor announced at the pre-game press conference. And they have to. Because they can’t afford a false start in a competitive AFC.