The 2022 season did not start how the Cincinnati Bengals would’ve hoped, with a 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. Despite Joe Burrow throwing four interceptions, the defense kept it close until the offense could bounce back, it was just a bit too late. The same happened in this week’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, as they lost 20-17 on a last second field goal. There were some positives with the negatives to take away from the game.
Have Yourself A Day D.J. Reader
It was a tough first few drives for the Bengals defense giving up back-to-back touchdowns to give the Cowboys an early lead. They would go on to settle down, only giving up six points the rest of the game. One player who stayed consistent was D.J. Reader. He had five tackles, two quarterback hits and recovered his first-ever fumble. His ability to get pressure from the inside also helped Sam Hubbard get the only sack of the game. Reader saved multiple runs from going longer and put the defense in great position multiple times.
Offense Still Needs Time
For a second week in a row the offensive line, and offense in general, was shaky. There was miscommunication in Week One, but that would be expected with four new guys playing together for the first time on the offensive line. Yet, that miscommunication continued into Week Two as they left Micah Parsons unblocked and Joe Burrow to be sacked four times in the first half. It wasn’t just pass protection, Joe Mixon had five rushing attempts in the first half go for only five yards. It is not all on the offensive line though, at moments Burrow’s internal clock is not at where it was last year, leading to him holding on to the ball too long.
From the new additions, there is also some rust that it appears the team is still shaking off. For a second week in a row they did not score over 10 points in the first half, but then turned it around after halftime. There is a lot that still needs to be meshed out heading into Week Three, but a positive is that Burrow can step up when needed and lead a long touchdown drive down the field. These early struggles can also be attributed to the increase in Cover 2 looks the Bengals’ offense is facing. Something the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills saw multiple times last year and had to adjust to down the stretch. How they combated it was with increased play-action. The Bills led the league in play-action pass attempts and turned them into 1,667 yards. The Chiefs were fifth with 154 which they turned into 1,099 yards. The Bengals, on the other hand, ran the least amount of play-action in 2021 with 85 plays. If they can iron out their early offensive struggles, and utilize more play-action to move the pocket and draw the defense down towards the line of scrimmage, they should get back to their offensive standards. But, that will rely on Zac Taylor to make those adjustments.
Good Things Happen When Tee Higgins And Tyler Boyd Get Involved
In the first half of the game, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins both saw little involvement in the offensive plan. In the second half, Higgins had six receptions for 71 yards. Boyd saw his first target and hauled it in for 16 yards, ending the day with two and a total of 17 yards. On the Bengals’ only touchdown drive of the day, it would be when Burrow went off-script to find Higgins who hauled in the score and Boyd who converted on the two-point try to tie the game. Ultimately, the Cowboys would come back and win, but this drive showed the offense is most productive when Higgins and Boyd are involved.
The Bengals will now set their sights on the New York Jets for a matchup at MetLife Stadium on September 25. Going 0-2 is not ideal, but with a long season still ahead, it will be about how this team responds.