While I’m not a huge fan of Andy Dalton, I think the bigger problem with the Bengals offense against the Chargers was their play-calling. Dalton had 51 attempts, 57% completion, 1 TD, and 2 picks. There is no reason whatsoever Dalton should be getting 50+ attempts. If you break it down, the Bengals had their 2 best drives of the game in the 2nd quarter. The first was a run-heavy drive of 8 rushing attempts or dumps to the RB, 2 were passes. That was their lone TD of the game. This set up the next drive, allowing them to drive another 60 yards, which looked like it would’ve ended in a TD had Bernard not fumbled. Once the Bengals lost the lead, with 6:46 left to go in the 3rd quarter, they completely abandoned the run. They ran 42 plays after that point, 5 rushing attempts, 36 drop-backs in shotgun formation. At one point they ran 24 pass plays in a row in shotgun formation. Even the best, most pass happy offenses like Denver or New Orleans, don’t have that kind of play-calling. It was abysmal and it will get overlooked because Dalton is the easiest target to blame.
|Andy Dalton in loss to the Chargers – Taken from ESPN|
What the Bengals need to do next season is commit to the running game. Not only will this open up opportunities for Dalton, so he doesn’t have to force it, but it will allow them to control the clock, tempo, and rest the defense. After all, they are a defensive team. With Atkins, Hall, Newman, and Gaethers all healthy, this will again be a top 5 defense in the league. If Bernard and BJGE can be established as a legit dual-threat, this team can go deep into the playoffs. If they going to continue to do their best 07-Patriots impression, they won’t make it out of the 1st round. Eli and Flacco have 3 superbowls among them. They won those superbowls by having great defenses and run-games, and being the type of guys who aren’t afraid to make the high-risk high-reward passes. When their running games were going, the return tended to be more reward. Now that they both have bottom of the league running-games, they are #1 and #2 in the NFL in interceptions.
I saw a few ESPN analysts criticize the Cincinatti defense, I think that’s totally unfair to the Bengals defense. If you take away the Ronnie Brown 58-yard TD run with 2 minutes left in the hopeless game (right after a turnover on downs which pretty much sealed it), the Bengals gave up 138 yards on 39 attempts, thats 3.5 YPC. Yet these ESPN analysts are taking about how the Bengals D-line got manhandled up front? Get outta town. At one point Cincinatti turned it over 3 times in a row, all 3 times in their own territory. The subsequent result was 2 FGs and a Punt. To say it was a team loss is totally incorrect. This was a loss on the Bengals offense – the play-calling, Bernard’s fumble, and Dalton’s mistakes. It was an offensive collapse that can’t merely be labelled “fluke” plays.