My oh my, how the good graces evaporate.
All’s not well as the Cincinnati Bengals drop to 0-2 on the season following a 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The Bengals have now lost two-straight games by a last-second field goal and have allowed 13 sacks on the young season. Problems from last year’s regular season have carried over into this year, but the late-game fortunes have not.
No one’s winning with a 0 in the win column, but a few players played well to keep the game close in the end.
Tee Higgins: A week after being concussed, Higgins didn’t see a pass come his way in the first half. The third-year receiver came back with a clutch performance in the second half, capping off a 19-play drive with a game-tying touchdown that got him to six receptions and 71 yards on the day.
DJ Reader: Just another all-around incredible performance for Cincinnati’s nose tackle. Whether he was two-gapping inside runs, or staying with the Cowboys’ outside zone, Reader was a huge reason for the Bengals’ second-half resurgence. It was only right he ended up with the Bengals’ first turnover of the year with his fumble recovery.
Vonn Bell: One of the players you always see go for the ball, Bell’s fumble-hungry mentality paid off in the third quarter as he joined Logan Wilson to strip Dalton Schultz the pigskin. His first-half miscue on the Tony Pollard near-score was definitely forgiven after that.
Sam Hubbard: The always frenetic No. 94 made his presence known in the second half. A tackle for loss on former OSU teammate Ezekiel Elliott, and multiple pressures on and a sack on Cooper Rush netted the veteran edge rusher with a nice day at the office.
Zac Taylor: There’s a lot to say here. Coming out of the gate flat, again, while the opposition has a perfect game-script for a backup quarterback is bad on its own. But the doubt around Taylor deals with issues that should be ironed out after three years on the job. Opting to punt instead of a 60-yard field goal with Evan McPherson, waiting four quarters to take deep shots with elite boundary receivers, and a play action passing game that features zero creativity has the entire fanbase thinking when offensive coordinator gets his chance to call plays in a regular season game.
Frank Pollack: Taylor’s not the only coach who should be questioned right now. The Bengals’ offensive line has good players, and most of them aren’t playing like they are. They’re gelling together, yes, but also losing reps at an alarming rate. At what point does the person responsible for that get put under the spotlight? Pollack has ample respect in the building, but the technique being taught by Pollack and his assistants looks like a systemic issue.
La’el Collins: So much for a revenge game. Collins looked like a player dumped by his former team with three years left on his deal. He simply appeared spooked by Micah Parsons (understandable) and lost in astonishing fashion too many times. It’s possible he’s still getting his feet wet after an injury-filled training camp, and Parsons is also really good, but they need better play from him.
Joe Burrow: A more decisive Burrow in the first half doesn’t end up taking as many sacks as he did. This was one of the first times we saw him rattled behind an o-line under duress. The offense didn’t take a snap in the red zone for the first 55 minutes of the game. Some blame has to fall on the quarterback, even if the other issues around him are more dire.
Eli Apple: It’s not too often that the pre-Cincinnati version of Apple shows himself, but he was on display at times Sunday, getting lost in coverage against Noah Brown and Co.