It is time for the NFL to ensure that the Bengals are not allowed on national television again for the foreseeable future. They had their butts karate-kicked off Monday night by Mason Rudolph and the winless Pittsburgh Steelers, in about as dreary and joyless a football contest as you are likely to see this season outside of Miami.
Cincinnati’s offense mustered roughly squadoosh in the ghastly 27–3 loss. Largely this had to do with Andy Dalton being a jittery, gun-shy, scattershot mess. His protection sucked, but also he did himself no favors back there by being both indecisive and immobile, a deadly combination. Dalton was sacked a career-high eight times, and hit a career-high 11 times; Cincinnati’s 175 total yards of offense were the least they’ve gained in a game against the Steelers in 25 years. The Bengals lost nearly as many yards in sacks (69, nice) as they gained on the ground (72). Cincinnati had just two drives that covered more than 33 yards—incidentally, they had three drives that finished with negative yardage—and both of those “long” drives ended in Dalton turnovers. The second one, which represented Cincinnati’s best shot at a touchdown, ended with this ghastly end-zone pick:
Cincinnati’s offensive line is in real trouble. First-round pick and preferred starter at left tackle Jonah Williams is out due to injury; his backup, Cordy Glenn, hasn’t played a snap while he recovers from a preseason concussion. Third-stringer Andre Smith was spotted on the sideline with a huge brace over his knee, and healthy or not he appears to be about as stout in pass protection as generic-brand single-ply toilet paper. The analytics say Smith had the lowest pass block win rate in the NFL this season even before he was a glaring sore spot for an offensive line that gave up eight damn sacks.
That hope-destroying fourth-quarter interception effectively ended the portion of Monday night’s game where it was possible to pretend that the result was even remotely up in the air, and it came with 11 minutes left in the game. At a certain point it seemed like the humane thing to do was to hope that Dalton would suffer some sort of minor injury, so that he could be removed from the game and spared any more punishment. Sadly, he was allowed to stay in the game, and was sacked twice and fumbled again on Cincinnati’s final, doomed drive of the game.
It’s been an inauspicious start for rookie head coach and supposed quarterback-knower Zac Taylor, who after it was over said all the usual things about looking in the mirror, and “no excuses,” and coming back tomorrow:
Raw production-wise, Dalton was actually a bright spot for these winless Bengals before the Steelers spent Monday night twisting him into pretzel shapes and power-bombing him into a septic tank. The abject hopelessness of the Dolphins and the cursed hilariousness of the Jets have mostly taken the focus off these shitty Bengals, but this is their second wipeout loss in four weeks, and the national TV prominence was helpful for firmly placing them in the appropriate tier in the NFL’s hierarchy. They are crud. They will be in the Tua Tagovailoa sweepstakes, if for no other reason than their current quarterback may not survive the season.