The Bengals' redesigned offense had quite an opening month, putting up yards and points at a far better rate
than in the past two seasons.
With opponents getting a better idea of what they're doing, Andy Dalton
and company have sputtered in the past three games.
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Kay suggested, it’s more than just familiarity. Running back Giovani Bernard
is sidelined by a knee injury, receiver John Ross
has been limited by a groin injury, and the tight end position has been decimated by injuries. What's left hasn't been able to do much.
The Bengals head into today's game against Tampa Bay looking to stop the slide as they reach the season's midpoint and their bye week.
"We did some things early on in the season that were really good," Dalton said Wednesday.
In the first four games, Cincinnati's offense averaged 24.5 first downs and 376.5 total yards. In the past three, it has managed only 17 first downs per game and 282 yards, both significant drops.
Dalton's numbers reflect the trend. He threw for 1,197 yards with 11 touchdowns in the first four games. In the past three, he's thrown for 625 yards with four touchdowns.
Their worst showing by far came Sunday night during a 45-10 loss in Kansas City. The Bengals had a season-low 15 first downs and 239 yards against a defense that was last in the league. Dalton threw for only 148 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown.
The offense was shockingly limited in the first half. A.J. Green
had six catches for 110 yards. The rest of the receivers combined for four catches for 8 yards. Green accounted for 110 of Cincinnati's 139 yards as the Chiefs took control.
"A couple of us had quiet games in the first half," said receiver Tyler Boyd
, who had three catches for 27 yards overall. "I definitely wanted to make more plays in the first half to ease off A.J. I know he was tired at times, and he made a ton of plays."
The Chiefs adjusted their coverage on Green in the second half and nobody else was able to take advantage.
"We have to be able to react and adjust in-game and get back on track," Dalton said. "Our goal is to get back to the way we were playing and the way we know we can play."
The most glaring drop-off has been at the tight end spot with Tyler Eifert
done for the season with a broken ankle and Tyler Kroft
sidelined by a foot injury. C.J. Uzomah
had two catches for 13 yards.
Coordinator Bill Lazor told the offense this week that good teams improve as the season goes along, and it's time to get out of the recent rut.
"We're always mentioning that the sky's the limit for this offense, and Bill was pointing out we're declining," Boyd said.
The good news?
Cincinnati catches an already-struggling Tampa Bay defense that is now without stud linebacker Kwon Alexander, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Alexander's absence gives the Bengals a chance to incorporate running back Joe Mixon
, assuming the offensive line can block effectively. In three games back from knee surgery, Mixon has 207 rushing yards on 46 carries.