The headline on www.cincinnatibengals.com said it all: “Bengals gift wrap opener for Bears.”
That they did.
And that is what the Steelers will be dealing with on Monday night in Cincinnati, a team that’s frustrated because it clearly let one get away in the opener and a team that proved in its opener it’s still perfectly capable of losing games in such a fashion.
The unraveling began with the Bengals driving for the fourth-quarter touchdown that would have provided them with a two-score advantage.
Leading 21-17 and facing second-and-9 from the Chicago 27-yard line, the Bengals struck for an apparent first down when quarterback Andy Dalton hit wide receiver Mohamed
Sanu for 10 yards to the Bears’ 17. But Sanu fumbled and the Bears recovered with 12:39 remaining.
Eight snaps later the Bears faced a fourth-and-1 at the Bengals’ 27. Cincinnati had to take its second timeout prior to the play because it had 10 men on the field.
After Matt Forte kept the drive alive with an 8-yard gain to the Bengals’ 19, Cincinnati had to take its final timeout of the second half because it had 12 men on the field prior to the following snap.
The Bears scored what would eventually become the game-winning touchdown on the next play.
The final straw came after Michael Bush had been held to a 1-yard gain on third-and-6 from the Bengals’ 45 with 1:15 remaining. Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga was called for
a personal foul after the play, extending the Bears’ possession and effectively ending the game.
That’s how you lose when you have a 21-10 second-half lead, and when you enter the fourth quarter having gained 137 more total net yards and having an almost seven-minute edge in time of possession.
They’re still the Bengals.
But they were very good before the unraveling began.
Some other Cincinnati observations:
--Dalton targeted wide receiver A.J. Green 13 times on 33 throws. Green had five receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns with 2:53 remaining in the second quarter on the way to a nine-catch, 162-yard day. Both of Dalton’s
interceptions came on passes intended for Green, including one off Green’s hands, and the Bengals dialed up deep shots to Green repeatedly.
--Dalton was sacked just once, in part because the ball usually comes out quickly and because he regularly vacates the pocket, especially on bootlegs off of
play-action. He’ll throw on the run.
--Dalton isn’t reluctant to throw to tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert short of the sticks on third down in anticipation that either one can get the necessary
yardage after the catch. Before that happens those guys are liable to line up just about anywhere.
--Strong-side linebacker James Harrison isn’t an every-down player in Cincinnati. He’s replaced periodically in sub-package stuff, as is Maualuga. The every-down
linebacker against Chicago was Vontaze Burfict.
Harrison dropped into zone coverage often, didn’t sniff a sack when he pressured and finished with one tackle. But it can still be problematic trying to run to his side.
--The front four is eight deep. Starters Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson and reserves Devon Still, Robert Geathers, Wallace Gilberry and Brandon Thompson all played in the first quarter against the Bears.
--Cincinnati didn’t blitz a great deal against Chicago and when it did it usually sent no more than five-man pressures. Often, the Bengals are content to rush four and
drop seven into zones. A rare seven-man pressure was burned for a 30-yard gain by the Bears.
Cincy will concede catches and then tackle the catch short of the sticks. Yards after the catch are tough to come by because the Bengals usually have numbers in the secondary and they react very well to the ball.
--The Bengals were penalized eight times for 84 yards against the Bears, including three first-half penalties on special teams and a 12-men-on-the-field call against the defense on a 1-yard TD run by Forte.
--Adam Jones doesn’t always return punts, but when he does he’s combustible.