Kicker Josh Brown was certainly impressive in his Bengals debut. I just wish that we hadn’t seen him so much.
If you’re looking for the single-biggest reason why the Bengals lost on Sunday, it was the fact that they were lousy in the red zone. Andrew Hawkins scored a touchdown on Cincinnati’s first trip, but the next three times that the Bengals drove inside the 20-yard line, they settled for field goals by Brown.
“They gave the Cowboys an opportunity to win because they did not execute in the red zone,” said my broadcasting partner Dave Lapham. “In the second half of the season they’ve been dynamite in the red zone and on Sunday, the dynamite blew up right in their face. You start settling for three points instead of seven on three different occasions – that game could have been totally in hand.”
During their four game winning streak, the Bengals were almost automatic in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on 13 of 17 trips (76%), but that stat has been a key indicator of success all year. In their seven wins, the Bengals have scored touchdowns on 19 of 30 red zone trips (63%). In their six losses, they’ve only scored touchdowns on 8 of 18 red zone trips (44%).
“When you’re in the red zone, the number one priority is to get into the end zone,” said Marvin Jones. “Scoring touchdowns is vital to the success of the team. Those times that we took the field goal came back to haunt us.”
There were plenty of culprits on Sunday. Late in the first quarter, the Bengals drove to the Cowboys five yard line, before Andy Dalton was sacked on third-and-four.
“It just comes down to executing, that’s all it is,” said Andy Dalton. “We had our chances, we just didn’t execute.”
In the second quarter, the Bengals drove to the Dallas 15 yard line, but on third-and-three, Dalton missed a wide-open Hawkins on a crossing route for what would have been a first down at the 10 yard line.
“We have to catch the football – it’s as simple as that,” said Hawkins. “There are no excuses. We have to make those plays.”
In the third quarter, the Bengals had it first-and-goal from the nine yard line and couldn’t punch it in. On second-and-goal from the seven, a touchdown pass to Marvin Jones was nullified because he stepped out of the end zone before making the catch. Two plays later, A.J. Green dropped what should have been his 11th TD grab of the year.
“I just took my eyes off it,” said Green. “It’s unusual for me, but I guess it happens sometimes. I’m not going to beat myself up about it, but I’ve got to do better.”
If the Bengals had made just one of those red zone plays, the Cowboys could not have won on a last-second field goal.
“The Cowboys have been a great fourth quarter team all year,” said Hawkins. “We knew that going in and we let them stay close.”
“I can probably speak for every guy on this team,” said Manny Lawson. “We’re all going to look at plays that we should have made. The ‘coulda, woulda, shouldas’ changed the outcome of this game.”
It turned into a field goal kicking clinic by Josh Brown. I don’t know about you, but I prefer watching him boot extra points.
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