CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 8: Head coach Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals argues a call with an official during the third quarter of the game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 8, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland defeated Cincinnati 27-19. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Cincinnati Bengals: Play-calling questioned in wake of loss to Browns

The first-year Bengals head coach continued to field questions about his role calling the offense Monday during his weekly press conference at Paul Brown Stadium.

A week after collecting its first win, Cincinnati lost 27-19 in Cleveland – a game in which the Bengals’ third-down and red zone issues once again were glaring. The Bengals converted just three of 12 third down plays (25 percent) and were 1-for-5 in the red zone. They turn their attention to the Patriots on Wednesday as preparations begin for Sunday’s matchup in Cincinnati.

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“We’ve got to get better as players and coaches,” Taylor said. “That’s the important thing is not thinking you are perfect in any way. You’ve got to keep studying yourself and finding ways you can be better and be open to suggestions and criticisms. I ask the staff often times what they think about certain things we’ve done, and I just want to make sure you don’t have a big ego about things we’ve done and you’re willing to take input and do your best to improve. I think we’re making improvements as a team, and specifically as an offensive unit. We’re not scoring enough points, but I do feel over the last couple weeks we’re starting to make improvements. They’ve just got to carry over and we’ve got to be consistent game-to-game.”

Most notably, the Bengals had a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line and never gave the ball to Joe Mixon before settling for a field goal in the fourth quarter. Dalton was sacked for an eight-yard loss on first down and threw two incomplete passes before Randy Bullock made a 28-yard field goal to cut the Browns’ lead to 21-16 with 4:39 left.

Earlier in the quarter, Dalton was stopped short of the goal line on a draw play on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line.

“They did a good job getting to a coverage check and covering our guys, and that’s just one we’ve got to get rid of and go to second-and-goal on the 2 there,” Taylor said of the first-down sack. “Of course, when you get sacked you second-guess it, but we had the plan in place for a reason. They just did a nice job defending it, and we just have to move on and get to the next play.

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“Then, they did the draw on fourth-and-goal. If you tell me we’re going to get a two-safety look, drop eight, three-man front, we only have two other guys in the box, we should be able to execute that and get into the end zone. Of course, when you don’t execute it, it looks bad, but when you do it looks really good. Tough situation on fourth-and-goal. We don’t get it, and you feel bad about it, but we had the plan in place for a reason we just have to execute it.”

Taylor said those were all plays the Bengals had practiced all season, and they should have been able to execute.

“That’s just part of all 11 guys being on top of the screws there,” Taylor said when asked why Dalton wasn’t just able to walk it right in on one of those. “There are certainly times where you can give better play calls over the course of the game, and you’ve got to be accountable for that. Our guys, there’s just some things we can clean up from a details standpoint.”

Mixon finished with 146 yards and one touchdown but was disappointed to stand on the sidelines during some crucial points in the game.

“At the end of the day, I cannot control their play calling,” Mixon said. “I just try to do whatever I can and put the team in the best position to win. We just have to get better at executing.”

Penalties also played a role in the loss. Mixon was called for a personal foul on a head-butt attempt early in the game, and Dalton was intercepted for a pick-6 the next play. John Ross was called for a hold that wiped out a 34-yard gain by Mixon in the fourth quarter as well.

The previous week, Cincinnati had just two penalties, and one was a delay of game the Bengals took on purpose.

“There were several of them that we could have done better and those aren’t things we do,” Taylor said. “That part was frustrating that the discipline got away from us, especially some key drives in the first half, and then there were some judgment ones in the second half that can go either way and you’ve just got to live with that. That part was frustrating. There were two in the first half we could have done a better job on that we didn’t, and they moved us back and put us in tough spots.”

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