Zac Taylor: Bengals have themselves to blame for lack of offense vs. Giants

Dropped passes, penalties, lack of running game prevented Cincinnati from keep drives alive

CINCINNATI -- When Zac Taylor watches the film from Sunday’s two-point loss to the New York Giants, it’s more obvious why the offense never got into a rhythm.

In his Monday press conference, Taylor pointed to two dropped passes on the opening drive of the second half and two holding penalties at the beginning of separate drives in the fourth quarter -- in addition to three turnovers -- as reasons the offense never got going.

The Bengals managed just 155 yards of offense and converted just three of 10 third downs, while going three-and-out or fumbling on six drives, as Brandon Allen struggled in his debut as the team’s new starting quarterback.

“You watch the tape and you think, ‘Man, we really shot ourselves in the foot there several times where we could have extended those drives and got some rhythm and started to be in more of an attack mode,’” Taylor said. “And we just never did that. And then you know as far as the quarterback position goes, it’s everyone (that) has to play better. Of course, he’s got to play better, but everyone around him has to kind of lift him up. When you get a new guy coming into the game like that, everyone’s gotta be at their best and we were not that way yesterday.”

While the defense and special teams did well in providing lifts, the biggest letdown for Allen had to be the lack of support in the running game.

It appeared early on the Bengals were going to try to run the ball more, but they couldn’t get push at the line of scrimmage even with New York playing more soft-zone coverage and not even trying to load the box. The Bengals finished with 40 yards rushing.

“A lot of times, it was just at the line of scrimmage,” Taylor said. “You know, we weren’t getting the line of scrimmage moved and they were holding strong at the point of attack, and that’s something certainly we’ve got to improve on because it’s a tough way when you just can’t move those front four in front. That’s a tough way to get through a game.”

Cincinnati will be without Joe Mixon at least one more game after putting him on injured reserve Nov. 20 with a foot injury.

That means Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan have to keep finding ways to adjust the offense without two of its top players. Quarterback Joe Burrow was traveling to the West Coast on Monday for surgery scheduled for later this week in Los Angeles.

“It changes (what you can do),” Callahan said Monday. “You have to have a system of offense that you gotta try to go execute. But not having Joe (Mixon) in there… Joe gets some dirty, grimy runs where he’s going to pick up four to six yards if nothing’s there just because he’s so big and powerful. Sometimes, that helps a lot. And then obviously, he’s a dynamic player with the ball in his hands. You miss that. ... Obviously, any time you lose your starting quarterback, that changes a lot of things. We tried to keep it manageable. We knew it was going to be a game that kind of played out like it did. It was going to be probably some ugly involved in it. … As far as how much changes, there’s enough changes to go around — how you try to play the game differently and try to keep the game the way you want to play it. We didn’t do a good enough job of it.”

Guard Quinton Spain said the offensive line needed to do more, especially as players get more comfortable playing together with injuries and illnesses impacting the lineup. He’s played three positions in four games and switched mid-game Sunday, starting at left guard before moving to fill in for right guard Alex Redmond when he left with a concussion.

“I feel like we’re the big key to the quarterback situation, so I feel like we got to attack more, gameplan-wise, make sure we straight and we got to stick together,” Spain said. “I feel like if we play together it don’t matter who at quarterback, we can win games.”

Taylor indicated Sunday after the game that Allen would remain the starter going into this week’s game at Miami. The team signed Kevin Hogan to the practice squad on Saturday, and Ryan Finley continues in a backup role behind Allen. Hogan serves as an emergency quarterback after spending time with the Browns, Washington and Denver Broncos the last four games, appearing in eight games.

As Denver learned Sunday, that third quarterback is key, if protected away from the other two – like Allen was before moving up from the practice squad -- in case of a COVID-19 outbreak. The Broncos didn’t have a true quarterback available for their game against the Saints.

Now, the entire league is struggling to keep clear of positive tests and illnesses, which is why the NFL is prohibiting teams from using their facilities Monday and Tuesday for practices and meetings. The Bengals usually do a walkthrough, work out and undergo recovery treatments on Monday but instead were limited to Zoom meetings ahead of the normal off day Tuesday.

“It’s a challenge for sure,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “Monday after the game you usually go in to get a workout in and stuff. I just got one in my garage. It’s pretty crazy what we have to do to try to stick with our routines to be able to play on Sunday. It gets harder and harder with these COVID numbers going up. But we are going to keep playing and we just got to adjust and there is no excuse because you are still going to be out there on Sunday and what you put on tape. You have to roll with it and keep playing hard.”


Bengals at Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

About the Author