BY Tyler Phillips
Despite an electric 6-2 beginning to the 2013 season, the Cincinnati Bengals have found themselves stuck in a two game rut with consecutive overtime losses on the road.
After a four-game winning streak in the month of October, the Bengals have now fallen in competition to the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens. The scores, 22-20 and 17-20 respectively, reflect heartbreaking last minute defeats in both of the two games.
Despite the setback, 6-4 is by no means a bad record. The Bengals remain at first place in their division atop a sloppy and gridlocked AFC North. Through the course of their season, the Cincinnati defense has proven its tenacity by slowing down several powerhouse offenses. The Bengals defense has shut down two of the league’s superstar quarterbacks by forcing Aaron Rodgers to throw his first multi-interception game in nearly three seasons and snapping Tom Brady’s streak of 52 games with a touchdown pass.
Even with difficult injuries plaguing the defensive side of the roster through the loss of cornerback Leon Hall and defensive tackle Geno Adkins, the squad has still proven to be a viable force in each of the two recent losses.
Offensively, the Bengals have also witnessed a wide display of impressive playmakers. League giant AJ Green has already recorded 1,000 reception yards on the season and has come through for the team with several vital plays including a last-second Hail-Mary reception against the Ravens. Standout rookies Tyler Eifert and Giovanni Bernard, as well as seasoned running back BenJarvus Green Ellis, have added a needed supply of spark and power to the Cincinnati roster.
Still, there is a very apparent deficit in the Bengals’ ability to produce effectively on offense with consistency. Quarterback Andy Dalton has dazzled fans this season with four games that have produced a QB rating of above 100; these occurrences have not come without the inclusion of three games in which his rating remained below 60. He has also recorded three interceptions in two games this season, despite a fierce display of five touchdown passes on another occasion.
Cincinnati has been able to score at least a moderate 20 points in most of their games in 2013; these performances cannot be spoken of without considering games against Cleveland, Baltimore and New England in which the team’s offense was primarily non-existent. During one particular stretch, the Bengals went for seven quarters without recording a single touchdown.
Whether these inconsistencies are most prominent in the play of Dalton, who only completed 47.1% of his passes on Sunday, or the offensive line, which allowed five sacks, they are concerns that must be addressed.
If some sense of consistency is found, Cincinnati has proven itself to have the capacity to cross the threshold and become a real league contender.