The Cincinnati Bengals have looked nothing like the team that went on a surprising run during last season’s playoffs to the Super Bowl. They have started the season 0-2, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 and Dallas Cowboys in Week 2.
Cincinnati has no one to blame but themselves for the losses. Against the Steelers they couldn’t consistently execute in any facet of the game, losing in overtime as their special teams unit was a mess.
Against Dallas, who was without starting quarterback Dak Prescott, it was more of the same. The Cowboys jumped out to an early lead and were able to maintain it with Cooper Rush leading the offense.
Quarterback Joe Burrow recently spoke about what needs to be done in a press conference. He says the Bengals have to stop beating themselves.
“We’ve just got to stop beating ourselves,” Burrow said in his press conference. “The first game, first drive, pick-six. Next drive, fumble — give them 10 points off the bat and now we’re playing from behind. Defenses can pin their ears back, play third-down defense, don’t have to get up and challenge us. Same thing next game, we get down 14-3 early, starting in first-and-15s for the first three drives. And now they can play third-down defense, they can mix up the looks. They’re not afraid of the run game because they’re winning by 11 points.”
“We’ve just got to quit beating ourselves, start faster, and then we’ll get more chances.”
One of the biggest areas of concern is the offensive line. Through his first two seasons in the NFL, Burrow has been knocked around like a pinata. He was sacked 32 times as a rookie and 51 times in 16 games last season. Things worsened during the playoffs, as he was sacked 19 times in four games.
Despite making drastic changes to the offensive line, the same woes have followed them. Burrow has been sacked 13 times through two games and is once again leading the league in that category.
Burrow is comfortable behind the line and believes he can help by getting the ball out quicker. But, that unit has to improve if they want any chance of getting this season back on track.
“Those guys are working hard to get right,” Burrow said. “I can do a lot more to help them, too. And we can do more with play-calling to help them as well. So, we’re getting this thing right. Nobody’s panicking.”
The Bengals are heading on the road this weekend to face off with the New York Jets. While it is only Week 3, this is essentially a must-win game for Cincinnati. Only six teams in modern NFL history have reached the postseason after an 0-3 start, so they would be facing an uphill battle to defend their AFC Championship.