The Bengals yet again fell in depressing fashion to, of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let’s get to the recap:
Once again, the Bengals got off to the worst start imaginable and had their token first-possession turnover when Alex Erickson (who was a total mess all day) fumbled a punt on the first Pittsburgh drive. The Steelers quickly capitalized with a field goal.
The Bengals offense got off to a snail’s start. They didn’t have a drive last longer than three plays until the fifth offensive possession. With the Cincy offense going three-and-out three times in a row and Tee Higgins fumbling the football on the fourth possession, it’s kind of remarkable that the Bengals allowed just 12 points before finally striking gold with a Tee Higgins touchdown on fourth down.
(As an aside: Cincy is an impressive 13/14 on 4th down this year.)
But that was the only score the Bengals had to show for the first half. Meanwhile, the Steelers changed the scoreboard five times, with two touchdowns and three field goals; yet it still felt like a woefully undermanned Bengals defense held up relatively well considering how helpless the offense had been (five defensive backs were out today and the Bengals were stuck playing practice squad guys who’d never seen an NFL snap. Not great!).
Headed to the half, it was 22-7 in favor of the Steelers.
In typical Bengals fashion, they blew a scoring opportunity at the end of the first half and did nary a thing with their opening third-quarter possession. After an exchange of punts, Pittsburgh got on the board in the second half for the first time with a Chase Claypool touchdown.
It was at this point the Bengals were finished, although the whole fanbase likely gave up hope after the whiffed punt return in the first quarter. From then, Burrow was under a constant defensive onslaught and Pittsburgh ball-controlled their way to the finish line, adding one more touchdown for good measure — to which Cincy responded with a moral-victory field goal. And that was the game, 36-10.
Tough, tough game to swallow for Bengals fans. Another tail-kicking from an AFC North juggernaut to remind us all of the gulfs between Cincinnati and actual Super Bowl contenders.
The coaching was a nightmare throughout, and the highlights included a pair of special teams disasters, a consistent lack of discipline form the offensive line, and seemingly no adjustments to the defensive scheme after Pittsburgh spent a whole day annihilating deep-reserve CB Tony Brown.
Look, I know there was still a bevy of O-linemen out and the cornerback room was almost entirely decimated, but as the announcer Jonathan Vilma noted (who might as well have been wearing a Big Ben jersey given how much he praised him for the tiniest possible things while trashing Joe Burrow — unjustly! — all afternoon), this is a year where dealing with personnel adversity is an integral part of the game, and the Bengals didn’t have a ton of answers in the secondary.
The Steelers were once again Dey who beat the Bengals. Oh well, Pitt’s QB is a common cold and super-sized Thanksgiving dinner away from being washed, and Joe Burrow, despite the struggles today, should have his head fitted for the AFC North crown — which he’ll be wearing for most of the 2020s, mark my word.