They talked about how there’s no time to panic. They said the team would stick together. They mentioned that it still counts as only one loss despite the lopsided score.
“There is a lot of season left and a lot of things out in front of us,” Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said. “It is just one game. We have another one next week ...
“As much as this one sucks, everything is still right there. We are in a great position. We have to go take advantage of it.”
Saying it is one thing, actually doing it is another.
The Bengals have dropped two in a row and have some of the best offenses in the league coming up on the schedule. The Buccaneers, who lead the league in yards per game, are up next, followed by the Saints after the bye week.
The Bengals' defense has given up at least 480 yards in three of its last four games.
“It’s bad,” Bengals linebacker Preston Brown said. “It’s a bad look for the whole team to see this happen. It’s such a big score difference. You never want to go out there and get blown out on a Sunday night [especially] when it’s been something we’ve been waiting to show the whole league what we can do. And now, to put up a goose egg like that, it’s not a good look. But we’ve got to learn from it and find ways to get better.”
Sunday’s loss couldn’t be put squarely on the shoulders of the defense either. The offense didn’t take advantage of a weak defense and couldn’t get the ball to anyone but A.J. Green. The reliable Tyler Boyd was barely a factor against the Chiefs, while John Ross, who came back after missing two games with a groin injury, was practically invisible before leaving again due to the injury.
“We are going to try to get A.J. the ball,” Dalton said. “A.J. was doing a good job of getting open. He got open a lot early and they started doubling him. I thought A.J. did some good things tonight.”
The Bengals clearly miss tight end Tyler Eifert, who gave Dalton another reliable target. They are now potentially down three tight ends after Mason Schreck was carted off on Sunday. Tyler Kroft is out with a foot injury for an unknown period of time.
Now that they’ve fallen to 4-3, the Bengals have lost their position on top of the AFC North. It’s not a season-ending problem, but it certainly erases the cushion they built after starting 3-1 in September.
Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said he believes the Bengals could be a great team once they get back some injured players.
“We’ve been together for a long time, we’ve been having injuries, so we’ve been having new faces step in,” Kirkpatrick said. “I believe in those guys, but it’s a little different when you haven’t been out there from a communication standpoint. We have to get back out there and do what we have been doing and have fun. I feel like that’s what we got away from. We’re not having fun. We need to go out there and have fun.”
If the Bengals can correct their issues, Sunday’s game will become just an embarrassing blip on the radar. If it’s a larger problem related to personnel then the same mistakes will continue to pop up.
Some of the issues are certainly fixable. The defense appeared to be having communication issues on Sunday, and there were tackling issues from almost everyone.
“I hate missed tackles. I hate missing tackles, I hate seeing us miss tackles, because it’s just, they want it more than we do,” Brown said. “It’s all physical. You’ve got to want to tackle those guys, and they were not going down unless you wanted to tackle them. It’s not just a wrap-up kind of thing. They were running through guys, spinning off guys. We’ve got to find ways to get guys down, just hold them up, wait ’til the whistle blows, do whatever we’ve got to do, but we’ve got to get guys down.”
The other problems are a little trickier. The front seven struggled across the board. Rookie safety Jessie Bates said he felt the Bengals limited the deep throws, but ultimately it didn’t matter since they couldn’t make the tackles when needed. The Chiefs simply checked down and made the big plays anyway.
The team has struggled to stop the run all season. Multiple players said there’s not a problem with the scheme of first-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, but the results haven’t exactly been stellar so far.
“This one’s going to be hard to swallow just because it was in front of everyone,” Bates said. “Everyone was watching. I think we were excited to show people what we could do, and we didn’t do that. We’ve got another opportunity next week to go into the bye week with a win and get this thing rolling back the right way."