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Three Down Look: Missed Kicks and a Missed Opportunity for the Bengals

The Bengals lost to the Packers 25-22 at home on Sunday.
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One of the wildest games of the NFL season ended with the Packers toppling the Bengals in overtime 25-22 on Sunday afternoon

Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers did just enough to overcome four missed kicks from veteran Mason Crosby. They handed Cincinnati their first home loss of the season.

Another close loss meant questions for Zac Taylor's decision-making in the final 15 minutes of play. I address that and more from another cross-conference battle that the Bengals barely missed out on winning.

First Down: Coaches Coach, Players Play

Taylor is receiving a lot of criticism from fans and media after the Bengals failed to close out Green Bay. It's easy to criticize playcalling in these scenarios, but the plays mostly weren't the problem: players failed to execute.

Fans want to see the franchise quarterback take control, but this is a game with 11 starters going head to head, and the Bengals players couldn't perform in the clutch. Starting with the first questionable third down in the final minute of regulation.

Taylor opted to run the ball with Samaje Perine on 3rd-and-5. Perine gained just three yards, setting up Evan Mcpherson's missed 57-yard field goal attempt. Right call, horrible execution.

Green Bay showed a five-man box on the play against six Bengals blockers. That is a justifiable run situation, especially with two timeouts remaining. Perine ran well up to that point, totaling 11 carries for 59 yards on the day, but he couldn't take advantage of the light box.

The Bengals' next opportunity came by way of a 21-yard pitch and catch from Burrow to Ja'Marr Chase. The play put Cincinnati on the Packers' side of the field, only for the offense to run three straight times, setting up a 4th-and-inches and McPherson's final miss of the game from 49 yards.

Once again, the matchups called for runs on 2-of-3 plays. The first down had the Bengals with seven blockers against the Packers' six defenders, and 2nd-and-6 showed five Packers' defenders against six Bengals' blockers. Those were the right play calls, but the running back and blocking unit didn't capitalize on the advantage.

Taylor wrongly dialed up 12-personnel with Auden Tate as the lone receiver on 3rd down, but Mixon was a football nose away from moving the sticks. The threat of play-action could've been greater in a different formation. Taylor can chew on that decision, but he shouldn't be labeled as the reason for Cincinnati falling to 3-2.

Second Down: Who Spiked the Kicker's Water Bottles?

The final 25 minutes of play at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday were unlike any finish we've ever seen in the NFL. According to Elias Sports, this was the first game with five missed potential go-ahead fields goals in the fourth quarter or OT since 1970.

Mason Crosby missed four kicks, including one extra point. An unbelievable performance from one of the most well-rounded kickers in the NFL. Crosby debuted in 2007 during Brett Favre's final season in Green Bay. He has played in 229 games but never had one like this.

The 36-year-old isn't some journeyman bouncing around the league. Green Bay trusts him wholeheartedly and never lost faith on Sunday. He made 27-straight field goals prior to Sunday's game.

That's what will sting the most for Cincinnati when they look back on this game at the end of the season. A missed chance to take advantage of the worst day in Crosby's career.

McPherson's rough afternoon played a part in the loss, but it's tough to lay all the blame at the feet of narrow misses from 49 and 57-yards. The former hitting the field goalpost flag and the latter doinking off the upright.

Green Bay entered the week ranked third in Football Outsider's field goal rating, and Cincinnati ranked ninth. Those figure to crater after a historically ugly performance like this. Although, it's been that kind of week across the league.

Third Down: CB1 And WR1 Cemented

A month removed from the Bengals opener against Minnesota, it's clear who the top corner and wide receiver are for this franchise. Chidobe Awuzie and Chase have only played five games in Bengal uniforms, but they've left no doubt where they stand.

Awuzie ended the game with a 77.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, narrowly edging out Chase (77.5) as the highest-graded Bengal on Sunday. The corner primarily handled Davante Adams all afternoon and did a nice job slowing down the best receiver in the game.

According to PFF, Awuzie allowed six catches to Adams for 88 yards on 10 targets. He also nabbed an impressive interception on a Rodgers' ball to Adams down the Bengals' sideline. The Packers force-fed Adams 16 targets on the afternoon and needed every ounce of his production as he finished as the only Packer receiver to catch three-plus passes.

Awuzie weathered the storm and greatly helped the Bengals contain the Packers to 22 points in regulation.

On the other side of the ball, Chase is leaving no doubt who the best rookie in the NFL is, and he's entering rare territory. He notched six catches on 10 targets for 159 yards and one touchdown.

Chase has now scored in four of five games this season and just fell short of the Bengals' rookie receiving record. According to Stathead, Chase's 159 yards are second all-time to Speedy Thomas, who had 177 yards in Cincinnati's 1969 season finale.

The LSU product very well could break that mark if he keeps playing like this. At 21 years old, Chase is an elite NFL receiver and has largely kept this inconsistent offense afloat with his big plays. Adams was targeted 16 times on Sunday when everyone in the building knew who Rodgers wanted to feed.

Chase has entered that territory; he's burning everything he touches in man coverage and could've had two scores before halftime. He cooked Eric Stokes down the Packer's sideline on a deep ball Burrow missed in the first quarter. Stokes is no slouch on the outside. The rookie's allowing just 5.8 yards per catch and a 69.4 passer rating in coverage this season, all while being targeted at one of the highest rates in the league.

There isn't a much better strategy than feeding Chase at this point; good things happen when the ball is around him. He led all players in total game EPA (10.9), with Rodgers just behind him at 8.7.

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Chase was the best Bengal on the field Sunday. Keep feeding the beast, then feed him a little more.

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