The hot start was just a fantasy for the Bengals on Sunday in Indianapolis. Cincinnati jumped out to an early 21-0 second quarter lead, but couldn't finish.
Here’s a look at the good and the ugly from the Bengals’ defensive performance from Sunday.
Stopping Jonathan Taylor was a key coming into Sunday’s game. The rookie entered the matchup with 307 yards and three touchdowns.
For a run defense ranked towards the bottom of the league, Quenton Nelson and the Colts’ offensive line was heavily favored in the battle of the trenches.
Christian Covington, Xavier Williams and the rest of the new guys up front combined with the young linebacking unit, led by Logan Wilson, to allowed a total of 59 rushing yards. Taylor finished with 60 yards on twelve attempts.
It was a promising performance by a run defense that was missing three of their top guys in DJ Reader, Sam Hubbard and Mike Daniels. Geno Atkins was still limited in his second game back from a shoulder injury.
Along with stopping the run, the defense got off to an impressive start.
Everything was clicking for the Bengals in the first quarter. The offense was flowing, but the defense backed it up by forcing the opening drive fumble, followed by two three-and-outs.
The defense was on the field for eight plays for four minutes and twenty-eight seconds in the first quarter. They allowed a total of 34 yards in those first three drives.
Unfortunately, for the Bengals, that was it for most of "the good."
The Colts started their fourth drive of the game early in the second quarter. It was as if the Bengals had a completely different defense on the field for the final three quarters.
Rivers had a field day in the second quarter picking a part the Cincinnati secondary. He led the Colts from deep in their own territory on three consecutive touchdown drives. The first of which lasted seven plays for 87 yards. The second drive was nine plays for 80 yards and the third drive was nine plays for 82 yards.
Rivers finished the 29-of-44 for 371 yards and three touchdowns. He was able to get eight different receivers involved, including Marcus Johnson, who finished with 108 yards receiving.
Rivers finished 9-of-13 for 190 yards and three touchdowns on throws on 10-yards or more.
Jessie Bates III was the highest graded defensive player on the team at 75.7 according to Pro Football Focus. His interception was the lone highlight from the pass defense on the day. It gave the Bengals a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
William Jackson III finished with a 71.1 grade.
Outside of Bates and Jackson, the secondary didn’t look pretty. Vonn Bell graded out at 45.5 and Darius Phillips at 27.1.
"It wasn’t the best performance from our corners," Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. "There’s been some games when they’ve played well and they’ve done some good things for us. It’s things that I know they’re accountable for, we’ll get corrected. When a guy’s as accurate as Philip Rivers, that magnifies things. It’s all tied together as well. We’ve got to do a better job getting a rush on the quarterback on first, second and third down to put pressure on them so that guys don’t have to hold up as long in the back. It all ties together."
Rivers was able to dominate the secondary mostly in part due to the time he was given in the pocket. The front seven only hit the veteran three times and brought him down for one sack.
Atkins has been an elite force in putting pressure on the quarterback in the passing game, but he was only on the field for 29% of the defensive plays.
Frustrations about roles have begun to loom in the locker room. Carlos Dunlap expressed his dissatisfaction prior to the team’s Week 5 game in Baltimore after being demoted on the depth chart. Dunlap played in 44% of the team’s defensive snaps on Sunday in Indianapolis continued to express his frustrations following the game on the Bengals’ Instagram.
Darius Phillips and Shawn Williams voiced their discontent on Twitter leading up to the game in Indianapolis as well. Phillips saw the field in 48% of the Bengals' defensive plays, while Williams was at 16%.
You have to imagine if these frustrations wouldn't be a problem if the team was winning.
Winning is fun. Losing is not.
“We just gotta play f------ better," Josh Bynes said bluntly on Monday.
The defense gets a Cleveland offense that dominated them in Week 2. Quarterback Baker Mayfield finished 16-of-23 for 219 and two touchdowns and the Browns’ running game gashed the Bengals on the ground. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 210 yards rushing in the 35-30 win.
Chubb is currently on injured reserve with a MCL injury to his right knee and Mayfield has been bothered by a lingering rib injury. Even though the Browns are banged up, the Bengals' defense will have its' hands full in Week 7.
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