NASHVILLE — Inexcusable.
That’s the best way to describe the effort and execution the Bengals put forth on the brand new turf of Nissan Stadium on Sunday. The Bengals lost 27-3 to the Tennessee Titans in a game that raises serious questions about the drive and focus of a team believed to be one of the most talented in the NFL.
They gained 211 total yards, 71 of which came on the game’s opening drive. They scored three points for the second time this season.
The Bengals’ offense have scored 42 points through four games since their quarterback signed the richest contract in NFL history. Putrid, and again inexcusable.
This shouldn’t be happening to a team with Super Bowl expectations. Is there anger brewing just beneath the surface.
“I would say whenever you’re 1-3, you’re going to be frustrated,” Burrow told me. “You’re going to be angry. You’re going to be wanting to win games. And we haven’t been. We’re not going to let anything like that come between us. That’s how you end up having a bad season. We’ve had a bad start. We’ve had a bad first quarter, so we got three more quarters of the year to get through and go from there.”
Asked Joe Burrow about team's attitude and he says Bengals aren't going to let a 1-3 start "come between us.. that's how you have bad seasons." pic.twitter.com/9BYIAfcQu1
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) October 1, 2023
They were utterly emasculated by a Titans team with Derrick Henry and Jeffery Simmons, a couple of veteran players with a point to prove. Both were on the Titans teams that lost in the AFC Divisional round two years ago and last season’s “Up Yours, Tennessee” game.
Well, guess who had it shoved up theirs Sunday?
And the worst part of it, is the Bengals didn’t have enough will and execution to answer.
The most symbolic play of the game came 10 seconds before the half, with the Titans already up, 17-3. The Titans brought in Simmons as a fullback and had Ryan Tannehill motion to receiver, with Henry in the Wildcat. The Bengals called timeout and Mike Vrabel thought, ‘Screw it’ let’s stay with it.
And they did. Tannehill in motion, Henry with the snap, run-toss over the line of scrimmage to a uncovered Josh Whyle. And Simmons spiked the ball to the moon.
It's getting Whyle in here
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) October 1, 2023
The Bengals were quiet but accountable in the locker room. Give them credit for that. But there’s a sense they still have no idea why they’re making “execution” and “discipline” errors four weeks into the season. That’s alarming for a team with such high expectations.
There was Henry trucking Germaine Pratt. There was Dax Hill taking an atrocious unnecessary roughness on third down when the defense had a chance at a three-and-out to start the second half. Instead, they stayed on the field another nine minutes.
It’s time to stop with the excuses and platitudes of “we know we have the talent” and start imposing some will. And you don’t do that in the NFL through the air.
The Bengals passing game now is an abject disaster and they just lost Tee Higgins to a rib injury Sunday.
Why should Bengals fans feel this can be turned around?
“The people. Truthfully, the people,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “Today, whether we lost 27 to 26 or 27 to 3, we are 1-3. It doesn’t matter which way you slice it. So again, we have got to find a way to get ourselves back on track. We got our first win. It felt good. Maybe it felt too good, who knows? But we got to find a way next week at Arizona to get ourselves back on track and be 2-3.”
Whenever a team under-performs the way the Bengals are right now, the head coach is going to come under close scrutiny, and he should. Head coaches are paid to have their teams prepared and ready to engage in a fight. Sunday, the Bengals clearly weren’t.
Zac Taylor on Bengals abysmal tackling and bad penalties like Dax Hill unnecessary roughness to extend drive to start second half. pic.twitter.com/YiUTUAe6F6
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) October 1, 2023
Fans aren’t necessarily looking for the coach to go nuts but they are looking for their players to be inspired.
“Nothing was good enough for us today, really,” Taylor said in his opening remarks following the 27-3 no-show. “We got beat in every phase and that’s up to every player, that’s on every coach that we’ve got. This was unacceptable today and I have all the confidence that we got everything in this locker room to get right, to get back on track next week. But, disappointing. This is not the expectation we had going into this game.
“Tennessee controlled the game really from start to finish. They executed and beat us in every situation. Hats off to them, they out played us today. More discipline, more physical. We have got to step up this week and have our best week if we are to get back on track.”
The Bengals are clearly playing uninspired football. And if they need a reminder of what one looks like, all they needed to do Sunday was look across the field.