CINCINNATI — Clean it up.
That’s the message that’s been coming from inside Paycor Stadium this week from players, coaches and head coach Zac Taylor.
our guys have gotten the impression that, you know, we need to step it up. This isn’t our standard and we need to play better.
How has that impression been made?
“It comes up in our team meetings that comes up in our unit we have unit meeting with their offense,” Taylor said Friday. “We don’t get up there and yell and scream you know, it’s always a different person. It’s never Tyler Boyd with four false starts. It’s TB with one false start, then it was somebody else with false start and then somebody else with a false start. So just as a unit, we’ve got to clean it up.
“But we don’t sit there and yell and scream at a guy. I know that they’re not doing it on purpose. It’s just we got to be a little bit more focused and locked in. It’s pre-snap penalties that bothered me the most. Those are controllable. Those are we shouldn’t have illegal shifts we shouldn’t have false, those are the things that we can control.”
Tyler Boyd committed one of the three false starts in the first half that stunted progression down the field. He’s clearly a veteran who knows what “the standard” means. And he, Joe Mixon and Orlando Brown Jr. weren’t meeting that on Monday night when they were committing errors that were completely unforced.
“We know we are the team,” Boyd said when asked if these Bengals can be the same team that caught fire and reached the AFC Championship last January. “So we don’t look at little things like that. We just go out there and just play for once this like the team (that) last year made the AFC Championship.
“We’ve got a great team, camaraderie guys that go (play) for each other. We don’t have selfish players out here. So we expect to be where we were each and every year we come out here and play. Yeah, I think we need to start faster offense.”
Tyler Boyd says it's about time Bengals start faster on offense pic.twitter.com/6GCESjAMeM
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) September 28, 2023
Aside from Chase’s 12 catches for 141 yards, Bengals receivers were held in check. Tyler Boyd has 13 catches for 101 yards in three games and Tee Higgins has caught 10 balls for 110 yards.
Last week, there was emphasis on getting Chase the ball. This week, it’s been about getting more production overall.
Chase would like to get more shots downfield, but teams have been playing loads of cloud coverage, limiting the opportunities.
“We’re not at our peak of the caliber offense that we know we can be,” Boyd said. “So once we get that going and the sky’s the limit. I don’t think we can be stopped. We know we’ve got to start finding more rhythm in-game, especially early on just start putting up points because we know – and feel – like that we can score 30 or 40 points again.”
Even at their height over the last two seasons, the Bengals have occasionally had offensive outbursts but have not consistently put video game scores up every week.
Ja'Marr Chase says lack of deep ball targets has nothing to do with Joe Burrow's calf. "Defenses are not letting us beat them over top." pic.twitter.com/uWn6Ffvgse
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) September 28, 2023
The Bengals scored 26, 19, 27 and 20 points in their four postseason games in 2021. Last season, they scored 24 (one defensive score), 27 and 20 points in their three postseason games.
In 2021, the Bengals had seven games of at least 27 points and finished averaging 27.1 points, good for seventh in the NFL. Last year, that fell to 26.1 PPG but still good for seventh in the league. Currently, after three games, they are fourth from last in the NFL at a measly 15.3 PPG.
But the Bengals have proven it’s not so much about the how many but when. In games they’ve been successful, the overwhelming theme has been scoring early and taking control.
In the Tennessee game in 2021 and the Buffalo game last year, the Bengals were able to put points on the board early in the first half.
“We know what we’re capable of and what we expect in each other and we know what Zac expected of us,” Boyd said. “And we’re not a team that gives points up. Penalties and hurting ourselves, that’s not who we are, that’s not our identity. So when we get out there and not move, it’s like, ‘Yeah, we got to tighten up ‘cuz that’s not us.'”
The Bengals placed rookie receiver Charlie Jones on IR Friday with a right thumb injury sustained Monday night returning a punt against the Rams. The injury means Jones has to miss four games and he will be eligible to return in Week 9 against the Bills. Jones made an impact in his first home game, returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown against the Ravens. He’s had six returns for 150 yards, with two fair catches in three games.
Trenton Irwin, an inactive Monday due to the Bengals activating Reid Sinnett, is a likely candidate to take Jones’ place while Tyler Boyd would also be an option. In a pinch, the Bengals could give Trayveon Williams a look.
The Bengals also signed linebacker Devin Harper off waivers from Dallas on Friday to take Jones’ spot on the 53-man roster. At 6 feet, 238 pounds, Harper, a second-year player out of Oklahoma State University, was a sixth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2022. He has played in six career regular-season games (three in 2022, three in ’23), and recorded two tackles. Harper was waived by Dallas on Thursday.
A sympathetic Zac Taylor heard the boos Monday night during the first half from a passionate Bengals fan base that is expecting production from the offense. The boos were particularly loud as the Bengals killed the clock and settled for a 53-yard Evan McPherson field goal to tie the game, 6-6, at the half.
“We’ve just got to perform better to make people happy,” Taylor said. “We have great passion from our fans. That’s part of it.”