The Cincinnati Bengals (9-5) fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8) by a score of 30-20 on Sunday Night Football. Cincinnati was outplayed from the beginning of the game, as special teams problems and penalties continued to haunt the team.
Plenty of adjustments must take place over the course of the week if this team is to continue to be viewed as a contender in the upcoming playoffs.
The Bengals will have to right the ship in their Week 16 contest against the Minnesota Vikings and aim for another chance to clinch the AFC North.
Cincinnati Bengals - 20
Pittsburgh Steelers - 30
|Cincinnati Bengals' Game Grades|
|Positional Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Grade|
|vs. Steelers Week 15|
Game Analysis for the Cincinnati Bengals
Pass Offense: Quarterback Andy Dalton finally showed up in the second half of the game. He seemed more confident in the pocket and was able to deliver the ball accurately and on time. Dalton tossed two touchdowns late in the game to bring Cincinnati within two scores of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Dalton's inept first-half performance hindered the Bengals from ever getting back into the game.
Run Offense: The Bengals offense was completely one-dimensional throughout the game. It was unable to find any room against Pittsburgh on the ground and was only able to accumulate 57 yards on 22 carries as a team.
Pass Defense: Adam Jones was able to get the secondary headed in the right direction early in the second half. He intercepted an underthrown deep ball at the Bengals' 1-yard line. The defense was able to contain Ben Roethlisberger nicely over the final two quarters. Although, Roethlisberger was able to come away with a passer rating of 95.2 due to his efficiency in the first half.
Run Defense: Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell was able to gain some tough yards against a Bengals team that had difficulty tackling on Sunday. However, overall, Cincinnati was able to hold Bell and Co. to 106 yards and an average of just 2.9 yards per carry.
Special Teams: Mike Nugent took over punting responsibilities for the injured Kevin Huber. He was able to reel off two punts for a 40-yard average. Brandon Tate had a great day returning kicks, as he averaged 32.8 yards on four returns. Still, early-game special teams woes doomed the Bengals on Sunday.
Coaching: The coaching staff was able to get the Bengals back into the game in the second half after a dismal showing early on. However, the Bengals seemed unprepared for this contest, as poor execution and penalties ran rampant.
First-Half Analysis for the Cincinnati Bengals
Pass Offense: Andy Dalton was absolutely atrocious over the first half. He was unable to find open targets and frequently hesitated in the pocket. Dalton completed just seven of his 17 pass attempts for 65 yards and a passer rating of 52.3.
Run Offense: Cincinnati could not find any room to maneuver on the ground. The Bengals rushed 13 times for just 34 yards, an average of 2.6 yards per carry. Giovani Bernard was able to score the Bengals' lone touchdown on a short goal-line carry.
Pass Defense: Ben Roethlisberger was able to throw at will against a decimated Bengals secondary. He completed his first 11 passing attempts and was able to complete a 12-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown in the first quarter.
Run Defense: The Steelers continued to run the ball against the Bengals due to their large lead early in the game. Cincinnati remained stout, however, and allowed the Steelers an average of just 3.5 yards per carry over the first two quarters.
Special Teams: Punter Kevin Huber mishandled a snap and was tackled immediately at the Bengals' own 1-yard line. The mishap led to an early Steelers touchdown. Later, punt coverage broke down, which allowed Antonio Brown to return a Huber punt 67 yards for a touchdown.
Coaching: Penalties became a major issue for Cincinnati right from the start. The team seemed ill-prepared to face a physical Pittsburgh team on a big stage. The Bengals were anemic on both sides of the ball through two quarters. The offense and defense will need massive adjustments over halftime if the Bengals are to get back in this game.