Sports Today: Bengals running game stuck between a rock and a soft place

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Sports Today: Bengals running game stuck between a rock and a soft place

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CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Jeremy Hill #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals jumps over the pile for a first down against the Houston Texans during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium on September 14, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

One of the biggest Cincinnati Bengals talking points early in the season regards the running game. 

Since writing every day about needing a new direction gets old, they can’t underutilize their top pick until he’s healthy and the defense is good, this only makes sense. 

To recap, the Bengals overlooked their problematic offensive line in the second round to buy high on Joe Mixon’s top 10 talent. 

That got everyone fired up to see the former Oklahoma star on the field, and he has shown flashes of why. 

While the offensive line is still a problem, there’s no denying Mixon is special. 

So why can’t he get the rock more often? 

Well as much as some would like it, you can’t just run the ball when you feel like it in the NFL, at least not when you’re facing an opponent that can score. 

There’s got to be some reasonable expectation of success. 

And when you can’t line up and knock people off the ball, you have to look for the right opportunities to run it if you want to be efficient (and thus not take away too many opportunities from your passing game). 

That means run the ball when you have more blockers in the box than the defense has tacklers and throw it when your blockers are outnumbered. 

Even though Cincinnati’s rushing attack has been anemic, opponents aren’t conceding the ground game. 

Whether that is because the teams they have faced philosophically just don’t want to be exposed to being run on or respect Mixon enough to keep enough guys in the box to encourage Dalton to check to passes. 

“We had good efficiency last week in the first half. At times, our efficiency is better than what it looks like on paper, because many times Andy is taking the ball out on good looks and throwing the ball rather than handing it off. That’s just the way an offense works these days. Then you get a lead and feel better about the running game.”

Lewis also conceded “you have to win up front” to run the ball, but you already knew that. 

This is all coach-speak that is both true and not comforting for two reasons. 

A.) The offensive line is what it is. 

B.) Even at this stage in his career, Andy Dalton doesn’t seem to be able to carry a team. 

Will either of those things change before the end of this season? 

Why would they? 

So this has been a double-whammy for the Bengals so far this season. 

They can’t get the running game going, and the passing game isn’t good enough to stand on its own. 

I guess that might mean there’s a third reason defenses aren’t conceding the run: They’d rather see the ball in Dalton’s hands than Mixon’s… 

Of course there would be less pressure on the offense if the Bengals weren’t so far under water in the turnover department

Cincinnati is 30th in the league at minus-9. 

This is a problem shared almost equally by the offense and defense. 

Thanks in no small part to Dalton’s eight interceptions, the Bengals are tied for third in the league with 13 giveaways. 

Their four takeaways are tied for second-worst in the NFL. 

What gives? 

Nobody knows!... 

Bengals need more turnovers

Meanwhile, basketball season is getting cranked up. 

Our series profiling the Dayton Flyers freshmen continued yesterday with Jalen Crutcher

The young point guard is proud to be Anthony Grant’s first recruit, and he could play a pivotal role in making the offense go. 

If the Flyers want to run, they’ll need all of their relatively few hands on deck… 

Did you stay up for all of that World Series game? 

The Astros won 7-6 in 11 innings. 

The Dodgers coughed up a two-run lead late before losing in extra innings. 

In between, they also rallied from a two-run deficit in the bottom of the 10th. 

Pretty dramatic stuff, eh? 

It’s got people talking baseball this morning, so that’s always a good thing. 

So far the World Series has produced the best of both worlds: A fast, crisply played Game 1 win by LA and a long but action-packed Game 2. 

I think the handwringing over length of games goes too far, but I am big on improving pace of play. 

The former was proven last night as the four hours and 19 minutes were almost all full of tension and excitement. 

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