CINCNINATI -- Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase both made comments in postgame press conferences Sunday indicating the Cincinnati Bengals need to take more shots down the field like they did toward the end of their 20-17 loss at Chicago.
The Bengals struggled offensively until the fourth quarter, after the Bears had taken a 20-3 lead with the help of four turnovers. Burrow’s longest pass completion in the first half was for a 14-yard gain, but the offense found new life with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Chase with 4:39 left.
Burrow, who also found Chase for a 50-yard touchdown in the opener, accumulated almost half of his 206 yards passing in the fourth quarter.
“I understand the frustration,” Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said Monday. “Ja’Marr hit a go ball late in the game and we threw one go ball out of bounds to him. We threw a post route to Tee (Higgins) that was over the top and had a chance to be a big play. We had two other play actions where we tried to push down the field and they covered. The structure of that defense generally that’s Vic Fangio’s system is to limit big plays. They stay on top of things and do a pretty good job of that. Because they play soft, they sit there and read the quarterback and it allows them to break on the ball.
“Sometimes it’s not as simple as throw the ball deep more. That’s a very blanket statement. There are a lot of things that go into that. At the end of the day, we didn’t make anywhere near enough explosive plays to win a game. … We’ve got to be more explosive and we weren’t.”
When asked what he thought of the comments made by Chase and Burrow, Bengals coach Zac Taylor indicated there were some shots that had been called earlier in the game, but coverage took them away.
Callahan said it felt like a day where the receivers were missing opportunities to win one-on-one battles, but the offense could have opened up more with a better performance from the running game. Joe Mixon had 20 carries for 69 yards and those were the only rushing yards for the team.
The Bears have a solid defensive line, but considering Callahan would like the identity of the offense to start with a physical running game, Sunday’s performance was a disappointment.
“We’ve got to be able to run the ball when we want to run it, and I thought at the end when you watch it, we had multiple times we we’re running against a light box, running against two-high safety coverages and you’re getting six guys in the box and you have angles and numbers,” Callahan said. “A lot of it is fundamentals and finish, both by the running back spots and the spots up front. We just weren’t in sync yesterday. We didn’t play well enough to run efficiently. And it’s just disappointing. I thought we’d be better than we were.”
Some of the offensive woes of course come down to the offensive line, which also allowed four sacks and nine hits overall Sunday. Burrow has been sacked nine times through two games.
Both Taylor and Callahan expressed concern with the pass protection overall but said they aren’t discouraged by the group.
“We watch the hits, and so I think it’s just kind of something that people run away with, not necessarily watching exactly how they all happen and what’s defined as a hit,” Taylor said. “Oftentimes they just push them on the shoulder and people call that one of nine hits. I don’t even know that he knows he got touched. And a couple of sacks, we just got to clean up. We cannot have nine sacks through two games, you really can’t. It’s almost like we got nine different guys responsible for those sacks, a receiver not running a screen is responsible for a sack and so that’s what’s frustrating. If it was one piece that you can just solve and say we got to get this guy fixed because he’s given up four sacks in two games, that would be easy.. … We just got to do a better job protecting the quarterback.”
Left tackle Jonah Williams said the offensive line needs more consistency.
“I think O line is the epitome of that aspect of the (team) game,” Williams said. “You have five players and if one isn’t completely perfect on one play then the whole line looks bad and the whole team looks bad. That’s part of the game. For us we have all the ability to be successful, we have the coaching and the techniques we need, we just need to do them consistently. That’s our goal moving forward.”
The Bengals might need to make a change to personnel this week, as right guard Xavier Su’a-Filo injured his leg Sunday and is now considered “day-to-day.” He and the other starters on the line played all 55 offensive snaps.
If Su’a-Filo isn’t available this weekend at Pittsburgh (1-1), Fairfield High School graduate Jackson Carman likely would be next in line for the start. He played five snaps on special teams in the opener and three on special teams Sunday but has not appeared on offense yet. Taylor said he’s confident Carman could step in and do the job if needed.
“He has made improvements every single week since training camp started, and Frank (Pollack) knows and has preached to those guys that they’re all one play away and you never know when it’s coming,” Taylor said. “It kind of pops up last week when Q (Quinton Spain) was missing because of the baby. The guys are getting opportunities there, and you never know, he might not be there for the game. You can never guarantee that, so those guys had to have that mental preparation -- Jackson, D’Ante (Smith), Isaiah (Prince), Trey (Hill), all those guys. I think Jackson’s taking the right approach there. Frank’s done a good job getting a lot of extra work with those guys, being hard on them on the scout team because those are a lot of their reps a lot of the time. Those guys have continued to make improvements.”
Bengals at Steelers, 1 p.m., CBS, 1530, 102.7, 104.7
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