Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor says he is sticking with rookie Ryan Finley as his starting quarterback, and there are no plans right now to turn back to veteran Andy Dalton.
Finley completed just 13 of 31 passes for 115 yards and an interception in a 17-10 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, and he finished with two turnovers in his second straight game since replacing Dalton.
Despite the slow start two games into his NFL career, Finley will get another shot as the Bengals (0-10) host the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) on Sunday.
“Ryan is our starter again this week against Pittsburgh, and I have a hard time looking beyond that,” Taylor said Monday when asked if Dalton will get another look if Finley continues to struggle. “I feel like he’s going to give us an opportunity to win.”
Taylor made the change during the bye in Week 9 hoping that it would spark the offense, but Finley has struggled mightily and the Bengals were unable Sunday to avoid matching their worst start in franchise history at 0-10.
The running game has improved since Finley stepped in, but that hasn’t been enough to get the team over the hump.
“It’s a big hit on everybody in the organization,” running back Joe Mixon said. “It sucks to be in this position. I’ve never been 0-10 in my life. It’s the same thing each and every week, and it’s definitely frustrating. We have to get better and the only way to do that is by coming to work each and every day.”
As the weeks go by, the Bengals edge closer to joining four other teams in the Super Bowl era who have experienced a winless season — the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14), the 1982 Baltimore Colts (0-8-1), the 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16) and the 2017 Cleveland Browns (0-16).
Taylor said he can’t worry about that thought creeping into players’ minds.
“I don’t even have time to think about that,” he said. “We just don’t want to be 0-11. We just want to go get this win. We got on the airplane thinking we were going to go to Oakland to win the game. In the fourth quarter, we thought we were going to win. It’s extremely frustrating when you don’t, when you put in all that work and you feel like, ‘We’re going to go get this finally,’ and you don’t. But, you’ve got to regroup. You’ve got no choice. You keep your head up and we’ve got to go play a team that — we’ve got to get after these guys this week. It’s a tough opponent for us, and our guys are looking to rebound. We can’t think that far down the road. We’ve just got to focus on this Sunday.”
For Finley, that means he just has to keep learning and growing, but Taylor said some of his issues are just the learning curve that comes with being a young quarterback. Finley is working with receivers he never threw to until three weeks ago and he’s two games into playing against a first-team defense.
Finley was known for his passing accuracy during his three years at N.C. State and showed that in the preseason as well, but he finished with just a 42 percent completion rate Sunday. Taylor counted five drops and noted there were a couple throw-aways that made Finley’s completion percentage a little misleading.
Third downs especially were an issue as the Bengals crossed midfield at Oakland. Cincinnati converted just three of 13 third-down plays.
“I think the whole unit was responsible for some of those,” Taylor said. “He has some plays he certainly would like to do over, but I think everybody felt that way about themselves. It did come down to those third downs for us, on both sides of the ball quite frankly. They converted some that put us in a bad spot, and then we didn’t convert when we were across midfield, and that’s ultimately what got us. You could really point to a number of things — protection sometimes, drops sometimes, miss-throws. They all factored into it, and it wasn’t just one main issue.”
Taylor said part of Finley’s learning curve is figuring out how to get the ball to his best weapons and giving them a chance to make plays.
Second-year player Auden Tate, who suffered a cervical strain and is in concussion protocol, finished with a team-high 56 yards on four catches, including a 20-yard catch on a third-and-19 in the fourth quarter when he got injured. However, Tyler Boyd, the team’s best available receiver, finished with one catch for zero yards Sunday. He was targeted three times.
“He’s certainly one of our best players, so we’ve got to get him more involved,” Taylor said.
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