The most consistent part of the Cincinnati Bengals offense hasn’t been Joe Burrow’s accuracy, Ja’Marr Chase stressing the secondary, or Tyler Boyd moving the chains on third down. It’s been the team’s ability to avoid self-inflicted mistakes.
Since the start of 2021, the Bengals have led the NFL in the fewest penalty yards per game (37.7), and they are tied with the Packers for the second-fewest penalties per contest (4.6), just behind the Rams (4.5).
And while they haven’t completely lost their identity as a smart, disciplined team through three weeks, there is cause for concern, especially with the offensive scuffling and trying to compensate for Joe Burrow’s sore right calf.
Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor Addresses Offensive Concerns
The Bengals are one of two teams (Giants) yet to score an offensive touchdown in the first half this season. Not coincidentally, they are averaging 4.3 penalties per first half, which is tied for the third most in the league.
“Penalties have killed us the last two weeks,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “That’s the thing we have to clean up.”
On the team’s second possession of the 19-16 win against the Rams on Monday, it had 3rd-and-1 from its own 34-yard line when running back Joe Mixon rocked forward to draw a flag and turn it into 3rd-and-6.
Seconds later, left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. flinched to force the Bengals into 3rd-and-11, and Burrow fired the ball into the ground in disgust.
Two possessions later, Tyler Boyd started early, turning 3rd-and-6 at the LA 26-yard line into 3rd-and-11.
The third false start on third down leads to an incompleton on third and 11, and the #Bengals have to settle for a McPherson 49-yard FG.
It's 3-3 with 1255 left 2Q
— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) September 26, 2023
Boyd (2016), Mixon (2017), and Brown (2018) are veterans you wouldn’t expect to have problems with in terms of snap count, especially in a home game. But knowing they aren’t likely to have ongoing issues with it doesn’t make it any easier for Taylor to accept.
“It’s not easier to digest in any way,” he said. “We can’t do it. Again, that’s something we’ve got to clean up. The OPIs, sometimes that’s a big guy and a little guy, and the flag just comes out.
“That’s something we’ve got to help Tee [Higgins] with because sometimes it just looks bad when it’s not really as bad, and that’s just the nature of being a big receiver. He’s always going to have to deal with that.”
“But the false starts, we can’t have that,” Taylor continued. “It’s set us back too many times now and has really killed us on some drives.”
The Bengals have had nine drives which featured an offensive penalty. Only once have they overcome the flag and scored points, and that was on the Monday drive with Boyd’s false start, as they were already in field goal range.
The Bengals have 11 offensive penalties this year, tied for the 10th most in the league.
“That’s one area, particularly on Monday, that was frustrating,” offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. “We’re in a really manageable 3rd-and-1, and we false start ourselves into a 3rd-and-11. The pre-snap penalties, the things that we can control, they can’t happen. Those things have to be better.”
“It’s frustrating,” Callahan continued. “We’re at home. We’re on the cadence. Do you attribute it to practice time? I don’t, because Joe Mixon and TB have been here for like 10 years apiece. It’s not hard for them to know what the cadence is and how to manage it. Those are the things that have held us back some.”
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