Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden insisted his confidence is not shaken in wake of Sunday’s subpar performance in Cleveland.
“It just makes me want to work harder,” Gruden said the day after the Bengals managed 266 yards of total offense and failed to score a touchdown in a 17-6 loss to the Browns.
“Yeah, it’s embarrassing,” Gruden added. “You put a lot of work in your game plan, a lot of work into practice. We have a very talented team. For us to go out there and lay an egg like we did, it’s not a good feeling. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again. It can’t happen again. To get where we want to get, we can’t have games like this no matter who it’s against, where it is. We can’t perform like that as a group.”
The most glaring of the many deficiencies were the inability to convert third downs, an ineffective run game and the inaccurate right arm of quarterback Andy Dalton, who completed 23 of 42 passes for 206 yards with an interception.
“I’m sure he has some throws that he wishes he would have liked to have back, maybe some reads,” Gruden said. “It wasn’t all him. It was a combination of a lot of things. I’m not down on Andy whatsoever. Andy is still our quarterback and leader. He will be fine. He’s a strong-minded guy, and he will fight through this.”
There is plenty to fight through. After setting a career-high accuracy mark (26 of 33 for 78.8 percent) in the opener at Chicago, Dalton has connected on 68 of 115 (59.1 percent) the last three weeks. And Sunday was the third game in the last seven in which the offense has failed to score a touchdown.
“There’s a lot of question about how Andy (Dalton) did,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “As is the case with most of our players, Andy can play better. I thought he made a lot of good throws. He did a lot of good things. He stayed composed throughout the game.
“There are some things that he knows he can do better and that he will do better. We also have to help him out and make sure we’re in the right spots all the time for him, so it doesn’t all fall on his shoulders.”
The lack of a running game has certainly made things more difficult for Dalton and the passing game. With 335 yards on 99 carries this season, the Bengals are averaging 3.38 yards per attempt.
It got so bad Sunday that Gruden called three runs over the final 30 plays, even though the Bengals were only trailing 10-6 on 20 of those plays. Of those three running plays, one was a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1, and another one got wiped out by a holding penalty.
Lewis said the plug may have been pulled too soon on the ground game despite the struggles.
“We obviously have to be more effective running the football,” he said. “Continue to commit to running the football, and stay with it and make positive plays in the running game and not get spooked away from it too often.”
Gruden admitted that his offense is still searching for an identity, and he also took the blame for the failed fourth-and-1 play at the Cleveland 7 that resulted in BenJarvus Green-Ellis getting stuffed for a 2-yard loss in the second quarter.
“We ran into a slaughter,” Gruden said. “Andy said he was running down on the play clock and we didn’t get in the right play. In hindsight, running down on the clock, fourth down and 1, such an important play, take a timeout. That’s on me more so than anybody.”
As bad as things were against the Browns, Gruden said exploding in anger is not the way to go. In addition to remaining confident, he’s also staying positive.
“I am not going to yell and scream and hoot and holler because I think this team’s future is very, very bright for this offensive group,” he said. “For us to take one game and hammer them and try to bring them down a few notches, I don’t think is the way to go. Be positive and bring them up, because I think there are great things to come for this group.”
Who: New England Patriots (4-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
TV: Ch. 7, 12
Radio: 700-AM, 1530-AM, 102.7-FM, 104.7-FM