The Cincinnati Bengals somehow only trailed the Pittsburgh Steelers by seven going into halftime, but the floor caved in quickly during the third quarter for yet another disappointment.
Pittsburgh scored twice in the first six minutes of the second half and finished off the Bengals for a 27-3 blowout Monday night at Heinz Field.
It was an especially rough night for veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, who eventually just cracked under pressure, as the offensive line did little to help him. And once again the linebackers struggled to make tackles as Steelers backup quarterback Mason Rudolph picked apart the defense with several short passes much of the game.
»ARCHDEACON: Winless Bengals a team in real trouble
The loss dropped Cincinnati to 0-4 for the first time since 2008, while the Steelers picked up their first win to open AFC North division play. The Bengals return home Sunday to play the Arizona Cardinals, but before those preparations begin, here are the Week 4 report card grades:
The Good: Joe Mixon didn’t find a lot of room to break through for big runs, but made the most of opportunities to finish with 62 yards on 15 carries (4.1 yards per carry). In a game that quickly got away from the Bengals, most of that came in the first three quarters.
The Bad: So much for spreading out the carries. Giovani Bernard had one rush for three yards. If the Bengals are going to do anything on the ground, it’s apparently still on Mixon. When Mixon did seem to get on a roll, something went wrong in the passing game to stall the offense.
Key Play: The Bengals opened with two runs and it seemed like they were finally going to trust Mixon to get things going. But, the next two drives they went without a positive carry (with one attempt) and his next rush went for no gain. It was clear then the offense had no rhythm.
The Good: John Ross came back from a disappointing individual performance last week and had a few spectacular catches before leaving late in the second half with his arm in a sling. Tyler Eifert had a nice grab early in the game, and Auden Tate again led the team with four catches for 50 yards.
The Bad: Dalton’s numbers just keep going down with each game it seems, but on Monday, he simply couldn’t overcome a horrid performance by the offensive line. He was sacked eight times for losses of 69 yards and completed 21 of 37 passes for just 171 yards and no touchdowns with one interception. He also fumbled on one of those sacks. Left tackle Andre Smith got lit up by Bud Dupree, Bobby Hart wasn’t much better on the right side and there were three false starts in passing situations.
Key Play: After Pittsburgh took a 7-3 lead in the second quarter, the Bengals offense responded with a good drive but as soon as they reached the red zone, Dalton was sacked on a blown assignment by Smith and fumbled it away. The Steelers drove the other way and tacked on a field goal to extend the lead going into halftime.
The Good: The run defense was solid for the most part as the Steelers managed just 66 yards on 25 carries for an average of 2.6 yards per carry. James Conner accounted for 42 yards on 10 rushes.
The Bad: Pittsburgh used the running backs more effectively in the passing game and that’s how they moved the ball most. It allowed the Steelers to surpass the Bengals’ defensive line and attack clearly worn-down linebackers who probably were on the field too long because of ineffectiveness of the offense.
Key Play: The longest run of the day came on the first play from scrimmage to open the second half, as Conner rushed for 21 yards to get the Steelers moving. They ended up scoring on a direct snap to running back Jaylen Samuels for a 2-yard touchdown and that blew open the game for Pittsburgh, leading 17-3.
The Good: The Bengals limited top receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to three catches for 15 yards.
The Bad: Cincinnati could not defend the short passes that made Rudolph so effective in just his third NFL game. Conner and Samuels combined for 16 catches and 140 yards, and Rudolph picked apart the Bengals defense while completing 24 of 28 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns and a passer rating of 124.6.
Key Play: Rudolph completely caught the Bengals offguard when he completed a 43-yard pass to wide open rookie Diontae Johnson for a touchdown in the third quarter to quickly extend the Steelers’ lead to 24-3 just over a minute after making it a two-score game.
The Good: Kevin Huber had a 59-yard punt and averaged 41.0 yards on five punts. Randy Bullock had two touchbacks and a made field goal with no misses.
The Bad: Penalties are still hurting the Bengals on special teams. A false start on a punt early in the second quarter pushed them back to their own 5-yard line, and even Huber’s 41-yard punt couldn’t keep the Steelers from good field position. They scored on five plays. Brandon Wilson also ran out of bounds on a punt in the third quarter.
Key Play: Huber had a 29-yard punt in the third quarter, allowing the Steelers to open a drive at the Cincinnati 43-yard line. Two plays later Rudolph found Johnson on the deep ball for a quick touchdown to make it a 17-point game with 9:24 left in the period.
The Good: It’s hard to find much good in the coaching during a game like this. They were down just seven at halftime, so the defense wasn’t doing too badly until the second half, but the adjustments weren’t there.
The Bad: The Bengals looked ill-prepared and unable to adapt. The offensive line especially struggled but Zac Taylor needs to find ways to scheme so Dalton can rise above. Cincinnati still hasn’t shown the creativity expected when Taylor took over.
Key Play: Cincinnati entered the game describing the Steelers’ offense as somewhat vanilla without Ben Roethlisberger, but in the end Pittsburgh was the team trying different things and finding success. That was the key because the Bengals couldn’t handle the different looks.
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