Bengals offense has new look, familiar 2nd-half problems
CINCINNATI (AP) Joe Mixon moved into the role of featured running back, carrying more times than in the first two games combined. A.J. Green became a go-to receiver again, with as many catches as in his first two games.
The Bengals offense had a very different look in Bill Lazor’s first time calling plays, but ran into a familiar problem in the second half. It couldn’t move the ball when it needed to, setting up a 27-24 overtime loss in Green Bay on Sunday.
With that, the Bengals (0-3) fell into a deep hole from which they’ve never recovered in previous seasons. They lost their first three games to start a season 13 other times and never managed as much as a winning record. A loss on Sunday against the 0-3 Browns would render their season a waste already.
Lazor thinks things will go more smoothly in his second game as offensive coordinator. The staff is still adjusting to the changes since Ken Zampese was fired as coordinator after an 0-2 start that included no touchdowns from the offense.
”It won’t feel like a normal process yet,” Lazor said. ”Maybe next week will. It will be different in some ways because some of the things won’t have to be brand new for us as a staff. I think the players will be fine.”
Lazor was the offensive coordinator in Miami for two years before coming to Cincinnati as the quarterbacks coach. Zampese was fired because the offense never got into a flow and his top players weren’t getting involved as much as in the past. Lazor changed that part right away.
Green had 10 catches – matching his total for the first two games combined – in Green Bay. Mixon, a second-round pick, was given the lead role in the running game after Zampese had shared it equally among three running backs without getting a good result.
”I think the guys who have proven before that they can be successful and help you win games, you’ve got to rely on them to do it,” Lazor said. ”A guy like Joe, we all expected he would start to rise to that.”
Lazor’s most important job was to get Andy Dalton settled down. The quarterback was under constant pressure the first two games behind an inexperienced offensive line and had five turnovers with no touchdown passes. Dalton was 21 of 27 for 212 yards with a pair of touchdowns, no turnovers and a 124.1 passer rating in Green Bay, a significant improvement.
Dalton is adjusting to a different approach from a new coordinator.
”I think that was a challenge for both of us,” Lazor said. ”Just like with the whole offense, I had to decide with Andy: How much do you change? If you have a list of three things or eight things or however much that maybe you want to change, how much does it really make sense in one week? It was a challenge, and it still will be.”
The Bengals scored on their first possession in Green Bay and led 21-7. They managed only one field goal in the second half, harking back to the problems last season when they’d have a fast start and crumble at the end during a 6-9-1 season.
”We obviously played better – we scored a touchdown,” Dalton said. ”But at the end of the game, we’ve got to find a way to put that away.”
BURFICT EXEMPTION: LB Vontaze Burfict completed his latest three-game suspension from the NFL for another egregious hit and is expected to start in Cleveland on Sunday. He can practice on Wednesday with a non-roster exemption, and the team must add him to the roster by Thursday at 4 p.m. The Bengals gave Burfict a contract extension while he was serving the suspension for leveling a Chiefs running back during a preseason game.
Andre Smith played 26 snaps at tackle in a new twist for the offensive line. Coach Marvin Lewis said he wanted to give his young tackles some rest on a hot day – temperatures at Lambeau Field were over 90 degrees. Lewis declined to say whether the arrangement would continue. Left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was in for 49 of 61 snaps. Right tackle Jake Fisher was in for 47 snaps.
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