Cincinnati Bengals: What We Learned In Week 12

Week 12 was another learning session for the Bengals. With the season hooked to life support, we look at what transpired against the Baltimore Ravens.

Well, it’s that time again. Time for another chapter in the unfolding saga of a dying year. Once again, the page has to be turned back to move ahead. Week 12 was a sobering experience for most Bengals fans. In fact, more truths were learned than the prior week. Besides the same old fire Marvin Lewis talk, there were some bright spots to ease some of the painful reality.

If the Bengals’ season isn’t over, it’s well on its way. Playing for pride is an option but it comes at the expense of top draft choices. Isn’t that what Bengals’ brass is looking at? If not, winning out could get the momentum going for next season. Ending the year with a hot hand could also keep the fans from rioting in the streets. That’s one way of forcing Lewis from the clock tower. On to the learning.

Burkhead Is A Beast

Every Bengals running back should be put on alert. Rex Burkhead is for real. True, that’s what everyone was saying about Jeremy Hill after his rookie season. But, Hill hasn’t regained the form that made him a household name. Somewhere along the way, Hill has lost the ability to read the holes. Sure, he’s had to deal with a less than stellar O-line. But, he still has to look for daylight. 

Giovani Bernard isn’t around to defend himself. Being lost with an ACL tear gives him a pass. But, the injury doesn’t bode well for Bernard. Gio was one of the NFL’s most productive backs last season. He ended the campaign averaging 4.7 yards per carry. His output had slipped to 3.7 yards, before the injury.

After Bengals coaches finally decided to trust him, Rex responded with 29 yards. Please, don’t laugh. He was Cincinnati’s leading rusher. What was so amazing about the yardage? He was able to get it in big chunks. Behind an O-line that’s still finding its way, Rex was able to churn out 5.8 yards per carry.

Burkhead was only eight yards better than Hill (21 yards on 12 carries) but performed better than the 1.8 yards per carry Jeremy produced.

There’s no reason to keep the ball away from Burkhead. He’s paid his dues and it’s time to let him shine. If he doesn’t produce, keep it moving. Next man up. Until then, feed him the rock. More touches generate more focus.

“I haven’t had that many opportunities in my career,” Rex said after the game. “So finally I got some chances, and it felt good. I got into the rhythm. I was comfortable in the run game. I just went out there and tried to do my best.”

This Team Doesn’t Respond To Pressure

How many times has Lewis’ team faced a pressure-packed situation and came up short? At this point, it’s useless to keep track. Whenever the Bengals are in a must-win scenario, they come up flat. Sure, the defense played admirably in the loss to the Ravens. But, it’s still an L.

Lewis and his coaches are not preparing the Bengals for big-time matchups. Winning games against teams that have losing records isn’t impressive. If that’s the case, Buffalo should have been one of the victims. The Bills game was huge…the tables were turned.

Remember being called to the blackboard to break down a math or English equation? Can you remember the sweaty palms? It’s not that serious in Cincinnati. The Bengals are never prepared. Period. New York, Buffalo, and Baltimore were all games that had to be won. What happened? The same thing that usually goes down. Bengals players looked clueless. Either the offense was horrendous or the offense couldn’t find the answers.

Even if the Bengals fail to make the playoffs this year, there are still crucial games on the schedule. Maybe the coaches can address the preparation and adjustment issues.

Zampese Has To Wake Up

It’s been said before but somehow keeps happening. Ken Zampese’s offense is a hot mess. At the beginning of the season, he had my blessings. I was willing to give him a chance. But, after seeing the same predictable plays for 12 weeks…it’s a travesty.

For some reason, whether pride or lack of knowledge, the offense has gone backward. There are always going to be growing pains with a new coordinator. But, Andy Dalton looks disgusted. Those looks are priceless. If it doesn’t get corrected and Zampese finds the same page as Dalton…look for things to get worse.

From the outside looking in, this is not the time to tank the season. But, it is time to get a look at the youngsters and correct veteran mistakes. It’s all on coaching.

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