Grading the Bengals’ performance in Week 2 is not an easy task. The final score will show the Cincinnati Bengals played decently well against the Chicago Bears in Week 2. However, they did not play well, unlike Week 1. For the majority of the game, the Bengals looked absolutely lost. Nobody wanted to tackle, they couldn’t generate any offense, and they fell apart at almost any opportunity they had to generate momentum. It wasn’t until a really clutch succession of plays late in the fourth quarter the Bengals looked truly competitive in this game. When grading each position this week, you have to take that into account.
Offensive Week 1 Grades
Quarterback grade: D+
In what might have been the worst performance of Joe Burrow’s professional career, he barely completed 50 percent of his attempted passes until waking up on the final two drives and pulling the Bengals out of the jaws of a blowout. The biggest problem? He threw three straight interceptions before the remarkable comeback attempt. Even before the interceptions, he looked out of rhythm with his receivers and inaccurate on a lot of his throws.
Knowing Burrow, he’ll likely put this game behind him and come roaring back next week to put together a bounce back performance. But, he couldn’t make it happen in time this week. The Bengals proved, even with all the new talent they added, they still aren’t good enough to overcome Joe being off his game.
Running Back grade: C-
It was not a game to remember for Joe Mixon. He finished with 69 yards on 20 attempts, quite often being stopped for only a yard or two. In his defense, the offensive line did not block well at all. He also flashed a few really nice runs here and there, so you have to consider that when grading him this week. But, on the whole, the running game looked generally ineffective.
Wide Receiver grade: B-
A big part of the reason the Bengals lost this game was the turnovers. Burrow’s three interceptions were really bad. But, Tee Higgins fumbling a 14-yard catch killed any momentum the Bengals’ offense was building after halftime. This is what I meant earlier when I said they fell apart at almost any opportunity to generate momentum. However, Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase both turned it on near the end of the fourth quarter when it was crunch time.
They each secured key touchdown grabs that made the final four minutes of the game look way more interesting than they probably should have. You could make the argument they were garbage time touchdowns. But, if Trey Hendrickson doesn’t totally whiff on a Justin Fields scramble, the Bengals have an opportunity to send that game to overtime or possibly even win.
Tyler Boyd, however, deserves credit for his performance this week. He was targeted nine times and came down with seven of those passes. He regularly bailed the Bengals out on 3rd downs and made few mistakes at all. It wasn’t anything eye-popping. But, when grading this unit, his performance convinced me to give them a boost.
Tight End grade: D
Once again, the Bengals’ pass protection was bad, and you can point to the tight ends as part of the problem. This comes the same week offensive coordinator Brian Callahan calls Drew Sample one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL. Didn’t look like it to me, and the whole unit was virtually a non-factor in the passing game.
Offensive line grade: F
Trey Hopkins looked completely out of place for a second week in a row. I’m not sure what is going on with him, but he’s becoming a liability at a position the Bengals really needed to fix this season. Grading this unit is starting to become a chore.
Joe Burrow was sacked four times, hit nine times, and looked like he was running for his life constantly. Not every sack this season is the fault of the offensive line, but he’s still on pace to be sacked more than any other player in NFL history over the course of one season.
The run blocking wasn’t good either. Mixon regularly had to create his own holes. The fact that he even managed 3.5 yards per carry was a testament to how talented of a player he is. But, the offensive line absolutely has to be better. It looked like the worst case-scenario this week, after a relatively solid game last week.
Defensive Week 1 Grades
Defensive line grade: A-
It wasn’t a perfect game by the Bengals’ defensive line, by any means. As I’m grading this performance, I find myself going back and forth between The “B” range and the “A” range. On the positive side, they were consistently disruptive in the pass rush and regularly held Chicago running backs to short gains, if not losses. Larry Ogunjobi, DJ Reader, Cam Sample, Sam Hubbard, and Trey Hendrickson all ad mostly great games.
That is, unless Justin Fields or Andy Dalton started running. Dalton ran twice for an average of 12.5 yards. Fields ran much more often and only recorded 3.1 yards per carry. But, that 3.1 yards was usually enough to pick up a key first down or extend a drive. The unit did record 3 sacks, but you could argue they should have had way more.
Then, there’s Trey Hendrickson’s whiff on a 3rd & 9 just before the two-minute warning. Had he brought Fields down, the Bears would have punted, and the Bengals would have had roughly 2 minutes to at least get in field goal range, if not win the game.
On the whole, I have a hard time grading this unit’s performance too low because they were probably the only reason the Bengals weren’t totally blown out. But, I still gotta take points off for allowing the final nail in the coffin.
Linebacker grade: B–
Logan Wilson continues to be an absolute force for a Bengals team that desperately needed someone to step up at linebacker. This week, he was the leading tackler on the team (9), and was really effective in pass coverage. Notably, he caught the Justin Fields interception that led to a quick Bengals touchdown and a real chance to pull a win out of nowhere. Unfortunately, he also totally whiffed on a fumble recovery that easily could have gone for a defensive touchdown. The Bengals would have been up 10-7 late in the third quarter and would have been the difference in what ended up being a 3-point game.
Germaine Pratt and Akeem Davis-Gaither, on the other hand, were largely irrelevant this week and didn’t effect the grading much. They didn’t make any major mistakes, but they also didn’t do much more than cleanup duty either. Logan Wilson absolutely deserves the spotlight with the way he’s playing so far this year. But, with the spotlight comes a bigger emphasis on the big mistakes.
Cornerback grade: B+
Eli Apple, for the second week in a row, didn’t help this unit’s overall grade. Notably, there was a completely unnecessary pass interference on the first drive that turned a 4th down into a new set of downs.
That set of downs eventually turned into the first touchdown of the game.
In his defense, however, he played much better most of the rest of the game. The whole unit only allowed 83 yards passing on the day. Honestly, it boggles the mind the Bengals managed to turn those numbers into a loss. That’s what happens when the turnover margin is 4-1 in the opposing team’s favor, but you can’t really blame this loss on the secondary play.
Safety grade: B–
Jessie Bates had to play a bit more cleanup than you’d like this week, but he generally did a solid job of everything he was asked to do. He even got involved as a blitzer and recorded a QB hit on the day, which really helps boost the grading. Vonn Bell was actually the more impactful safety. He was instrumental in run defense, blowing up David Montgomery. behind the line in the second quarter on a drive that resulted in a punt.
But, Bell also hurt the grading for the unit when he couldn’t keep out of Andy Dalton’s face. The new emphasis on the taunting rule is probably the stupidest rule the NFL has ever enacted. But, the rule is what it is, and Bell has to know he can’t do that.
Special teams grade: B
For the most part, the special teams unit proved it’s one of the best in the NFL. Evan McPherson was perfect on the day, including a 53-yard strike. Kevin Huber was a machine, constantly putting the Bears in unfavorable field position despite the offense struggling to move the ball. Darius Phillips made good decisions on punt returns and returned one for 15 yards. Were it not for a Tee Higgins fumble on the following play, it would have been part of a drive that built a lot of momentum for a Bengals team that was only down four points at the time.
Brandon Wilson is the only reason this unit didn’t get an “A” grade. He muffed a kickoff that set the Bengals offense up at their own nine, and made a terrible decision to attempt a return a kick in the fourth quarter that set the Bengals up 8 yards behind where they would have been if he just let the ball go for a touchback.
Coaching grade: F
Those who follow me know I have, unabashedly, been a defender of Zac Taylor through all the ups and downs. I can’t defend this game. The absolutely abysmal playcalling, sloppy technique, and lack of attention to detail shows me a lot of why goes a long way of showing why he might not be “the guy” to lead this team to greatness. While I was grading this performance, I wondered if we have ever seen a game that more perfectly exemplified all of Taylor’s shortcomings as a head coach. That’s how bad things looked.
That doesn’t mean I think the Bengals need to move on right now. Let’s see how they bounce back from this game, and how the rest of the season goes. But, more performances like that should have the Bengals looking for a new head coach at the end of the season.