Bengals Position Grades Week 9: 41-16 loss to Cleveland Browns

Bengals position grades
Kirk Irwin – Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals received an absolute beatdown when they hosted the 96th Battle of Ohio, and the Bengals position grades for week 9 reflect it. There was all this talk about how much better this team looks and how they look ready to contend a year earlier than many expected. Then, they get trapped by the New York Jets immediately after crushing the Baltimore Ravens.

They followed that up with a terrible 41-16 beatdown at home to the division rival Cleveland Browns. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Ravens found a way to win their game. Suddenly, the Bengals are two games behind the Ravens in the race for the AFC North crown after being hyped up as the AFC’s No. 1 seed two weeks ago. Rest assured, the Bengals position grades will reflect just how infuriating that game was.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: D+

Those two interceptions were brutal. The first one was a 14-point swing as the Bengals were on the Browns’ 3-yard line. The second one stung because it confirmed the Bengals weren’t going to have what it took to pull off the miracle comeback. But, with the game already at a 31-10 beatdown, it didn’t really affect the final outcome.

Other than that, Burrow played a pretty good game. He was able to help drive the Bengals down the field fairly often and would have easily gone over 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns if his receivers didn’t drop the ball. But, I don’t think I can emphasize enough how much those two interceptions killed any hope the Bengals had this week.

Running Back grade: B

Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine both averaged at least four yards per carry this week. In theory, you could make the argument they should have run the ball more because that was mostly working. Mixon, in particular, also put both of the Bengals’ touchdowns on the board.

Joe Mixon went over 100 all-purpose yards today. Samaje Perine did pretty good in the passing game as well. But, I just can’t get that stone cold drop on third down out of my mind. The Bengals were driving in a first half that, at the time, looked like it was turning into a shootout, rather than the beatdown it turned into.

But, Perine’s drop led to a fourth down attempt that fell short. On the very next play, Baker Mayfield connected with Donovan Peoples-Jones for a 60-yard touchdown and the game was never in doubt after that point.

Wide Receiver grade: F

Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins both had some brutal drops this week. In one case, Ja’Marr Chase dropped a ball that he already caught. That’s called a fumble, and it capped off a disastrous first 23 minutes of the game for the Cincinnati Bengals. This was also the second week in a row Chase dropped a ball IN THE ENDZONE. 

He also dropped what would have been another 80-yard touchdown pass. In his defense, that one was a bit overthrown. But, he got his hands on it with no one around him. He should have come down with it. Bengals receivers combined for 154 yards today. I don’t care. They never came through when it mattered.

They made the game look like more of a beatdown than it should have been, and that’s why they get an ‘F’.

Tight End grade: B+

Finally, Drew Sample made an impact! Joe Burrow found both Sample and CJ Uzomah for some key plays this week. Considering how little the Bengals’ offense seems to emphasize tight ends, it’s pretty impressive they combined for seven catches and 60 yards. But, without either player finding the endzone, I can’t quite put them in the ‘A’ range.

Offensive line grade: D+

I will give the Bengals’ offensive line this – there were almost no killer penalties this week. Almost. Quinton Spain did ruin the one breakout play Ja’Marr Chase managed to pull down with a holding call. But, that was midway through the fourth quarter when the game was basically over anyway.

But, Joe Burrow was under pressure all game. You could possibly chalk up quite a few of his bad decisions to all the pressure that was constantly in his face. Myles Garrett and co. put an absolute beatdown on the Bengals’ offensive line. He was only sacked twice, but that was largely due to his recent propensity to scramble around in the pocket and create space.

It’s nice to see Burrow doing that again, but you’d hope it didn’t come under such dire circumstances.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: C-

Missed tackles. They’re becoming a pattern. The common theme in all of the Bengals’ losses this year have been a mind-numbing number of missed tackles by the defense. As inconsistent as the offense has been, it’s been a defensive issue that seems to herald. This week, so many of those missed tackles came from the defensive line.

To their credit, Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson generated some pressure and each recorded a sack. In fact, they were all over the place. But, they were the only ones. The interior defensive line was virtually non-existent throughout the game. Larry Ogunjobi alone, who we all were hoping would have a revenge game, led the team with three missed tackles.

Linebacker grade: D+

Despite recording one of the many infuriating missed tackles on the day, Germaine Pratt did pretty well this week. In general, he didn’t let much happen in coverage. Despite the one missed tackle, he still led the team in tackles. He only allowed a 79.2 passer rating when targeted and recorded three stops against the Browns’ rushing attack. That’s second only to BJ Hill, who had four.

Logan Wilson, on the other hand, looked awful. Part of the reason the Bengals’ defense appears to have taken such a step back is because he has looked really bad the last two weeks. His 29.4 overall PFF grade was the worst among all Bengals players who took at least five snaps.

He was a liability in coverage and constantly looked out of place when trying to defend the run. It was a huge factor in the Browns dropping 41 in a beatdown of the Bengals’ defense.

Cornerback grade: C-

Although it wasn’t a perfect day for him, Chidobe Awuzie generally kept the Browns’ passing game in check in his area of the field. He did allow one 26-yard pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones that annihilated what was shaping up to be a pretty good defensive drive for the Bengals. But, that play also happened late in the fourth quarter when all hope was virtually extinguished.

Mike Hilton played ok. It wasn’t great, and he did miss a tackle. But otherwise, he had a serviceable game. This unit probably would have graded in the ‘B’ range had it not been for Eli Apple, who got absolutely worked all afternoon. In fact, Baker Mayfield recorded a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating when targeting him.

He allowed 101 yards on four catches. He was responsible for covering Donovan Peoples-Jones on that 60-yard touchdown pass that broke the game open early in the second quarter. The Bengals never recovered from that play. Eli Apple is back to being a liability.

Safety grade: D-

For all of the hype surrounding Jessie Bates, he hasn’t exactly performed at a high level in 2021. This week, he did hold Baker Mayfield to an impressive 39.6 passer rating when he was targeted. But, he looked regularly out of place against the Browns’ rushing attack.

He had one missed tackle on the day, and it was an absolute doozy. He had Nick Chubb dead to rights on what should have been maybe a one or two yard pickup on the Browns’ first offensive possession. In a split second, the Bengals went from likely holding the Browns to a field goal and flexing a bit of defensive muscle, to trying desperately to keep them out of the endzone and sparking a beatdown.

That, of course, didn’t end up happening. The Bengals’ defense did hold the Browns out of the endzone to fourth down. But, safety Ricardo Allen was called for a completely unnecessary pass interference on the third down play, which gave the Browns the ball at the 1-yard line.

The infuriating thing was he didn’t need to, because Baker Mayfield overthrew Austin Hooper on the play. Two plays later, Nick Chubb took the Browns up 14-7.

Special teams grades: B

Evan McPherson converted his lone field goal attempt and the one extra point. He actually came out of it looking like the better kicker. Browns kicker Chase McLaughlin shanked a 45-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter. But, it wasn’t the best day for Kevin Huber, who averaged 40.7 yards per punt and only put the Browns inside the 20-yard line once. 

His first punt was a weird, wobbly one that set the Browns up at their own 30. You could argue the short field position really didn’t matter as Nick Chubb’s ensuing 70-yard touchdown run would have gone to the house from anywhere on the field. But, maybe the Browns approach that drive with a different scheme from the 20 instead of the 30.

Punt and kick coverage was pretty solid though, only once allowing a return of more than 5 yards. That was an 11-yard return on a short kickoff intended to run out the remaining two seconds on the clock after the Bengals scored a field goal going into the half.

Coaching grade: D+

For the most part, I don’t really have a lot of negative things to say about Zac Taylor this week. I thought his offensive playcalling was solid. The biggest letdown on offense was the lack of execution from guys like Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. But, he seemed to regularly have them in position to make big plays and do what they needed to do to stay competitive in this game.

However, Lou Anarumo’s defensive gameplan might have been one of the worst I’ve ever seen him put together. That’s two weeks in a row now his defense has received a beatdown, looking completely lost and out of place all game.

You can’t discount the progress they’ve made through the first seven games. But, they need to get things turned back around soon or you have to start wondering if they’ve regressed back to the point they were at last year, when everyone was calling for him to be fired.