I was right: the Bengals beat the Seahawks. But, they didn’t quite do it as I expected.
As I noted on Friday, I was at the Taylor Swift movie experience – surprisingly, they did NOT cut away occasionally to Travis Kelce cheering along in the luxury suites – so I didn’t get to see this game. As such, this will be a post with more questions than answers. I’ll tell you this much, I didn’t project this as a 17-13 slugfest.
I have two main takeaways coming out of this game. First and foremost – the reason why we lost this one – has to lay at the feet of the offense. Geno Smith had one truly atrocious pick, and another where D.K. apparently gave up on the route. The team as a whole was only 5/12 on third down, and critically 0 for 2 on fourth down (both near the goalline in the fourth quarter, where we had a chance to take the lead or even win the game). Penalties were costly in setting us behind the sticks. And the Bengals were able to pressure us more than we’ve been pressured all season.
I’d love to know what the gameplan was coming into this game. We got Charles Cross back from his injury, but were still saddled with Jake Curhan at right tackle (with some interior shuffling, moving Haynes to left guard, and starting Bradford at right). Did we leave them on more islands than we had the previous few games, opting to go with more 3 wide receiver sets and fewer jumbo packages? Or, was it pretty comparable, and we just got manhandled by a superior front seven? I would hope the coaching staff would have more sense than that, but you can’t rule it out until we see the snap counts. Regardless, it didn’t seem like a well-called game by Waldron. Nor was it a very efficient game from Geno and the rest of our skill players.
My other big takeaway, however, has to do with the defense, and how promising this unit looks going forward.
The Bengals had back-to-back touchdown-scoring drives to open this game, which initially led me to believe my prognostication would be accurate: that we wouldn’t touch Burrow, and they’d carve us up and down the field accordingly. But, we ended up tightening things up the rest of the way, giving up just 3 points after the 12:20 mark in the second quarter. We forced 6 punts and got an interception. We sacked Burrow 3 times in the game, hit him 5 times, got 4 tackles for loss, and knocked down 6 passes. We held Burrow to a paltry 185 yards passing (5.3 yards per attempt) and held their running game to 46 yards on 15 carries. Coming on the heels of that Giants massacre, there were a lot of questions about whether or not we could keep that going against a competent offense. The Seahawks’ defense came through this one with flying colors. They absolutely did enough to win us this game, which hasn’t been something we’ve been able to say very often the last 5+ years.
I can’t sit here and get too down on this team after one game. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel very strongly the other way either; I’m not telling you everything is wonderful. It probably helps that I didn’t actually sit through this game for 3 hours; I’m sure in the moment I would’ve been miserable for damn near every minute. Part of me wants to say people are too quick to write off Geno Smith (and they’re damn near insane if they’re calling for Drew Lock to start for this team!), but there’s another part of me that saw Geno finish 3-6 last year (including playoffs), and knows he’s still getting credit for some of those early-2022 performances. He’s good against bad defenses, he’s pretty miserable against good-to-great defenses, and we still don’t have a lot of those late-game heroics that we regularly saw during Russell Wilson’s prime.
I’ll also say that we’ve given Wilson a lot of crap – especially since he’s gone to Denver and stunk up the joint – for poor performances on 3rd down and with taking brutal sacks, but that hasn’t really let up a whole lot with Geno under center. Especially in the biggest games. I don’t know what that says about the team as a whole, other than it’s really hard to be great at quarterback in the NFL, and I ultimately don’t think Geno Smith is great. I think he’s fine. He’s much closer to Ryan Tannehill in his prime than Russell Wilson in his prime.
But, I think we’re going to need to see this season as a whole before we can totally rule him out. There are more opportunities for Geno to turn it around. In a couple weeks, we have back-to-back games against the Browns and Ravens, two good-to-great defenses that he’ll need to be the best version of himself if we expect to win either of those games.
Ultimately, it’s a loss to an AFC team, which means very little in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully, we were bailed out by the Browns – who took care of business against the 49ers – so we haven’t lost any ground. But, that makes next week’s game against the Cards all the more important.
Good on Kenneth Walker for continuing to look like a stud. Good on Tyler Lockett for having another big game. Good on Jaxon Smith-Njigba for being involved, and good on Jake Bobo for making a couple of hard-nosed catches.
Devon Witherspoon had a quieter game than the one in New York, but still broke up 3 passes. Jamal Adams stayed healthy throughout. Dre’Mont Jones, Jarran Reed, and Boye Mafe each had sacks. Tre Brown returned from injury and had a bigtime pick (the combo of him, Witherspoon, and Woolen look dominant together). And look at Jason Myers being perfect (and hitting a 55 yard field goal)!
I will say that I was disappointed in Pete Carroll. If there was ever a game we needed him to be the conservative version of himself, this was it. The defense was rolling by the fourth quarter. We were down 4 points, we had the ball near the goalline. We failed to get it in due to offensive incompetence. There was still over 2 minutes to go, we had two time outs, and he opted to keep the offense out there on 4th & goal at the 6. Kick the field goal! Then, you’re down 1, you have a chance to get the ball back (which we did), and drive it down for the game-winner. It’s mind-boggling when Pete decides to be hyper-aggressive, and when he decides to turtle up. He’ll punt from the opposing 40 yard line in one drive (when we’ve proven capable of moving the football), then he’ll go for it near the goalline (when we’ve looked like ass trying to score in the red zone). Just be consistent! He’s standing on a 16 against a dealer’s 10, then he’s hitting on a 14 when the dealer has a 5, just because he has a feeling or whatever.