CINCINNATI — Don’t be fooled by the final score.
The Cincinnati Bengals and first-year coach Zac Taylor have some serious offensive issues to figure out after Sunday’s 26-23 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The final stats will look better because of a couple of late touchdowns that made an otherwise boring game appear pretty interesting.
But the Bengals (0-5), who lost to a previously winless team for the second straight week, nearly went two games without a touchdown. Granted, it doesn’t help that Cincinnati lost its third-string tackle and a third wide receiver to injury against the Cardinals. However, Cincinnati should have enough pieces to score more points.
Before he was hired by the Bengals, Taylor was an offensive assistant who spent two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams under coach Sean McVay. Because of that tie, many expected Cincinnati’s offense to be more productive. That hasn’t been the case through five games. And the offensive struggles are among the issues that need to be addressed after the Bengals lost their 12th game in their past 13.
Describe the game in two words: Really perplexing. The Bengals’ offense looked inept, going 19 offensive drives without scoring a touchdown before it found the end zone on back-to-back trips to produce an exciting finish.
Troubling trend: The Bengals’ offensive struggles have been compounded by their red zone futility. Cincinnati had two drives stall inside Arizona’s 5-yard line and had to settle for short field goals. The Bengals are holding true to their form as one of the worst red zone teams in the NFL. Coming into Sunday’s game, Cincinnati had only three touchdowns in 11 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard yard line. It’s been a theme all season and is a big reason the Bengals are winless this season. On the rare occasions when the offense finds some rhythm, the Bengals fail to get a touchdown out of it.
QB breakdown: Andy Dalton had a rough start before coming alive in the second half. After he completed only four passes in the first half, the veteran quarterback completed 23 of 28 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. It was his first multiscore game since a Week 2 loss against San Francisco. Dalton threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd with two minutes left to tie the game at 23.
Pivotal play: Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray showed why he won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma and was picked first overall this spring. After the Bengals scored 14 straight to tie the game, the rookie led the Cardinals down the field for a game-winning field goal as time expired. The play of the drive was a perfectly placed, 24-yard pass to running back David Johnson that moved Arizona into Cincinnati’s side of the field. Murray tacked on a 15-yard rush to give the Cardinals a look at a 31-yard field goal.
Silver lining: Bengals running back Joe Mixon had his best game of the season. After sporadic performances through the first four games, Mixon tallied 19 carries for 93 yards. The third-year rusher out of Oklahoma had 60 yards on the team’s opening drive, which was 2 yards shy of his season high. It was Mixon’s best rushing total since he had 105 yards in last season’s finale against Pittsburgh. Over the past three weeks, Mixon has started to look like the player many thought he’d be this season. He has averaged at least 4 yards per carry during that span.