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3rd & Long: Same song next verse

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The Denver Broncos are who we didn’t think they were.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before. Our defense plays quite well, but a couple of turnovers and red zone efficiency by our offense leads to a loss. This has been the script in four of our seven losses this season. Looking only at the stats you have to wonder how we managed to lose this game; we only allowed 190 yards of total offense while gaining 341. We converted on 12 of 21 3rd down attempts. Then you see the two turnovers that we gave up and the 8 of 16 3rd down conversions allowed and you remember how we lost this game. You could also mention the interception in the end zone which was either a 14-point or a 10-point swing in the game and could easily be cited as the REASON we lost the game.

Stopping the run on first down.

Our D got back to stopping the run on first down this game. The Bengals ran the ball ten times for only 27 yards in this game (2.70 ypc). For the season we are now 23rd in the league (moved up from dead last after the Eagles game) having allowed 569 yards on 129 first down runs (excluding QB kneels) - 4.41 ypc. IND is currently leading the league allowing only 3.07 ypc on first down runs. We had two tackles for loss and two stops for no gain on first down runs this game. Ground control was back in action this game with CIN gaining a meager 49 yards on 26 carries (1.88 ypc). The Bengals longest run of the day against us was 8 yards.

Performance on 3rd & long

The Bengals were only put in 3rd and long four times during the game and they did not convert a single one. Here is the table

Quarter Time ToGo Location Detail Result
3 14:22 12 CIN 23 Andy Dalton pass complete short left to Tyler Kroft for 11 yards (tackle by Darian Stewart) catch but short
4 2:22 11 DEN 39 Joe Mixon right tackle for -2 yards (tackle by Derek Wolfe) run for loss
2 0:54 10 CIN 25 Giovani Bernard left end for -5 yards (tackle by Derek Wolfe) runn for loss
3 7:25 7 CIN 4 Andy Dalton pass incomplete deep right intended for A.J. Green incomplete

That’s the good news. When our defense did what it is designed to do, get opponents in 3rd and long, we did well. The bad news is that the defense allowed the Bengals to convert on eight of 12 third and short or third and medium situations. They were three for three on 3rd and short (1-3 yards) with two touchdowns and they were five of nine on 3rd and medium (including the DPI on Roby conversion).

For the season due to the performance in the last two games, we have now fallen to 3rd in the league in 3rd down conversions allowed. Not including penalty conversions we have now allowed 39 of 131 third downs to be converted (29.8%). MIN and PHL are slightly better than that at the moment. Not that it has made much difference because of the costly penalties at inopportune times, but our defense is the second least penalized defense in the league with 57 penalties through 10 games. Only Dallas with 56 has fewer penalties.

Moving forward

The offense was able to move the ball last game sporadically, but apparently it was not enough to save Mike McCoy’s job. Since the season is done at this point, for all intents and purposes, we will finally get to see an offense the Bill Musgrave has designed for Paxton Lynch. If Lynch plays well, that’s gravy and maybe we won’t have to use our top ten 2018 first round pick on a QB. If he doesn’t we will at least KNOW that he was a bust and we can move on. The confusing part is going to be if Lynch plays ok. Then we will be back in limbo not knowing whether he might develop into an above average NFL QB or whether he will get exposed with time like Trevor Siemian did, as a player who has no business being an every day starting QB in the NFL.