In the final four minutes of the third quarter Sunday afternoon, Joe Burrow looked at the formation the Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff called and the look of the Dallas Cowboys defense and immediately called time out.
Burrow, the punching bag quarterback who has been sacked at least three times in seven consecutive games dating to last season, wanted more protection for the play.
And the Bengals had no running back in the backfield before he called time out.
“No empty set,” Burrow told the coaching staff during the time out.
So on the next play the Bengals positioned a running back in the backfield to provide extra blocking for Burrow. And Burrow was sacked anyway.
The Cowboys sacked Burrow six times in this one and that was one of the reasons they led until 3:45 left to play when Burrow threw a TD pass and two-point conversion to tie the game.
Too Many Sacks Of Joe Burrow
“I think we’ve given up too many sacks, absolutely,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said after the game.
But here’s the curious thing: Taylor didn’t think the reason the Bengals lost on the final play of the game for the second week in a row, this time a 50-yard field goal, was the sacks.
He mentioned Cincinnati’s first down efficiency in the first half as one culprit– with a screen that went for negative yards, a run that went for negative yards, a false start and, yes, a sack.
But he didn’t think Joe Burrow was out of sorts because of the sacks.
“I didn’t think Joe looked uncomfortable,” Taylor said.
And Burrow, curiously, agreed.
“In the second half I thought the offensive line protected great,” he said.
And now let’s visit the planet Earth where stuff actually makes some sense: Look, the Bengals scored one touchdown in that second half when Burrow was getting all this great protection.
That was their only TD of the game.
That is not going to be good enough.
And the offensive line being so bad is partly to blame.
Despite the multiple moves portrayed as upgrades for the line in the offseason, this front gave up seven sacks in the regular-season opener to Pittsburgh and followed that with six more this game.
So what we’re seeing is more of the same for the Bengals.
Breaking Down OL That Breaks Down
Part of the problem may be that the so-called improvements the Bengals made to the offensive line aren’t all that good — at least not so far.
The team is starting a rookie fourth-round pick at left guard in Cordell Volson.
The team is starting a journeyman at center in Ted Karras.
The team is starting former first-round pick Jonah Williams at left tackle when many NFL scouts believe he’s better suited to play left guard.
And this group, along with right tackle La’el Collins and right guard Alex Cappa, didn’t play in the preseason together so they’re still trying to become consistently cohesive, which they are not yet.
The Bengals not only gave up six sacks but managed only 89 rushing yards while averaging 3.6 yards per carry. And Joe Burrow, who averaged 8.9 yards per attempt last year, is down to 6.4 yards per attempt this year because he doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for deeper routes to develop.
Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, a dynamic deep threat receiver last season as a rookie, said after the game the reason the offense hasn’t been able to produce more explosive plays is because Burrow doesn’t have enough time to throw.
“You got to get that protection down,” Chase said. “That’s the only way you can take shots. If Joe doesn’t have time, you can’t throw down the field.”
Zac Taylor Remains Confident In Bengals
Taylor, meanwhile, believes all this is a wee bit of over-reaction.
“These reactions always happen when you lose a game,” he said. “There’s a long season yet to go and our guys are going to continue to improve and get some wins.”
Is that the goal?
Get some wins?
Or is the goal to go back to the Super Bowl?
“Once things settle down, I know we’re going to be a really good football team,” Taylor insisted. “We all know that.”
I don’t know that. I know what I see rather than what Taylor is projecting. And on that he is more closely aligned with people worried about his team’s current state than maybe he admits.
“To be 0-2 is not where we pictured ourselves,” Taylor said, “but it’s where we’re at.”
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