Even in the afterglow of the Cincinnati Bengals' comeback victory over the Cleveland Browns yesterday to put them at 7-4, a disturbing trend is starting to appear. It's a pattern that has already cost the Bengals this season and could ultimately spell their 2011 demise if not reversed.
Last week, the Bengals failed to score in the second quarter in Baltimore while allowing the Ravens two touchdowns. Yesterday against the Browns, it was another shutout quarter for the Bengals offense while Cleveland posted ten points. For some reason, the Bengals offense goes into hibernation during the second quarter of football games. What this has done over the course of the season is put the team in situations like they faced yesterday, needing to overcome a ten point halftime deficit to win.
While it's certainly been exciting to watch Cincinnati climb back every week as they have now tied the all-time NFL mark for victories having come back from double digit deficits, it's also cost them already, and probably will again if not reversed.
The Bengals offense ranks in the top 10 in scoring in quarters 1, 3 and 4. In the second quarter, they rank 31st. That's a stark difference in performance. And while Andy Dalton's ability to lead comebacks has been laudable and the team's resilience has been inspirational, is this weekly pulling of the fat from the fire necessary?
And it's not only on the offense. The defense appears to be lagging in the second quarter as well. The pattern is exactly the same. The Bengals defense ranks in the top 10 in points allowed in every quarter but the second. In the second quarter, teams are averaging 8.3 points against the Bengals, 27th in the league.
What's behind this? It could be a variety of issues. Obviously opponents are making in-game adjustments to their game plans. It would appear that the Bengals are not "counter-punching" until after halftime however.
Is it a 'lull" following the initial "high" of the opening quarter? Certainly every player and team experiences some of that, but it would appear that the Bengals are losing some of their focus during the second period. To their credit, it also is evident that they're regaining it in the locker room. Not only that but they've shown the ability to increase focus and intensity into the fourth quarter where they've been dominant on both sides of the ball.
One thing it doesn't seem to be is a lack of conditioning. If anything, the Bengals appear to be the better conditioned team every week as they wear down the opposition. Conditioning can not be discounted as an important factor in their fourth quarter comebacks.
But as we've seen already in the previous two weeks, digging out of first half holes isn't a recipe for long-term success. Teams like Pittsburgh and Baltimore aren't going to give up leads all that often. It's a testament to this young team's resolve that they've been in position to come back in every one of their losses, but it's a disturbing trend nonetheless as we enter the season's final five games.
This Bengals team has already exceeded just about everyone's expectations. Nobody thought they would be sitting at 7-4 and in position for a playoff spot at this time of year. If they can address these second quarter doldrums, they're certainly talented enough to take expectations to an even higher level.Tags: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Football, NFL