For the Bengals, Monday was all about picking up the pieces from Sunday's 17-6 loss at Cleveland by watching the game film, analyzing what went wrong and vowing to fix every little issue they saw.
Rest assured, they saw plenty.
Fixes in the rushing and passing games were most evident to offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who admitted Monday that four weeks into the regular season, his scheme was still missing an identity. On defense, the fixes include being better on third down and not allowing teams like the Browns -- who entered Sunday's game ranked last in third-down conversions -- to rattle off an impressive 9-for-18 showing in those late-down scenarios. Even the coaches saw a fix or two to be made on their end, second-guessing whether timeouts should have been used to get out of particular plays at the line of scrimmage.
By the end of Tuesday, though, the time for fixing will be over. Preparation for the undefeated Patriots will begin in earnest, as the Bengals get ready for their Week 5 matchup at home against one of the NFL's hottest teams.
Before we start looking at the Patriots, let's take one last look back at the week that was (or wasn't, depending upon how you look at it) for the Bengals:
Among the worst aspects to the Bengals' loss was the fact that their rushing game was rendered completely moot and ineffective. On 20 carries, paced by rookie Giovani Bernard's 10, Cincinnati rushed for just 63 yards. They didn't have any rushing scores. As Paul Dehner, Jr. from the Cincinnati Enquirer points out, after handing the ball off 13 times in the first half, the Bengals went to the ground just seven times in the second half. Gruden ultimately admitted that he may have become too infatuated with getting the ball to receiver A.J. Green, who caught seven passes, but who also was thrown to 14 times. Good coverage, overthrown passes and misread routes negated his opportunity to have many more receptions and add to his tame 51-yard showing. As the Bengals move forward, they'll need a run game resurrection.
Where did you imagine the Bengals' offense would be four weeks into the regular season? Likely with an identity -- a lacking rushing game is a major reason why none currently exists -- and ranking somewhere much higher than 22nd place in total offense and scoring offense. Well, like it or not, as the Enquirer's Joe Reedy points out, that's exactly where the Bengals' offense is at this juncture of the year. Who's to blame for the Bengals' offensive misery? It's not just one or two people, Reedy writes. There's plenty of it to go around.
Sticking with the offensive theme, here's the way Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson looked at the side of the ball. When it comes to showcasing the run, though, Hobson makes a good point. Perhaps this week the Bengals will be able to do a little of that with the Patriots being forced to slip a rookie, Joe Vellano, into Pro Bowl tackle Vince Wilfork's spot on the defensive line. Wilfork was lost for the year Sunday night after tearing his Achilles against the Falcons. The thing about Vellano, though, is that he might be an undrafted rookie, but he was a pretty good defender in college, consistently among Maryland's top tacklers while he played both the interior and edge there. He had 14 tackles for loss his senior year. He also sacked Matt Ryan in relief of Wilfork on Sunday.
Speaking of the Patriots, if you'd like to catch your fill of Patriots coverage, be sure to check out the ESPN NFL Nation and ESPNBoston.com crew all this week. They have a blog post up that takes an early look at the Bengals.
One more step back to last week. You may have heard the news, but early Monday, after evaluating tape from the surgery he performed on the Bengals, Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer was named Cleveland's starter for a third straight week. The division-rival Browns host Buffalo on Thursday night. Cincinnati travels to face a well-rested Bills team the week after.