JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Few outside of Jacksonville or Cincinnati will remember the outcome of the Bengals' 23-7 loss to the Jaguars on Sunday, but they will remember the moment things began to unravel for the Bengals.
With the Bengals needing all hands on deck to defeat the Jaguars (5-3), the best player on their team lost his composure. A.J. Green threw a punch at Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey after the wide receiver was shoved from behind. That sparked an all-out brawl between the two teams and got Green and Ramsey thrown out of the game. The Bengals were trailing 13-7 at the time, but as emotions spiraled out of control, they couldn't overcome it.
To see Green so out of control was shocking. Even Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is friends with Green, couldn't believe it.
It was a strange day from the start for the Bengals, who unexpectedly lost running back Jeremy Hill to an apparent ankle injury in pregame warmups. Right tackle Jake Fisher was taken to the hospital with an illness. Defensive tackle Pat Sims went out with a calf injury, and safety Shawn Williams was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
The Bengals could overcome the losses of all of those players, but losing Green was the dealbreaker.
The Bengals were like a rudderless ship without Green, moving the ball only 26 yards in the third quarter. Clearly, the team didn't learn from the brawl either, as they snapped back at the Jaguars every chance they could. Carlos Dunlap got into a shoving match with Brandon Linder. Vontaze Burfict and Josh Shaw took the time to yell at the Jaguars sideline.
From start to finish, the game was essentially a disaster for the Bengals, who are now 3-5 with road trips to Nashville and Denver ahead the next two weeks.
Offensively, things are looking bleak for the Bengals. First-round pick John Ross isn't ready to play; Tyler Eifert is out for the season; Tyler Boyd is nursing a knee injury; and there's a possibility Green could be suspended for his role in the fight. Rookie Joe Mixon has shown potential and had one of the only highlights in the game, with a 7-yard touchdown, but he hasn't been able to break out behind an offensive line that has struggled in both run-blocking and pass protection.
Quarterback Andy Dalton has been widely inconsistent behind the struggling line. At one point on Sunday, Green was open and heading for a sure touchdown if Dalton could get him the ball. Instead, the pass wobbled toward the sideline, where Green caught it out of bounds.
Much like last year -- when the Bengals were fighting through the end of the season without Green, Eifert or Giovani Bernard -- the offense doesn't appear to be improving at all. The Bengals have actually appeared to regress since last season, at least offensively, and don't appear to be in a position to fix things anytime soon.