Rhythm was lacking. Identity was, too.
When the Cincinnati Bengals traveled to Cleveland in Week 4, very little went well for the them. Plain and simple, they were out of sync. Their overall anemic offensive showing -- they had 266 yards of total offense -- led to a whopping six points on the scoreboard and the team's second loss of the season. It was an ugly beating; the type of beatdown that, until last weekend in Baltimore, they had appeared to put completely behind them.
This weekend, though, when the Browns come to Cincinnati for a rematch, the Bengals are hoping that their anger over the previous defeat leads to a more aggressive, more put-together offense that rolls through their tough in-state division opponent.
Back in late September, the Bengals had no idea who they were offensively. Quarterback Andy Dalton knew he liked throwing to A.J. Green, but he wasn't quite sure how much of an impact his other receivers could have. When his team was down in that contest, Dalton had trouble figuring out what to do in order to get them back in it. He seldom looked comfortable as the Browns got pressure primarily from a big, burly and quick defensive line.
This time around, the Bengals are hoping the Dalton who got behind center for four weeks in October shows up again at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday. If he does, then the Bengals have a good chance of leaving the Browns feeling as disappointed as the Bengals did following the early-season dismantling.
As we start off this edition of the Thursday Morning Stripes, we take a look at how well the Bengals remember the beatdown:
As the Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner Jr. writes, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden hopes his entire unit has a "chip on its shoulder" every week, but particularly this week as it faces the No. 5 ranked defense in the league. There is a sense among the Bengals that points, yards and some effort was left out on the field at FirstEnergy Stadium two months ago. Cincinnati doesn't want to be saying the same thing following this Sunday's game.
Keeping with the theme about the Bengals' offense and the Browns' defense, we turn to the Associated Press, where Joe Kay has his own look at Cincinnati's motivations in this grudge match. What was a great day for the Browns turned out to be a nightmarish one for a Bengals team that has shown in the weeks since that it is much better than the way it played that Sunday afternoon.
One of the problems in that game, and one of the problems all year, is that the Bengals didn't run the ball as well as they believe they can. There have been a few big runs sprinkled in here and there, but for the most part, the ground game has been "stuck in neutral," writes the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy. Running backs coach Hue Jackson admitted to reporters Wednesday that he hasn't gotten the type of production this season that he had been accustomed to seeing. He has a feeling his backs will turn it around soon, though.
One Bengals player who hasn't been stuck in neutral is linebacker Vincent Rey. By comparison, in the two games he has now started, Rey has been mashing the gas and doesn't show any signs of stopping anytime soon. After his 13-tackle, three-sack performance in last weekend's win over the Ravens, Rey has proved that he is more than a backup, Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson writes.