That isn't a surprise, as coaches rarely comment on lineups without first taking the chance to review game film.
However, it’s clear something will have to change. Dalton has been sacked 19 times this season, for an average of 3.2 sacks per game. If he continues on that pace, he’ll hit a career-high 51 sacks by the end of the season.
Obviously, the Bengals recognized the problem Sunday, when they pulled starting right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi midway through the third quarter. Ogbuehi had a holding penalty near the Bengals' end zone that pushed them back to the 8-yard line. Dalton was sacked for a safety on the next play, when Dont’a Hightower came through the left side of the line to get him on the ground.
“I felt like he needed to settle down, and you know, we had to pay a penalty,” Lewis said. “He had to settle down, and [we] got Eric [Winston] in there to settle things down a bit.”
Dalton was also sacked on third-and-13, when the Bengals were down 28-17 in the fourth quarter, which forced a punt.
On the whole, two sacks isn’t a bad number, and Dalton played well when given time in the first half. He completed 13 of 16 passes for 143 yards and a 103.9 quarterback rating, and he scored a rushing touchdown that came on an option play to Jeremy Hill.
But the Bengals haven't been able to sustain that kind of play for 60 minutes. The offensive line play and the run game have been erratic this season, perhaps going hand-in-hand. No Bengals running back has rushed for 100 yards in a game this season, and the Bengals could not gain a yard on fourth-and-1 at the Patriots' goal line early in the second quarter Sunday.
“That was an unfortunate situation,” Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler said. “As an offensive lineman, you want to be able to punch it in. Unfortunately, they had a good plan for our possible plays, and all the praise to them. They did a good job on that.”
Although Ogbuehi has struggled to come into his own as a starter, considering that he was a first-round pick last season, the Bengals likely see him as the future at right tackle.
“Cedric is one of our guys, and he’s got a bright future,” Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “We’ve just got to keep helping him along the way.”
If it were as simple as playing someone else, this would be an easy fix, but the offensive line has shared blame as a unit this season. With a 2-4 hole to climb out of, they’ll have to continue to explore all options.
“You've seen teams win Super Bowls with makeshift offensive lines and figure out ways to get it done,” Whitworth said last week. “The reality is it's not just us, but we're a big component of it. We've got to play better. We've got to play well enough for us to win, and as a team, we've got to find ways to win games.”