CINCINNATI -- This is what the bottom looks like for the Cincinnati Bengals.
In the 51 previous seasons of the franchise’s existence, things have never been this bad. Sunday’s 16-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers put the Bengals at 0-11, the worst start in Cincinnati’s history.
Prior to Sunday, the worst start to a season was 0-10, which most recently occurred in 1993. The latest grim statistic reinforces how bad things are for Cincinnati.
The Bengals have lost 13 straight games dating back to last season, which is also the longest losing streak in franchise history.
In that woeful 1993 season, the Bengals won just three games. At this rate, Cincinnati will be lucky to pick up that many victories this season. The only winnable games appear to be a home contest against the New York Jets in Week 13 and a road trip to the Miami Dolphins in Week 16, two teams that, at one point, challenged the Bengals’ claim as the worst team in the NFL this season.
But those teams have displayed some upside. The Dolphins, despite trading away a couple of their best players, have two wins. The Jets walloped the Raiders 34-3 for their third straight victory.
And as Cincinnati limps into December, the only hope of optimism is the possibility of securing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Given how things have looked this season, bottoming out might be the best route upward for a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991.
QB breakdown: Ryan Finley started the game by completing four of his first five passes. But after that, the rookie struggled. Finley was 12-of-26 for 192 yards, one touchdown and one lost fumble. He has committed five turnovers in his three games since taking over for veteran Andy Dalton as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback. During that stretch, he has completed only 47.1% of his passes. Finley’s passing statistics were bolstered by two good catches by wide receiver Tyler Boyd, including an improbable 47-yard completion that set up the Bengals’ lone touchdown.
Pivotal play: The Bengals appeared poised to enter the Steelers’ red zone when Pittsburgh’s Devin Bush made the play of the game. After Boyd caught a 22-yard pass inside the Steelers’ 10-yard line, Bush popped the ball out of Boyd’s grasp and Steelers defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick scooped up the fumble for a 36-yard return. A completion on that play could have given Cincinnati a prime opportunity to score a go-ahead touchdown. However, the Steelers nullified a rare big play by the Bengals’ passing attack.
Silver lining: Cincinnati’s pass rush was more or less lifeless for most of this season. The Bengals tallied a mere 10 sacks through their first nine games. But Cincinnati’s defensive line has been more effective recently. The Bengals tallied three sacks, marking the second straight game it reached that total. Sam Hubbard, Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson each registered a sack for a unit that needs to increase its productivity in 2020.