Fay: Bengals' bye week gives them time to heal, iron out running game
John Fay | WCPO Contributor
7:00 AM, Oct 9, 2017
10:24 AM, Oct 9, 2017
CINCINNATI -- Marvin Lewis said he’d rather by playing this coming Sunday than have a bye, but that came in the immediate aftermath of the 20-16 win over Buffalo.
Upon further review, the Bengals coach will likely see the merit in some time to work on things and to heal. Sunday’s game was a good sign, but the Bengals have a long list of things to iron out over the extra time.
“We’re growing,” Lewis said. “And we’ve got to keep growing. As we know, we’ve got to fight our way back into the race, and it’s only going to be done one step at a time, one ball game at a time.”
The Bengals are 2-3, a game behind both Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The Bengals go to Pittsburgh following the bye.
The biggest thing they have to do is figure out how to get the running game going. The offensive line did a good job with protection Sunday. Andy Dalton was only sacked once and threw for 300-plus yards.
But the Bengals ran it 27 times for a total of 65 yards. That kept Buffalo in the game and clearly won’t cut it when they get into the heart of the AFC North.
It will be up new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to work that out.
“He’s done a great job,” Dalton said. “Even though we haven’t run the ball the way we wanted to, we’re still trying, and we’re still relying on it. For us, that’s what this week will be for: to see what we need to do better and help improve the run game.”
That, of course, starts with the offensive line. The Bengals have been shuffling linemen in and out. Andre Smith played started at right tackle and played some left tackle as well. Trey Hopkins got his first action since being hurt in Game 1.
If the Bengals can get the running game figured out, they can go on a strong run. The defense is that good, and Dalton is looking like Dalton again now that he’s getting some time.
The bye week will also give the Bengals time to heal.
Cornerbacks Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick missed most of Sunday with back and shoulder injuries, respectively. Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson filled in capably Sunday. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who came in with a 100.7 quarterback rating, had a 63.6 Sunday.
“It may sound corny as hell, but I don’t feel like — the way the season is going — that we have any backups,” safety George Iloka said. “If you have been paying attention, we rotate. No packages, we just rotate. Every guy that was in there today has played. Obviously, you don’t want to lose two guys like Dre and Pac, big-time players, but everyone that played has played in key situations this year.”
Wide receiver Tyler Boyd went out early with a knee injury.
The opportunity certainly seems to be there for No. 1 pick John Ross, if he can get his one healthy. With Tyler Eifert, who knows?
You can’t be surprised by what Jay Bruce has done on the playoffs for the Indians. Bruce has always been one streaky hitter. When he’s hot, he’s as dangerous a hitter as there is in baseball. When he’s struggling, he’s as sure an out as there is in baseball.
He’s shown that in the AL Division Series with the Yankees. He homered in Game 1 and 2 and drove in four runs. He struck out four times in Game 3.
The interesting thing about Bruce is he had to get through waivers to be traded from the Mets to the Indians — any contender could have claimed him. The Indians only gave up Ryder Ryan, a a former 40th-round pick, to get him.
Bruce had a very good year. He hit 36 home runs, drove in 101 and hit .254. He’s a free agent. How the rest of the postseason goes will help determine his market.
THE CHOO DEAL
I had to look up how the Reds moved Didi Gregorius. He was part of the three-team trade that sent him to Arizona and Drew Stubbs to Cleveland from Shin-Soo Choo.
The deal looks awful now, but at the time it was huge boost to the Reds lineup. Choo was great in his one year with the Reds. But if the club had known what Gregorius was going to turn into, they probably wouldn’t have traded him.
He hit .287 with 25 home runs and 87 RBI this year, and fangraphs.com rated him as sixth best defensive shortstop this year, two spots ahead of Zack Cozart. Gregorius isn’t eligible for free agency until 2020.
MISSILE CRISIS OVER
Aroldis Chapman’s struggles appear to be over. He had a rough year by his standards and lost the closer job for a while. But since Sept. 1, he’s gone 15 2/3 scoreless innings. He’s walked three and struck out 23.
He hit 104 mph Sunday night in a five-out save during the Yankees’ 1-0 win.
The University of Cincinnati won what a colleague used to call “the ill-important battle of possession time” against Central Florida, 29:11 to 15:29. The Bearcats, however, lost the game 51-23 — and the fourth quarter was washed out no less.
UCF was 0-12 two years ago, so quick turnarounds do happen. But it’s not likely to be pretty the rest of the year for UC. The Bearcats are at No. 18 South Florida Saturday.
There aren’t any sure wins ver the last six weeks with the way UC is playing. The Bearcats end the season games at East Carolina and UConn, two struggling teams, but the Bearcats will probably be underdogs in every game until then.