The Bengals tend to click at crunch time, but against KC, they'll need to click for four quarters

There's no room for lulls against 5-1 Chiefs
The Bengals tend to click at crunch time, but against KC, they'll need to click for four quarters
Posted at 7:00 AM, Oct 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-20 07:00:30-04

CINCINNATI -- Something within the Cincinnati Bengals' offense just seems to click when it gets to crunch time.

The Bengals have scored points on the last meaningful drive of all but one game this season, including Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers when Cincinnati took the lead with 1:18 left and couldn't hold it on defense.

Now, as the Bengals (4-2) prepare to match up against the highest-scoring offense in the league -- at Kansas City (5-1) on Sunday Night Football -- they just need to channel that energy displayed at the end of games into a four-quarter performance.

"It just comes down to do you want to win or lose?" wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. "A lot of guys hate to lose, so that's when guys bring their best. It allows all the preparation to take over, and we just let things flow. We need to do that earlier and on more drives because when the game is on the line that's when we tend to say, 'All right, let's do it now. No more holding back.' We've got to get it to where when we get to that final drive, all we have to do is hold the ball, secure those wins."

Against Pittsburgh, the Bengals drove 75 yards on nine plays to take the lead on Joe Mixon's 4-yard run, but the Steelers pulled back ahead with 10 seconds left to win, 28-21.

In Week 5 against Miami, the Bengals' offense got a field goal on its last meaningful drive to pull ahead 20-17 with 3:30 left, and the defense sealed it with another touchdown on a turnover. That followed a comeback win at Atlanta, when A.J. Green made a diving catch to cap a 75-yard scoring drive with seven seconds left for a 37-36 win.

The team's first comeback win came in the opener at Indianapolis, when the Bengals took the lead early in the fourth quarter and added a field goal on the next drive before the defense sealed the 34-23 win with a fumble return for a touchdown. The next week against the Ravens, Cincinnati made field goals in the last two drives to seal the game.

The only time Cincinnati's offense has fallen flat on a final meaningful drive was in a loss at Carolina, when Andy Dalton was intercepted.

"It shows how good our offense is, that we can score at will, we can score under pressure and we've got all-around talent that can make plays," Boyd said.

Dalton's 22 game-winning drives since 2011 are tied for second in the NFL, just eight behind Detroit's Matthew Stafford in that same period.

Bengals left guard Clint Boling said that statistic especially could help Cincinnati on Sunday, going up against a Chiefs team that averages 35.8 points per game behind first-year starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

"We've been there before," Boling said. "When the game is on the line, we've shown we can make plays, and I think that sets up a lot of confidence for the rest of the season. I think we'll be in that situation again when we need to make a drive to win a game, and knowing we've been there before and done it, that speaks volumes to what this offense is about."

Cincinnati has had its share of lulls offensively, and really, the offense overall has been lacking the firepower it started the season with since the Atlanta game in Week 4. That was the game in which Tyler Eifert broke his ankle and was the last time John Ross played -- two offensive weapons that take pressure off wide receivers Boyd and Green.

Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said the only thing he can think of regarding what makes his offense different at the end of games, despite the ups and downs at other times, is the poise his players show.

"I am still trying to figure it out," Lazor said. "There is some other ingredient in there that this team is developing, and if I can figure out what it is, I'm going to write it down so I always have it. Some of it for sure is poise, and there's just something else special. If we can figure out what it is, we'll insert it (earlier in games) a little bit, too." 

"They are staying loose, so they are not tightening up, and it allows them to play their best," he added. "I think some of those personalities are starting to rise that maybe weren't bubbling up in the past. That might be part of it, too."

The Bengals' offense this season has scored touchdowns on 15 of its 20 trips to the red zone, good for a league-best 75 percent success rate, and Cincinnati has gotten points on 18 of those drives (90 percent). The Chiefs are the only team with better overall success in the red zone, scoring on 17 of their 18 appearances inside the 20-yard line, though only 12 of those resulted in touchdowns.

Entering the Week 5 matchup with Miami, Cincinnati had come away with points on an NFL-best 34 consecutive trips to the red zone (25 touchdowns, nine field goals) dating back to Game 9 of last season, but an interception on the first red-zone trip against the Dolphins ended that streak.

What that tells Lazor is the Bengals just need to keep finding ways to extend drives, whether with the pass or the run.

Boyd said he can't pin-point any particular reasons for the lulls Cincinnati has experienced at other points in games. The third quarter in particular has been slow for the offense, as the Bengals have totaled just three points in that period the last three games and 17 points overall.

Cincinnati just can't afford to have those inconsistencies against Kansas City, especially with the defense banged up and already struggling.

"I feel like we go out and try to score every possession," Boyd said. "It's just times we get out-executed or penalty issues, playing behind the sticks, but as long as we keep attention to detail and everybody stays locked in the whole game, not just the fourth quarter or whenever we need to take a lead, the sky is the limit for this team. We have to do a better job finding ways to beat them more plays than they beat us. If we do that, it's hard to stop us."