The Cincinnati Bengals and their strong start to 2018 seem so far away. After winning four of their first five, they’ve since lost four of their next five.
With Pittsburgh once again in full control of the division, their hopes are clinging to a wild card spot in the AFC playoffs. That’s a problem because the two teams ahead of them at present either have a better record (7-3 Chargers) or claimed a key tiebreaker (loss to Ravens last week). They need to finish strong over their final six games or need Baltimore to cough up the lead. Based on how things are going, the former looks unlikely.
Right now the Bengals have arguably the worst defense in football. It’s 32nd in total yards and 31st in points allowed. Part of the reason for this? Running back Joe Mixon seems to think it has nothing to do with talent. He’s sensed a certain atmosphere this season. One he doesn’t care for. It involves the team with less of an alpha mentality and more a passive one
"“I’m tired of playing not to lose, rather than playing to win,” he said, via Elise Jesse of WLWT-TV in Cincinnati. “We just got to go out there, and we got to go win. We’ve just got to do it instead of just keep talking about it. Just go put it out there and go win.”"
It’s hard not to view this as a criticism of head coach Marvin Lewis given this is something that’s been said about him for years. He’s a conservative coach and it tends to bite him at bad times.
Marvin Lewis running out of explanations for bad football
It’s always been felt that something big was needed for Lewis to finally get fired by the Bengals. A collapse to a losing record after starting 4-1 sounds like something that would do it. One thing he’s managed to survive on for so long was getting the team to stay competitive. This could be the third straight year his team has missed the playoffs. That’s happened before. The difference this time though is all three are threatening to be losing seasons.
That’s never happened once in Lewis’ 15 years as head coach. Never mind the still valid argument he hasn’t won a playoff game. Ever. Mixon isn’t wrong. The guy simply doesn’t know how to coach aggressively. He’s so afraid of turnovers that he’s built an entire team on trying to limit their effect. Otherwise known as playing not to lose. Meanwhile they’ve been crushed by teams like New Orleans and Kansas City, teams that are constantly on the attack.
If he hasn’t learned the lesson by now, he never will.