BALTIMORE, Md. — Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor is taking heat for his play-calling after his team lost 19-17 to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football at M&T Bank Stadium.
And he should.
Taylor has a documented history of taking gambles on fourth downs with little success.
Sunday night was no exception.
The Bengals (2-3) were in position to do something positive in the third quarter.
They had the ball first-and-goal and trailed the Ravens 13-10.
Three unsuccessful plays later, that included the “Philly Special” double reverse where wide receiver Tyler Boyd attempted to pass but was sacked by Marcus Peters, it was fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line.
Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson was not summoned onto the field to tie the game, however.
Instead, Taylor called a shovel pass to Stanley Morgan that failed and a 15-play, 73-yard, eight-minute drive came up empty.
Taylor didn’t go to Pro-Bowl running back Joe Mixon at all.
He didn’t target play maker Ja’Marr Chase.
He didn’t even utilize franchise QB Joe Burrow.
Taylor called a shovel pass that was stuffed.
“When it doesn’t work, you wish you would have done something different,” Taylor said after the game. “We feel good about some stuff we called. Obviously, it didn’t work.”
With first-place on the line, Taylor opted for a trick play on the road instead of knotting the score.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Chase said. “We got to know how to execute coming into that and know which play is going to give us the right play. I don’t think we did that.”
The right play might have been to take points, especially on the road to tie the game.
But as Taylor said, the play didn’t work.
And, Taylor has been taking a beating on Twitter for his play calling.
“Zac Taylor at it again. Just awful play calls,” one fan tweeted.
Another tweeted “arrest Zac Taylor for crimes against football.”
Blake Jewell, a Bengals reporter, tweeted “Play calling lost the Bengals this game. Not the OL, not Burrow, and certainly not the defense,” he wrote.
NFL analyst Marcus Whitman got into the action and tweeted “Zac Taylor is the worst offensive coach in the league. I’m not sure it’s particularly close either.”
And there was more.
A lot more.
Another disappointed Bengals fan chimed in and wrote, “how do you not blame Zac Taylor for that boneheaded fourth down decision. He needs to at least be relieved of his play calling.”
But Cincinnati did rally to take the lead — when Burrow led the Bengals on a 75-yard drive in 13 plays that culminated with a QB sneak and the 17-16 lead with 1:59 to play.
Burrow finished the game with 217 yards passing, and completed 24-of-35 attempts with one touchdown and one interception.
Baltimore’s two-minute plan was to get into field-goal position for clutch kicker Justin Tucker.
And that is what they did.
Raven’s quarterback Lamar Jackson took his team on a six-play, 46-yard drive that allowed Tucker to nail a 43-yard field goal as time expired.
Cincinnati’s ground game improved on Sunday night — as Mixon rumbled for 78 yards on 14 carries, and Samaje Perine added 17 yards on the turf.
The Bengals did not have wide receiver Tee Higgins see much action, due to an ankle sprain he suffered in week four.
Baltimore jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, and the Bengals needed to make a play to get back into the game.
Safety Vonn Bell provided the spark when he picked off Jackson to give Cincinnati the ball.
Burrow took the Bengals on a seven-play, 88-yard drive that featured a 19-yard TD pass to Hayden Hurst to tie the game at 10-10.
Hurst had 53 yards receiving on six catches and one touchdown.
“We will be fine,” Hurst said. “We just have to get this thing going. We have no panic in this locker room.”
The Bengals travel to New Orleans on Oct. 16 to take on the Saints (2-3), which knocked off Seattle 39-23 on Sunday.
“We’ve lost three games now on the last play of the game,” Taylor added. “We just have to keep taking our shots, and these things have a way of balancing out, and we are going to get some of these wins in these situations.”
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