CINCINNATI — The Bengals put on one of their most listless performances in years in a 33-7 loss to the Bears on Sunday afternoon.
It seemed clear that the Bengals left everything they had on the field in a loss to the Steelers on Monday. Maybe they were still recovering from the emotionally and physically draining game. Maybe they simply couldn’t handle losing five defensive starters this week.
Whatever it was, it was clear the Bengals (5-8) were simply not prepared to face the Bears (4-9). It certainly isn’t a good look for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and his staff. Lewis has always seemed to have the ability to keep his teams invested, even when there was little to play for, but the team looked as if it would rather be anywhere else on Sunday.
Even the usually reliable A.J. Green, the best player on the team, wasn’t playing at his usual level. Green dropped one pass and had another tipped off his hands for an interception. He was also stripped of the ball late in the game with the Bengals trailing by several touchdowns.
They missed tackle after tackle. At one point, with Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky heading into the end zone for a touchdown, Bengals safety George Iloka appeared to not even attempt to make the tackle at the goal line.
The offense, which looked like it had finally put things together last week, was back to its early-season form. Even the timing looked off. A short pass to Tyler Boyd was so off that it raised questions as to whether there had been a miscommunication about where Boyd was supposed to be on the field.
The only bright spots of the day were the play of running back Giovani Bernard and cornerback William Jackson III, two players who saw the field sporadically earlier in the season in favor of other starters. Bernard had 130 all-purpose yards, but he seemed to be the only one playing with any effort.
The Bengals are crawling toward the finish line of the 2017 season, and with Sunday’s loss, will finish without a winning second for the second straight year. It certainly clouds the future of Lewis, who went into the season without a new contract and is by no means guaranteed to get a new deal in 2018.
The Bengals used to win these games. In Lewis’ tenure, the Bengals are 23-6 in the final quarter of the season against teams with a losing record. But on Sunday, the Bengals made the Bears look like a team headed for the playoffs. They allowed the worst offense in the league to put up almost 500 total yards and 33 points, both season highs.
How the team performs in the last three games of the season will certainly go a long way toward deciding the future of the coaching staff, but the Bears were the easiest team left on the schedule. The Bengals still must travel to face the Vikings and the Ravens. If they play like they did on Sunday, the score could be even uglier than a 26-point loss at home.