The Cincinnati Bengals may have been seconds away from winning the Super Bowl, but like all NFL teams, they had -and have- flaws that need to be corrected moving forward.
Especially if they want to get back to the big stage in 2022.
And Zac Taylor knows exactly where he wants to see improvement over the coming weeks.
“Score more points in the red zone,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Bengals.com. “We certainly didn’t always start some games the way we want to. We did a really good job of finishing. We had a lot of production late in the first half, but I think now the next step for this offense in its entirety is to really build some leads early and score points early in the game. The best brand of football is playing with a lead. That’s an area we can certainly improve on.”
Per Pro Football Reference, the Bengals tied for 17th in red zone touchdowns (31) and converted just 59.6% of their red zone trips into touchdowns, which was good for 16th in 2021.
The Bengals also converted just one of three red zone trips into touchdowns against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI.
The Rams, on the other hand, were a perfect 3-of-3.
Taylor’s point about getting off to a quick start/out to an early lead is on point, as well. The Bengals allowed opponents to score first in 10 games last year, which tied for fifth-most. Cincinnati also finished with a (-14) scoring margin in the first quarter, which was 10th-worst.
The Bengals went 4-6 in games where they allowed an opponent to score first.
With an offense like Cincinnati’s a pass rush featuring Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard, it’s easy to see why the Bengals want to get out to an early lead more often.
Those weren’t the only areas in which Taylor wants improvement, however. As Joe Burrow stated back in June, the team needs to improve in short yardage situations.
“We gotta be better in that department,” admitted Burrow. “I think we were one of the lower tiers in the league in short yardage. We have to be able to both run the ball better and throw the ball better in that situation.
“So that’s something we’re going to be working on going forward throughout camp and the next couple of days. And I know the coaching staff will have great game plans for us going into each game.”
Taylor wants to see the same results on the eve of training camp.
“Those will be key areas of focus for us,” said Taylor. “We map out training camp and make sure we hit all our areas and spend some time on it and talk through our weaknesses from a year ago and strengths from a year ago and that’s part of what we present to our players. We feel good about what our plan is going into training camp.”
Per Sports Info Solutions, Cincinnati’s run game converted 26.4% of its runs on 2nd/3rd and 3 or less into first downs, which was the 13th-highest rate in 2021. The passing game had a positive play rate of 41.7%, which tied the Detroit Lions for 17th.
The Bengals’ 2021 season was undoubtedly a successful one. But now it’s time to work on the key elements of the game that separate the great teams from the good ones. Red zone scoring and short yardage situations are certainly a great start.
And if the Bengals can get those down, then it’s easy to see why they could make another Super Bowl run.
You can check out Bengals.com‘s full interview with Taylor, here.
Featured image via Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports