Coach­ing change made dif­fer­ence for Ben­gals

The Columbus Dispatch - - Sports Report High School Football Tennis Golf Soc -

CINCIN­NATI — The Ben­gals re­sist mak­ing big changes dur­ing a sea­son. They’ve done it only a hand­ful of times through­out their 50-sea­son his­tory.

By go­ing against their stripes, they may have saved this sea­son.

Af­ter two home games with­out a touch­down, Cincin­nati fired of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ken Zam­pese, de­part­ing from their pol­icy of show­ing loy­alty to coaches dur­ing dif­fi­cult times.

It was a huge change that no­body saw com­ing. It also turned into a jolt the Ben­gals needed to sal­vage their sea­son.

The Ben­gals (2-3) have quar­ter­back Andy Dalton back in form af­ter a rough start. They’ve won two straight.

They’re only a game out of first place in the AFC North head­ing into their bye. The switch to Bill La­zor as co­or­di­na­tor has been their best move so far.

“I don’t think of it as them re­spond­ing to me as much as I think right now they be­lieve they can be good,” La­zor said. “And I think that’s a start­ing point.”

The Ben­gals sim­ply don’t change much dur­ing a sea­son, es­pe­cially not coaches or of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors.

From 1995-2015, they’ve had only four head coaches — Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet, Dick LeBeau and Marvin Lewis, who is en­ter­ing his 15th sea­son de­spite an 0-7 mark in the play­offs.

Dur­ing that 22-year span, they had five of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors — Coslet, Ken An­der­son, Bob Bratkowski, Jay Gru­den and Hue Jack­son.

So when they fired Zam­pese af­ter only 18 games as co­or­di­na­tor, it was a rare mo­ment in fran­chise his­tory. It got the de­sired ef­fect.

An of­fense that couldn’t get into the end zone the first two games has scored eight touch­downs in the past three.

Dalton was last in the NFL with a passer rat­ing of 47.2 af­ter the first two games; he has thrown for five touch­downs and has a passer rat­ing of 116.2 since the change.

But the Ben­gals re­ceived some bad news Thurs­day, when it was an­nounced tight end Tyler Eifert will miss the sea­son with a back in­jury that has put his ca­reer in jeop­ardy.

The fifth-year vet­eran missed half of last sea­son with an­kle and back in­juries. He had surgery on a disc in his back last De­cem­ber. He ag­gra­vated it in the sec­ond game this sea­son, forc­ing him to con­sider an­other pro­ce­dure. He’s been in­ac­tive for the past three games and was put on in­jured re­serve.

Wentz, Ea­gles beat Pan­thers

Car­son Wentz threw for 222 yards and three touch­downs to help Philadel­phia beat Carolina 28-23 on Thurs­day night in Char­lotte, North Carolina, to im­prove to an NFCbest 5-1.

The Ea­gles turned two in­ter­cep­tions deep in Carolina ter­ri­tory into 15 points, with touch­down passes to Zach Ertz, and LaGar­rette Blount’s 2-point con­ver­sion to take an 18-10 lead in the third quar­ter. Wentz added a 24-yard scor­ing pass to Nel­son Agholor in the fourth quar­ter.

Wertz com­pleted 16 of 29 passes.

Cam New­ton threw three in­ter­cep­tions for Carolina (4-2).

Pan­thers mid­dle line­backer Luke Kuechly was placed into the con­cus­sion pro­to­col af­ter his body crum­pled fol­low­ing a col­li­sion with Ea­gles pulling guard Bran­don Brooks. Kuechly missed nine games over the past two sea­sons with two con­cus­sions. All of the Ea­gles’ touch­downs came af­ter Kuechly left the game late in the sec­ond quar­ter.

[MIKE MCCARN/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS]

Philadel­phia’s Zach Ertz catches his sec­ond touch­down pass dur­ing Thurs­day’s game against Carolina.

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