Coaching change made difference for Bengals
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.
Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz catches his second touchdown pass during Thursday’s game against Carolina.