(Sorry for the slow blog week, folks. Busy time for the print issue here at the mag, and that’s how I make my millions.)
The Bengals made pretty easy work of the Colts on Sunday, winning 42-28 on the back of an impressive offensive performance all-around. Sure, the men in stripes were gifted their second touchdown of the game before halftime to go up 14-0, but they also gifted the Colts a couple easy scores in the second half when the defense momentarily forgot that the whole point of defense is to tackle the opposing player with the ball. Add in Indy’s final garbage TD, and the 21-point margin of victory was probably closer than the performance of both teams would suggest. The contest also perpetuated a few trends from this season (playing well at home, performing well against good teams) and added a few wrinkles (the offense clicking while the defense was less than stellar). But at the end of the day, Jeff Triplett is still a confused old man.
To the rankings…
1. Good Andy Dalton
As any Bengals scribe, fan, or observer noted multiple times on Sunday, Good Andy showed up. And what the Good Andy/Bad Andy designation lacks in creativity, it makes up for in exactitude. The kid went 24 for 35 (69 percent) for 275 yards (7.9 ypa), 3 TDs (plus one rushing), 0 INTs, a QB Rating of 120.5, QBR of 89.2, and a bananas Pro Football Focus grade of +6.1. So, ya know, just keep doing that, and then people will just call you "Andy."
2. The Offensive Line
No sacks allowed. No QB hits allowed. Opened holes for 155 rushing yards on 35 carries for a 4.4 ypc average. Whitworth continued his beastly performance at left guard, made possible by Anthony Collins' effort at left tackle. Mike Pollak is playing so well they haven’t needed to rush Kevin Zeitler back. They are essentially giving Bad Andy as few excuses as possible to show up when they play like that.
3. Jeff Triplett
(via Joe Reedy)
Triplett was later caught on tape divulging the process behind his initial explanation.
4. Paul Brown Stadium
The pesky Bengals are 6-0 in the friendly, jungle-like confines of Paul Brown Stadium, putting up an average of 33 points per game while allowing only 17. Maybe we should buy them that new scoreboard, huh?
5. Minnesota and Cleveland
The Vikings could have essentially tied the division up in a pretty little bow for the Bengals by beating the Ravens on Sunday. Cleveland could have bumped the Bengals into the 2-seed in the AFC and a first-round bye by taking care of the Patriots. Instead, both of them lost in the final minute thanks to almost inconceivable collapses, mind-blowing displays of incompetence, and utter breakdowns in awareness and decision-making. Humph.
As I wrote on the blog last week, a successful running game has often led to Bengals wins this season, with the team at its best when running to the right side of the offensive line—a fact that only improved against the Chargers two weeks ago with Whitworth at left guard. Against the Colts, the Bengals again reached the 30-carry-and-100-yards level (giving them a 6-2 record this season when that occurs)…but it was the left side of the line that provided the best running lanes against Indianapolis. As mentioned above, the team had a 4.4 yards-per-carry average for the day, including 6.2 ypc going left (as opposed to only 3.7 going right). The team was particularly successful running through the “1-gap” between center and left guard (8.3 ypc) as well as the “7-gap” around the left tackle or tight end (12 ypc). In fact, the outside toss/sweep/stretch plays resulted in success on both sides of the field, with the “8-gap” around the right end yielding a 4.6 ypc average. So ultimately, my hypothesis last week was like half right (or half wrong, if you’re cynical/mean.)
Quote of note
Great quote from Kyle Cook (via Joe Reedy) earlier this week…
“As long as we stay healthy – that’s the biggest thing – we’re set up for it and looking forward to it. It’s fun and it’s exciting. A lot of years you get teams that, and there are teams going through it right now, where the only thing guys are playing for is their job because they’re technically out of the playoffs. And they see it as in three weeks they’re going to be home. Whereas here, there is this feeling around the locker room that it feels like we’re going to be playing for another couple of months. We’ve had the years where we haven’t gone to the playoffs, and it’s felt like you know in the back of your mind you’re going home and you have to make travel plans. Here it feels like I’m going to be here for another three months. It just doesn’t feel like this is ever going to end, which is a good thing. We’re having fun playing and we’re excited to be around here. It’s not dreadful to come to the building. People are excited to be in here.”
I hate to show favoritism (I’ve seen firsthand how much it annoys my sister that our parents love me more), but best of luck to erstwhile fullback Chris Pressley, who was waived by the Bengals this week. He was one of my favorite players to talk to while I was reporting my piece on Geno Atkins earlier this year (shameless self-promotion). Hopefully Pressley can find his way onto a roster—perhaps back in Cincinnati?—very soon.
The Bengals racked up their ninth win of the year against the Colts, securing a third consecutive winning season. That this fact occurred with very little fanfare shows just how far the organization has come over that same time span.