It was a win. Barely, sure. A 27-24 overtime victory. But it was a win.
A year from now, two months from now, even one week from now—it won’t matter how close the Bengals came to blowing last Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills. It will only matter that it earned them a mark in the win column. Focusing on all the many individual things that could have easily gone wrong to change that fate is irrelevant. It isn’t changing. Sometimes, escaping a situation breeds the same result as conquering it.
1. Brandon Tate
As I’ve written before, the Power Rankings are an arbitrary hierarchy of which player or coach or play or situation had the biggest impact on the game’s outcome, for better or worse. Brandon Tate topping these rankings would generally be assumed to be an awful, terrible thing for the Bengals…but not on this day. Tate’s 29-yard punt return in overtime set up Mike Nugent’s game-winning field goal. Yes, Brandon Tate. He didn’t fumble, or run straight into a tackler three yards in front of him, or drift the wrong direction as he booked it toward the sideline instead of heading upfield. He didn’t field the punt at the 2-yard line or let a punt hit at the 15 and bounce deeper in his team’s territory. He caught it cleanly, sprinted to his left, and got out of bounds unscathed on a play that was un-penalized. Brandon Tate. The Bengals punt returner—that Brandon Tate. Yeah.
Yards after catch. As noted by Joe Reedy, 254 of Andy Dalton’s 337 passing yards were racked up after the catch by Bengal receivers, including big gains on screen passes and dump-offs to AJ Green, Marvin Jones, and Giovani Bernard (AKA the ‘Nard Dawg). This stat can be used as fodder against Dalton, if one so chooses (more on this later), or it could simply be seen as the Bengals exploiting a weakness in the Bills defensive gameplan—completing short, quick passes to avoid Buffalo’s stout pass rush and getting the Bengals talented skill players in space. You could also use this stat to compliment this man:
3. Andrew Whitworth
We could talk about it, or we could show you this, courtesy of Cincy Jungle:
4. Beeing Stoopid
Again, no need to harp on the negatives or hypothesize how they could have swung the game, but they can certainly be acknowledged. Dalton had another egregious interception. Vontaze Burfict had a silly facemask penalty (as well as two other personal foul penalties that were bogus and a complete result of the Ref Show that Ed Hochuli and crew put on for us). Alex Smith had a dubious-but-still-damaging holding call on a converted field goal that resulted in a subsequent miss. Someone (I think it was Taylor Mays, but it could have been multiple people) had a massive brain fart on the first of Buffalo’s fourth quarter touchdown passes. Terrence Newman got beat deep for the second of those touchdowns on a painfully obvious “don’t-get-beat-deep” play. Somehow, the Bengals have become the Cosmo Kramer of this year’s NFL, skating by relatively unscathed, oblivious to and unfettered by their hilarious stupidity.
5. Marvin Jones
The kid piled up 105 combined yards through the air and on the ground, as well as a nice block on a Mo Sanu first down reception and a pretty touchdown catch of his own. The better he plays, the more it opens things up for everyone else.
Honorable Mention: Leon “Avon Barksdale” Hall for locking down his corner, AJ Green’s rick-diculous touchdown catch, Dane Sanzenbacher’s one-handed grab, the defensive line, Pacman fielding a punt at the 5-yard line that he didn’t fair catch but did bobble and almost resulted in a safety, Boomer Esiason and Solomon Wilcots for setting a world-record for talking more than any color commentators like ever in the history of broadcasting yes seriously they’re probably still going.
Giovani Bernard :: Kenny Wu
Gio Bernard is like Kenny Wu on grass.
— Justin Williams (@Williams_Justin) October 13, 2013
(h/t The Big Lead)