Observations from the Bengals 34-13 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles…
-Yeeesh. I cannot recall a more deceiving score to a Bengals game—win or loss—in all of my time watching this team.
-The Bengals, as it pertains to their 8-6 record and playoff aspirations, played absolutely dreadful. And won by 21 points. Which tells you more than a few things about the Eagles this season.
–“I like our football team,” Lewis said after the game. “I don’t like how we play sometimes.” Thursday night was a quintessential example of that “sometimes.”
-To be fair, let’s touch on the good things first. BenJarvis Green-Ellis continues to impress down the stretch, and (here’s something I didn’t anticipate writing this season) the running game is probably being underused. If Green-Ellis can continue to rack up games of triple-digit yardage, my whole “throw the damn ball” plan from earlier this season might prove to be a bit extreme.
-Boom Herron. The recent practice squad upgrade has been a monster on special teams the past two contests (and actually had a couple nice runs on offense once the game got out of hand). His shove-the-defender-into-the-punter-to-force-a-block move in the first quarter was huge, and he followed that up with a couple solid tackles on punts and kickoffs. The best part though? Reading his lips on the bench after forcing the blocked punt. “I just pushed him,” he told one of the coaches of his technique. Well, it worked.
-Overall, I thought the defensive was staunch yet again. The multiple offsides penalties are inexcusable and stupefying, but aside from that, the unit allowed the team to win a game where the offense faltered. They somehow managed to hold the Eagles to only 13 points after a wretched 2nd quarter by the Bengals that was offensive only in a non-sports connotation. The Cincy defense then (incredibly and improbably) forced three turnovers in four snaps by the Philly offense. The Eagles subsequently muffed the ensuing kickoff back to the Bengals following that third instance, making it essentially four turnovers in five plays. Add that to the early strip forced by Carlos Dunlap and recovered by Domata Peko, and 31 of the men-in-stripes’ 34 points on the evening came via giveaways.
-The first of Philly’s catastrophic meltdown-and-turnover-jubilee came by way of Leon Hall’s first interception of the year, a disgustingly underthrown ball that he hovered under for hours before heading the other way for 44 untouched yards. I think Leon has been solid all season, with that first pick a result of quarterbacks rarely testing his coverage as opposed to a lack of performance on his part. He deserved the chance to finally reel one in.
-If you’ve been following these weekly rundowns, you know of my affinity for Wallace Gilberry, due in large part to what is easily the best name on the Bengals roster. Enjoyed seeing him scoop up the fumble forced by Big Fat Pat Sims and waltz in for his first NFL touchdown.
-Now for the bad, of which there was plenty. It’s tough to beat up on the offensive line too much, as they have been one of the foremost and surprising strengths of the team all season…but they looked like a JV team against the Eagles front seven. Dalton got smacked around and was under constant pressure, which in turn freaked him out a bit for the whole evening. His RG III-esque scramble for a TD in the second half—a huge play, no doubt—was as much a result of reading the defense and exploiting the running lanes as it was him getting spooked and taking off to avoid another sack. He needs to be better in the final two games, but at least everyone seems to recognize that.
-Now for the lightning round: receivers dropped far too many passes yet again, the play-calling did little to counter the consistent speed rushes and outside pressure (screens, draws, etc.), the team once again took a nap for an entire quarter, and Brandon Tate continues to get snaps on the field.
-Hey football fans, did you know AJ Green can juggle???? I suppose this might be interesting for the audience that doesn’t follow the Bengals all season, but anytime Cincy is in a notable or primetime game, the announcers gush about it like it’s breaking news. At least AJ’s not inventing catchphrases or giving himself semi-bilingual nicknames though, right?
-More good news: all the teams that the Bengals wanted to lose on Sunday did just that. The playoffs are right there for the taking.
Things I liked: Wallace Gilberry, the forced turnovers, Wallace Gilberry, a win in primetime, Vontaze Burfict running wild, Wallace Gilberry.
Things I didn’t like: Brandon Tate, the offensive line, the offense, Brandon Tate, Chris Pressley’s injury, the second quarter, Brandon Tate, the self-imposed mistakes and penalties, Brandon Tate.
Parting Thought: Pittsburgh is essentially the final obstacle to a second consecutive playoff berth. Same as it ever was.