How wins and losses are viewed in the NFL is a really interesting case study. In a micro sense, each individual game is analyzed and dissected and discussed all week, regardless of the outcome, searching for any bit of information that will provide a larger scope or context for the season, right up until the moment the next game is played. There can be good losses and bad wins (or in the Bengals case, bad ties). There are close games that weren’t actually that close, and blowouts that could have been a lot closer. There are injuries and breakout players from specific games that go on to impact the rest of the season. And the quality of a team’s play certainly impacts how they are viewed and discussed in the football cultural landscape. Though usually, once a few weeks pass or the playoff picture comes into focus, all of the micro information is glossed over and everyone focuses only on the pure wins and losses (or in the Bengals case, ties). Sunday’s 27-24 win over the Baltimore Ravens feels like that type of game for the Bengals. It was a close, somewhat controversial win. The Bengals did a handful of good things—enough to get a victory, obviously—but also did plenty of stupid things that easily could have led to a loss. And yet, six or seven weeks from now, whether they are heading for a fourth consecutive playoff birth or on the outside scratching to get in, this game will simply look like a big division win, one that allowed them to sweep the Ravens and put them in first place at the time. It won’t matter that they were only an offensive pass interference penalty away from being 3-3-1 and dropping to last place in the AFC North. All that will matter is that they got the win.
“This is not time to spit the bit. It’s time to grind on.” Marvin Lewis, talking about the current state of the team and/or workshopping some rap lyrics.
1. Offensive Pass Interference
According to the NFL—an enterprise that values transparency and has never been known to avoid acknowledging its own faults—the OPI penalty called on Ravens receiver Steve Smith, which negated a go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute remaining, was in fact the correct call. I’m not saying I disagree. George Iloka is certainly bigger than Smith, but he was clearly looking back to play the ball, and there was an obvious grab/pull/shove from Smith, even if Iloka went down easier than I would have anticipated. And yes, if a defender had done that to a receiver, the NFL would have flagged him, suspended him for three games, chopped off a few of his fingers, and forced him to deliver an official apology. So I’m totally fine with this call. I would also say that it’s totally reasonable for Ravens fans to still be upset and complaining about this, but I’m sure John Harbaugh has already taken care of that.
2. Andy Dalton, right-handed quarterback
A strong day overall. He went 21-28 for 266 yards (9.5 ypa), an interception that wasn’t entirely his fault, and two rushing touchdowns, including the game-winner (which he audibled to). His biggest mistake on the day was overthrowing a wide-open Greg Little in the endzone (though assuming Little would have caught an on-target pass might be a bridge too far anyway). Without a host of his top offensive weapons, including A.J. Green, Dalton did well to keep the Bengals in the game and lead a monster drive for the come-from-behind win.
3. Andy Dalton, left-handed quarterback
Minutes prior, I was actually thinking to myself, Dalton has done a great job of avoiding mistakes and keeping the Bengals in this game. Then this happened.
As Grant Freking pointed out earlier on the blog, it was a key moment in a game that gave us the full Andy Dalton Experience. Andy, stick with the right hand moving forward.
4. Mohamed Sanu
Another big day with A.J. on the sidelines. Five catches for 125 yards, including an impressive juggling grab on the first drive of the game to setup a touchdown, and a big-time third-down, 53-yard catch thanks to a beautiful adjustment on the Bengals game-winning fourth quarter drive. He also added 27 rushing yards on two carries. Dalton has been very solid this season, but it’s hard to deny that Sanu has been the Bengals MVP through the first half of the season.
5. Greg “Sometimes Hands” Little
I’m not quite ready to say that he’ll never again drop a pass in what will undoubtedly go on to be a Hall of Fame career for the Cincinnati Bengals. But he made a few clutch plays on Sunday and has already proven himself a more viable receiving option than the Brandon Tate/Dane Sanzenbacher/James Wright trifecta.
Honorable Mention: the secondary, the ref who called offensive pass interference, Geno looking more like Geno, Emmanuel Lamur, A.J. Green, ambidextrous Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton vs The Blitz
On 9 dropbacks he was 5-8 (62.5%) for 147 yards (18.4 ypa), 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 0 sacks, 1 run, a QB rating of 106.3, and a PFF grade of -0.4.
Running Back Struggles, Cont.
The team’s overall numbers weren’t terrible (34 rushes, 111 yards, 3 TDs), but when it comes to the running backs specifically, Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill combined for 70 yards on 26 carries for a 2.7 ypc average, one TD, and a long run of 8 yards. Not good.
Marvin Lewis is Unimpressed
This came after Andy Dalton’s go-ahead touchdown run:
If you have the time, check out my feature story from the November print issue of Cincinnati Magazine on Mike Brown, the family, and three tumultuous generations of ownership of the Bengals.
“Through it all, they’ve remained the same: taciturn, closed off, and aloof when it comes to the fans and media; largely invisible when it comes to civic philanthropy and involvement; and aggressively obstinate in dealing with local government over the stadium deal. As a result, there’s no love lost between the family and those in the community, most of whom know only enough to loathe them. But the truth is, even after nearly 50 years of owning one of the city’s most visible and valuable institutions, we really don’t know much about them at all. And that’s just the way they like it.”
Madden GIFerator Creation of the Week