With Jason bringing everybody his weekly MVP feature in the very near future, I thought that I'd beat him to the punch with my weekly "Unsung Hero of the Week" award nominees and eventual winner. As I've stated in these write-ups that follow a loss, finding a silver lining through the dark clouds is often challenging. This week's loss has been the toughest call for me, in terms of finding nominees and a winner.
Why? Well, it's pretty simple. First of all, the Bengals defense had their worst performance of the season, letting up both a 100-yard rusher in Ray Rice and a 100-yard receiver in Torrey Smith. Furthermore, they allowed the most points of the season last Sunday. Though they did have some crucial stops and three and outs when needed, it was still an overall poor performance on the day by the squad that's carried them for most of the season.
Secondly, turnovers and an overall ineffectiveness in running the football on offense made the day tough on the entire squad. With the heart and soul of the Ravens (Ray Lewis) out, I think that most of us thought that the Bengals would have a bit easier time moving the ball and scoring points than they did. But, the Ravens once again proved how deep of a team they are, as they stood firm against the Bengals offense until they were in "catch up mode".
So, with that in mind, you can see what made this week's selections so difficult. None of the following names are listed as our weekly MVP candidates. Without further adieu, here are this week's nominees:
The first name that came to mind was defensive tackle Geno Atkins. He's been arguably the most consistent performer on this defense to this point in the season. As Josh pointed out in an earlier article, Atkins is following up a promising rookie season with a great sophomore campaign and he's getting some national notice. Against the Ravens, Atkins had six tackles (one for loss) and a sack. He seems to get backfield penetration quite often and is a special talent on this Bengals line. But, with the defense's above-mentioned poor performance, Atkins will get snubbed here.
Looking on the other side of the ball, running back Cedric Benson was someone that crossed our mind. He scored two big touchdowns in the game, marking his first multiple-touchdown performance of the season. The first one was huge, as it seemingly put the Bengals in the driver's seat at an early point in the contest. The second was equally as big, as it was a score that brought them close once again. But, Benson only managed 41 rushing yards with an average of 2.7 yards per carry. For a team looking to protect it's rookie quarterback in a bruising division, and for a running back who constantly calls to get the ball, that's not going to get it done.
This week's winner of the "Unsung Hero of the Week Award" is quarterback Andy Dalton. I know it sounds strange, but stay with me here. As I've written every week in this posting, this award will almost always go to a Bengals player who wouldn't normally get any glory. Conversely, a team's quarterback almost always gets the praise and glory, as they're the face of the franchise. When you look at his stats, Andy Dalton's three interceptions definitely marred his Sunday performance. But, when you examine it a little more closely, you'll see it a little differently. Not only was he responsible for leading the Bengals back into the game and being eight yards away from tying it at the end, but he was also robbed of another touchdown with the
horrible quirky Jermaine Gresham call. Though his picks weren't pretty, the bottom line is that the Bengals wouldn't have even had a shot at the end if it weren't for Dalton's leadership and precise late-game throws. Did I mention that he threw for the most yards by a Bengals quarterback since the 2007 version of Carson Palmer? I think his overall performance got a little overlooked this week (and maybe rightfully so) because of the interceptions, but it was the Bengals riding Dalton's arm for the comeback.
Who gets your vote for this week's "Unsung Hero of the Week Award"?