ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI - DECEMBER 18: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks to pass in the second half of the game against the St. Louis Rams on December 18, 2011 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bengals defeated the Rams 20-13. (Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)
The Bengals went to St. Louis and won a must-win game. It wasn't pretty. In fact, in the first half it was the opposite of pretty, but in the end, the Bengals were ahead on the scoreboard and that's all that matters. Now they have the Cardinals, who have won six of their last seven games, and the Ravens, who are 10-4, left. Both games are at home and the Bengals need to win both games.
Before we get into that, though, let's talk more about the Rams game. Here are the seven things I took away from the Bengals' 20-13 win over the Rams on Sunday.
|Point One: Can't be a second-half team in Weeks 16 and 17|
The Rams aren't very good this year as their 2-12 record shows. The Bengals can have a bad first half and still win the game, as they've been able to do on more than one occasion this season. However, they cannot play like crap in the first half and come out swinging in the second half if they want to beat the Cardinals and Ravens.
Hopefully the Bengals know that and come out of the gate swinging on Saturday.
|Point Two: Congrats to Green|
Congratulations to A.J. Green who is the first 1,000-yard rookie receiver since Marquis Colston in 2006. He's also has the most receiving yards for a rookie receiver since Cris Collinsworth's 1009-yard rookie season in 1981. I haven't heard two announcers dote on a Bengals player like they did on A.J. Green in...... ever.
Green's got a bright future in Cincinnati.
|Point Three: Benson is looking for a job in 2012|
I don't know what is in store for Cedric Benson in the future. I don't know if the Bengals will try to bring him back for another year or if they'll go after another running back in the 2012 draft or in free agency. What I do know is that Benson is a free agent after the 2011 season comes to an end.
Benson only managed 3.5 yards per carry against the league's worst run defense on Sunday. He finished with 76 yards and a touchdown but he also fumbled three times. If Benson wants a contract offer that isn't straight crap in 2012, he needs to explode in these final two games. It would be nice for the Bengals if he did that too.
|Point Four: Same goes for Simpson and Caldwell|
I'll be honest, I wouldn't be shocked if the Bengals chose to let both Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell walk at the end of the season. Simpson has had some big games but he's terribly inconsistent and Caldwell's even worse. Every NFL player has to know that nothing is guaranteed in this league and, like Benson, if they want a job in 2012, whether it's with the Bengals or another team, they need to have a big couple weeks. Hopefully that's the case.
|Point Five: Jermaine Gresham has got to be involved more|
He's by far the team's second best receiver behind A.J. Green and he only caught three passes for 16 yards on Sunday. He had as many false start penalties as receptions, which is just sad. Gresham needs to step up and play well in the last couple weeks of the season to give Dalton another option other than Green, Green or Green.
|Point Six: How about Ryan Whalen?|
Ryan Whalen was active for the second time this season and caught his first pass of his career, converting on a third-down play. The coaches decided to bench Caldwell in Sunday's game because he was "banged up." It makes you wonder what they think about him. I guarantee you that they will do everything they can to keep Green on the field if he was a little banged up, which he is. I wouldn't be surprised to see Whalen active in Week 16.
|Extra Point: Brandon Tate's big punt return was a game changer|
Brandon Tate may make a lot of mistakes. He sometimes catches punts he should let go and he lets punts go that he should catch. However, he must be doing something right because he's now has the franchise record for punt return yards. His 56-yard punt return early in the third quarter was the beginning of the end for the Rams. It provided the Bengals the spark they needed and set them up for their first touchdown.
I think to have plays like that, we have to be more patient with the occasional bad plays. Congratulations to Tate on the record and thanks for setting the Bengals up for the win.