DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks for a receiver during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
If there is such a thing as an encouraging loss, the Bengals pulled it off on Sunday in Denver. The Broncos defeated the Bengals 24-22. Even though the Bengals lost, many fans are extremely encouraged by what they've seen from their young players, especially by rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie wide receiver A.J. Green.
Last week we started a segment in which Cincy Jungle writers would pick which player deserves to be named the week's MVP and which player had the most to work on. Here's who we picked this week (in no particular order). We'll start with
David Wellman's MVP:
"A tip of the cap to Michael Johnson, one of the few members of a listless Cincinnati defense who came to play, recording seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Especially given the caliber of talent he was up against in LT Ryan Clady, MJ gave a good account of himself."
- Johnson not only led the defensive line in tackles but he tied Thomas Howard for the team lead with seven tackles in the game. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer toyed with the idea of moving Johnson to outside linebacker in 2010 but injuries on the defensive line forced him back to defensive end where he and Carlos Dunlap formed a nice pass-rushing team. This year, Johnson is poised for a breakout season.
Anthony Cosenza's MVP:
"I'll go with Jerome Simpson. Though he dropped a couple of catchable balls, he was the team's leader in yards receiving with 136, and he had the biggest play of the game on an 84-yard reception that completely swung the momentum and got the Bengals back in the game at a critical point in the second half."
- Simpson did lead the the team in receiving and he showed flashes of what he's capable of doing. He may not be as reliable as Green will be in the future but he can break off big plays at any time. This is a contract year for Simpson and he began to make his case to be re-signed on Sunday against Denver. Hopefully he keeps it up.
Naji Bsisu's MVP:
"A.J. Green had 10 catches for 124 yards and a score in only his second NFL game. He showed that he was definitely work the fourth overall pick and gives defenses someone they need to gameplan for. He should team up with Dalton to form a nice combination for the next 10 years or so."
- Green not only had 10 catches for 124 yards but his touchdown catch was unbelievably impressive. I don't know how he kept both of his feet in bounds but he did and that helped the Bengals get within two points of the Broncos. Dalton and Green seem to be getting used to each other and when Green permanently gets on the same page with Dalton, he's going to be dangerous.
Joe Goodberry's MVP:
"Andy Dalton. Easy explanation. Dalton not only took major strides in his own game, he forced the entire offense to rise up and play their best in crucial times. They couldn't make enough plays in the end, but without Dalton this team doesn't come close."
- Andy Dalton was incredible, but to me, his most impressive stat has been the fact that he hasn't turned the ball over. Sure Cam Newton has looked great throwing for 400 yards in his first two starts, but Dalton hasn't thrown a single interception or fumbled the ball. He did everything in his power to put the Bengals in a position to beat the Broncos and if he continues to play that way, he'll have a good career in Cincinnati.
Here are the players we picked that have the most work to do heading into week three.
David Wellman's Goat:
"The Cincinnati Bengals starting offensive line. Boooo! Just 59 yards on the ground for Cedric Benson and a woeful 1/13 on third and fourth downs. The line was uniformly dominated and made too many unforced mental errors."
- The Bengals offensive line made a banged up Broncos front seven, who allowed over 190 yards on the ground to the Raiders in the previous week, look good. If the Bengals offense is going to be successful, it will start with the line playing better next week against the 49ers in the Bengals' home opener.
Anthony Cosenza's Goat:
"Nate Clements. Against a battered receiving corps, I thought the Bengals defense would clean up. As it turned out, Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker had his coming out party along with Andy Dalton. Decker had five catches for 113 yards and two TDs. The most painful play coming against a blown coverage by Clements and safety Chris Crocker where the two took band angles to the play and then ran into each other, allowing Decker to walk in for a long touchdown catch."
- Bengals fans are sorely missing departed cornerback Johnathan Joseph in the wake of Clements performance in Denver. The aging defensive back gave up too many yards to a group of wide receivers that included Tim Tebow, the team's third-string quarterback and emergency wide receiver.
Naji Bsisu's Goat:
"Rey Maualuga: Rey probably had his worst game of his Bengals career. he took bad angles and missed multiple tackles. He needs to be the leader for this defense and in order to do so he needs to make plays."
- Maualuga was Josh's goat from week one so this is his second week in Cincy Jungle's dog house. His poor performance was highlighted by a play in which he met running back Willis McGahee at the line of scrimmage. McGahee ran Maualuga over and then continued on for about four more yards before he was finally brought down. Maualuga is four years younger than McGahee and has over 30 pounds on him. There is no excuse for that play.
Joe Goodberry's Goat:
"Mike Zimmer. I hated the lack of defensive intensity and physicality. They loaded the box and asked Kyle Orton to beat them. He did. With only two wide receivers. The Bengals and Zimmer knew the Broncos wanted to run the ball, but couldn't dig in and get enough stops to stop Denver from methodically running the ball and converting third downs. Sad and uninspiring defensive performance."
- Zimmer, obviously upset with his defense's performance, had his guys on the practice field on Monday for a rare walk through. Hopefully the defense got the message because they're going to need to be great if they want to give the Bengals a chance to win. They were supposed to be the highlight of this team and were going to take some pressure off a rookie quarterback. Against Denver they didn't take pressure off Dalton, they added some. Luckily, Dalton responded like a true professional. Still, the defense needs to be better.