Can I just list everybody on the entire team? The Cincinnati Bengals have absolutely dominated the last eight quarters of football in a way that I haven’t seen in my life. Are they finding their stride or is this their peak and we should expect a game where they fall back to earth? These five player(s) impressed me enough in this game against the Chiefs to lead me to believe this team is trending upwards.
Dre Kirkpatrick played his most snaps as a professional against the Chiefs. He was picked on at times, but that's to be expected for a rusty rookie and when Adam Jones and Leon Hall are basically locking down their guys all year. I didn't care if Dre let up completions; especially in a blow out. All I wanted to see is, can he contribute on special teams, how is his knee and has he progressed since I watched him at Alabama? He answered every one of those questions and renewed my hope for him. Take a look:
In the first picture, the Chiefs try Kirkpatrick on a deep ball on fourth down. This was his weakness at Alabama. He got lost and didn't always locate the ball deep; that wasn't the case here. Dre Kirkpatrick played this pass perfectly; one hand on the WR, hip-to-hip and locate the football. The ball was overthrown but Kirkpatrick didn't leave any room for error. I needed to see that exact play from him.
The second picture shows Kirkpatrick as the gunner on a beautiful punt by Kevin Huber that landed inside of the five. After beating his man, Dre sprinted down field and watched the ball and the returner. His ball-judgment was superb; he tracked it, got underneath and downed it deep in Chiefs' territory. Being able to play special teams not only helps his chances of playing defense, it can provide a much needed break for their best gunner, Andrew Hawkins.
Mohamed Sanu didn't have a huge impact on the game but he flashed his potential throughout the day. You could see that Jay Gruden understands Sanu's strengths and weaknesses and tries to put him into position to succeed. Check the pictures below for further analysis:
All three of these pictures were taken on the same drive. The first is a play that's going to Sanu from the beginning. He lines up wide to Dalton's right with Brandon Flowers covering him. He gives a stutter-step at the snap then tries to beat the Chiefs' cornerback deep. He gets blanketed easy. His next read is to stop short for a back-shoulder fade if he can't beat Flowers; again, little success for Sanu. Dalton throws it out of bounds because no other WR is actually running a route; Sanu needed to beat his man.
Now let me take you back a couple of plays in the second picture. He's lined up in the slot with Javier Arenas across from him. Mohamed Sanu gives a nice jab-step to the outside. With the luxury of going in or out from the slot, Sanu easily beats his man. He snaps his head around to the inside where Dalton is looking for him. The unexpected happens; Tyson Jackson, the Chiefs' defensive lineman drops back into coverage right into Dalton's throwing lane. Sanu goes behind him AND behind Jermaine Gresham, who's struggling to gain separation. Bad move; Dalton pumps and then comes back to Gresham, who's now wide open. It worked out in the Bengals favor. Sanu will learn from that though.
That leads me to the last picture. No, this isn't the same play but it's very similar. Sanu is lined up in the slot, but this time he has Brandon Flowers covering him because Jermaine Gresham is lined up wide on his side and the Chiefs use a LB to cover our TE. Sanu runs the exact same route and it works again because Flowers didn't see it three plays earlier. Guess what, the Chiefs play a similar defense too; they drop Tyson Jackson into coverage again. This time, Sanu is ready for it. He runs his route just a split second slower; allowing his teammates across the formation to get further upfield this time. The rookie from Rutgers has learned, he darts behind the Chiefs lineman and catches a pass in the open field for an easy touchdown.
Cedric Peerman sparked the team with his second fake punt conversion of the year. He then found some space in the Chiefs defense and gashed them for a couple of big runs. He looked like the better back on Sunday. Here's why:
In the first picture, Peerman takes the draw play, pushes hard upfield, recognizes the open hole to his right and takes it for a solid gain. This is one of the issues I've had with Green-Ellis; his pre-scrimmage work has really hurt his ability to pick up more than what the play was designed to gain. Running backs need to be able to hit the hole hard AND recognize when to cut back against the grain without losing much speed. Peerman offers that, and I think he's currently the better runner despite is shaky pass protection.
In the pictures below, it shows Peerman's ability to break tackles and keep moving. This is the same run, a gain of 19-yards where the backup runner spun and stiff-armed his way for the first down.
Jermaine Gresham played with an intensity that seems to be growing in him throughout the year. He was jawing back and forth with Eric Berry and ran over a few Chiefs defenders as he punished them for trying to tackle him. Josh broke down a great play by the tight end in a play I like to call The Full Potential of Gresham. In the picture below, he made his best play; a read of the defense that he's missed at times this year. At the snap, Gresham sprints upfield like he's running up the seam. Instead, he feels nobody covering him and notices it's probably Zone coverage. Like a good route runner, the big tight end stops and faces his QB for the pass. He secures it and proceeds to go bowling by using the Chiefs as pins.
Bengals Offensive Line - Not only have they been one of the best pass blocking lines in the NFL, I think this unit is underrated as run blockers. They haven't always had great support from their tight ends and full backs, and we know the running back situation isn't good. This game, everybody did their part. Every picture below shows just how dominant they were and how well they can block when all cylinders are firing at the same time.