In the AFC North slugfest against the Pittsburgh Steelers, really only a small handful of Cincinnati Bengals players stood out as major contributors to the huge swing of power in the division. But, when you look at the stat sheet and review the tape a bit more, some other players started to emerge as "Santa's Little Helpers" on Sunday. This award nominates those players who did some things behind the scenes to help the Bengals come through victorious.
The first nominee that jumped out was wide receiver Marvin Jones. All season long, the Bengals have been searching for a viable second receiver opposite A.J. Green and are starting to see some good things from Jones. The rookie wide receiver has replaced the Swiss Army knife-like Mohamed Sanu. On Sunday, Jones picked the Steelers secondary apart, grabbed five catches for 65 yards. Every catch was the short to medium variety, proving that Jones is more than just a deep threat receiver.
On special teams, punter Kevin Huber had an outstanding game on Sunday. Most of us don't think to look at the punter as a big player in the game, but in a 13-10 battle, field position is key. Huber punted six times, landing four of them inside the Steelers' 20-yard line. His biggest boot was a 64-yarder, helping to boost his overall average to 48.3 per punt on the day. Wow.
For the grief that cornerback Terence Newman endured through the first part of the season, he has ended the season very strong. He led the team in total tackles with eight and had a fumble recovery. He also helped to make life miserable for Ben Roethlisberger in the passing game, helping to limit the Steelers quarterback to one big pass on the day (given up by Adam Jones).
Though Geno Atkins was the star on the defense for the Bengals on Sunday, his fellow line mate Michael Johnson had a quality afternoon. Earlier in the week, Johnson described sacking quarterback as "a cowboy trying to wrap up a bucking bronco", yet he was able to add a sack to his outstanding 2012 campaign total. He amassed seven total tackles and at 9.5 sacks on the season, he could eclipse the double-digit mark on the year.
We'll also give a mention to Reggie Nelson, who had the critical late interception, though didn't do much else in the game, adding only two other tackles. Still, it was a huge play to help seal the win.
Who gets your vote for the Bengals "Unsung Hero of the Week Award" for Week 16?