It was a hard-fought game against the bullying Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, with a couple of Bengals players having monster days in the stat column. Moreover, those huge days helped bring the Bengals a victory over their divisional foe and wrap up their first consecutive playoff berths since, oh, three decades ago. We decided to nominate a Bengals player from each unit on the team, so cast your vote--I'm sure it's going to be a tight race this week.
The first and most obvious nominee has to be defensive tackle, Geno Atkins. Much as he has been all season long, Atkins was completely dominant on Sunday. He gave fits to a number of Steelers offensive linemen, racking up 2.5 sacks, six total tackles and a forced fumble. He now has 13 sacks on the season, tying him for the "official" Bengals record for the stat with Eddie Edwards. The play that defined who wanted Sunday's game more can be seen in this play by Atkins.
Staying on defense, cornerback Leon Hall had the biggest play of the game for the Bengals. Late in the first quarter, Mike Zimmer wisely put Hall on tight end Heath Miller when the Steelers were backed up in their own territory. Hall jumped the route, intercepted Ben Roethlisberger's pass and took to the house with a pick-six. It was the only touchdown that the Bengals would score on the day and proved to be a biggie.
What a couple of weeks Josh Brown has had in replacing the incumbent kicker, Mike Nugent. Though he missed a critical late field goal attempt of 56 yards, Brown nailed two others including the game-winner with four seconds left in the game. He had seven total points and is 8/9 on field goal attempts the past three weeks, as well as 6/6 on extra point attempts.
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green was bottled up from making huge plays on Sunday, but he still had a good day with ten catches for 116 yards, including the huge 21-yarder that set up Brown's game-winning field goal. He did have a lost fumble on the day when the Bengals were marching down to regain the lead in the fourth quarter, but he atoned the mistake later. Green is knocking on the door of Chad Johnson's single-season franchise receiving record and is on the way to his second Pro Bowl in as many NFL seasons.
Quarterback Andy Dalton had his struggles against the Steelers, but you figured that that would be the case against the NFL's No.1 ranked defense. He had two interceptions on the day, which ended up resembling punts--thanks to his stout defense. Still, Dalton put the team in position to win the game when it counted and never got rattled when many other young quarterbacks would have crumbled in the same situation. Think about it: a second-year quarterback on the road in Pittsburgh against the vaunted divisional bully, no running game to lean on and subpar pass protection all day. And, all of that on the 40-year anniversary of "The Immaculate Reception".
Who gets your vote for the Week 16 Bengals Most Valuable Player?