Bengals Grades During 17-10 Win Over Chargers

Donald Miralle

We grade the Bengals performance during their 17-10 win over the San Diego Chargers on a position-by-position basis.

Quarterback: Andy Dalton appeased both sides of the debate -- the haters (because we're still in third grade and use this word) and supporters. Completing only five passes in the first half for 41 yards, Dalton threw two terrible passes. One resulted in an A.J. Green injury when the receiver jumped for the soaring pass while getting clocked in the ribs. Then there's that interception when Dalton tried to prove to everyone that he can throw a punt to deep right field.

Then the second half came around and Dalton was lights out, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, throwing a touchdown and generating a passer rating over 130 in the second half. His 50-yard pass to Andrew Hawkins, from the slot running a slant, couldn't have been thrown better and Dalton's 28-yarder to Green down the right sidelines was huge in that it helped Cincinnati get into field goal position late in the fourth quarter, just in case their running game didn't generate a first down. The funny thing is that the "haters" and supporters are both a vocal minority while the majority, people that just want wins no matter how they're achieved, have to feel the heat every once in a while.

Grade: C+

Running Backs: Perhaps the most symbolic performance of the year, BenJarvus Green-Ellis revitalized his short-yardage production with multiple third and short conversions while powering his way for 92 yards rushing -- 49 in the fourth quarter. Giovani Bernard added a quiet 57 yards and a 4.1 yard/rush average. Save for a fourth quarter fumble that led to a field goal and a reduction of San Diego's deficit to one score, Cincinnati's running backs were zeroed in.

Grade: B+

Wide Receivers: Andrew Hawkins had his first big play of the season, outpacing most of San Diego's defense on a quick slant that gained 50 yards. A.J. Green led the team with five catches and 83 yards, giving Cincinnati a 14-7 lead on a wide-open touchdown reception late in the third quarter. Nothing from Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, who combined for three receptions for 21 yards receiving.

Grade: C+

Tight Ends: There were some good blocks, but Jermaine Gresham finished Sunday without a reception and Tyler Eifert added a nine-yard catch. That's it. Two first round tight ends generated a single catch for nine yards. Then again, they were only targeted four times. Queue the: Let's trade Gresham reactions.

Grade: C-

Offensive Line: Despite not having two of their starting guards, the Bengals offensive line had arguably their best performance of the season, opening lanes for 164 yards rushing while not allowing a quarterback sack on Dalton for a second consecutive game.

Grade: A

Defensive Line: Wallace Gilberry was dominant early on third down, recording a quarterback sack and deflecting another third down pass at the line of scrimmage that forced San Diego to punt. Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap didn't have their usual impact with five combined tackles and no sacks, but they were part of a rush defense that held San Diego to a 3.8 yard/rush average with a number of pressures that forced incomplete passes. Brandon Thompson didn't record a tackle nor sack, but there's no doubt that he and Domata Peko win the interior more times than not. Devon Still added a pass deflection.

Grade: B

Linebackers: Injuries has been a recurring theme for the team's linebackers this year, but it hasn't hurt their overall production. Vontaze Burfict led the team with 13 tackles while Rey Maualuga finished second with 10. Both had a hit on the quarterback and Maualuga even recorded a quarterback sack. James Harrison was quiet with one hit on the quarterback and Vincent Rey recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter.

Grade: B+

Secondary: Reggie Nelson and George Iloka, who finished tied for third on the team with six tackles, each had a forced fumble -- Iloka added a recovery. Adam Jones was picked on a little bit early on but eventually recovered.

Grade: B+

Special Teams: Kevin Huber punted four times and three sailed over 50 yards, including a 75-yarder that pinned San Diego inside the five-yard line. The only one that didn't was dropped inside the 20-yard line. Mike Nugent converted his only attempt. Great coverage team on punts (no returns) and kickoffs -- none were returned further than Chargers 22-yard line.

Grade: A-

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