Quarterback: It's rare that we give Andy Dalton an "A" but I think I'd be lynched for anything lower -- and I'd be apart of that group that lynched me. It was near-perfection for Dalton, who completed over 70 percent of his passes for 372 yards passing, three touchdowns and a career-high 135.9 passer rating. If we were point out one blemish, it's the deep ball but at some point we have to accept that limitation as part of his game. Considering that the Bengals are 24-15 with Dalton starting at quarterback during the regular season, we'll deal with it.
Running Back: There wasn't much of a running game to speak of on Sunday; Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis combined for 17 rushes and 51 yards rushing; Green-Ellis had only 24 yards on ten carries and 11 of those were on one play (so that's 13 yards on nine carries for the other attempts). Bernard added five receptions for 32 yards receiving in a game that was heavy with passing.
Wide Receivers: After pointing that Bengals receivers had their best game last week as a combined unit, they were even better this weekend. A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, and Marvin Jones combined for 11 receptions for 224 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Green's game is obviously noted as the best (six grabs, 155 yards, touchdown) but Marvin Jones continues to rise. He had four receptions for 57 yards receiving; one was a beautiful touchdown, and two were critical third down conversions. Sanu contributed with only one reception, but the 12-yard grab was a third down conversion.
Tight Ends: Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert combined for seven receptions for 109 yards receiving. Eifert's 32-yard touchdown (the first of his career) was the first for a Bengals tight end this year. Gresham had some issues with penalties, along with a need to clear his head in the locker room during the first half. Other than that, the tight ends had a productive afternoon.
Offensive Line: The offensive line wasn't very effective opening running lanes for their running backs, but Andy Dalton was largely protected throughout the afternoon. Save for a fourth quarter sack, Dalton was hit three total times. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Defensive Line: It's not a significant concern that Geno Atkins tends to disappear in games at times; considering that opposing offenses are wising up and addressing Atkins as the most dangerous threat, it's expected. However, the combined production between Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson continues to be effective. Dunlap led all defensive linemen with five tackles and Johnson and Dunlap combined for four hits on the quarter; however, no sacks were generated. On the other hand, Atkins, Johnson, and Devon Still combined for five tackles; all of them assists. Brandon Thompson had two impressive stops, however.
Linebackers: At this rate, if Vontaze Burfict doesn't make the Pro Bowl, then it further argues the league's terrible voting system that usually results votes for the league's most popular players; not the players having the best season. Burfict led the team with 13 tackles, two for loss, two passes defensed and a quarterback hit. On the other hand, he was the only linebacker that had a good game. Rey Maualuga had seven tackles, but a couple of bad coverages and James Harrison continues a season of ineffectiveness on the limited snaps he's given every week (not completely his fault).
Secondary: Terence Newman had his worst game of the season, allowing seven receptions (of nine attempts) for 93 yards receiving and an opposing quarterback rating of 109.7. George Iloka was credited for allowing two touchdowns on three total receptions for 69 yards and an opposing quarterback rating of 156.3. On the other hand, Taylor Mays allowed only one of five passes to be completed and it was for a gain of six yards.
Special Teams: Mike Nugent missed a field goal earlier in the game, but made up for it with a game-winning 54-yard conversion. Kevin Huber had another late punt that eventually forced the opposition deep within their own territory while Carlos Dunlap blocked a second quarter field goal attempt that eventually led to a Bengals touchdown.
Coaching: Marvin Lewis challenged two plays and won both; giving him a success rate of 100 percent this year on four total challenges. The 19-yard completion with 6:19 remaining in the fourth quarter was overturned into an incomplete pass. Since it was a third-and-11, the Lions were forced to punt after the ruling. Lewis also challenged and won a first quarter reception.
But what I loved was the risk of taking a timeout in the fourth quarter. With 1:43 remaining in regulation, Reggie Bush gains four yards and the Bengals take a timeout. Clearly the Lions intended to run out the clock for overtime and after Calvin Johnson hauled in a 50-yard touchdown, it was a significant risk in a game tied at 24. Cincinnati took the time out and the Lions moved the ball on consecutive throws that picked up 13 combined yards. Consecutive incomplete passes forced the Lions to punt, resulting in Cincinnati's eventual game-winning field goal. All because of the time out that they took with 1:43 remaining in the game.