The Bengals avoided falling to 0-2 on Monday night after they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on Monday Night Football. While much of the game was ugly, Cincinnati came away with a 20-10 victory and a shared lead in the AFC North.
Here's seven points from Monday night's game:
|Point One: Andy Dalton was all over the place|
While Dalton was impressive in the team's Week 1 loss in Chicago to the Bears, he struggled throughout much of the game against the Steelers. Granted, the Steelers still have one of the better defenses in the league, but Dalton missed wide open receivers more than once. He threw the ball too high several times or too far in front or behind his receiver. In the end, the Bengals still pulled out the victory, thanks to the defense and the running game, but if they had to rely on Dalton to lead them, they likely would have lost.
I'm willing to chalk his Week 2 performance up to Monday Night Football jitters, but the third-year quarterback had better get it together quickly. They face the Packers in Week 3 and will likely have to put up quite a few points to win.
|Point Two: Giovani Bernard|
It's very clear that Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard was a good choice for the Bengals in the 2013 draft. He is a receiving threat out of the backfield, which is something the Bengals have been missing, and his ability to carry the ball between the tackles appears to be better than anticipated. BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn't going anywhere, at least not this season, but don't be surprised to see Bernard get more and more carries this season.
|Point Three: Tight ends are going to be the difference|
A.J. Green is still Dalton's No. 1 receiver. There's no doubt about that at all. However, while opposing defenses obsess over how to shut the talented wide receiver down (they can't), tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert will be moving the ball down the field for the Bengals. Both tight ends had 66 yards receiving on Monday night, sharing the lead, and helped set up the Bengals on both of their scores. Jay Gruden's ability to move Gresham and Eifert around will keep defenses confused and should open things up for Green down the field.
|Point Four: Michael Johnson and the defensive line|
The Bengals only managed to bring Ben Roethlisberger down in the backfield twice on Monday night, but that doesn't mean that the Steelers quarterback had a clean pocket. In fact, if he wasn't hit right after he released the ball, most of the time by defensive end Michael Johnson, he was running out of the pocket, trying to extend the play.
While it may be a little disheartening to see the Bengals only come away with two sacks when facing a patchwork line, especially after the Titans sacked Big Ben five times in Week 1, Bengals fans can rejoice that Roethlisberger was never comfortable in the pocket.
|Point Five: Stupid mistakes again|
Once again the Bengals racked up penalties like it was going out of style. This time they were flagged nine times for a total of 84 yards. That's nothing but undisciplined football. While it's an easy mistake to fix, the Bengals cannot continue to be called for so many penalties. Against a better opponent, nine penalties for 84 yards could be considered a death penalty.
|Point Six: Rey Maualuga|
Once again, Rey Maualuga impressed me. He seems to be playing much more disciplined football in 2013 than he did in 2012, both against the run and the pass. I still think that Vontaze Burfict is the leader of the defense and is better suited than Maualuga at any linebacker position, but Maualuga's presence on the field hasn't been the detriment that it was last season.
|Extra Point: Momentum|
The Week 1 loss isn't so bad now that the Bengals have defeated the Steelers at home on Monday Night Football. However, now that they're back to .500, they need to keep things going. In Sunday they'll face the Packers' high-flying offense. They'll need to carry the momentum from Week 2 into Week 3 and beyond.
Their victory over the Steelers will hopefully catapult them into a winning streak that can propel them into the playoffs for the third consecutive year.