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The Monday Touchdown: Bengals 4-2 Heading Into Bye Week

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The Bengals have won three straight games and are still in second place in the division heading into their week seven bye. If you would have told me that they would be 4-2 at the bye week before the season started, I would have told you that you were crazy, yet here we are. 

The Colts game was scary at times, especially early in the fourth quarter, but the Bengals won and that's all that matters. Here are the seven things that come to mind now that I've had a day to think about the 27-17 win over the Colts.

Point One: Andy Dalton Deserves to be Named Player of the Game

The colts have one of the softest run defenses in the league and the Bengals still couldn't run the ball effectively. That laid the responsibility to score points squarely on Andy Dalton's shoulders and he rose to the occasion. 

He completed 25 of 32 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown which gave him a 111.5 passer rating. He may not have Cam Newton's numbers but he has the better passer rating which has transferred into wins for the Bengals.

I for one am very pleased with Andy Dalton's performance so far this season and I look forward to seeing what he can do as he progresses.

Point Two: Cedric Benson Just Isn't Getting the Job Done

I know there are a lot of Benson supporters out there in Bengals Nation but the guy just doesn't look good. Against the second worst run defense in the entire league, Benson could only average 3.6 yards per carry, racking up 57 yards on 16 carries. He did score a touchdown but any back on the Bengals roster could have scored from that distance.

I understand that the offensive line isn't the best in the league but we have to come to a point where we stop blaming the blocking and start blaming the running back. For me, that time has already come and gone. I would be happy to trade for a new running back but I know it's not going to happen. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this needs to be Benson's last season in stripes.

Point Three: The Defense Needs Maualuga

Without Rey Maualuga the Bengals defense fell from first to second place, which isn't really that big of a deal. The defense is still good and it may even take over the top ranking before the season is over. However, there's really no question that it just didn't look like the same defense without Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker. 

They allowed a duo of running backs consisting of rookie Delone Carter and Donald Brown, who almost got cut before the season started, to run for an average of 4.2 yards per carry including an 18-yard touchdown run by Brown.

I don't know if it's Maualuga's leadership that the defense missed or his playmaking ability or a combination of both, but it's clear they missed him. Hopefully he's back when the Bengals play the Seahawks in Week 8.

Point Four: Having Safeties and Cornerbacks Leading the Defense in Tackles Isn't Good

The top four tacklers on the Bengals defense in the Colts game were Reggie Nelson (seven), Nate Clements (six), Leon Hall (five) and Chris Crocker (five). That's not a good thing. While I'm sure it's not going to set a trend of poor play by the front seven, I have more faith in them than any other unit on the Bengals team, it's not a good thing to see the secondary lead the team in tackles.

No big deal, as long as it doesn't continue to happen.

Point Five: Dunlap's Touchdown

There isn't a thing in football that I love more than watching a defensive lineman score a touchdown.

That is all.

Point Six: I'm Sorry, Brandon Tate

So I've been kind of hard on the guy for doing a lot of dancing around and not as much running north and south as he should as well as fair catching punts on the five yard line and then letting punts go over his head that went out of bounds at the one-yard line.

So, I'm sorry, Brandon Tate. You played pretty damn good against the Colts and after hearing that you're on pace to break franchise punting records, I feel that I spoke to soon.

Keep it up.

Extra Point: Not Completely Convinced That the Bengals Will Struggle in AFC North Stretch

After the bye week, the Bengals play the Seattle Seahawks and then they play the Tennessee Titans. After that they go into a four-game stretch of AFC North opponents, including the Steelers twice. At first I was concerned about that stretch of games, and I still am a little, but not nearly as much.

The Steelers just don't look like the Steelers from recent years right now. They look a little old and banged up and slow. The Ravens are the real team to be concerned about but Joe Flacco has never really been able to figure the Bengals defense out and Ray Rice has never had a 100-yard game against us. While their defense does concern me more than any others the Bengals will play in 2011, I think that the Bengals defense can keep Dalton and the offense in the game.

I'm not going to go crazy yet and I'm still taking it one game at a time, but I will say that based on where this team is right now, they have a chance.

And a chance is a lot better than I would have figured they would have before the season started.