It was a shocking sequence of events that unfolded in Thursday night in Philadelphia--particularly in the second half. The Bengals lumbered through a sluggish first half where they found themselves down by the 4-9 Eagles at halftime, but some huge plays turned the tide and Cincinnati leaped out to a 21-point lead. It wasn't pretty, but you don't get style points in the NFL. The MVP candidates we have come up with really showed their worth during that second-half explosion (or Philadelphia implosion, should you choose to look at it that way) and we think that they were among the best of the best on Thursday.
Most of the big plays to get the Bengals back into the game were provided by the defense, so we are starting there with the first nomination. Defensive end Wallace Gilberry has provided a nice boost in the wake of the injury to Jamaal Anderson. On Thursday, Gilberry had two tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. The touchdown came courtesy of a play that was blown up by Pat Sims and Gilberry took it 25 yards for the score. Since joining the team around Week Three, Gilberry has posted five sacks in a reserve role and given them just what they needed up front.
Not too long ago, I called BenJarvus Green-Ellis one of the hottest Bengals players right now. It's safe to call him one of the hottest in the league now, given his performance in the past five weeks. Green-Ellis had his fourth 100-yard rushing effort on Thursday night and was one of the few consistent players on offense throughout the game. He also added a tough touchdown run, helping the team out early on. He cracked the 1,000-yard mark on the season against Philadelphia and now has over four yards per carry on the season. It goes without saying, but Green-Ellis has really turned things around in the second half of the season.
Continuing on offense, there were a couple of the usual suspects that we looked at. Though their performances weren't spectacular, both A.J. Green and Andy Dalton made big plays to secure the win. In an ominous statistic, Green was the only wide receiver to catch a pass in the game (only Brian Leonard and Jermaine Gresham had receptions besides Green), which actually says a lot, given the attention he commands. He finished with six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown reception, giving him 11 on the year. He's on pace for one of the best seasons by a wide receiver in Bengals history.
Say what you want about Dalton's performance (yes, it was ugly at times), but the kid still put together a win. Aided by some turnovers from his defense, Dalton had two touchdowns on the day--one rushing and one passing. He has work to do in improving his game for the next two divisional showdowns, but even when he doesn't play well, Dalton finds a way to keep his team in the game and pull out a victory. The issues he has with receivers not named Green are a two-way street and those need to be hashed out during the extended break. Though he lost two fumbles, he didn't throw an interception.
Who gets your vote for the Week 15 Most Valuable Player?