When we initially setup the poll for player nominations after Cincinnati's week 12 win over the San Diego Chargers, we actually didn't intend to make it where you couldn't vote. Though it would be symbolic for the team win, and kind of cool.
So let's try this again.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: Despite fumbling in the fourth quarter -- his first since losing one against the Green Bay Packers in week three -- Green-Ellis systematically won the game for Cincinnati by gaining 49 yards in the fourth quarter. When the Bengals got the ball back with over 4:35 remaining in the game, Green-Ellis was the architect that prevented San Diego an opportunity to tie the game, thanks to six consecutive carries that gained 27 yards.
In truth, I'd give this award to Green-Ellis on two carries alone -- the third and two conversion with 3:08 remaining and the third and four conversion at the 1:59 mark. Both runs were sheer will-power and a determination to win. Green-Ellis finished with 92 yards rushing, a season-high, with his first rushing touchdown since week five against New England.
Vontaze Burfict: A gritty performance, leading the defense with 13 tackles despite suffering an ankle sprain during Friday's practice. As impressive as anything, Burfict doesn't miss open field tackles.
Bengals Offensive Line: We have to honor the big guys as a unit. Opening lanes for Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard, the Bengals running game averaged 4.3 yard/rush and 164 total yards. Additionally, Dalton wasn't sacked and according to the NFL, he wasn't even hit inside the pocket.
Rey Maualuga: In his first game since missing two with an MCL sprain, Maualuga finished with ten tackles and a quarterback sack (really it was Rivers scrambling and reaching the line of scrimmage when Maualuga touched the sliding quarterback down).
Dre Kirkpatrick: Honestly, I just want to acknowledge Kirkpatrick, who ripped out the football from Antonio Gates that led to an interception. Kirkpatrick was also causing San Diego a lot of problems on special teams as a gunner. Maybe not an MVP performance, but welcome aboard, kid. Showtime!
Reggie Nelson: His shot on Gates in the first quarter would jar the football loose that was recovered by George Iloka. Nelson also finished third on the team with six tackles.
Kevin Huber: After dealing with winds and nasty Ohio weather, Huber had a nice clear day to drill some seriously beautiful punts on Sunday. His 75-yarder with 8:19 remaining in the first pinned San Diego at their own four-yard line. Huber crushed a 56-yarder from his own 13-yard line, flipping the field to San Diego's 31, adding ten yards with a Chargers holding penalty. Huber punted four times with a 55.5 yard average with three traveling further than 50 yards. The one that didn't, dropped inside the 20-yard line. San Diego didn't return any.
Week 11 (Browns): Vontaze Burfict (15 tackles, forced fumble, recovery for a touchdown)
Week 10 (Ravens): Vincent Rey (13 tackles, 3 sacks, interception, 3 TFL, 3 passed defensed)
Week 9 (Dolphins): Giovani Bernard (104 total yards, 2 TDs)
Week 8 (Jets): WR Marvin Jones (122 yards, 4 TDs)
Week 7 (Lions): QB Andy Dalton (372 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 6 (Bills): QB Andy Dalton (337 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 5 (Patriots): DE Wallace Gilberry (1.5 QB sacks, 2 QB hits, FF)
Week 4 (Browns): S George Iloka (6 tackles, near-pick)
Week 3 (Packers): DE Michael Johnson (7 tackles, 1.5 QB sacks, FF, TFL, 4 QB hits)
Week 2 (Steelers): RB Giovani Bernard (65 total yards, 2 TDs)
Week 1 (Bears): LB Vontaze Burfict (8 tackles, INT, pass defensed)