No, Bengals fans, you weren't dreaming on Sunday. After both NFL pundits and fans proclaimed Cincinnati as flatlining charlatans, the Bengals used the last 15 minutes of regulation and eight more in overtime to squash the narratives they have built up with so many disappointments in their 47-year history.
Perhaps we're being a bit overdramatic. Even so, this Sunday's win against the Seahawks was one of the biggest in Marvin Lewis' and Andy Dalton's respective careers. Let's run down the best and worst from the Bengals in the game.
Ice In The Veins: After the Bengals marched down the field on their first drive, they didn't score another point until there was about 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter. It didn't matter because this Cincinnati team has apparently had a genetic change and weren't about to crawl into their shells as they have done so many times in the past. All three phases of their team pulled up their boot straps and made an improbable comeback.
Andy Dalton: For the game basically going four and a half quarters of play, Dalton had what amounted to about one quarter of truly impeccable play. Still, the signal-caller dug deep and found a way to lead his team to a win via two passing touchdowns and one on the ground. Dalton had his third straight 300-yard passing day against a formidable Seahawks defense.
Tyler Eifert: Just another day at the office for the budding star tight end. Eifert was the leading receiver in all three major categories (catches, yards, touchdowns) and found the end zone twice on Sunday. His diving 25-yard catch in the fourth quarter helped to set up the game-tying field goal as regulation expired. His two touchdowns against Seattle brought his total to five on the year.
The Pass Rush: It seems like we've been touting this one weekly, but kudos to the Bengals for fortifying their pass rush this offseason after it being so deplorable last year. Carlos Dunlap had another one and a half sacks for a total of five in as many games, while Geno Atkins continues to push back the interior of offensive lines into the laps of opposing quarterbacks. The Bengals had four sacks of Russell Wilson on Sunday with many other pressures and opportunities for big plays.
Giovani Bernard: I don't think many Bengals fans would have thought it possible, but Bernard has been the much better running back for the team in 2015. Jeremy Hill is definitely valuable, but Bernard is playing some of his best football as a pro. He finished with 101 total yards from scrimmage (80 rushing, 21 receiving) and was a major catalyst to the Bengals coming through victorious on Sunday.
Special Teams: It was a great day for everyone on the unit not named Brandon Tate. And, even with his gaffes on Sunday, Tate did still manage to down a punt late in the game. Kevin Huber had three of his six punts land inside the five-yard line with Darqueze Dennard and Tate aiding that process. Adam Jones had three punt returns which averaged 22 yards per return and Mike Nugent was a major hero on the day with two clutch field goals and three big extra points.
Next Receiving Option Up, Please: Superstar A.J. Green got off to another quick start, but a Seattle adjustment to have Richard Sherman shadow him slowed him down as the game wore on. We already talked about Eifert and his 90 yards and two touchdowns, but Mohamed Sanu had some great catches late and Marvin Jones had five receptions for 61 yards as well. Really solid output by the receiving options in this offense.
Shutting Seahawks Out In Critical Situations: In red zone and goal-to-go situations, the Bengals defense held Seattle to a zero percent conversion rate. An Adam Jones interception helped in stifling the Seahawks in this big facet.
Adam Jones: As if his interception and awesome punt returns weren't enough, Jones also rallied the troops to get everyone back in the hungry mental state. Another good game for a player who has blossomed since his arrival in Cincinnati.
"The Jungle" Was A-Rockin': Though the game made a turn for the worst during the second and third quarters, Who Dey Nation had their voices heard late in the game. Chants, yelling and celebrations brought back the 1980s nostalgia.
Pass Protection: Sure, the Bengals were going up against a very good Seahawks pass rush attack, but Cincinnati's offensive line has cemented their status as a top group in the NFL. They equaled the Bengals' sack total with four on Andy Dalton. They did shore up things in crunch time, giving Dalton good protection when it mattered the most.
The Long Dry Spell With Production: While they came roaring back in the fourth quarter and in overtime, the Bengals went through a terribly long and unwatchable stretch of football. After the first drive where they scored a touchdown, the team didn't put points on the board until three quarters later. Again, they were up against a stout defense and things always aren't going to go as planned, but the stretch was littered with penalties, turnovers and uninspired defensive play.
Tackling And Thomas Rawls: While the Cincinnati defense has really improved their pass rush and creating of turnovers in 2015 from last year, their tackling has not been good this year at all. Rawls looked like a Pro Bowl back against the Bengals' defense and his 69-yard touchdown scamper brought back memories of the 1990s.
FOX's Camera Work: Maybe it's just because the Bengals are an AFC team causing them to play the majority of their game on CBS, but FOX's odd camera angles and big-time close-ups made it a different watching experience. The people I watched the game with continuously talked about the same issues, so maybe I'm not alone on this island.
Brandon Tate: What the heck was this guy doing on kickoffs? He looked like he was hesitating on three returns and in doing so, got the Bengals only out to they own 10-15-yard line. Tate was a hero last week, but reverted back to a fan whipping boy once again.
Michael Bennett: Not only did the Bengals fail to contain him, as evidenced by his six tackles, one sack and forced fumble, but Bennett acted like a junkyard dog at one point. After Andy Dalton threw an interception, Bennett hit Dalton three times during the return, almost looking like a punch was coming next. His D-Bag of the Week Award is in the mail.
Jeremy Hill: I'm not totally sure I know what's going on here. Sure, defenses are keying on him when he's in and that isn't helping, but eight carries for 13 yards from a guy who was a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2014? They're winning, so it isn't time to hit the panic button yet, but Hill has only a 3.0 yards per carry average after sustaining a 5.1 clip last year.
Both Turnovers: For how well Dalton has been playing, he has a weird negative statistic to his name. He's thrown just two interceptions on the season and both were in a situation when the Bengals were in scoring range. The other was a fumble by Rex Burkhead on a play Bennett blew up.
Officiating: Even though this has been listed on this weekly feature often this season, I want to set the record straight that I'm not a complaining about the referees kind of guy. Still, two missed pass interference penalties on Seattle, another missed personal foul on a punt return and the Jones fair catch call had to have Bengals fans scratching their heads.
Dalton Taking Hits: One of Dalton's greatest qualities as a quarterback is his durability. In Hue Jackson's system, more rollouts and designed runs are in the game plan, potentially exposing Dalton to injury. Aside from Bennett's ridiculous assault, Bruce Irvin had a big hit on him and he had another huge one right before Nugent knocked in the game-tying field goal at the end of regulation. Maybe it's partially due to the fact they were up against the swarming Seahawks defense, but they might want to start keeping an eye on the situation.
Wasting Of Timeouts: Sometimes when a club has issues with this, it's associated with a lost challenge and the like. However, it's becoming a weekly tradition for the Bengals' offense waste at least one timeout in a game because of confusion and/or the disliking of matchups on the field. This needs to stop--especially as the primetime and possible playoff games come their way.