Excitement abounds in Who Dey Nation, as the team marched to a franchise-tying best 6-0 start on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. It wasn't the prettiest of games for the Bengals, but they made enough plays to garner a comfortable second half lead and secure a victory.
While the big picture paints the team as one of the league's best to everyone not named Colin Cowherd, it's time for more immediate reactions. Here is the best and worst from the Bengals on Sunday as they visited Ralph Wilson Stadium.
More Quality Quarterback Play: Though he likely won't win the NFL MVP award because of favoritism slanted toward other league juggernauts, Andy Dalton should be in the conversation. He played turnover-less football once again on Sunday, which is a feat when going up against an aggressive Rex Ryan defense. He threw three touchdowns to three different receivers with a 118.6 rating--his fifth 100-plus rating in six games this season.
The Running Backs Get Creative To Contribute: Jeremy Hill has been struggling this season, but still found a way to help the team with an acrobatic touchdown catch and 56 rushing yards. Though it wasn't a fantastic game, there is hope he's turning a corner. Bernard continued his exciting 2015 campaign with 6.3 yards per rush (50 on the day), including a touchdown. He also had a 23-yard catch-and-run, again proving his versatility.
The Mojo And Eifert Show: Sounds like a 1970s cop drama, huh? Well, Ryan and his defense wisely keyed on A.J. Green, limiting the Pro Bowl wideout to just four catches for 36 yards on the afternoon and forcing Dalton to look elsewhere. The two weapons who were missed so dearly in 2014 came up huge once again on Sunday. Eifert beat Buffalo's best corner, Stephon Gilmore on a first down catch while also boxing out safety Bacarri Rambo for his touchdown catch. Jones had nine catches for 95 yards and an acrobatic touchdown of his own.
The Two Legs On Special Teams: Mike Nugent continues to bounce back nicely after a rocky start to the 2015 season, adding two field goals on two attempts on Sunday. He also was three-for-three on extra points, in which everyone is aware of the added difficulty this year. Meanwhile, when the Bengals weren't actually moving the ball on offense, Kevin Huber continued to show why he's been a Pro Bowl punter. All three of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line, while still garnering a 40.3 average along with booming a 52-yarder on the day.
Adam Freaking Jones: Recently, I touted "Pacman" as one of, if not the best Bengals' free agent acquisition ever. While he's a valued defensive player, Jones remains one of the league's best punt and kickoff return men, even at the age of 32. He had four tackles on defense and helped limit all Bills wide receivers to under 50 yards. True to his special teams ability, he had a 49-yard kickoff return and another 18-yard punt return.
Reggie Nelson: Though some coverage issues reared their ugly head, Nelson had one of his better games of the season on Sunday. He led the team in tackles with a total of 11, a couple of which were on running backs behind the line of scrimmage.
Carlos Dunlap: The gargantuan defensive end is on a Pro Bowl pace this year and had 1.5 sacks on Sunday. His 6.5 on the season have him as a co-leader in the league and he's been one of the most consistent players on the Bengals this year.
Minimal Penalties: Cincinnati only committed three penalties on the afternoon, while constantly taking advantage of the Bills' mistakes. The Bengals also had a 58 percent conversion rate on third down (7-of-12), while also racking up 7.4 yards per pass play.
Offensive Line Stifling A Stout Bills Defensive Front: Three of the four starting defensive linemen for the Bills have made Pro Bowls, and the one who hasn't, Jerry Hughes, could have. Cincinnati's big bullies up front keep Dalton clean all afternoon and opened up holes for both backs. It was a nice bounce-back week after allowing four sacks to Seattle.
Run Defense: While only LeSean McCoy and EJ Manuel ran the football for the Bills, the Bengals had trouble containing them. Obviously, McCoy is a big ask on any given week, but "Shady" had 5.3 yards per carry and a touchdown against a supposedly-rejuvenated defense. Manuel had a touchdown and 22 yards on the ground as well, with the score coming on an option-type play on third and goal. It wasn't working well at any level of the defense.
Pass Rush Outside Of Dunlap: Defensive tackle Brandon Thompson shared a sack with Dunlap, but the rest of the line wasn't very effective when facing a backup quarterback. Chris Carter had a couple of pressures once Michael Johnson left with an injury, but neither Johnson or Geno Atkins did much to fluster Manuel. Some are attributing it to a bunch of holding penalties that weren't called, but...whatever.
Lack Of Sizzle At Linebacker: Rey Maualuga is playing decent football this year, and Vincent Rey and A.J. Hawk have proven capable, but the unit misses Vontaze Burfict badly. Some cracks in the run defense have appeared the past two weeks, and tight ends made plays this Sunday. They have held their own at times, but with the heady Rey injured and Burfict not on the field, the corps can look like lost, poor tacklers.
Bills Tight Ends Gashing Bengals: In recent years, Cincinnati's defense has improved greatly upon their stigma of allowing opposing tight ends to eat them alive. It hadn't happened up to Week 6, but Charles Clay and Chris Gragg made a number of plays. Clay had nine catches for 62 yards, while Gragg had five more for 54 yards. It's understandable that the Bengals would want to pay more attention to Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, but the big targets were a problem.
Bengals Injuries: While nothing appears to be season-ending and Marvin Lewis sounds optimistic, losing two starters in a scary fashion isn't good. Rey was carted off of the field with an ankle injury, while Johnson had to be helped off the field and into the tunnel. He did later return to the field, but not to the game. It sounds like Johnson has a bone bruise on his leg. The team is fortunate to have their bye right now to get everyone as healthy as possible.
Slow Starters: The Bengals had shot out to their first five wins for a variety of reasons, but one big one was their capability of starting fast. Relying on defensive stands and quick-strike offensive touchdowns has been a major part of the recipe to success in 2015. Cincinnati looked a little sluggish after the long game and emotionally-charged win last week, as Buffalo shot to a 7-0 lead and subsequently stifled the Bengals' offense. It was especially deflating because they were going up against the Bills' backup signal-caller.