In arguably their toughest matchup of the season, the Cincinnati Bengals answered the bell at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. There were a lot of bright spots to applaud about for the home team, but as with any NFL team regardless of their record, there are areas needing clean-up as well.
Before we turn the page over to the Seattle Seahawks, who are coming to town this week, we take a final look at the best and worst from Cincinnati's 36-21 win over the Chiefs.
Andy Dalton: For the fourth consecutive week, the Bengals' signal-caller had an impressive outing. Though he didn't have gaudy numbers in the touchdown column, Dalton did have his second consecutive 300-yard passing day and was very efficient to the tune of a 71 percent completion rate.
The One-Two Running Back Punch: Though it's been a bit of a disappointing start from a rushing yards and per-carry average standpoint for Jeremy Hill, he's still showing his nose for the end zone. He had three rushing touchdowns against the Chiefs along with over four yards per carry. Giovani Bernard had a nice touchdown run of his own, 4.8 yards per carry and 62 rushing yards. The two backs continue to complement each other well in their young careers.
Weapons Galore On Offense: When Dalton and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson have their full stable of weapons, look out. Dalton hit six different receivers on the day with five of them having a catch of at least 25 yards (Rex Burkhead, Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Eifert, A.J. Green and Brandon Tate). Green torched the Chiefs throughout the first two quarters, but Kansas City clamped down on him in the second half. No problem--Sanu ends up leading the receivers in yards and Tate makes arguably the play of the game with a diving 55-yard touchdown catch.
The Offensive Tackles: While the guards also played well, a big point of focus this week was left tackle Andrew Whitworth on Tamba Hali and Andre Smith on Justin Houston. The entire line has only allowed two sacks all year, and blanked the two Kansas City stalwarts on Sunday. It was a big factor in Dalton's success once again.
The Starting Defensive Line: Each one of the four Bengals' starting defensive line had a quarterback sack on Sunday. Geno Atkins has already matched his sack total (three) from last season, Carlos Dunlap has shot out of the gates with 3.5 of his own, Michael Johnson was exploding off of the line all afternoon and Domata Peko had two sacks. Each guy is feeding off of each other and their respective play is allowing opportunities for each other. It's been a huge factor in the team's 4-0 start.
Efficiency Stats: After a mixed bag in the three major categories last week (third down, red zone, goal-to-go), the Bengals' offense was excellent in each phase against the Chiefs. They were 4-of-4 in red zone opportunities, 3-of-3 in goal-to-go and continued their third down dominance with a 60 percent rate (6-of-10). It was a very efficient day for Dalton and Co.
Kevin Huber: Casual NFL fans might not recognize the value of a punter, but when a team has a good one, he can be a weapon. Huber had just three punts on the day, but he was solid all afternoon. He had a 47.7 yards-per-punt average, including a 67-yard bomb, while two of the three landed inside the opposition's 20-yard line.
Passing Yards-Per-Play Disparity: It's not often that a team outdoes its opposition in yards-per-play by almost double, but the Bengals achieved it. Cincinnati had a 13.4 yard average through the air per play, while Kansas City had just a 7.0 in the category.
Keeping The Opposition Out Of The End Zone: You can't complain when your opponent doesn't crack the end zone. It's usually a formula for winning.
Inability Of Stopping Jamaal Charles: You knew Charles would get some stats, but he frustrated the Bengals' defense most of the afternoon. He combined for 145 yards (75 rushing, 70 receiving) and garnered first downs to the chagrin of Bengals defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther. He didn't get into the end zone though, making it a small victory.
The Linebackers: I hesitate actually calling the group "bad" on Sunday--more like "meh". Rey Maualuga and A.J. Hawk had a couple of nice tackles for loss and Vincent Rey had 15 total tackles, but you can tell the group is missing sizzle. Luckily the Bengals are just a couple of weeks away from potentially getting Vontaze Burfict back, but for now it's a feast-or-famine corps.
Injuries To The Secondary: Cincinnati already sat safety George Iloka on the day, but their top two corners got injuries of their own. Adam Jones left the game with groin issues after injuring his elbow the week prior, and Dre Kirkpatrick played through an ailment of his own after also getting banged up in Week 3. It's fortunate neither have injuries that look serious and other corners stepped up, but the Bengals need this group at full strength.
Just One Sketchy Takeaway: The Bengals won the turnover battle on a call that could have gone either way, but Alex Smith was able to pick apart the defense with quick, yards-after-the-catch plays. It's hard to make this a complaint as the team had five sacks on the afternoon, but you just expected more of these, right?
Penalties And Officiating: What is it about the officiating this season? Referee units are flag-happy and missed calls seem more abundant than usual. Chiefs fans could have a gripe with the Travis Kelce fumble call, but at least a couple of others didn't go the Bengals' way either (A hold on Tyler Eifert, anyone?). Does anyone even know what a catch is anymore after the questionable play involving Jeremy Maclin? Even so, the Bengals had a hideous 11 penalties for 84 yards and it just can't continue as they go forward.
Mike Nugent's Miss: Any time a kicker misses a kick, it gets magnified because of the individualistic nature of the position. Still, while he's made his share of big kicks for Cincinnati over the years, Nugent has his share of eye-opening misses. He isn't alone in this situation, as it appears to be a bit of a league-wide trend, but Bengals fans are getting exasperated. Luckily, the team was able to overcome Nugent's miss for a big win.
Marvin Jones: I like the guy a lot and he's had a big impact already this year, but he wasn't a factor on Sunday at all. In fact, in back-to-back plays, Jones had a really rough go of it. On a second down in the third quarter, Jones sprang free from a corner and Dalton hit him in stride for a would-be touchdown. Jones dropped it and headed back to the huddle. Then, on a third-and-six, Jones jumped offsides one play after the drop. Yikes.