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What the national media are saying about the Bengals after their Week 12 win over the Rams

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We take a look at what the media are saying about the Bengals after their big win over Rams.

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The Cincinnati Bengals got back to their winning ways thanks to a 31-7 win over the St. Louis Rams in Week 12.

After losing in heartbreaking fashion the previous two weeks — seven combined points in losses to the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals — the Bengals made sure to bury the Rams early and give them no hope of climbing back into Sunday's contest once Cincinnati took the lead on their first possession and never relinquished it.

As Lance McAlister pointed out, the Bengals' offensive line gave Andy Dalton great protection throughout the game and allowed him to find open receivers:

Speaking of, Joe Kay of the Associated Press made sure to praise Dalton for his big game while also pointing out the elite company he's part of:

Facing a defense that came in with 30 sacks, Dalton was hardly touched. He went 20 of 27 for 233 yards with one interception and a passer rating of 121.4, his highest in three games. He's 29 yards away from joining Peyton Manning as the only NFL players to throw for 3,000 yards in each of their first five seasons.

Dalton and head coach Marvin Lewis have helped lead the Bengals to not only another likely playoff berth this season, but arguably the greatest period in franchise history.

As Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote, it was nice to sit back and enjoy a Bengals game and not worry about the end result for four quarters.

It was as easy a win as exists in the NFL. The Bengals played it like a day at the office, as steadily and unemotionally as any game this year. The Rams played it like they were channeling the 90s Bengals.

A big reason why this game was never really in doubt was the big man in the middle of the Bengals' defense. Two years after shredding his ACL in Miami, Geno Atkins is back to shredding offensive lines and making even the best running backs look like mincemeat, even if it's a fellow Georgia Bulldog alum like Rams running back Todd Gurley.

Atkins, also a Georgia product, split a double team. He didn't tackle Gurley, exactly. It was more like he picked the rook up by the waist and just sort of held him there. Two-yard loss. Gurley is listed at 227 pounds. Atkins treated him like a sack of taters. There would be no "establishing the run'' by the visitors Sunday.

"The big Bulldog put it on the little Bulldog today,'' Peko said.

But Atkins wasn't the only Bengal defender that had a big day. Much-maligned cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick had arguably his best game of the season, and the guys at Pro Football Focus made sure to point that out:

Quite the eventful day for Dre Kirkpatrick (+2.0), who had by far his best game of the season. The cornerback was targeted 11 times and allowed six catches, but for only 34 yards. He also had three pass breakups, and he actually led the Bengals in stops with five. Even on some of the first downs he did concede, Kirkpatrick was in solid position to secure the tackle. It was only his second positively graded game all season.

Another former Bulldog who had a big game was Bengals receiver A.J. Green, who caught two touchdowns in the game after catching just one score in the past seven games. As ESPN's Scott Miller notes, if you have Green in fantasy football, this was one of his best games of the season.

Green didn't light up the Rams with a ton of yards (61), but he scored 18 fantasy points thanks to his two touchdowns. It marked Green's fifth career game with two scores, and his second-best fantasy performance of this season.

Then again, Green's first score was among the easiest in his NFL career.

While Green recorded two scores, it was running back Jeremy Hill who recorded the most yards in the game, and had his best game this season in terms of rushing yards and yards per carry, as ESPN's Coley Harvey writes:

He may not have found the end zone, but Hill still accomplished something important in Sunday's win. He gained yards. Specifically, he gained more yards than he had in any other game this season, collecting 86 on the ground on 16 carries. It was a vintage performance for him. He regularly flashed through the line of scrimmage with the explosion and burst he had as a rookie all of last year. He finished off some physical runs, too, earning a 5.4 yards per carry average. He entered the game with a 3.3 yards per carry average.

Harvey also notes how Dalton and tight end Tyler Eifert are tearing it up between the numbers:

Against the Rams, Dalton was near-perfect passing between the numbers. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he was 13-for-14 with two touchdowns when throwing across the middle. That came after he entered the game with an NFL-best 94.7 Total QBR on such passes.

One of Dalton's two touchdown passes into the middle of the field went up the left seam to Eifert. Seven of his 12 touchdown receptions have come in that part of the field.

All of this had led to Bleacher Report columnist and Football Outsiders author Mike Tanier buying the Bengals as the Patriots' top challenger to win the AFC, but the Broncos may have something to say about that after they just beat the Pats.

The Broncos won't win a rematch with the closer-to-full-strength Patriots unless they improve their fit-and-finish, and that has nothing to do with who starts at quarterback.

The Bengals, on the other hand, rarely leave any points on the field, though they have some roughness-foul tendencies of their own. The Bengals are far deeper, more balanced and more diverse on offense than the Broncos.

Luckily, we don't have to argue about Bengals vs. Broncos for long: They face each other in Denver on Monday night in Week 16. The winner will likely get a first-round bye.

Oddsmaker Jeff Sherman reports the Bengals now have one of the four-best odds of any NFL team to win the Super Bowl:

It's been rare to see the Bengals so high in any kind of Super Bowl odds this late in the season, but you can't argue that they are one of the best teams in the NFL. You don't make it to 9-2 without being one of the league's best.

Cincinnati won, is now 9-2 and all is right in Bengaldom.