Tyler Eifert: It's amazing how much of a difference Tyler Eifert has made on the Bengals' offense after missing all of last year with elbow and shoulder injuries. Against Cleveland, Eifert secured his seventh scoring grab of the season on Cincinnati's opening possession on a nine-yard strike from Andy Dalton. (But he wasn't done there!)
His eighth touchdown of the season came toward the end of the first half to give the Bengals a 14-3 lead. But still, he wasn't done there. Eifert would tack on one more score in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach for the Browns.
Those three scores put Eifert in the lead for most touchdown catches by any NFL player. Yes, it is Eifert who leads the league in scoring grabs this year by two full scores ahead of the next best player. Adding to that, only four players in the NFL have caught seven or more touchdowns this season: Larry Fitzgerald, Odell Beckham Jr., Rob Gronkowski, and Eifert.
That's some pretty good company to be in. It also shows how good of a player Eifert is and how important he is to his team.
It may be too early to call Eifert an 'elite' player, but there's no question he's playing at an elite level. Screw it. He's elite.
Andy Dalton: Another week, another big game by Andy Dalton as he and the offense looked unstoppable at times. He led the offense on three consecutive scoring drives in the second half to put this game out of reach while finishing with three touchdowns and no turnovers, easily his best game against the Browns in his career. After a minor setback game against the Steelers last week, this was exactly what Dalton needed to show his early-season hot streak was anything but a fluke.
Ryan Hewitt: The Bengals offense in short-yardage situations has been great this year in part because of Ryan Hewitt. While he'll line up at a variety of spots, fullback is still his most natural position, and he's good for a couple of key blocks each game in these scenarios.
The most notable one against Cleveland came on 4th-and-inches on Cincinnati's first offensive drive. The Bengals went with the Power-I and got a great lead block from Hewitt to spring Jeremy Hill for a four-yard gain.
Marvin Lewis' challenges: Remember when it seemed like Marvin Lewis couldn't win a challenge? He won just one challenge in three of his first five seasons in Cincinnati...ONE, in three 16-game seasons. That included a 1-for-11 rate in 2007, which has to be some kind of record.
This year: He's 2-for-4 challenging plays, the second of which came at a crucial point in this game. It came in the third quarter after the Browns had just forced a Bengals punt, and it appeared the Browns had just converted a 3rd-and-12 from their own 10-yard line with the Bengals only up 14-10.
Johnny Manziel scrambled for what was initially ruled a 12-yard gain and a conversion, but on second look, he was clearly down a yard short of the marker. Lewis immediately challenged it and got the play overturned, forcing a Browns punt.
From there, the Bengals would command of the game score on three straight possessions as they ran past the Browns en route to a 31-10 victory. The Bengals may have won this game anyhow, but this was definitely the turning point where they took complete control.
The Bengals in Primetime: You couldn't tell if this was a regular game or a primetime game with how well the Bengals played under the bright lights. It's this setting in which Cincinnati has been shaky far too often, but they were anything but as they dominated both sides of the ball while Andy Dalton and the offense looked like a machine as they rolled over the Browns. It took a little longer than it probably should have, but the Bengals appear to have overcome their primetime woes.
Mohamed Sanu's shoe game:
Bengals WR Mohamed Sanu's cleats = pic.twitter.com/MArVFIXg7o— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 6, 2015
Need I say more? And now you guys know what to get me for Christmas.
Oh, and Sanu scored a 25-yard touchdown on a nice receiver reverse:
It's all in the shoes.
Clint Boling: It wasn't long ago that offensive guard Clint Boling was on an impressive streak of pass-blocking snaps without allowing a sack. Now Boling is in a bit of a slump after allowing sacks in consecutive weeks. He allowed one in last week's narrow win over the Steelers, and he allowed one in the first quarter to Desmond Bryant (of mugshot fame). Boling also allowed several other pressures in this game as he did last week, and he's not looking as reliable as he was early on this season.
Vontaze Burfict's health: It took just two games for Vontaze Burfict to suffer his first post-surgery injury to the same knee that was operated on this offseason. Burfict got up gingerly after a play early in the second quarter before going to the sideline and flexing out said knee as trainers examined him. After being ruled questionable to return, Burfict was able to return toward the end of the second quarter. But, the Bengals were certainly holding their breath after the scare. Hopefully this was just a minor bump in the road of Burfict's comeback.
The Read-Option: The Bengals occasionally will run a little read-option with Andy Dalton deciding on whether to keep the ball or hand it off at the last second. More often than not, these plays went for negative yards in this game, including a 3rd-and-2 play in the red zone in the third quarter in which Dalton kept it, only to be tackled for a five-yard loss by rookie linebacker Nate Orchard.
That forced a field goal to give the Bengals a 17-10 lead instead of potentially taking a bigger lead that could have allowed them to pull away. This play has worked well at times for the Bengals in the past, but not on this night.
Not even the NFL Network cameras are safe from Vontaze Burfict. https://t.co/HyUeE2MsIS— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) November 6, 2015