The Bengals improved to 9-2 with a seemingly easy win over the Rams. At this point in the season, every win is huge. This one means that they are guaranteed to have a winning season and are extremely close to locking up a playoff spot; not to mention the division. This kind of dominating win usually comes on the heels of multiple great high level performances from many players on the team. The best graded players by our friends at Pro Football Focus this week were: Geno Atkins (+6.3), Leon Hall (+3.6), Carlos Dunlap (+3.2), Wallace Gilberry (+2.4), and A.J. Green (+2.1).
Andy Dalton had a fairly average game (+0.1), which doesn't really accurately describe his game by itself. He wowed us with some incredible throws over the middle of the field to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, both of whom caught touchdown passes. But, there were also some pretty poor throws like the interception pass thrown to Janoris Jenkins that was really just forced into an area that he had no business throwing to. He also ended the game with his seventh passer rating over 100 of the season (121.4), so his bottom line was much better than what Pro Football Focus gave him credit for.
Obviously Green was a great contributor this week, but let's not forget the contributions of Marvin Jones (+0.8) and Mohamed Sanu (+0.2). And then there's Ryan Hewitt (+1.3) who had a really good game. He caught both of his targets for 29 yards (12 after the catch), both of which extended drives at crucial times.
While it was a great game for so many players on the team, we can't say the same for Giovani Bernard (-2.1). Bernard fumbled and bumbled his way to a poor game in the running game (-1.2), but he had an even worse day in the passing game (-1.7) despite one incredible 45 yard reception from Andy Dalton. But, he did receive a positive grade for blocking the quarterback (+0.2).
Speaking of blocking, Clint Boling continued his good season by recording his seventh positive grade of the year (+1.0). Despite allowing a QB hurry and committing a holding penalty, he was generally effective as a pass blocker (+0.2). He was also very effective as a run blocker (+1.1) and as a screen blocker (+0.5).
Geno Atkins continued his resurgent year, recording the highest overall grade on the team (+6.3) for the second week in a row. That came as a result of four QB hits, two hurries, and one sack as well as two tackles for loss and three stops. He had the highest grade of any NFL DT this week. Luckily Atkins was around to balance out a particularly bad game for second year defensive end Will Clarke (-3.5). Clarke's poor pass rush grade (-1.6) and poor grade against the run (-2.0) were the worst of all Bengals defenders.
That said, the story of the defense this week was the excellent play from the safeties. George Iloka (+2.1) and Reggie Nelson (+1.6) were the fifth and sixth highest graded safeties in the NFL this week, making them the highest graded safety tandem in the NFL this week. They both recorded an interception for their pass coverage grades, but Iloka's (+1.7) was slightly better than Nelson's (+1.6) as a result of also recording a pass defensed.
Kevin Huber has always been an asset for the Bengals during his tenure with the team, but this week he recorded his highest grade of the year (+2.6) and was PFF's highest graded punter in Week 12. It came as a result of pinning the Rams back within their own 20 yard line on one of his four punt attempts, although not recording any touchbacks. He averaged 48.3 yards per punt, which was good for the fifth highest average in the NFL this week.
Despite the generally dominant performance by the defense this week, the Bengals had an issue with missed tackles. Rey Maualuga recorded his second lowest grade this year (-1.8) on account of four missed tackles. Dre Kirkpatrick has been really bad at completing tackles this year, missing five in run support and 10 in the passing game. He has the worst combined tackle efficiency in the NFL with 3.9, though PFF says Sunday was Kirkpatrick's best overall game to date this season. Kirkpatrick had a +2.0 overall grade and was targeted 11 times, allowing six catches, but for only 34 yards. He also had three pass breakups, and he actually led the Bengals in stops with five. Sunday was Kirkpatrick's second positively graded game all season by PFF.