The Bengals are back on the winning path and there's a lot to be happy about in Bengaldom as the squad gets ready for their short trip to Cleveland. After a resounding win, here's what we learned from the Bengals in Week 12.
The concern over the Bengals' two game losing streak can be put to rest.
I am not sure if the bandwagon of an 8-2 team has ever unloaded so quickly, but going into the game against the Rams, you would think the Bengals were 5-5 playing for their playoff lives the way many fans were acting. Either way, 31 points against one of the better defenses in the league is enough to put a lot of concerns to rest...or should be.
The offensive line answered a big call on Sunday.
My biggest concern about the matchup with the Rams was their impressive defensive line being a tough test for the Bengals' struggling offensive line. The Rams have arguably the best defensive line in football and had 30 sacks coming into the game. The Bengals' offensive line, on the other hand, has given up a lot of pressure on Dalton in the past few weeks. The Bengals line answered the call. The Rams left Paul Brown Stadium with the same amount of sacks as they had entering the game and to make things better (for the Bengals), they had zero quarterback hits. This isn't rocket science - when the line keeps the pressure off Dalton, he is really good.
Tyler Eifert is the best red zone target in the NFL.
Coming into the season, Eifert had two career touchdowns. Through 11 games, he has 12 touchdowns and is on pace to tie Rob Gronkowski's record season of 17 touchdowns. Only four players in the history of the NFL have had more than 17 receiving touchdowns in a season - Randy Moss (23), Jerry Rice (22), Sterling Sharpe (18) and Mark Clayton (18). Teams know he is getting the ball and they still can't stop it. At 6'6" and 250 pounds, Eifert is a load to cover, but what makes him so dangerous is his ability to run great routes; no player in the game uses his body to shield the defender better than Eifert.
Giovani Bernard owes Eifert a nice dinner.
Speaking of Eifert, his biggest play of the game may not have been his touchdown, but rather his recovery of Bernard's fumble. With a score of 17-7, the Rams were still in the game and it looked like the Bengals were about to take full control when Bernard took a short dump off 45 yards to the St. Louis 27 yard line only to fumble. Luckily for Bernard, Eifert was hustling down the field behind him and recovered at the Rams' 20. Two plays later, Dalton hit A.J. Green for an 18 yard touchdown and put the game out of reach.
Andy Dalton was good...again.
After 11 games, Dalton now sits comfortably in the top 10 in every major statistical category for quarterbacks (top five in most), including third in quarterback rating and second in QBR. Say what you want about his weapons and his defense, but this team goes as Dalton goes.
The Rams' passing game is terrible.
While I like the Bengals secondary and would love to say the poor play of the Rams' passing game was solely the result of the secondary, the fact is, Nick Foles is bad and the Rams' wide receivers aren't threatening.
The Bengals' run defense had their most impressive day of the season.
My second biggest concern going into this game was the Bengals' run defense and their ability to stop Todd Gurley. With just 19 yards on nine carries (2.1 YPC), consider the test passed. Outside of the 60 yard reverse to Tavon Austin, the Bengals held the Rams to just 34 yards on 16 carries.
Adam Jones' presence makes a huge difference.
I still believe, if Jones played against the Cardinals, the Bengals would have won that game. While the Rams have zero passing attack, and the Bengals' secondary would have held up without Jones, you could see the difference Jones makes just in terms of energy. Jones is hands down the Bengals' best corner, one of their emotional leaders and the secondary is markedly better when he is on the field.
Jeremy Hill is alive!
For the first time in 2015, we saw the Jeremy Hill we expected to see. While he has still yet to reach the 100 yard mark, Hill's 86 yards on 16 carries (5.4 YPC) were refreshing to see. When he is running with power like he was Sunday, it causes the defense to make a choice: commit to the run and leave themselves vulnerable to the Bengals' passing attack, or, play the pass and take their chances that Hill gashes the six or seven man front. On Sunday, the Bengals did both.
There really is a first for everything.
I have been going to Bengals games for 25+ years now, and never have I seen someone drop their pants - and underwear - as a celebratory touchdown dance. That changed this past Sunday. Yes folks, unfortunately, I saw this occur one row behind me in section 336 after Leon Hall's pick six and I will forever have the image burned deep in my retinas.
...On to Cleveland.