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Don't blame AJ McCarron for Bengals' second half collapse vs Broncos

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The Bengals saw a 14-0 lead vanish in Denver as the defense and running game collapsed in the second half. Here, we offer video analysis and extensive highlights of AJ McCarron's second NFL start.

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While AJ McCarron fumbled on the last play of an overtime loss in Denver, he was actually sharp overall (22/35, 200 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 87.8 QB rating, 86.6 QBR). For highlights and analysis of McCarron's performance, watch the following video:

McCarron and the Bengals offense started out strong, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives of the game. And they converted 10 of 17 third downs overall, despite getting only 77 yards on 27 carries from running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. More significantly, in that lackluster second half, Cincinnati totaled only 23 yards rushing on 12 carries and McCarron was hit five times and sacked twice (after not being touched in the first half). The defense allowed the Broncos to rush for 97 yards in the second half and overtime and A.J. Green stopped on a deep pass on 3rd and 5 in the fourth quarter that could have given the Bengals a 21-17 lead with under seven minutes to play. In other words, McCarron, making only his second start, did not receive enough support from his more experienced teammates. Of course, there were some great moments for the supporting cast as well.

McCarron was able to fit the ball into tight windows, particularly in the first half. He navigated the pocket well and escaped the top pass rush in the league (Denver leads the league with 49 sacks) by throwing surprisingly well on the run and picking up yards with his legs (4 rushes, 21 yards). Thankfully, the wrist injury McCarron suffered on the final play in Denver does not appear to be major and will allow him to play this week. Hopefully, he'll learn from the game-ending fumble and get more help in the running game going forward against the Ravens, and in the playoffs if Dalton needs additional time to return.