The Bengals lost on Monday to the Denver Broncos in a game that they didn't necessarily need to win, but one that would have provided significant rewards is they did. With the loss, they're still division champions and still have an outside shot at the No. 2 seed, but the fact that they lost yet another important game under the bright lights stings. It wasn't all bad, though. Some of the best individual performances of the night came from Carlos Dunlap (+4.1), Michael Johnson (+2.4), Jeremy Hill (+2.2), A.J. Green (+2.2), and Reggie Nelson (+1.7).
I've been in contact with local police stations and they are seriously considering putting out a stiff reward for anyone who can locate the Bengals' offensive line. It seems like every week there are a myriad of negative grades coming from this unit, and those numbers tend to line up with the struggles of the offense as a whole. This week, Andrew Whitworth (+1.1) was the only lineman on the team to record a positive overall grade. Clint Boling, on the other hand, recorded the lowest grade of his career (-4.1) as a result of a very poor pass blocking grade (-3.7) that came from allowing a sack and five QB hurries on the day.
However, in spite of the frustrating play of most of the offensive line, the running game managed to pick up at times on Monday. Most of the yardage for both Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard came after contact, though. Bernard only averaged 1.8 yards per carry and 14 yards on the ground, but he actually recorded more yards after contact (15) than total yards on the day. Jeremy Hill had a much better day running the ball, but still nearly half of his total yards (63) came after contact (37). He was consistently breaking tackles and forcing the ball beyond where he should have gone down, which is probably a good thing if the offensive line keeps playing like this.
Green (+19.7) and Marvin Jones (+4.2) make a great tandem, as they are the sixth and 38th highest graded receivers in the NFL, respectively. Unfortunately, Mohamed Sanu (-5.7) hasn't been doing so well this season and ranks 104th among 119 qualified receivers. He's good for the occasional big play or impressive catch, but has a bad habit of disappearing at crucial times.
It was a good day for the Bengals' defensive line. In particular, Carlos Dunlap recorded the highest grade on the team, as well as his highest pass rush grade (+4.1) since Week 12 of the 2013 season. Only William Hayes of the Rams matched that grade for 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL this week. Pat Sims also had a very good day in the pass rush, recording a +1.5 as a result of a QB hurry and a QB hit. The last time he performed that well in the pass rush was Week 16 of 2013, his first season with the Raiders.
In the secondary, Dre Kirkpatrick had a good day, recording a positive overall grade of +0.9, as a result of a positive grade in pass coverage (+0.2) and in run defense (+0.6). He didn't miss a single tackle, which continues his impressive streak of playing well on Monday Night Football against the Broncos. Unfortunately, it wasn't as good of a day for should-be Pro Bowl corner Adam Jones who allowed big yardage after the catch along with a missed tackle for his worst overall grade of the year (-2.6).
It was not a good day for the Bengals' normally high-class punter, Kevin Huber (-1.9). He punted five times for two touchbacks, one fair catch, and two returns for 20+ yards. Of all punters this week, he was the 27th best. By his usually lofty standards, that's a pretty poor effort. The whole special teams unit looked sub-par this week, but Huber definitely occupied the basement.
AJ McCarron started out the game with two fantastic drives that really made him look like the chosen one to help the Bengals rise from the ashes of primetime mediocrity. But, things just went downhill from there. He averaged just 5.71 yards per attempt (18th lowest in the league this week) and was only accurate on 16.7 percent of his deep throws. He completed only one of his six 20+ yard attempts, which was the lowest of all qualifying quarterbacks this week.