The Bengals are off to a 2-0 start on the season thanks to great efforts on both sides of the ball.
That's been the case in each of Cincinnati's first two games against two different levels of opponents. Against a lower-tier Raiders team, the Bengals dominated offensively en route to scoring 33 points through three quarters before grinding out the clock in the final frame. The defense was suffocating as they held Oakland without a point until the final eight minutes.
Against a playoff-contending Chargers team, Cincinnati was once again solid on both sides of the ball in a 24-19 win that should have had a larger final margin. If not for a missed chip-shot field goal by Mike Nugent and two fumbles by Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati may have won by a similar margin as their 33-13 win over Oakland.
Making this start even more impressive is that the Bengals rank in the top 10 in total offense, total defense, rushing offense, yards per passing attempt, and passing defense. Andy Dalton has passed for 214+ yards and 2+ scores with no turnovers in both of the team's two games while the ground game has netted 127+ yards in each of their first two contests.
That kind of balance is why Cincinnati is the No. 1 offense in Pro Football Focus' grading system, just ahead of the Patriots (2) and Steelers (3). Adding to this, Cincinnati has the No. 6 PFF defense after ranking 29th in 2014. Though Dalton and the offense had a good game, it was the defense who ultimately preserved the win after picking off Philip Rivers during San Diego's final drive.
"I think the big thing is when we had the turnovers on offense, the defense picked us up and I don’t think they scored off the turnovers," Dalton said after the win. "But that’s what we expect. It’s a team game. It’s not always going to be what the offense is doing; the defense is going to help out and it’s the same thing where if the defense is struggling the offense is going to pick them up and that’s what happened today."
The Bengals are also the only team with a top-six PFF ranking on both offense and defense. That's an ode to the balance they've shown on both sides of the ball that's helped Cincinnati look very impressive through their first two games.
If you've watched this team, you don't need PFF to realize this is a very balanced team that may finally have the right formula to make a playoff run. For now, just getting through Cincinnati's brutal 2015 schedule will feel like a playoff run.
So far, so good.