The general reaction from the Bengals and their fans to this week’s 31-17 win over the Cleveland Browns was: we needed that. To be fair, the Browns have been bad enough this year (0-7) without the injuries they dealt with in Cincinnati for this victory to seem less impressive than your average win. Furthermore, issues on the Bengals’ defensive side of the ball still reared their ugly head throughout much of the game. But, the important thing is, the Bengals took advantage of a golden opportunity to give themselves a chance to turn their 2016 season around after a rough start.
The Bengals saw a tough six game stretch to start the season and came out of the other end with a poor 2-4 record. Luckily, the Bengals’ AFC North competition hasn’t perform much better. After a division win this week and losses from both the Steelers and Ravens, the 3-4 Bengals are now tied with the 3-4 Ravens and only a single game behind the 4-3 Steelers in the race for the AFC North crown.
On the offensive side of the ball, there were a lot of positives to take away from the Bengals win. For one, the Bengals’ running game looked really good this week, better than it has all season, and gave the Bengals a chance to showcase the level of rushing talent they employ. But, as explained by John Clay of the Lexington Herald, the Bengals put on an offensive clinic. They looked just as good, if not better, in the air as they did on the ground.
On just nine carries, Hill rushed for 168 yards, the most by a Bengals running back since Cedric Benson gained 189 on Nov. 25, 2009. Green caught eight passes for 169 yards. LaFell grabbed four passes for 83 yards. Dalton completed 19 of 28 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. His passer rating of 128.3 was a season high.
“We needed a game like this,” LaFell said.
In the third quarter, Jeremy Hill found the endzone for the first time since Week 3 against the Denver Broncos. The touchdown returned a comfortable two-score lead to the Bengals and, as narrated by Katherine Terrell of ESPN, provided enough excitement for Hill to break his no-celebrating rule for the 2016 season.
Jeremy Hill is dancing again -- and so are the Cincinnati Bengals.
And why shouldn’t they?
It’s been a long time since the Bengals offense looked this good.
Hill ran for a career high 168 yards and a touchdown, A.J. Green made circus catches, and the Bengals’ struggling offense reverted back to its 2015 form in a 31-17 rout of the winless Cleveland Browns (0-7, 0-2 AFC North).
In fact, the Bengals' (3-4, 1-1 AFC North) only issues on that side of the ball were two missed field goals by kicker Mike Nugent.
Their 559 yards of total offense was the most the franchise has put up since Oct. 7, 1990.
They’ll probably take it.
The MMQB also praised Jeremy Hill, naming him one of the offensive players of the week.
Jeremy Hill, running back, Cincinnati. Pretty impressive when you average more in the running game than in the receiving game—particularly when you’re gaining 12 yards a clip in the air. But the Bengals finally got what they’d been waiting for from Hill in a rout of the Browns with a nine-carry, 168-yard rushing day (18.7 per touch), including a game-changing 74-yard touchdown gallop in the third quarter.
Also in the MMQB column, Pro Football Focus' Paul Zimmerman named Kevin Zeitler one of his, "Dr. Z Unsung Guys of the Week".
Guard Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati. Zeitler quietly had a phenomenal performance against the Browns. He did not allow a single sack, hit or hurry of Andy Dalton on 31 pass-block snaps. Zeitler also was a very proficient run blocker and helped the Bengals rush for 271 yards as a team; his 90.5 run-blocking grade led the league in Week 7.
For the most part, the national media was focused on the Bengals’ ability to put together drives on offense in a season where they have generally lacked that ability. Paul Guenther certainly won’t forget that his defensive unit gave up 17 points and allowed the Browns to play the Bengals relatively close in the second and third quarters, despite being on their sixth quarterback of the season. But the fun and interesting part of the day came for anyone looking to see the Bengals’ offense shine.
The defending division champions piled up their most points since they beat the Browns 37-3 last December. Jeremy Hill had a 74-yard touchdown run as part of his 168-yard effort, the best by a Bengals running back in seven years.
After failing to score more than 23 points in any of the first six games, the Bengals finally got their act together against one of the league's worst defenses, piling up 559 yards — their most since 1990.
"It's definitely a start for us," Hill said. "We're not satisfied, but it's a start in the right direction."
Not only did the Bengals have a big win with the help of their offense, but they also achieved many statistically impressive feats, as detailed by FOX Sports.
It was Cincinnati's biggest game offensively since the previous time it played Cleveland. The 34 points were the Bengals' most since a 37-3 win in Cleveland last December. The Bengals piled up 559 yards, their most since 1990. Green had eight catches for 169 yards. Jeremy Hill ran nine times for 168 yards - the most by a Bengal in seven years - including a 74-yard TD run.
The Bengals certainly didn’t look perfect this week and will probably need to fix quite a few issues if they want to continue to turn their 2016 season around, or actually make a successful playoff push. But, they put together an impactful performance this week that, if anything, should instill the players with plenty of confidence going forward.
That is especially crucial with so many new players and staff members on the team this year. For the Bengals to come out and dominate any NFL team the way they did this week shows that the talent is definitely there. All the Bengals need to do going forward is figure out how to harness that talent consistently.
Although the game was really only particularly interesting from a neutral standpoint through the first half and the beginning of the third quarter, Twitter couldn’t stop talking about the Bengals’ dominating victory. Here are some of the more interesting tweets from the Bengals’ big win:
A.J. Green is the 6th player in the last 30 seasons with three 150-yard receiving games within the first 7 weeks of a season pic.twitter.com/vCgfdoCwZn— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 23, 2016
AJ Green's hobby of juggling paid off for him on his Hail Mary TD catch. pic.twitter.com/GX9YGhEOJf— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 23, 2016
Last time #Bengals had 300 pas, 100 rush, 100 rec in regulation game was 9-16-07 at Cleve (Palmer, 401; Rudi, 118; Chad, 209)— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) October 23, 2016