Yes, you can tie in the NFL. Former Eagles and Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb famously didn’t know that after recording a 13-13 tie with the Eagles against the Bengals in the 2008 season. And current Redskins head coach Jay Gruden claimed he didn’t know it either, until last week when the Cardinals and Seahawks tied. Boy is he glad that happened, since the Bengals recorded their latest 27-27 tie in London on Sunday against Gruden’s Redskins. It’s a common theme for ties to result in bewilderment by both the fans and the organizations after the fact.
Bengals fans know this all too well as the team has recorded the normally rare result four times in its history and three times in the last nine years. In a week in which the team had the opportunity to gain significant ground in the AFC North with a win, they only managed to squeak out a tie. It was a game rife with missed opportunities across the board, despite some excellent displays by both teams with highlight reel plays entertaining the folks across the pond for 75 minutes.
That said, for Bengals fans, the sheer incompetence and inconsistency of the team not putting away a game they could have had with literally one more point before the end of regulation was annoying. That inconsistency was reflected in this week’s round of grades from our friends at Pro Football Focus, and they’re pretty hard to disagree with this week.
Offensively, the unit was led by Tyler Eifert (92.4), A.J. Green (85.1), Andrew Whitworth (84.5), Russell Bodine (78.9), and Clint Boling (74.1). But, the offensive performance was marred by an uncharacteristically bad day by Andy Dalton (43.3).
Defensively, we saw relatively strong performances by Geno Atkins (83.6), Vincent Rey (77.8), and Vontaze Burfict (75.7). Shawn Williams (69.5) and Karlos Dansby (68.1) also performed better than most other defensive players, but their relatively low grades show just how poor the defensive play was as a whole.
Look no further than the Bengals’ passing game to tell the story of astounding inconsistency that led to the Bengals letting this game end in a tie.
The Bengals saw very good performances from wide receiver A.J. Green (121 yards) and Tyler Eifert (102 yards, touchdown). Eifert, in particular, reminded the Bengals what it’s like to have an elite tight end as part of their offensive arsenal. He was hurt for the first six weeks of the season and wasn’t particularly effective in his first game back last week.
But, this week, Eifert was the highest graded tight end in the NFL (92.4) as well as the highest graded player on the Bengals. Nearly half of his 102 yards in the air were gained after the catch, which helped him to an excellent pass catching grade (83.1). Throw in his fantastic day blocking for the run, receiving a high grade for his efforts (89.8), and you can see just how well he dominated the Redskins.
Perhaps forgotten was the play of rookie receiver Tyler Boyd. His numbers don’t even come close to Green and Eifert, but he caught five of six targets for 38 yards. Most of his catches came on underneath coverage, so he ended up with a respectable grade for his efforts this week (73.2).
However, as effective as Green and Eifert were, it was an equally bad day for quarterback Andy Dalton and No. 2 wide receiver Brandon LaFell. Dalton overthrew receivers on many of his passes and could have easily had more interceptions were it not for Washington cornerback Josh Norman’s butterfingers. He did throw one interception to Will Compton on a drive that was otherwise looking pretty good. Throw that in with a critical fumble in overtime and you get his worst graded performance since the Wild Card loss to the Indianapolis Colts in 2014 (43.3).
LaFell didn’t do much of anything this week. He did make one catch, on two targets, but it only went for six yards. His 46.7 grade ranked him as only the 74th receiver in the NFL this week.
As bad as certain players were on the offensive side of the ball this week, things looked more consistently bad on the defensive side of the ball. In their defense, players like Geno Atkins and Vincent Rey did perform well. In fact, Atkins graded very high as a pass rusher (81.8) and made three stops as a run defender. A sack, two quarterback hits, and six QB hurries tell the tale of the Geno Atkins that we all know and love. He was the fourth highest graded interior defender this week as a result of that performance.
That was pretty much it for impressive performances on the defensive side of the ball.
Unfortunately, unlike Atkins, it seems as though certain players who have been effective for the Bengals in the past might no longer be capable of playing at that level. In particular, Michael Johnson was once a force at defensive end for the Bengals. But, this season, he has recorded a measly overall grade so far (39.8). This week he only pressured the quarterback twice in 48 attempts and missed a tackle in the run game. Johnson is now ranked 53rd of 54 rated 4-3 defensive ends by PFF.
In the secondary, Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick have been mainstays at the starting positions, but they were both awful this week. Kirkpatrick allowed six catches on seven targets for 87 yards. His only target that wasn’t caught simply came because the ball didn’t make it to the receiver, rather than him having defended the pass. Tack on an unnecessary horse collar penalty for his lowest graded game of the season (41.3).
Jones was actually worse (39.1). He actually allowed a lower percentage of catches than Kirkpatrick (70 percent), and allowed less total yards in the air (62). But, a defensive holding penalty and a really bad day returning punts (seven yards and a recovered fumble on two returns) highlighted an absolutely atrocious day for the veteran.
Rey Maualuga was injured during the game, but returned. Honestly, it would have been better if he didn’t. Maualuga was the weak link in the linebacking crew this week, as he ended the game with a 39.4 overall grade, making him PFF’s 50th rated linebacker this week. Maualuga struggled covering tight end Jordan Reed (shocker; and why was he even the one tasked with covering him?), allowing 3 catches on 3 targets for 42 yards. He also missed two tackles in the game.