For Bengals fans, the 2016 season feels like a series of disappointments. After tying a franchise best 12-4 record in 2015 and arguably having been good enough to get over the playoff hump before franchise quarterback Andy Dalton went down for the season, expectations for 2016 were high. Sure, the offseason exodus brought those expectations down somewhat. But, not to the point where the team was expected to be 3-5-1 after Week 10 and barely holding on to any hope of a late playoff push.
But, that’s what happens when the offensive line gives up 28 sacks in nine games and the defense gives up 122 rushing yards to a team whose running game previously ranked 31st in the NFL. Yes, a Giants team that was averaging 68.2 yards per game through the first nine weeks put up a season high 122 against the Bengals’ defense. Still, despite that fact, it was the defense that gave the Bengals every chance to win this game.
On the offensive side of the ball, good performances were hard to come by. In this week’s round of grades from Pro Football Focus, we saw decent performances from players like Kevin Zeitler (78.3), Andy Dalton (77.0), Andrew Whitworth (74.5), and Russell Bodine (73.1). The next best graded player was A.J. Green (69.5), although the performance still ranks subpar for his standards.
On the defensive side of the ball, things were better, even though it didn’t help enough with the offense playing so ineffectively. Vontaze Burfict had a near perfect game this week, recording the highest grade of any Bengals player the entire season (99.1). Vincent Rey (87.3) and Geno Atkins (85.6) also were graded respectfully for their Week 10 efforts.
Despite the ill-advised pass that turned into an interception, Andy Dalton graded above average this week. It’s worth pointing out that 72 percent of his passes were thrown accurately. That led to 204 yards passing and a touchdown pass to A.J. Green. Had he not thrown that interception, Dalton’s performance alone might have been good enough to lead the Bengals to victory.
That said, don’t blame the loss on his interception. Despite still grading among the top five offensive players, Green wasn’t helping much as he recorded his worst game since Week 2. He was only able to gain 17 yards after his catches (2.4 yards per catch). He did record the team’s only passing touchdown, but it wasn’t anywhere close to the kind of production the Bengals needed to see from their top target.
It also didn’t help that Tyler Eifert was generally absent for most of the game. Yes, that one 71 yard catch was awesome. But, it was only one of three catches he made on five targets, and his other two catches only added 25 yards to his overall total.
Furthermore, we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the offensive line. A big part of the problem this week was the fact that Dalton simply didn’t have time to get anything accomplished. Struggles continue at the right tackle position, but this week it was the left guard, Clint Boling, who was most surprisingly struggling (37.4 pass blocking grade).
Despite being largely ineffective last week, right guard Kevin Zeitler was very good this week, particularly as a run blocker (72.9 run block grade). But, that didn’t help enough as 40 running backs graded out higher across the NFL this week.
To start things off on a positive note on the defensive side of the ball, Vontaze Burfict not only had the highest grade of any Bengals player this year (as I mentioned earlier), he had the highest graded game of his entire career in East Rutherford. He recorded 11 tackles, two assists, eight run stops, three pressures, a QB hit, and two QB hurries (on six pass rushing snaps).
Not to mention, he received a team high 12 targets in pass coverage, but only allowed seven receptions for 51 yards and recorded a pass defensed in the process. He was the highest graded linebacker in the NFL this week. If more Bengals players could play like that on a regular basis, the Bengals would be clear Super Bowl contenders.
In addition to Burfict’s incredible game, the Bengals also saw good performances from certain defensive linemen. Geno Atkins looked like the real Geno Atkins this week with a sack, two QB hits, four QB hurries, a run stop, zero missed tackles, and zero penalties. That added up to a very good overall grade (85.6). In addition, recently returned defensive end Wallace Gilberry recorded a good grade in his first game back (71.4) due to one QB hit and one run stop. He vastly outshined fellow reserve defensive end Will Clarke (44.6), so there’s a good chance we could be seeing plenty of Gillberry this season. That’s assuming he can get healthy, fast, after leaving Monday’s game.
There wasn’t much to talk about as far as the secondary goes this week, although it should be noted that Dre Kirkpatrick bounced back from a terrible game in London with a great game in East Rutherford. He only allowed four receptions on nine targets for 17 yards and had a nice interception that ended up netting the Bengals three points. He had a few struggles (missed tackle, pass interference), but for the most part, it was a good day from one of the team’s most inconsistent starters. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stop the Giants from winning by a single point.