The Bengals defeated the still winless Cleveland Browns on Sunday, completing their first back-to-back wins of the 2016 season. That said, in Week 14, the feeling of being on the first winning streak of the season is a bit bittersweet. Yes, back to back wins make everyone feel better about the team, until you realize that the combined record of the two teams the Bengals beat is currently 5-20. Furthermore, the Bengals currently sit at 5-7-1, so the wins are coming a bit too late for any chance of a run at the playoffs to materialize.
This week was certainly not as dominating of a performance as last week, and we saw that reflected in the Week 14 grades from Pro Football Focus. On offense, the unit was led by Jeremy Hill (79.7), Tyler Boyd (79.4), Tyler Eifert (78.9), Andrew Whitworth (77.7), and Tyler Kroft (74.6). The Bengals would have likely seen higher quality grades if the level of the first half play continued in the second half. But, the team coasted in the second half, which equaled out to an average performance from most of the best players.
Things were somewhat better on defense, but they had a lull in the third quarter that could have been a significant issue against a better team. Geno Atkins (84.5) was the only player on the team who recorded a grade higher than 80, while the rest of the unit was led by Adam Jones (78.4), Karlos Dansby (77.4), Shawn Williams (73.7), and Josh Shaw (71.3).
It was an interesting day for Andy Dalton, who was sacked a total of four times on the day, but still managed to complete most of his passes for 180 yards, two touchdowns, and a stellar quarterback rating (112.2). That said, all of his completed passes went for 20 yards or less. Due to the elements, he didn’t take many chances and utilized the strong running game to set up multiple play action passes to manage the clock. As a result, he ended up with a below average grade (65.0).
Speaking of the strong rushing attack, it felt like the conditions were perfect for an excellent game from Hill this week and he delivered. It was his seventh career game recording 100 or more rushing yards (111). He also recorded 31 yards on three catches in the passing game. He found the end zone midway through the first quarter to help the Bengals jump out to a 13-0 lead, which grew to 20-0 by halftime. It was his second best rushing performance of the season, behind the Bengals’ Week 7 game when the Browns came to Cincinnati (168 yards, one touchdown). It all came together for the highest overall grade on the Bengals’ offense this week.
If there was one negative to take away from the Bengals’ offense this week, it was the performance of the offensive line (surprise!). Dalton was sacked four times and it had a lot to do with the chaos at right tackle. With Cedric Ogbuehi still riding the bench for his poor performance this season, the Bengals are using a combination of Eric Winston and Jake Fisher.
Although Winston graded well as a run blocker (79.0), he allowed three QB hurries and a sack for an abysmal pass block grade (36.8). A false start penalty and his 45.9 overall grade highlighted the issues the Bengals are facing at this position this year. Fisher recorded a much better grade (71.0), but he only played 23 of the 71 possible snaps. Ogbuehi got in on the action on four plays, one of which just happened to be Hill’s touchdown run. That said, he was noticeably beaten on the play and was really lucky that Hill only needed one yard to get into the endzone.
Given all the trash he talked surrounding this game when discussing Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, it was good to see Adam Jones receiving a solid grade for his effort (78.4). He only allowed a single reception all day, although he did miss a tackle against the run. Fellow cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick also missed a tackle against the run, but allowed four receptions for 38 yards, causing his overall grade to plummet far below Jones’ (50.8).
The safeties shored up the generally good play in the secondary with Shawn Williams grading very well in coverage (82.8). George Iloka also graded well in coverage (78.3) and recorded an interception, but both players graded poorly in run defense. Williams (37.8) missed two tackles and Iloka (41.2) missed one.
Margus Hunt has continued to produce as a rotational defensive lineman, albeit a bit more quietly in recent weeks. He has yet to record a sack, but his 12 QB pressures and nine run stops are impressive for a player who ranks third among the other rotational linemen in total snap counts (248).
Vincent Rey has been one of the best players on the defense this year, but he was almost completely ineffective this week. He recorded a poor run defense grade (44.9) and got torched in coverage by fullback Danny Vitale. Luckily, he dropped the pass, but it still wasn’t a good look for the Bengals linebacker who recently signed a sizable contract extension.