The Bengals didn’t help their draft positioning by winning on Sunday, but, I’m going to celebrate this win and you should, too.
How refreshing was it to see both the offense and defense clicking at the same time. We’ve seen great offensive and great defensive games this season, but never a great game from both units on the same day. Andy Dalton was at his best in the win over the Eagles and the defense looked refreshed, forcing the Eagles to go three-and-out on their opening drive.
Here's how the Eagles' drives ended on Sunday, in order: Punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, end of half, interception, touchdown, interception, touchdown, interception, turnover on downs. The Bengals were highly efficient, punting only once, and it was a nice 49 yard punt from Kevin Huber. Their drives went as such: Field goal, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, fumble, punt, fumble, field goal, end of game.
Here are my top takeaways from the Bengals’ fourth win of the season, bringing them to 4-7-1 on the year.
Bengals finally score first
The Bengals got down to the red zone on their opening offensive drive. But, after a clear pass interference call should have been called when Rex Burkhead was trying to make a catch, the Bengals had to settle for a field goal. Mike Nugent made the 32-yard kick and gave the Bengals a 3-0 lead.
Here’s what Giovani Bernard had to say from home while watching the game:
no P.I call huh..... I see what the stripes on today.— Giovani Bernard (@G_Bernard25) December 4, 2016
The other good news here is that the Bengals didn’t allow the Eagles defense to score on their first possession. The Eagles opened the game on offense and the Bengals forced a three and out. Coming into Sunday, the Bengals defense had allowed a touchdown in four straight games and allowed the opposing team to score in six of the last eight games on the opening drive. Finally, that changed on Sunday and it had a clear, positive impact on the rest of the quarter, and game.
Welcome to the NFL, Cody Core
We’ve been saying repeatedly that Core needs to be used as a deep threat with A.J. Green out. Finally, the Bengals listened. Core caught a beautiful deep throw, 50 yards down to the Eagles’ five-yard line. It set up a Jeremy Hill touchdown run and gave the Bengals a 10-0 lead. Mike Nugent even made the extra point.
Only other game this year when the #Bengals scored twice in the first quarter was Miami.— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) December 4, 2016
Jake Fisher gets in, gets blown up
The Bengals made a surprising decision to start Eric Winston at right tackle instead of Cedric Ogbuehi, who has started every game this year. The team then decided to let Jake Fisher get into the rotation with some time at right tackle. That decision quickly backfired.
Fisher easily got pushed over by Brandon Graham on one of his first plays in the game, and allowed Graham to get to Dalton with a low hit. Dalton still completed the pass he was throwing to Tyler Boyd, which was a 21-yard pass and then got 15 yards added on for roughing the passer.
So, maybe it didn’t backfire, as the Bengals got added yards, but, it did considering Dalton got hit low, in a way we never want to see him hit. Fisher needs to do better if he wants to prove to the coaches that he deserves playing time.
Things got worse for Fisher as he was targeted on a pass in the fourth quarter, and actually caught it. But, he fumbled the ball, which the Eagles recovered, and got injured on the play. He took a helmet to the knee and though it didn’t look good, he said after the game he was “fine”.
Fisher was walking very slowly and very gingerly in locker room. Marvin said it was a bruised knee. #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) December 4, 2016
Fisher said he was fine, took a helmet to the knee. Whitworth also said he was OK.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) December 4, 2016
Andy Dalton has bounce-back game
After a rough stretch of games starting in London, Andy Dalton bounced back against the Eagles and his stats were incredible. Dalton ended the first half going 16-for-20 for 217 yards and 1 touchdown. That amounted to a 128.5 quarterback rating in the first half of the game. On top of that, the Bengals were 5-for-7 on third down and scored on all four of their first half drives.
Here’s a look at the Bengals’ four first half drives:
Dalton somehow only got better in the second half.
Dalton finished the game 23/31 for 332 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 130.0.
Mike Nugent refuses to be praised
We were starting to say some nice things about Mike Nugent early on in Sunday’s game. He made his first PAT in the game and scored two field goals. But, to end the half, Nugent went ahead and missed his fifth extra point in five games. It’s like he sensed that we were starting to say nice things about him and could not allow it. Late in the game Nugent nearly missed a 28-yard field goal, but, it went in. We’re counting down the games until the Bengals can employ a better kicker.
Good start to second half
To start the second half, the Bengals had the ball and as was the case all day on Sunday, marched down the field to score a touchdown. On the drive, it was Hill and Brandon LaFell helping Dalton with most of the work. LaFell had a 44 yard catch and scored the touchdown on an 8-yard catch.
Per Fox, the Bengals had not scored on their first five possessions in 117 games, since an October 25, 2009 game against the Bears.
Where has this team been all year?!
The Eagles are not a good football team. But, they are NOT as bad as they seemed on Sunday. The Bengals ran all over the Eagles and Dalton looked the best he’s looked all year.
How about that game from the Bengals linebacker? Against the Eagles, Burfict became the first Bengals linebacker to record multiple interceptions in a game since Odell Thurman had two in Week 8, 2005 against the Packers, per NFL Research.
Burfict also had 15 tackles, 10 of which were solo tackles and was a key player in the win. Burfict has 10 or more tackles in his last five games and only has played three games this season in which he didn't total more than 10 tackles.