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Vontaze Burfict comes up huge in win over Eagles

Cincinnati’s star-crossed linebacker had another great performance against the Eagles to help propel the Bengals to a much-needed win.

Philadelphia Eagles v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

Was it too little, too late for the Bengals in their Week 13 win over the Eagles? Whatever the case, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict had a monster day against Philadelphia to build off of a month of high-quality football.

On Sunday afternoon against Philadelphia, Burfict once again cracked the double-digit tackle mark with 15 (10 solo), but also recorded his first two interceptions of the year against rookie Carson Wentz. In fact, Burfict etched his name into the Bengals’ record books with another talented but troubled linebacker from the early days of Marvin Lewis’ tenure.

After missing the first three games from a suspension, Burfict has quietly had a sensational past five games for Cincinnati’s defense. It probably wouldn’t have gone so far under the radar if the Bengals didn’t have a 1-3-1 record in that time, but he’s had 62 total tackles, one forced fumble and two interceptions in the span. He also had four passes defended on Sunday, which is more than he’s totaled in all other games combined this season, bringing his total on the season to seven.

What’s more, Burfict is still instilling emotion and physical play while also not being pegged with some of those trademark killer personal foul penalties. The Bengals have been in must-win situations over the past handful of weeks and the Pro Bowl linebacker has done more than his share to try and keep Cincinnati in games.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s game plan was borderline superb against Wentz and the Eagles. While the lack of a consistent pass rush was once again frustrating, Guenther used his gigantic defensive linemen to block visible passing lanes and knock down passes. Once Philadelphia fell behind, Burfict was one of the beneficiaries of Wentz forcing throws and not seeing Bengals defenders.

What made the interceptions by Burfict particularly clutch was the fact that both occurred in the second half. After the Bengals were clearly dominating and took a 26-0 lead on the first possession after halftime, Philadelphia was in throw-the-ball mode. Wentz dropped back and was hit by Carlos Dunlap to force an errant throw. The ball fluttered into Burfict’s arms to give the offense the ball at their own 14-yard line. It led to a Mike Nugent field goal to put the Bengals up 29-0.

Thanks to two Cincinnati fumbles by Rex Burkhead and Jake Fisher, the Eagles attempted to make the game interesting in the fourth quarter. A surprising two-possession game ensued with about six minutes to play and the ball in the Eagles’ hands.

On a 4th-and-3 from the Cincinnati 31-yard line, Wentz dropped back to try and keep his team in the game. Because of both pressure up front and the clogging of passing lanes by the Bengals’ defensive front, Wentz probably didn’t realize that a blitzing Burfict would be able to snag his second interception of the game. The Eagles’ rookie signal-caller put it right into the torso of No. 55 and he returned it to the Philadelphia 20-yard line, leading to another Nugent field goal.

Even without the picks, Burfict also showed his all-around prowess on defense. On multiple occasions, he was in on runs that only netted 53 total yards by the Eagles and also sniffed out other passing routes.

There are complaints to be had about Burfict and his sometimes-reckless play, but there is no doubt that he is a game-changer for the Bengals. In a division that employs “enforcers” like Steelers safety Mike Mitchell, Cincinnati has one of their own who mans the middle of the field and, as has been the case on numerous occasions over the years, Burfict’s play led to a positive result for the Bengals on Sunday.