The Bengals' 2015-16 season was one of the most exciting for Bengals fans since the team last won a playoff game following the 1990-91 season. They still didn't manage to win in the postseason last season, but, they did put together a franchise high win total in the regular season (12) thanks to some of the best plays we've seen from certain Bengals players in a long time and possibly ever.
Before we see what 2016 has in store, let's look back at the 10 best plays of 2016, and feel free to share your top moments from 2016 in the comments!
10) Week 12: Leon Hall pick six
In what was probably the top highlight of a fantastic game for the Bengals overall, Leon Hall put the final touches on a blowout Bengals victory against the Rams that allowed them to bounce back from a two game losing streak after starting the season 8-0. The Bengals won 31-7 and this play helped to reverse a mid-game lull in which they looked like they were starting to let the Rams have a hope of coming back. A.J. Green's touchdown on the previous drive and this pick six pretty much put any hope for the Rams to bed.
9) Week 6: Jeremy Hill diving touchdown
It wasn't exactly a season to remember for Jeremy Hill in most regards, but, he did do a pretty good job of punching the ball in the endzone after the team drove down most of the field for him. In fact, he actually finished the season tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns (11). This Jerome Simpson-esque diving touchdown tied the game for the Bengals after they let the Bills take an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter. They would go on to win 34-21.
8) Week 16: AJ McCarron touchdown pass to Green
Yes, it's true that this play did not help the Bengals win anything. But, it was an incredible pass from McCarron, right on the spot where it had to be for Green to make that incredible catch. It was a great play, proving just how lucky the Bengals are to have a talented quarterback like McCarron waiting in the wings behind their star franchise quarterback.
7) Week 14: McCarron to Green touchdown pass
In one of two long touchdown catches on the season where Green made defenders take themselves out of the play, this play might be the highlight of McCarron's career so far. It marked his first touchdown pass as a Cincinnati Bengal on the second drive after Dalton fractured his thumb. No one knew what to expect out of McCarron as he walked onto the field, so he gave everyone a little taste on his second drive.
6) Week 11: Geno Atkins sacks Carson Palmer
Unfortunately, yet another great play in a game where the Bengals ended up losing anyway. This particular 10 yard sack from Atkins was the first of many great defensive plays the Bengals would make in the first half. Unfortunately, a defensive breakdown in the second half caused the Bengals to lose. But, it doesn't take away how much fun it is to watch Atkins take down that quitter so easily.
5) Week 8: Shawn Williams' diving interception on Ben Roethlisberger
Finally, we're getting back to highlighting some wins! Although he didn't know it at the time, this interception from Shawn Williams might have been the difference in the Bengals' division championship last year. In an otherwise low scoring game, the Bengals had just put together a touchdown drive to give them their first lead of the game late in the fourth quarter. This interception essentially squashed all realistic hopes of a Steelers comeback and put the offense in a great scoring position. They only ended up getting a field goal, but it was enough to force the Steelers to need a touchdown on the next drive, rather than settling for a field goal. Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers down the field but was unable to cap the drive off with a touchdown.
4) Wild Card round: Vontaze Burfict intercepts Landry Jones
This one can actually be pretty hard to watch. But, it seemed like one of the greatest plays in Bengals history at the time. The Bengals had the lead late in the Wild Card round of the playoffs and this interception from Burfict looked like it could have sealed the deal. Unfortunately, we all know what happened next. Had it not been for the total team meltdown that happened over the next one minute and 43 seconds, this interception would almost definitely have been at the very top of this list.
3) Week 4: Dalton to Tate touchdown pass
This particular play may not have been a particularly clutch, game-saving play that some of the other plays on this list are. But, it was a decisive touchdown for the Bengals that allowed them to go ahead of the Chiefs by more than a touchdown. In addition, the fact that Brandon Tate was the one making this highlight reel catch makes it all the more interesting. We watched this on repeat on Sports Center all week long and for a brief moment, people around the NFL knew who Tate was. You don't get to see big plays from him too often, so when it happens like this all you can do is watch and smile.
2) Week 3: Dalton to Green touchdown pass
Speaking of watching and smiling, I still can't re-watch this touchdown catch from Green and not smile. This catch was a crazy one as the Bengals had their backs up against the wall. They were trailing in a game for the first time in the season late in the fourth quarter while the win-starved Ravens were licking their chops, hungry for their first win of the season. Green denied their celebration with an unbelievable 80 yard go-ahead touchdown. The Ravens would wrestle the lead back momentarily on the next drive, but Green answered that with another touchdown, leading to the Bengals' first division win of the season.
1) Week 5: Dalton touchdown run
There's just so much I can say about this play and not really enough room to say it. It may not be the most eye catching highlight reel type play, but it is probably the single best and most important play of the 2015 season. As you may recall, the Bengals were getting their butts handed to them by the Seahawks, up by a score of 24-7 after Dalton fumbled the ball and gave up a touchdown on a third quarter drive.
A touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert on the Bengals' prior drive showed that the Bengals still had a bit of life in them. But, it was when Dalton decided to redeem himself for that fumble touchdown by running the ball into the endzone himself that things looked hopeful. The touchdown brought them within 3 points in a game that looked all but finished at the beginning of the fourth quarter. A field goal from Mike Nugent at the end of regulation on the following drive extended the game to overtime and another field goal in overtime sealed the incredible comeback win. But, it was this particular play from Dalton that really highlighted the greatest comeback in Bengals history.