The Bengals defense has been very good all season, and it only looked better with Vontaze Burfict coming back into the lineup. Offensively the team has improved every week since Bill Lazor took over after Ken Zampese was let go, which followed a two-week stretch where the Bengals failed to score a touchdown.
Overall, head coach Marvin Lewis was impressed with the way his team came to play against Cleveland, but was quick to point out that for the Bengals to have a successful 2017 they’re going to need to be able to grind out close games and not expect large margins of victory.
“We came alive last week on offense, which is what we needed to do, so you feel good about that. We’ve got the defensive players back the Friday afterwards, or Monday I guess. The change wasn’t going to just be one person. Everybody had to change. Everybody had to do their jobs better. We fought through a little bit at the end of the game last week and we lost. We can’t falter. We’re going to play close football games all-out. You don’t get many games this way. Today we got a lead and we got on a roll, but that doesn’t happen as much. We have to know that we’ve got to grind in close football games and win close football games in the 4th quarter.”
It’s a fair point to make by the long tenured coach, especially since it comes just a week after the team failed to finish out what would have been a huge upset victory in Green Bay, had the team not let the Packers come back for the overtime victory.
Outside the organization the general sentiment is less of a belief in that the Bengals are on the right track, and more of an affirmation that the Browns are as bad of a team as many people were thinking they were. Michael David Smith of NBC Sports’ ProFootballTalk had this to say about both teams following the game.
“Whether the Bengals can still turn their season around and contend in the NFC North remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt that the Browns are heading for their seventh consecutive last-place finish.”
ESPN’s Katherine Terrell wrote how the infusion of youth has helped lead to the Bengals looking like a new and improved team over the last two weeks.
The Bengals have been rotating their players at an unusual clip the past two weeks. Carl Lawson and William Jackson III have benefited the most. The two talented young players have seen their snap counts skyrocket in the past two games.
Lawson took only 17 snaps against the Texans in Week 2 and Jackson didn't have a defensive snap. That all changed after the Bengals fell to 0-2, and the team decided to shake things up. Lawson went from playing 20 percent of the game to 75 percent and rewarded the team with 2.5 sacks.
Lawson held his own against Browns tackle Joe Thomas on Sunday, finishing with two quarterback pressures.
Jackson got his shot as the outside cornerback in nickel formations against Green Bay and responded by picking off Aaron Rodgers for a touchdown.
The Bengals were able to dismiss some of their more unusual rotations last week by attributing it to the heat at Lambeau Field, but that wasn't the case against Cleveland. Clearly this is the new plan going forward, and it's mostly working.
Andy Dalton had a great game against Cleveland, making it two weeks in a row that the Bengals quarterback has put up good numbers on the road.
At the half, Andy Dalton has 3 pass TD for the 1st time since Nov. 29, 2015 vs Rams. He had 2 pass TD in his 1st 3 games of the season. pic.twitter.com/6CV6ut7hbO— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 1, 2017
Peter King of the MMQB had Dalton among his Offensive Players of the Week.
I thought he permanently had “embattled” as a mandatory adjective in front of his name, or maybe had his name changed legally to Embattled Andy Dalton. He did something about that Sunday in the Bengals’ 31-7 rout of the Browns, completing 17 of his first 18 passes, for three touchdowns and 215 yards. He finished with 286 yards and four touchdowns and, for now, calmed the Dump Dalton movement in Cincinnati.
Scott Patsko of Cleveland.com however, was more blown away by the stats from Dalton on the ground than the ones he put up through the air.
“Yeah, the 25-of-30 for 286 yards and four touchdowns was tough for Browns fans to take. So was the 146.0 QB rating. But consider this: Dalton's 29 yards rushing was more than the Browns' leading rusher on Sunday (Isaiah Crowell, seven carries, 20 yards). Oof.”
Considering the kind of games Crowell was putting up against teams last season I think that’s a testament to how well the Bengals defense is playing right now. The Browns offensive line is no slouch, especially after breaking the bank on former Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler in the offseason.
An 0-3 start might be historically difficult to come back from, but this Cincinnati team is showing signs of life.
In the world of Twitter, here’s what everyone else is saying about the Bengals first victory of the season.
Bengals/Dalton have made adjustments. pic.twitter.com/2J7qr8XjcP— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) October 2, 2017
Bengals QB Andy Dalton was a perfect 15 of 15 with 2 TDS when targeting the #Browns trio of starting LBs on Sunday.— Brian Spoon (@BrianSpoon) October 2, 2017