It was a hard-fought game between close rivals, but the Cincinnati Bengals eked out a much-needed win against Indianapolis. There were moments in which both teams looked both inept and totally competent, with some individual players coming up with huge players.
Here are the best and worst performances by the Bengals on Sunday.
Geno Atkins: Atkins took advantage of an embattled Colts line and was a consistent presence on Sunday. He sacked Jacoby Brissett once and had multiple other pressures, to go with five total tackles. He also made a nice move on the final defensive play of the game to allow Chris Smith to get a hit on Brissett and force the game-sealing incompletion.
Josh Malone: Marvin Lewis wanted someone on the offense aside from A.J. Green to step up as the season progressed and Malone answered the bell. This Sunday was one of firsts for Malone, as he logged both his first pro reception and his first touchdown catch. The 25-yard touchdown showed both his route-running ability and good adjustment to an under-thrown pass.
Darqueze Dennard: Even though Jack Doyle had a monster day, the wide receivers were largely shut down on the day. Dennard had a great performance against the explosive T.Y. Hilton, as he had just two catches for 15 yards. It’s great to see the former first round pick turn the corner this year.
Carlos Dunlap: The veteran defensive lineman had a slow start to the contest, but really made some major plays as the game progressed. Aside from collecting three total tackles, Dunlap had a sack and a gigantic pick-six to help seal the game. Hopefully he begins to catch fire, as he only had one sack entering the game.
The special teams: Between the two muffed punts by Alex Erickson (one lost), a missed field goal by Randy Bullock and the allowance of a 20-yard punt return, it was an awful day by Darrin Simmons’ squad. The only saving graces from the unit were a big blocked punt by Jordan Willis in the first quarter and Clayton Fejedelem having three big tackles on returns.
The offensive line: Whether it was Andre Smith’s bad false start penalty inside the Colts’ 5-yard line, the consistently poor play of the big guys up front is what might keep the Bengals out of the postseason. They let up another three sacks on Sunday and were pathetic in the run game, as backs only garnered 56 net rushing yards.
Andy Dalton and A.J. Green: Look, Dalton and Green connected on a touchdown and Dalton didn’t turn the ball over on Sunday. And, of course, the ardent Dalton supporters will claim that he had a solid day—which the stat line will show—but, looking at his play-by-play performance, it was rough at times.
After being one of the most prolific passing duos in recent NFL history, Green and Dalton haven’t seemed to be on the same page lately. Dalton skipped a couple of outside throws to Green on Sunday that could have been completions, while Green had a high, but catchable pass bounce off of his hands late in the game.
The duo also missed a huge opportunity for a deep ball in the fourth quarter, with Green showing major frustration after the play. These two should have had far more success against a Colts team that entered the game No. 31 in the NFL against the pass.
John Ross: Everybody expected the rookie to have a breakout game in his return to the lineup after missing five of six games, but he was a ghost. He played about a half-dozen snaps and didn’t log a single statistic.