It is hard to have a better day than Andy Dalton had on Sunday. He threw four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also completed 25 of his 30 passes (83.3%).
Dalton was smart with the ball, but he also stuck the ball in some tight windows. That includes when he allowed Tyler Kroft to do his best Tyler Eifert impression by catching a pass down the seam in between the linebacker and safety. He also made several great pre-snap reads that includes recognizing the blitz on A.J. Green’s touchdown.
Running Backs: C
The only saving grace for the running backs was Giovani Bernard’s 61-yard touchdown reception before the half. He caught a screen pass while the Browns were caught in an all-out blitz. Bernard did the rest of the work scampering for a touchdown.
Aside for that catch Bernard, Joe Mixon and Jeremy Hill combined for 92 total yards on 34 touches (2.7 yards per touch). Most of that was Mixon only gaining 29 rushing yards on 17 attempts (1.7 yards per carry).
It is weird that on a day where Dalton was on his game so much that the Bengals weren’t able to accomplish anything on the ground. They got away with it this week, but the running backs could stand to be more reliable going forward.
Wide Receivers: B
Green had a typical day at the office. He caught five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown, but that is about average for him. The only other two receivers to catch a pass were Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd. They combined for four catches and 32 yards. These two need to start stepping up more, or the Bengals need to consider letting Cody Core or Alex Erickson get a few more snaps in their place.
Tight Ends: A
Kroft had the best day of any Bengal not named Dalton on Sunday. Coming into Week 4 the tight end had four catches for 33 yards. Against the Browns, he caught six passes for 68 yards and was Dalton’s favorite target in the red zone. He caught two touchdowns on the day.
The Browns have a bad history of defending tight ends, and Kroft sure did exploit it. Hopefully, this becomes a trend for the tight end going forward.
Offensive line: C+
Dalton was comfortable most of the game. Still, the Browns defense stripped Dalton early for a fumble. The Browns only sacked Dalton two other times. He was also hurried by the Browns’ pass rush two other times.
The Bengals’ offensive line also allowed the Browns to hit running backs in the backfield all day long. They probably deserve as much of the blame for the poor running game as the running backs.
Defensive line: B
The Bengals’ defensive line didn’t record a sack on Sunday. They did combine for five quarterback hurries though. They also handled the run game only allowing 2.6 yards per carry in the run game.
They didn’t show up much in the box score because they didn’t get to the quarterback often, but they did put plenty of pressure on the Browns. They also opened up easy lanes for Nick Vigil and Darqueze Dennard who both recorded sacks on the day.
Vigil had himself a game. He recorded 11 tackles and a sack. He also had three tackles for a loss. He did a great job of coming up and tackling underneath receivers. Vontaze Burfict meanwhile had six tackles.
Vigil clearly stole the show during Burfict’s return game after his three-game suspension. The future looks bright at the linebacker position if Vigil can keep this up as Burfict kicks the rust off.
The Bengals corners had an easy day. DeShone Kizer didn’t have his most comfortable day, and Duke Johnson Jr.received most of the targets underneath. They didn’t have to do much, and they didn’t really do more than needed.
Dennard recorded a sack on Kevin Hogan late in the fourth after the game was out of reach. He did miss initially but came back to get him. William Jackson played most of the snaps opposite of Dre Kirkpatrick. Jackson recorded two pass defenses, but he did have a pass interference in the end zone that led to the Browns only score. It was at the end of the game though.
Other than that the Bengals corners held the Browns receivers in check.
This grade is mostly based on the Browns passing game never really completing any huge home run plays. The safeties didn’t show up almost at all. Clayton Fejedelem did manage to come up with an interception after the ball deflected off of Kenny Britt’s hands. It was a huge turnover considering the Browns were in Bengals territory at the time. Other than that they did their jobs of forcing the Browns to try and dink and dunk it down the field.
Special teams: B+
The Bengals special teams really stepped up. Kevin Huber had himself a day. Twice he downed the ball inside the 20, and he positioned the ball well enough that Jabrill Peppers never really had an opportunity for a punt return. When he did the Bengals were there to surround him. Randy Bullock also made his only field goal attempt as well as all four extra points.
Adam Jones returned one kick for 40 yards that really gave a boost to the Bengals momentum. Jones and Erickson also didn’t make any costly mistakes returning the ball either, so I’ll count that as a win.