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5 things I think I know about these Bengals

More Bengals rookies are beginning to shine and earn more playing time.

Houston Texans v Cincinnati Bengals
Ryan Glasgow
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals were finally able to scratch and claw their way out of a pretty formidable hole Sunday when they put a stop to a two-game losing streak by holding on to beat the Denver Broncos by a score of 20-17.

Despite the victory, the Bengals continued to be on the wrong end of the time of possession battle as Denver held the ball for more than 35 minutes, to just under 25 minutes for Cincinnati.

And the argument continues. Who is to blame for the disparity? Is the offense just not doing enough to keep the defense rested and off of the field?

After all, Kevin Huber had seven punts on Sunday and, at one point, the Bengals had been forced to punt on six straight possessions. Cincinnati only managed 12 first downs, although they were a respectable 7-for-15 on third down.

Or was it the defense, which allowed the Broncos to grind out 20 first downs and complete 12 of 21 third-down opportunities? Denver ran off 79 plays, to only 53 for the Bengals. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I don’t know, but there are some things that I think I do know about this team.

Burfict back where he belongs

Vontaze Burfict has been relatively ineffective as the middle linebacker for the Bengals following the injury to Kevin Minter. Somebody finally got the message. Burfict was back at SAM for Sunday’s game and responded with a vintage Vontaze Burfict game.

Burfict led both teams with 12 total tackles, including 11 solos, picked up a sack, a tackle for loss and another quarterback hit and completely dominated at the point of attack. Denver’s 1-2 punch of C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker combined for 81 yards on 27 carries and an average of three yards per carry.

According to Pro Football Focus, Burfict had a run-stop percentage of 22.2 and had nine defensive stops, both of which were tops in the league. In addition, he forced a fumble by Anderson and destroyed Booker in the backfield en route to his sack. His overall grade of 89.3 was tops among all linebackers.

Burfict also helped hold Denver’s running backs and tight ends in check in the passing game. Booker tied for the team lead in receptions with five, but Anderson was held to just two catches for 19 yards. Tight end Virgil Green was held to two catches for 13 yards.

Lewis not so forgiving

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis seems to have made it clear that he will tolerate mistakes from almost anyone on the team, with the exception of first-round selection John Ross. In the second game of the season against the Houston Texans, Ross fumbled at the end of a 12-yard run late in the first quarter. He would not see the field again.

Then, in the midst of a 24-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 10, Ross stopped on his route in the midst of a deep pattern on a ball that, had he continued to run, might well have resulted in the big play the Bengals needed. Lewis sat him down, once more.

“It’s like you being a kid and you go the whole year being good, and you mess up that one time and you don’t get anything for Christmas,” Ross said after the game. “That’s what it feels like. It definitely stings.”

Lewis apparently did not appreciate those comments, and Ross was a healthy scratch in this past week’s win at Denver. Without the league’s fastest man, Cincinnati’s offense continued to struggle. The Bengals’ passing attack managed a grand total of 154 yards on 15 completions for an average of 10.3 yard per catch. The longest receptions were a pair of 29-yard efforts by Alex Erickson and Brandon LaFell. Aside from those two receptions, Cincinnati pass catchers averaged 6.4 per catch.

Offensive line improving

Andre Smith’s move into the starting lineup at right tackle has certainly paid dividends for the Bengals in the passing game, and Andy Dalton has reaped the benefits as he has had more time to find open receivers. Dalton finished 15 of 25 for 154 yards and three touchdowns, and an overall rating of 117.3 against the Broncos.

Last week against the Titans, in Smith’s first full game back at right tackle, Dalton completed 20 of 35 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns and an overall rating of 100.3.

But the line continues to struggle to make holes for the running game. Against Denver, Cincinnati ran the ball 26 times for 49 yards, an average of 1.9 yards per carry. Joe Mixon, the Bengals leading rusher, was held to 49 yards on 20 carries.

Glasgow for real

Ryan Glasgow is starting to look more like the player that helped Michigan’s defense dominate the opposition than the one who fell all the way to the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, where the Bengals snatched him up with the 138th overall selection.

Glasgow saw much more time in the middle for the Bengals Sunday after the team waived Pat Sims, and his three solo tackles helped him earn an overall grade of 81.1 from PFF. Glasgow’s 32 plays were his most of the season, and he is making the most of his limited opportunities.

It’s Evans’ time

Jordan Evans, a sixth-round selection of the Bengals in the 2017 NFL Draft, is finally getting a chance to show what he is made of, and he is making the most of the opportunity. With Minter and backup middle linebacker Vincent Rey out with injuries, Evans was on the field for 10 defensive snaps. He finished with three total tackles, including two assists, and was credited with a tackle for loss.

“I thought, when he went in, he did a couple good things,” Lewis said. “Since he has been here, Jordan has shown the ability to make plays when he’s been put in situations to have those opportunities.

“For the most part, he’s been pretty sound with his assignments — he just has to make sure that we can depend on him that way. Every time he gets an opportunity, that’s been great.”