The rematch between the Bengals and Steelers brought a myriad of emotions. Though Bengals fans were happy with the first half, scary moments ensued with Ryan Shazier when he hurt his back in the first quarter and when Vontaze Burfict was shellacked by JuJu Smith-Schuster in the fourth quarter.
Regardless of the familiar heartbreaking ending, there were some associated with the Bengals who should really be pleased with their output on Monday night. Here are the Bengals’ winners and losers from the team’s
Andy Dalton: Though he had some struggles on deep passes and control was a little less accurate when the rain started coming down, but he was superb in the first half. He had two great touchdown passes to A.J. Green and multiple other strikes in the middle of the field.
The quick-hitting calls really played into the weaknesses of the team’s offensive line and negated the Steelers’ wicked pass-rush. One of Dalton’s best throw of the night was a beauty to Brandon LaFell in the third quarter’s driving rain to set up a 41-yard Randy Bullock field goal.
Bill Lazor: Cincinnati’s embattled coordinator really came up with some great calls on Monday night—particularly in the first half. Lazor designed a number of quick-hitting passing plays to keep the Steelers defense on their heels.
He also found creative ways to have Giovani Bernard be productive, even when he was really the only back to lean on for two and a half quarters. After so many years of seeing the Bengals’ offense struggle against the Steelers, it was nice to see this underachieving group have a great night.
William Jackson: With Dre Kirkpatrick massively struggling throughout almost every single phase of his game, the second-year corner was routinely making plays. He had one inexplicable gaffe on a Le’Veon Bell touchdown, but played some great coverage—mostly against Antonio Brown.
A.J. Green: If not for the aforementioned weak holding call against Bernard, Green would have had a monstrous night. He had two first half touchdown grabs and nearly had another in the third quarter that was called back on a Giovani Bernard phantom hold.
He had a bit of a dry spell in the final two quarters, but there’s no doubt he steps up in some of the biggest divisional games. Still, with two critical drops, this one might be a stretch to place him as a “winner”.
Giovani Bernard: Aside from running the ball well in relief of Joe Mixon, Bernard was seen making some huge blocks in pass protection. One of the best of the night was on Dalton’s second touchdown pass to Green right before the half, as No. 25 handled a blitzer off of the left side to free up his quarterback.
Regardless of a gigantic holding call against him (which was awfully weak), he still had a stout all-around night when the team needed him. He finished the game with 19 yards receiving and 77 rushing yards.
John Ross: Yet again, Ross was an inexplicable healthy scratch on Monday night. Tyler Boyd only scraped together one catch, while Josh Malone had two, and though the offense had a good night, there just doesn’t seem to be a fit for him on the offense. Maybe that will change now that the Bengals are likely out of the playoff race.
Dre Kirkpatrick: On consecutive plays right before halftime, Kirkpatrick really stood out in a negative way. Le’Veon Bell had a 33-yard reception on a screen pass, in which he missed a tackle to spring him for extra yards. He also was beat by Antonio Brown the very next play and was called for pass interference.
He also allowed a critical third-down completion in the third quarter to Brown to extend the Steelers’ first drive of the second half and had another pass interference call in the fourth quarter.
To spin his struggles even further, Kirkpatrick has the most defensive penalties by any player since 2015. Oh, and he let up the game-tying touchdown to Antonio Brown.
Marvin Lewis: After playing about as fine of two quarters you can against a team who was 9-2, familiar demons revisited Paul Brown Stadium. With their season on the line, the Bengals shot out to a great start, but stumbled in the most important parts of the
Oh, those tricky halftime adjustments, eh, Marv?
Whether it was an incredible disparity of fourth quarter yardage, three critical drops by your receivers, a franchise record in penalty yardage (173), or a 20-3 difference in points in favor of Pittsburgh in the second half, this coach should not be on the sidelines in 2018.