For nearly three quarters of this game, the Bengals were without both Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel got the start for Dalton who was placed on injured reserve this past week, and Green’s return to the field was cut short after he re-injured his foot.
Without Green, Driskel failed to overcome the Broncos’ battered defense despite his defense actually stepping up for once. Because of this, the Bengals dropped their fourth consecutive game. Here are the winners and losers in their 24-10 defeat to the Broncos.
Joe Mixon: In his first four carries, Mixon racked up 40 yards and the Bengals’ offense couldn’t expand upon that production for a period that lasted too long, which isn’t anything new. Mixon finished with 95 total yards on 14 touches and was the embodiment of his own statement he made earlier in the week. Since the Bengals just can’t find themselves with a lead, Mixon will continue to get the short end of the stick.
Tyler Boyd: Aside from a blatant drop, Boyd had another solid performance. He was at six catches and 97 yards before he took a vicious hit the head in the third quarter. Boyd would return to the game but not catch another pass.
We were all looking forward to Boyd playing with A.J. Green again, but with Green leaving the game early in the second quarter, Boyd had to carry the receiving corps once more. And that’s likely going to be the case for the remainder of the season.
Shawn Williams: The Bengals’ captain at safety was the most active defender they had today. Williams had two crucial stops at the start of the second quarter and finished the game with tackles. He did initiate a violent head-to-head collision that warranted a personal foul penalty, but Williams continued to step up as a run defender while the rest of the defense has mostly been watching.
Geno Atkins: Yes, another week has gone by without Atkins getting a sack, but his presence was still felt today by the Broncos’ offensive line. He had two impressive pressures that lead to a sack by Sam Hubbard and forced a Case Keenum throwaway. He won’t get the credit he deserves as a member of this horrid defense, but his impact must always be known.
Nick Vigil: After missing over a month with a knee injury, Vigil did not look fully ready to be back out on the field today. He routinely was late filling his run fits and just looked a step too slow. He did happen to recover a fumble forced by Hardy Nickerson, but Vigil’s return was not as impactful as it was expected to be.
Vontaze Burfict: This was the kind of performance we’ve come to expect from Burfict at this point. After making an aggressive stop early in the game, he left the field for a few plays before returning and making the same impact as he did when he was on the sidelines. On Phillip Lindsay’s got his ankles nearly broken by running back Phillip Lindsay on the rookie’s 65-yard touchdown, Burfict took a horrid angle and nearly broken by the rookie ballcarrier.
Burfict later exited the game and was ruled out with a concussion, as his injury history continues to pile up.
Bobby Hart: To be fair, Broncos’ edge-rusher Von Miller is a tough matchup for any right tackle. For Hart, he was an impossible adversary. Miller beat Hart numerous times and sometimes it wasn’t even close. After one play near the goal-line, Hart got into a shouting match with Driskel after he allowed a Miller pressure that lead to an intentional grounding penalty.
Clint Boling: Much like it was last year when the Bengals asked Boling to play left tackle, it was mostly a mixed bag. Boling’s natural talent as a pass protector helped him limit edge-rusher Bradley Chubb for most of the game, but it would not last. Chubb beat Boling around the edge and Chubb finished it off by strip-sacking Driskel to essentially end the game with just over two minutes to play.
Alex Erickson: Once Green went down, Erickson’s role was increased again like it was for the last three weeks. Unfortunately, he did next to nothing with it. He ended up with one reception that went for two yards. Most importantly, his muffed punt return in the third quarter gave the Broncos the ball back and they found themselves in the end zone just two plays later, which gave them a 21-10 lead. The deficit proved to be too much for the Bengals to overcome.