The injury bug has infected the Bengals in full force, and they leave Carolina with their first loss of the year and many more bumps and bruises.
The Panthers’ duo of quarterback Cam Newton and running back Christian McCaffrey proved to be too much against a depleted Bengals front seven, and the offense turned the ball over far too much.
Injuries played a part in the defeat, but several players failed to make an impact in a game where the Bengals could’ve completed a 14-point comeback. But there’s still some players worthy of praise in defeat.
Here’s our winners and losers from the Bengals 31-21 loss to the Panthers.
Giovani Bernard: Most of us knew that Bernard would be able to handle an increased workload with Joe Mixon, and Bernard proved that today. Even without the best blocking, Bernard ran for 61 yards on 12 carries and the game’s first touchdown. He also caught five passes for 25 yards.
The offense was playing from behind for most of the game, so Bernard didn’t get a lot of work on the ground, but he did dominate the usage even with just him and rookie Mark Walton active. Hopefully he gets even more work next week against the Falcons.
Tyler Boyd: Our hearts dropped the first time when A.J. Green came out of the game, then our hearts remained in our stomachs the second time when he exited the game for good with a groin injury. The passing game had to turn to the Bengals No. 2 receiver, and he answered the Bell.
Bengals not out of it yet... Dalton completes a 27 yarder to Tyler Boyd. Panthers 28, Bengals 21. 2:53 remaining in the 3rd. pic.twitter.com/8dLIGJzHNX— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 23, 2018
Boyd finished the game with 132 yards on six catches including the 27-yard touchdown shown above. It’s clear he and Dalton have formed a connection over the offseason, and if Green is out for an extended time, expect the passing game to go through Boyd.
Carlos Dunlap: In the second half, it looked like Dunlap was the only player on the defense that wanted to win. A strip-sack, pass deflection at the line and four solo tackles near the line of scrimmage made up a solid game for the veteran edge rusher.
John Ross: Two of Dalton’s three interceptions were thrown at Ross today, and one of them was a wobbly throw that Ross didn’t even know was thrown. Ross needed to make a statement this week against a volatile Panthers secondary, and he looks like he’s just not ready to contribute in a big way. He finished the game with three receptions and 16 yards on seven targets.
It’d be nice if the offense would use him on shallow crossers and just generally scheme him open more, but more bad has come out Dalton throwing Ross’ way than good so far.
Cordy Glenn: The Panthers defensive line produced in surges rather than generate pressure all throughout the game, but Glenn had notable issues with speed rushes today and allowed a handful of pressures on Dalton. He even allowed a strip-sack that was overturned. Alex Redmond also had a rough day at right guard, but the expectations for Glenn are much higher, and he didn’t set a great example today.
Hardy Nickerson: You could say any of the three starting linebackers for the Bengals should belong here, but Nickerson arguably the worst between him, Nick Vigil and Jordan Evans. The Bengals defense needs Preston Brown back to get Nickerson off of the field.
Dre Kirkpatrick: Unless things drastically change, Kirkpatrick may just be a regular name in this category. Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess had a productive outing with 67 yards receiving on four catches and a touchdown, and most of that came against Kirkpatrick.
And just like the sun rose in the east this morning, he also dropped an interception. Shocking.
William Jackson: A decent second half almost negates the cluelessness Jackson displayed in zone coverage in the first half. In coverage and in run defense, Jackson was lost on multiple occasions and appeared to mix up his assignments.