Cincinnati will not finish the 2019 season winless.
The Bengals hosted the New York Jets with Andy Dalton back under center and the rise in the energy level was palpable. Cincinnati dominated nearly every facet of the game and No. 14 played one of his best games in recent memory, as the Bengals took it to the Jets, 22-6.
Here are the best and worst individual performers of the week.
Andy Dalton: You just had the feeling he’d show up big today, didn’t you? This may have been one of Dalton’s best games since the 2015 season, and that’s including two dropped touchdown passes, but he was fitting passes into tight windows on a very windy day.
He finished 22-of-37 for 243 yards, a touchdown and zero turnovers. Dalton also set the franchise record for career touchdown passes with his toss to Tyler Boyd, as he sits at 198 in his nine-year career.
Andy Dalton’s franchise record-setting touchdown pass. Fits it in a really tight window.— Anthony Cosenza (@CJAnthonyCUI) December 1, 2019
Congrats, 14. pic.twitter.com/tljcfhKpND
Tyler Boyd: The rhythm between the veteran receiver and quarterback was on point Sunday. Dalton sailed a pass for what would have been a big gain on his very first attempt, but they clicked later, as Boyd had five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets.
Geno Atkins: Aside from absolutely destroying Bilal Powell on a fourth quarter run, Atkins had two pressures and four total tackles. Like Carlos Dunlap, he’s heating up as the year is coming to a close.
Carlos Dunlap: After a slow start to the season, the big defensive end is going on one of those trademark hot streaks. He had three sacks and seven total tackles against New York, giving him 4.5 in the former statistical category in the past three games combined.
Sam Hubbard: The second-year player showed that he can be a consistent NFL contributor, notching his fifth sack of the season a year after getting six as a rookie in 2018. He was seen dropped in coverage early on, but also was active behind the line of scrimmage with three pressures along with the Sam Darnold takedown.
Kevin Huber: Cincinnati achieved a safety midway through the third quarter which began to get the game completely in their control. However, thanks to Huber pinning New York at their own 2-yard line a few plays earlier, it completely handcuffed the Jets’ offense.
Part of the unheralded story of the Bengals’ win was in their constant winning of the field position battle. Huber was a giant part of that equation.
Darqueze Dennard: It was a swarming performance by the Bengals’ defense this week and Dennard seemed to be in a number of plays. He had two defended passes, two tackles and disallowed many big passing completions.
Andrew Brown: His name won’t come up on the stat sheet (just one tackle), but he had a small handful of pressures. One of which forced a hold in the end zone and subsequent safety.
That play ended up netting five points and allowed the Bengals to take control of the contest. Really, it was a day where Brown maximized the limited snap opportunities.
The coordinators and assistant-level coaching staff: Credit each of the assistants for coming up with nearly-impeccable game plans this week. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s unit swarmed Gang Green with four sacks and a safety, while Brian Callahan and Zac Taylor came up with good plays—particularly in the passing game—on offense.
We also can’t forget about Darrin Simmons, whose unit provided seven points, an assist for the safety and another couple of decent kickoff returns. The field position differential was huge for the Bengals on Sunday.
Zac Taylor: Aside from this being the most complete effort by the team this year, the rookie head coach is off the schneid. It’s been a historically-bad season for Taylor and the Bengals, and he’s had to endure an awful lot in 2019 (both inside and outside of his control), but feel good for the young coach.
You also have to give credit to the effort level from the Bengals. Even though they’ve been winless, some of their big veterans have still showed up to play, and on a side note, the team has been improving of late, so maybe things are slowly moving in the right direction for 2020.
The fans: It’s been almost one full calendar year since Who Dey Nation experienced a win. Major changes still needs to ensue for the offseason, but the goose egg has been removed from the win column. Just enjoy it.
The tight ends: C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Eifert are known for having some of the best hands on the team, but both dropped would-be touchdowns. Eifert’s was much tougher than that of Uzomah, who would have had an easy walk-in touchdown. Cincinnati settled for a field goal off of the latter play, but eventually punched it into the end zone on the former drive.
Randy Bullock: A poor holding call on Auden Tate stalled the Bengals’ drive to start the second half. Despite it being a windy day, Taylor trotted out the veteran kicker to attempt to nail one from 48 yards.
Predictably, Bullock missed another long kick in a big situation. This comes after week filled with a puff piece on his 2019 season and the Eagles locking up Jake Elliott to a long-term deal. He did hit two other field goals from 21 and 46 yards, though, to his credit.
William Jackson III: Robby Anderson had a solid day of work, racking up seven catches and 101 yards on 10 targets, as he mostly worked on No. 22. Two big plays on a drive in the fourth quarter netted 38 yards, including a conversion on a third-and-12.
It may be a little nit-picky and one of those aforementioned completions was also on Jessie Bates III, but Anderson was really the only guy making any sort of noise for the Jets’ offense. It’s been a solid year from Jackson overall, as he has limited completions and yards, but he let up a few plays in this one.
The Joe Burrow and Chase Young homers: Only Bengals fans can find fault with a win (just kidding, you guys—sort of). Of course, with the Bengals winning their first game of the year, Cincinnati sacrificed potential draft positioning down the road.
Miami surprisingly beat Philadelphia, while Washington edged Carolina, but the two-win Giants were stomped at home. Cincinnati still holds the No. 1 overall pick for the spring, but it will be a nail-biter on the outcome.