Facing three games left on their 2015 schedule, the Bengals had two winnable games while utilizing a backup quarterback. Getting as many wins as possible with AJ McCarron relieving Andy Dalton was imperative, as Cincinnati pushed for the playoffs and this Sunday, their sights were set on the 49ers.
Cincinnati grabbed a win against a reeling San Francisco squad and secured their fifth straight playoff berth, while McCarron cemented his legacy as the first Alabama quarterback to win an NFL game since 1987. There weren't many style points to be gained in the Bengals' 24-14 win, but there were a number of individual player performances that stood out. Cast your vote and sound off on your winner for this week's Bengals Most Valuable Player!
DT Geno Atkins: The force in the middle of the Bengals' defensive line made a number of plays the past two weeks, but his effect didn't show up on the stat sheet. That wasn't the case on Sunday against the 49ers, as Atkins recorded two sacks and four total tackles, which included a stuffed run for minus-four yards.
QB AJ McCarron: It wasn't the most dominant of games by a starting quarterback, but for a second-year guy in his first pro start, he did about as much as a fan could ask for. McCarron had a touchdown pass to go along with 192 passing yards, and most importantly, zero turnovers.
DE Carlos Dunlap: The big defensive lineman is one of the most well-rounded in the league, but because he doesn't always put up the gaudy quarterback sack numbers, he doesn't get the national credit. Sunday was a prime example of Dunlap's contributions, as he didn't sack Blaine Gabbert, but had a forced fumble, recovery, three tackles and blocked a field goal.
TE Tyler Kroft: The rookie tight end has taken his lumps this year, but with Tyler Eifert out again with a concussion, Kroft was pressed into starting action. He grabbed three passes for 31 yards, including a critical 20-yard touchdown catch right before the half to put the Bengals up 21-0.
RB Jeremy Hill: Call it "The Ki-Jana Carter game plan" with Hill this year, as he has become more of a goal line threat than the every-down, big-play guy we saw at the end of 2014. Even though Hill averaged less than two yards per carry on Sunday against San Francisco, he still had two critical, hard-fought touchdowns to help spring the Bengals to a win.
LB Vontaze Burfict: The Pro Bowl linebacker seems to be rounding into form after rehabbing a knee injury from last year all offseason and for the first eight weeks of 2015. Burfict has been incredibly active on the field since his return and against the 49ers, he had an interception, a sack and seven total tackles. The interception set the Bengals up for the Kroft touchdown right before the half.