Time to give credit where it’s due. I’ve been tough on the Bengals this year. Brutal. But here they were with their backs against the wall and they responded with an improbable 31-13 dismantling of the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in Cincinnati on Sunday.
The Bengals dominated this game from start to finish. They had some luck go their way – every bounce was going in their favor and the Giants dropped what looked like an easy TD catch – but the Bengals were clearly the better team. It was nothing short of astonishing. Kudos to Marvin Lewis for having his guys ready to go and keep their season alive.
** Suddenly, the schedule doesn’t look too daunting and the Bengals will have a good chance to win in each of their next five games. Not saying they will win all five games, just that all five games are winnable. It starts this Sunday at Kansas City. Then the Bengals welcome Carson Palmer back to Cincinnati when the Raiders come to town. Then the Bengals travel to San Diego, host Dallas and travel to Philadelphia. You can file each of those teams in the “Underachievers” file. The Bengals close the season with a road game against Pittsburgh and a home tilt against Baltimore. If they can find a way to go 9-7, it might be enough to sneak in as the last playoff team in the AFC. That said, I’m sticking with my preseason pick of 8-8 and I think they’ll be on the outside looking in at the playoffs.
** Any more questions about Andy Dalton? I couldn’t believe how hard some of the fans and media members were coming down on him in recent weeks. He racked up a career-high four touchdown passes against the Giants – with no interceptions – and was throwing strikes into small windows all day. Dalton did a good job of anticipating routes and showing better zip on the ball than he sometimes gets credit for. I also like that he’s a natural leader. Is he ever going to be a top-5 NFL quarterback? No. But he’s going to be damn solid for years to come. For the season, Dalton has 2,329 passing yards (64.4 completion percentage) with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
** Cedric Peerman is CLEARLY a better RB than BenJarvus Green-Ellis. How can there be any doubt about this. Watch all of their runs from Sunday’s game and get back with me if you have any questions. This is not even up for debate. They need to bench Green Ellis’ sorry ass and start Peerman. One of them not only hits the hole hard, but has the ability to make people miss and break tackles. The other is BenJarvus Green-Ellis. My question is whether BJGE trips over his own feet while walking his dog, walking around his house, etc., or if this is just an ailment limited to the football field. In a related story, Green-Ellis is averaging 3.4 yards per carry this year.
** Great to see rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu make an impact. I don’t care what his 40 time is. He’s a gamer. He’s sure-handed, tough and makes solid plays.
** It was also great to see third-year defensive end Carlos Dunlap make an impact with 1.5 sacks, upping his total to 2.5 on the season. Dunlap had been one of the biggest disappointments on the team, but he showed why so many of us are still excited about him on Sunday. This defensive line still has the potential to be special with Dunlap and Michael Johnson as the ends (with Robert Geathers rotating in) and Geno Atkins and Domata Peko as the tackles.
** A.J. Green is just flat-out absurd. He is on the verge of eclipsing Calvin Johnson as “Best WR in the NFL” if he hasn’t already. I didn’t think that was possible – not this early in his career. But he’s that good and there’s absolutely nothing he can’t do. The numbers he’s putting up this season through just nine games are staggering: 58 receptions for 820 yards (14.1 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns. It’s still hard to believe the Bengals found their No. 1 WR and their long-term solution at QB in the first two rounds of the 2011 draft. They were so elated by the picks they decided to basically take the next round off and select Dontay “Never Plays” Moch. The team regained its bearings and made a nice pick in the fourth-round with offensive lineman Clint Boling, who has done a nice job as the starting left guard this year following the season-ending injury to Trevelle Wharton. All Moch jokes aside, that 2011 draft has already paid big dividends for the Bengals and will continue to for years.