Cincinnati Bengals: Signs of promise from close call in Buffalo

A.J. Green

This is not “Dancing With the Stars.” There are no bonuses for style points in the National Football League. A win is a win, no matter how pretty or ugly it may be.

For the Cincinnati Bengals and their fans, this holds especially true as Sunday’s win over the Buffalo Bills was certainly not pretty, but it was a win that left the Bengals all alone in first place in the AFC North and showed some definite signs of promise for the rest of the 2013 season.

Fans all season have been calling for quarterback Andy Dalton’s head on a platter, though I am not sure why they think backup Josh Johnson is the answer. The Red Rifle silenced many of those critics on Sunday with a 337 yard, three touchdown performance.

That performance was only tainted by one bad interception that judging from Dalton’s reaction on the sideline, may have been the result of a bad route by receiver A.J. Green.

Dalton completed passes to eight different receivers, who made the most of their opportunities to produce 254 yards after the catch, a quite impressive number that shows that athletic ability of that group.

Critics have also been calling for more balance in the Cincinnati offense and they certainly got that on Sunday, 41 runs and 40 passes. They averaged 4.0 yards a carry and BenJarvus Green Ellis was a bull, getting 86 yards on the day.

Rookie Giovani Bernard didn’t find many holes in the running game, but was a big weapon in the passing game with 7 catches for 72 yards, including an impressive touchdown after an impromptu shovel pass from Dalton.

With some pretty solid defenses lurking on the schedule ahead, the Bengal offense will need to continue to show improvement. As Dalton so eloquently put it in the locker room, “Keep ‘em moving and keep improving.”

After a slow start, the Cincinnati defense woke up in the second and third quarter, before regressing in the fourth quarter and allowing two Buffalo touchdowns that sent the game into overtime. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict seemed to be all over the field with 11 tackles, but he was also flagged with three 15-yard penalties.

James Harrison made an appearance when the Bengals stopped the Bills on a goal-line stand, getting a pair of tackles, including one of Buffalo quarterback Thad Lewis on fourth down. Fans have to be concerned that if the likes of T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin can beat the secondary deep, what will Megatron do on Sunday?

The two most important plays of the game may have come from special teams, though that group had some flubs that may have caused the game to be sent into overtime in the first place.

In the OT, a Kevin Huber punt pinned the Bills deep in their own territory and after the defense forced a Buffalo punt, a nifty 29-yard punt return by Brandon Tate set up Mike Nugent’s winning field goal. Tate’s studder step move to elude the first two Buffalo tacklers was a thing of beauty.

As a Bengal fan, I should know to never leave the room thinking that something good happened. After Nugent hit a field goal that I though made it 27-10, I made a laundry trip only to return and have my wife tell me that those three points were gone. Ah, life in Bengal land!

What does the rest of the season hold for the orange and black? With this team, predictions are a total waste of time because they are like Forrest’s box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. They could go 12-4 or just as easily go 8-8.

But look on the bright side, they are 4-2, in first place, and still 2 1/2 games ahead of the dreaded Steelers. Those of you who like to visit Kings Island, just be Bengal fans. Now that’s a real roller coaster.