Cincinnati Bengals: Saved from the Lion’s Den

Bengals kicker Mike Nugent

One thing can said thus far about the 2013 Cincinnati Bengals. They certainly keep their fans on the edge of their seats. The Bengals are in the midst of a three-game winning streak and in each of those win, the game wasn’t decided until the final seconds.

First, it was a late interception of Tom Brady by Adam Jones that sealed a win and the last two weeks it has been kicker Mike Nugent on the game’s final play booting field goals for the wins.

In a thrilling 27-24 win at Detroit on Sunday, Bengals fans got a taste of what they have long been waiting for-an explosive offense. Quarterback Andy Dalton was sharp all day, throwing for over 370 yards and three touchdowns and targeting A.J. Green to the tune of 155 receiving yards.

Dalton was still criticized for a couple of under thrown deep balls, but I do believe the trade-off was worth it, exemplified by two perfect passes on touchdowns to Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones.

“I think we are just making plays,” said Dalton in the locker room after the win. “Guys are just doing a really good job, getting in the right spots, competing, and making plays. A.J. had a great day but a bunch of guys were making big catches for us today. it was a big win.”
Dalton is not going to throw for 370 yards every week, but his performance certainly gave fans a reason to believe in the third-year signal caller. The quarterback and coaches may also need to take some time this week to get in the head of tight end Jermaine Gresham, who at one point on Sunday had to leave the field to “get his thoughts together.”

Grehsam can be a frustrating entity, making big catches one minute and then doing something stupid like his two penalties on Sunday or his reported Ochocinco like “give me the ball” pleas at halftime.
The running game was nearly non-existent but in the shadow of the excellent passing game, no one seemed too bothered. Giovani Bernard is still a threat out of the backfield and his catch on the final drive got the team into field goal position. The offensive line was impressive all day, keeping Ndamokong Suh away from Dalton all afternoon and giving their quarterback time to make some big throws.

Take away a couple of unbelievable plays by Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson, the Cincinnati defense played fairly well, especially containing Lions running back Reggie Bush. The defense did not register a sack of Matthew Stafford all day, but held the Lions to 3.1 yards per carry and were led again by linebacker Vontaze Burfict with 13 tackles.
On the downside, the defense was horrible on third down, allowing the Lions to convert on 13 of 19 opportunities.

The streak of 21 consecutive game without allowing a 300-yard passer came to an end, but it took Stafford 51 pass attempts to do it.
The depth of the secondary will be tested now after corner Leon Hall, arguably the teams’ best cover man, went down with a season ending Achilles injury. It may be time for former first round draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick to step up and earn his pay.

In Sunday’s win, perhaps the most valuable players were the members of the Bengals’ special teams. Punter Kevin Huber continues to be one of the most undervalued weapons on the team as for the third week in a row, he came up with a punt late in the game that pinned the opponent deep in their own territory.

After missing earlier in the game, kicker Mike Nugent came up big on the final play of regulation, booming a 54-yarder for the win. With the assistance of James Harrison, Carlos Dunlap came up with a big block of a David Akers field goal in the second quarter.
“Beating a team l ke this on the road only helps our confidence and makes us grow up,” Dunlap told reporters after the game. “We had a young football team last year and now we are older.”
“It was a big win for us,” said head coach Marvin Lewis after the game. “We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game and it was going to be a grind. We had to be prepared to play 60 minutes.”
Now riding the emotion of a three-game win streak, the Bengals return home on Sunday to host Rex Ryan and the surprising New York Jets, fresh off an upset win over the Patriots on Sunday. Bengals and the Jets, calling Elton John.