The Cincinnati Bengals came out focused and prepared for their fight with Philadelphia. Now, the storyline shifts to the Ravens and Steelers.
In the days following the Bengals win over the Eagles, it still feels like a dream. Why? It took the Bengals approximately five weeks to do what fans had been waiting on. They finally won a game and made it look good. Philadelphia rolled into the Queen City with their playoff destiny on the line and met a fired up home team that resembled the 2015 squad. It was truly a learning experience for all.
What could have been a blowoff game for Cincinnati turned into one of the most balanced performances of the year. From the outset, it seemed like there was newfound drive and passion fueling Bengals players. The team that took the field at Paul Brown Stadium was one that was expected from Week 1. Both sides of the ball looked prepared and ready to make a statement.
Taking Care Of Bizness
Finally, the Bengals looked like a real playoff team. Whatever happened between the meltdown at Baltimore and the Philadelphia beatdown should be bottled and drank before each remaining game. The efforts of players and the coaching staff were amazing.
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When was the last time Andy Dalton was able to operate without being harassed like a bum? Was it a coincidence that Cedric Ogbuehi rode the pine and the O-line found its way? One player shouldn’t make that big of a difference. But, reshuffling the offensive line proved to be a stroke of genius by Marvin Lewis and Co. Eric Winston and Jake Fisher were welcome shakeups to the underperforming line. According to Cincy Jungle, Winston played 66% of the offensive snaps and Fisher logged the most snaps of his career.
If making the move to right tackle brought out the beast in Winston, there’s no need to defuse a successful experiment.
The offense was finally able to move the ball with their star player. A.J. Green is still nursing a hamstring injury. But, the wideouts gave him room to recover without feeling anxious. Tyler Boyd and Cody Core stepped their game up and gave Bengals fans a reason to be optimistic. Brandon LaFell has proved to be a bargain basement signing. He wasn’t added to be the next Marvin Jones or Mohamed Sanu. But, he’s quietly come on as a complement to the other receivers and his numbers are comparable to what Jones did last year.
The Tez-manian Devil
One of the most welcomed turnarounds of Week 13 was the performance of the defense. Paul Guenther’s unit has been a much-maligned bunch waiting to get their chance. The Eagles got to feel the wrath of their patience. Who led the defensive charge against Philly? There’s no need to ask. Vontaze Burfict is the lone answer. Burfict played one of the most dominating games of his NFL career.
Though he missed three games and didn’t get preseason snaps, Burfict is leading the team in tackles (91). His fire and passion are what keeps the Bengals’ defense at a high level. When talking about throwback players, Burfict has to be in the equation. So far, his penalties are down and his football IQ is shining.
"“That guy was an animal today,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said after the game. “He came to play today. But like everybody says, we feed off his energy. He’s a great teammate. He’s very emotional and we love him. He got me going today.”"
Four games remain on the Bengals’ schedule. Will that be enough to inspire another postseason run? If the Stripes can win out and get some help along the way, it may happen. For now, it’s just good to see real, balanced football again.