The Bengals’ Vontaze Burfict showed why he’s one of the NFL’s best, in Week 11. Now, it’s time to see if the same freedom applies with Cleveland.
The Bengals have a secret weapon that isn’t really all that secret. Every team knows about the guy who plays with passion on his sleeve, but he never gets the credit he deserves lately. Vontaze Burfict can be a beast when he’s not being put on a leash. But, the problem is allowing him to play. Maybe the NFL doesn’t want his type of fire anymore.
Bengals fans–who take their defense seriously–have long looked at the policies and rules as being biased against Burfict. When he finally came clean about the treatment he received from NFL officials on a weekly basis, it came as a shock to those outside of Cincinnati. But, to the faithful in Orange and Black, his words were a validation of what many have felt for years.
The final straw came in Week 10. Burfict was tossed from the Bengals’ matchup with Tennessee after “bumping” an official. What looked like an effort to get past down judge Jeff Bergman. After the video was scrutinized and looped what could be millions of times, the verdict was in. The flag tossed by Bergman was a weak move against Burfict.
"“I knew I didn’t do anything bad,” Burfict said, per ESPN. “Obviously, you are not supposed to touch the officials, but I didn’t think I touched him maliciously at all. I pretty much said, ‘Excuse me.'”"
Back to beast mode
More from Bengals News
- 6 Bengals whose stock significantly rose in preseason game vs Cardinals
- 7 winners and 7 losers from Bengals preseason opener vs. Cardinals
- Jackson Carman winning LG job isn’t a given after Bengals preseason opener
- Denzel Ward wants to flex on Bengals WRs in 2022
- Scouting the enemy: Bengals preseason opener chat with Raising Zona
The league didn’t suspend or fine Burfict (okay) for the incident against Bergman. As a result, his Week 11 battle with the Broncos was a different story.
Burfict was hesitant to say anything about the refs treatment of him because he didn’t want to have them making calls against the Bengals or himself.
But, after everything was aired out, the Broncos got to see the Burfict real fans have become used to seeing and loving. Tez was flying around the field like a nuclear warhead. He ended the day with 12 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble to lead the defense.
After the Broncos game, Burfict went a step further. He felt the refs were nice to him. As a result, Burfict laid down the law. He was able to give the Bengals’ defense the spark and drive they needed to get the big plays done.
"“Whenever you make plays and win, its fun. You can fly around. Sometimes when you’re losing you have to stay in the scheme and can’t guess sometimes.”"
Burfict received an 89.8 overall grade, from Pro Football Focus, to lead all linebackers for Week 11. The score was largely due to his play against the run. Thus, when Burfict is allowed to roam free and make plays, he’s more than a force to be reckoned with.
All calm for Pittsburgh?
If this truce continues with the league and the refs keep their wits about them, Burfict’s impact on upcoming games will be instrumental. After the Bengals tangle with the Browns on Sunday, the Steelers come to town for a primetime game.
Having Burfict free to chase and harass Ben Roethlisberger will be a huge benefit. But, if the officials decide to play favorites (as usual) things could get interesting. Having Tez free to be himself and help the defense flow has been the key to defensive success by the Bengals. Let’s hope the NFL is ready to embrace real linebacker play again.