Can last year tell us anything about this year? In this series, we’ll look at the Bengals schedule game by game, analyzing the good and bad from each week.
Week 4 was an absolute must-win for the Bengals. A Week 3 win against Green Bay would have been nice, but beating Cleveland in Week 4 was the only option. If the Bengals had dropped their fourth straight game to the Browns, it would have set off pandemonium in Cincinnati. Fortunately, the team carried the momentum from their near Packers victory and demolished the Browns. The result wasn’t surprising, but it left the ever-so-slightest window of opportunity open for the Bengals.
The game started slowly for both teams, as neither team scored for the entire first quarter. However, the Bengals got a touchdown from AJ Green on the first play o the second quarter, and that got the Bengals offense rolling. Clayton Fejedelem intercepted DeShone Kizer in the red zone, which led to another Bengals score. After that, Giovani Bernard took a screen pass to the house for a 61-yard touchdown, putting the team up 21-0 at halftime. The Bengals then scored on their first two drives of the third quarter, putting them up 31-0. At that point, the game was out of reach, and they coasted comfortable to victory.
The takeaways from this game were much less drastic, especially since it was against the Browns. In general, the game was a big positive, as the Bengals continued to do the good things they started against Green Bay. The offense as a whole continued to hum, and the defense was stingy against inferior quarterback play.
Andy Dalton continued to improve as he put together an elite performance against Cleveland. He completed a ridiculous 83% of his passes (25/30) for 283 yards and 4 touchdowns. While it was against the Browns, those are still really impressive numbers. Dalton pushed his yards per attempt up to over 9, and spread the ball around very evenly. Green had another solid game (5 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown), but Tyler Kroft and Giovani Bernard both compiled more yards than Green. Dalton was on point, and he was able to involve everybody.
While Dalton played great, the running game couldn’t catch up. Mixon had one of his worst games of the season. He couldn’t take advantage of the Greta matchup against Cleveland, tallying just 29 yards on 17 carries. Hill and Bernard didn’t do much better on the ground, either, putting up a combined 28 yards. Bernard at least did his damage through the air, turning that screen pass into a big touchdown.
The defense played great as a whole, although there were definitely some individual standouts. Nick Vigil had another solid game in his first season as a starter, racking up 11 tackles and a sack. Darqueze Dennard had a sack for the second consecutive game as well, impressive for a cornerback. Fejedelem’s interception of Kizer was big, too, and went a long way towards giving him longer-term security on this roster.
The biggest storyline from the defense, though, was likely the return of linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Burfict was out three games for violating the NFL’s conduct policy. Vincent Rey filled in admirably in his absence, but Burfict’s presence on the field is a big boost for the defense. His versatility against the run and the pass and his ability to cover large areas of the field is very valuable. In his first game back, he had just 6 tackles, but definitely made a big impact.
Overall, this was just a well played game by the Bengals. The game was never in jeopardy as they cruised to their first win of the season. The offense and defense both played great, which was hopefully a sign of better things to come. A 1-3 record is never an ideal way to start the season, but the Bengals at least had momentum going into Week 5.