The Cincinnati Bengals enter Week 9 in desperate need of a victory. They are fresh off the bye week, so there are little excuses as to why they can't stay in this game—except for one.
Simply put, the Denver Broncos are simply better than the Bengals. In recent weeks, the Broncos have been trending way up and the Bengals have been trending way down.
Still, with the Bengals being in Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium, they will have the home crowd on their sides. It's hard to predict if the defense will come to life to shut down Peyton Manning.
Denver 31, Cincinnati 23 Final
Bengals' quarterback, Andy Dalton is in desperate need of a good game. His 105-yard effort against the Pittsburgh Steelers was obviously less than impressive.
Denver has a defense that is top ten in the league against the pass, so turning his act around won't be easy. I still expect him to be airing the ball out a few times in this game, as the Bengals need a win—what better way to march down the field than by going deep?
Not a bad quarter for Andy Dalton, he only has two incompletions, but they were awful ones. They hit defenders in the chest.
Still, he finally had a good downfield throw to A.J. Green, something this offense has been missing all season long. Pretty good start for the Red Rifle against a solid Denver defense.
The second quarter started out ugly for Dalton, as he struggled in the red zone and then was ineffective on the following drive. Then, he got back to basics—short passes to the open receivers to get some yards.
Unfortunately, the success didn't last for the duration of the quarter. Following three consecutive solid completions, he went back to his old ways, over throwing A.J. Green deep and then making a bad pass on the run. Not a terrible first two quarters, but things need to pick up in the second half.
What a third quarter for the Red Rifle. He only had a single incompletion and threw for a touchdown.
This is the Dalton we were used to seeing last season. He's been able to make great decisions today, and despite a couple bad passes, has been right on the money to his receivers. As we head to the fourth quarter Dalton has accumulated 232 yards of passing and a touchdown.
You can't blame Andy Dalton for anything in the fourth quarter. You can only do so much to overcome an 11-point deficit in three minutes.
Dalton totaled just under 300 yards in the game and continued to make good passes at the end of the game. If Cincy's defense could have stopped the Denver offense, the Red Rifle certainly had the Bengals in a position to win.
No questions that Andy Dalton will step out of this game with a little less criticism.
Despite the fact that Dalton should be throwing the ball deep, I expect Cincinnati to be grinding it out on the ground. Denver hasn't been nearly as good against the run this year as they were last year, and are allowing 106 yards per game.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been struggling to be effective this season, but he showed signs of being a decent signing against Pittsburgh in the opening scoring drive. Watch for Green-Ellis to be the cornerstone in this one.
This grade is probably a bit high, but the first quarter ended with the Bengals being in the red zone. Andy Dalton has looked good in the quarter, but the running game hasn't been great.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis only has 16 yards on six carries, but Brian Leonard has looked good grinding it out deep in the red zone. They're showing promise against the upward-trending Broncos.
I've never seen a team that is so okay with quitting at the end of a half. Instead of trying to pull even at the half, they were okay with trying to give Mike Nugent a shot at a field goal.
Still, the offense was pretty stagnant if you look at the second quarter as a whole. The last drive showed some good movement and a lot of potential. The running game is still stalling, but Andy Dalton is making more good decisions than bad ones.
We need a more explosive offense to beat this Denver defense.
The running game is continuing to struggle. Why they insist on using it when Andy Dalton is performing well is beyond me.
Speaking of the Red Rifle, he's the big reason this grade is that high. Cincinnati's offense looked good this quarter and have held tight with a team they were given no chance to beat.
A.J. Green is blowing his fellow Georgia alum, Champ Bailey, away. For all except one play, he's been one step ahead.
The scoring drive in the quarter was great. They had little problems moving the football.
However, down 11 points in the final two minutes of the game, it's generally not a good idea to throw dump passes to the running back in the open field. It won't get you the points you need.
Overall, the offense moved the ball well, but that last drive was so pitiful to watch. They have to be smarter about moving the ball effectively.
Mercifully, it appears that Dre Kirkpatrick is finally ready to make his debut in Cincinnati against Denver. Naturally, it's unclear how effective he'll be, but having Kirkpatrick and Hall on the field is the best cornerback duo the Bengals can offer.
Hey, if it gets Nate Clements and Terence Newman off the field, it has to be kind of good.
Still, Rey Maualuga is going to be the starting inside linebacker, which will continue to be an issue. He's steadily declined year after year, can't defend the pass—it's an issue that could ruin the Bengals.
While the defense only allowed three points in the first quarter, Peyton Manning and the Denver offense hasn't had a whole lot of issues moving the football. A couple of dropped passes kept the Broncos' second drive from moving down the field.
Dre Kirkpatrick's presence hasn't been felt—yet.
Manning has been firing on all cylinders, and had very few problems in the second half. He put up an easy score to Eric Decker, and has only had five incompletions thus far. Three of those definitely could have been caught.
I'm not sure why I'm continuing to see Terence Newman and Nate Clements in the secondary. Neither of them are very effective, and isn't Dre Kirkpatrick supposed to be playing today? He has not been in on any plays yet.
On the good news side, undrafted rookie Emmanuel Lamur had a deflected pass—always good to see the newbies come to play.
Finally, the defense put some pressure on the Broncos. The running game has been shut down all day, but Manning has been running wild.
Until now. Thanks to Terence Newman's two picks in the quarter, the Bengals have a lot of momentum working for them. They'll enter the fourth quarter with the ball, and the defense didn't allow an offensive touchdown in this quarter.
Hey, small victories for this struggling defense.
From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. The Cincinnati defense was abysmal in the fourth quarter, which proved to be extremely detrimental to the Bengals.
Suddenly, Denver's running game was unstoppable, and the most anti-clutch defense in the league destroyed Cincinnati's hopes at the upset.
On special teams, Brandon Tate is the guy who really will see the bulk of the action for the Bengals, but I'll hold to my guns until the end of time—the job should belong to Pacman Jones.
I've never been a huge Tate fan, as he runs a lot of balls out of the endzone, only to wind up at the 15-yard line. Jones, meanwhile, has made a career of good special teams play, and he can make a serious impact in any game just on a punt return.
I can't really give them anything else right now! No score after the first quarter, but Brandon Tate's 35-yard kickoff return to start the game is worth a decent grade.
It probably deserves an A, but Adam Jones' nearly botched punt return will bring down the grade to a B.
Mike Nugent booted a 28-yarder to bring the Bengals even early in the quarter, but two penalties on punts is a troubling trend. The Broncos are going to be hard to beat anyway, and giving up yards and giving them yards won't make it easier.
Unfortunately, Nugent's missed 46-yard field goal was extremely detrimental to the Bengals. They needed some momentum going into the half and couldn't get it.
Brandon Tate has looked good on the kickoffs, but Pacman Jones, usually a solid special teamer, has fielded two punts now that should've been fair caught—c'mon man!
Opening kickoff return for a touchdown? Not good.
The only really notable achievements for the special teams today have been Tate's kickoff returns, and Nugent's 49-yard field goal. Past that, Nugent has a missed field goal, Pacman Jones is making bad choices, and Trindon Holliday has a kickoff return for a touchdown.
There was nothing special, the onside kick was pitiful and Mike Nugent kicked a decent field goal to give Cincinnati a chance.
The special teams played a very tiny role in the game as a whole.
Another week, another 60 minutes of Marvin Lewis football. Between Lewis and Dusty Baker, Cincinnati just can't seem to let go of mediocrity.
Never the less, maybe Lewis has a few tricks in his bag to take down the mighty Broncos. They are certainly the favorites in the game, and the Bengals' coaching staff is certainly going to have to think long and hard about how to beat them.
Hard to argue with a close game. I'm not a huge Marvin Lewis fan, but I am, in fact, a big Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer fan.
Play calling on the offensive side of the ball has been a little more "edgy" which has resulted in a couple downfield passes. This is good to finally see in 2012. The defense only allowed three points, which is definitely a step in the right direction for a team that has struggled all season.
I saw Andy Dalton use a shuffle pass on 3rd & 22—'nuff said.
The play-calling has been extremely predictable, minus a couple of downfield passes. Playing for a field goal instead of the tying touchdown never deserves a better grade than a C.
Stop. Using. The run. It isn't working.
Play-calling for the passing game has been good, and I credit that to Jay Gruden. However, the defense has struggled against Manning most of the day, but they still continue to use a zone defense that clearly isn't working.
And, of course, they keep trying to pound Green-Ellis up the middle.
Poor play-calling. Plain and simple. I will never understand Marvin Lewis' logic.
Why you would call little passes at the end of the game with little time is still beyond me.
Even scoring a touchdown won't save BenJarvus Green-Ellis from a bad grade.
His struggles continued today, as he managed to get only 56 yards on 17 carries. He also caught a couple passes for a total of -3 yards.
Green-Ellis has merely been a band-aid this season, doing little to prove himself to be a better back than Cedric Benson was. He doesn't quite seem to be the bruiser he used to be.
The duo combined to catch 15 passes for 207 yards on the day and were big time catalysts for the Bengals' offense.
This was Gresham's best game of the season, and Green continued to prove that he is a top three receiver. He's now caught a touchdown in seven consecutive games.
In terms of passing, the Bengals were magnificent today, and these two guys did a lot to be sure of that.
For one game—and one game only—I will give Terence Newman some credit. He has been getting burned all season long by receivers, but today, he picked off Peyton Manning two times.
The defense struggled again today against the pass, but Newman was the guy who did the most to try to correct that. In addition to his two interceptions, he had a couple tackles.
For one week, Newman looked like a good acquisition.
After recording double-digit tackles against the Steelers two weeks ago, expectations rose for undrafted rookie linebacker, Vontaze Burfict.
He didn't meet them today. He had only one tackle and five assists, and blew his coverage at least a couple times. The monster that haunted Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense was completely subdued by the Broncos.