Biggest Takeaways from Cincinnati Bengals' Week 4 Win
Andy Dalton once again put on a show, looking like a player who, for lack of a better cliche, has turned a corner. The running game looked stout. The defense gave up a silly amount of yards but muscled up where it mattered most.
It's lofty praise for a team best approached with cautious optimism in recent years, but something feels different about these Bengals through four games. Before the season, some who might have predicted this team starting 4-0 probably found themselves on the receiving end of sarcasm.
Alas, the Bengals sit undefeated barreling toward an encounter with the Seattle Seahawks. Before the grind to that contest begins, let's examine some of the biggest takeaways from the team's win against the Chiefs.
Defensive Struggles Persist
At face value, the contest with the Chiefs wasn't close, and the defense didn't surrender a touchdown.
It's a fine analysis, but ponder data compiled by Jay Morrison of Cox Media Group: "The 461 yards the Bengals allowed today were the most in a winning effort since surrendering 595 in a 31-16 triumph of the Saints in 2006."
Concerning, no? Against a better team with a defense capable of slowing Dalton and Co. and an offense able to attack the Bengals defense as the Chiefs did, well, it wouldn't be a pretty sight.
Sunday, the Bengals couldn't stuff running lanes well, nor could any level of the defensive unit tackle with anything close to consistency. It's why running back Jamaal Charles found room for 75 yards on 11 carries, Jeremy Maclin caught 11 passes for 148 yards and five Chiefs targets with at least two catches tallied a per-catch average of at least 9.8 yards.
The Bengals continue to win, but sooner or later the defensive struggles will come back to haunt the team. Look for the issues to be a point of interest this week.
The Defensive Line Defines Consistent
With the bad news about the Cincinnati defense out of the way, it's time to focus on the major positive.
Geno Atkins and his line don't have any problems rushing the passer this season. While the Kansas City offensive line surrendered seven sacks of Alex Smith on Monday Night Football earlier in the week, it was still impressive to see the Bengals tally five given the Chiefs' quick offensive attack.
For those counting, Domata Peko recorded two of the five sacks, while Atkins, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap added one apiece to their records.
Make it 11 sacks for the Bengals in four games coming off a 2014 season in which the defense could only muster 20. The brass in Cincinnati committed to fixing this area this past offseason, and based on the early returns, things are working out just fine.
The Committee Is Alive and Well
The Cincinnati coaching staff might call Jeremy Hill the starter, but it's now three games in a row Giovani Bernard has received more carries than him.
Regardless of the reasoning, it's clear coach Marvin Lewis and his staff don't care who does what so long as the offense produces. Sunday, Bernard ran 13 times for 62 yards and a score, Hill nine times for 40 yards and three scores.
It sounds like Hill understands the frustrations of many when it comes to the Cincinnati backfield, as ESPN.com's Coley Harvey captured: "Jeremy Hill on his fantasy owners: 'Last week, they were ready to crucify me. They're probably pretty excited today.' Said he did start himself in fantasy."
When both players run so well, though, there's no reason for the coaching staff to keep things on the ground with just one player. In fact, if both players can keep receiving similar work rates, both might be fresh and healthy for a postseason push after a grueling schedule.
After a workhorse-esque end to the 2014 season, Hill is very much in a committee, no matter who likes it.
Offense Doesn't Need Any One Player to Carry It
While a necessary performance, especially late in the game while the teams traded scores back and forth, it's not how one should define the Bengals this year.
Against the Chiefs, Hill might have rushed for three touchdowns, but the team moved the ball by using anyone and everyone.
Case in point:
- Mohamed Sanu hauled in a 52-yard catch.
- Brandon Tate scored on his one catch of the day, a 55-yard hookup with Dalton.
- Rex Burkhead reeled off a 27-yard catch.
- Tyler Eifert gained 30 of his 69 yards on one catch.
These Bengals are explosive. While one player dominating a game doesn't hurt, the fact so many different weapons can shoulder the load makes the offense quite dangerous, if not one of the most potent in the league.
It also speaks to one major thing: Strong quarterback play.
Goodbye, Bad Andy
Box-score scouting doesn't do Dalton justice this time around.
It was easy for observers to look at Dalton's gaudy numbers through three games and give him a mental pat on the back. But Sunday against the Chiefs, a 17-of-24 line with 321 yards and a score just doesn't pop off the page.
The film itself does. Those aforementioned numbers by various names didn't pop out of thin air, nor are they the result of a deep offense squeezing the most out of a game manager of a quarterback.
Quite the contrary, actually.
It's Dalton squeezing the most out of this offense, changing plays at the line, negotiating murky pockets and looking more accurate than he ever has before.
There was a time social media, fans and whoever else would jab about "Bad Andy" and his struggling ways in certain scenarios. With his team at 4-0, those times are over.
Term it "New Andy" or something else, but Dalton looks like a different player this season, whatever the reason. Week 4 was just the latest example.