The Cincinnati Bengals have started the 2014 season with two must win games, and they have done just that. This team is making a statement and showing that they are a true perennial playoff contender. The defense was dominant and held the Atlanta Falcons to just 10 points, just a week after they put up huge offensive numbers last week in a 37-34 win against the New Orleans Saints. Once the offense got on a roll, the Bengals showed they were in complete control.
The Bengals offense looked a lot like it did in the first half against Baltimore last week. They could drive down the field with ease, but once they got into the red zone they could not reach the end zone for the touchdown and had to settle for field goals. Mike Nugent made his first field goal attempt, but then missed his following three attempts. I don’t think it is necessarily anything to worry about, Nugent is just worn out from being over worked due to the red zone inefficiency of the offense.
Injuries were also a key part of the game for the Bengals. Wide receiver AJ Green left the game after the very first series with a toe injury and did not return the rest of the game. It looks like he is going to be able to make a quick recovery and will miss one game at the most. With Green out, running back Giovani Bernard stepped up to carry the offense. He had 27 carries for 90 yards and one touchdown, and five receptions for 79 more yards. Rookie running back Jeremy Hill also posed a threat to the Falcons defense and finished with 15 carries for 74 yards and his first NFL touchdown.
Andy Dalton did a good job again at not making stupid mistakes and forcing plays that are not there, and had no turnovers. Dalton’s decision making was what killed his game last year and the reason why he threw 20 interceptions in 2013. Even with Green out Dalton still found other guys to make big plays, especially a 76-yard touchdown pass to receiver Mohamed Sanu. Dalton shouldn’t have to go without Green for long, and imagining what this offense can be when Green and wide receiver Marvin Jones return from their injuries is a scary thing for opposing defenses.
The defense was stellar as usual. Going against a depleted offensive line, the bengals defensive line was able to get a consistent pass rush against Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. The pressure led Ryan to throw three interceptions and he only completed a little more than half of his passes. The defense has shown in the first two games that they may have lost coordinator Mike Zimmer, but the man who replaced him, Paul Guenther, has been able to keep the same toughness and mentality that Zimmer had here that has cultivated some of the best defensive units in the league the past few seasons.
The bengals have a lot of people to prove wrong and that they do deserve to be considered one of the top teams in the league. Dalton also has a lot of haters he would like to hush about how he did not deserve his new contract. The Bengals have a lot to play for this year, and so far they have shown no reason why they can’t play with the best in the league.