The Oakland Raiders will feel like they were on the verge of a comeback here, before the officials wrongly wiped off a defensive touchdown due to an inadvertent whistle that saw two Raiders ejected shortly after as emotions boiled over.
For the Cincinnati Bengals the win keeps them in the hunt for a Wild Card playoff spot — and they’re not mathematically out of the race for the AFC North crown, either. It was a game that they perhaps should have won more comfortably on the back of a dominant first half before they allowed the Raiders back into it with a series of three-and-outs in the third quarter.
The game featured some impressive performances, and some not-so impressive, so with that in mind let’s take a look at the key players from Sunday’s game.
Oakland – Three Performances of Note
Continuing his string of impressive performances, the Raiders’ fullback, who has shifted over to running back, Marcel Reece was the only Oakland player to offer much of anything on offense. Forcing seven missed tackles on just 15 carries, and averaging 3.6 yards after contact per carry, he finished the game with an Elusive Rating of 132.6. Averaging 4.9 yards per carry, despite his longest run going for just 15 yards, he continues to prove a nightmare for opposing defenses to bring down. The best example of this came on 1st-and-10 with 5:29 left in the third quarter, with three Bengals all failing to bring Reece to the ground. His initial burst was enough to beat Terence Newman and Pat Sims, before he spun away from Manny Lawson and kept his balance long enough to reach for the first down. His day would have been all the better were it not for two dropped passes, including one which resulted in an interception, but he’s playing well enough right now that you wouldn’t want to take many touches away from him even if Darren McFadden was healthy.
One-Dimensional Desmond Bryant
Comparing his play as a pass rusher and against the run, Desmond Bryant had a pretty one-dimensional game on Sunday. Pushed around routinely by left guard Clint Boling in the running game, the defensive tackle made life difficult for both him and center Trent Robinson as a pass rusher. With a hit and four hurries on 28 pass rushes, he finished the game with a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 13.4. Compare that with his Run Stop Percentage of 0.0% and you get the general idea. It’s difficult to be too hard on him, he was Oakland’s most productive pass rusher on the defensive line, but that’s the second week in a row where he has struggled against the run, taking away from stellar performances as a pass rusher.
Huff Holds His Own
The switch from safety to cornerback for Michael Huff generated a bit of debate this season and, considering he has had his struggles with three poor performances in particular, that’s not unmerited. That being said, he did a great job against Cincinnati’s star receiver A.J. Green on Sunday. Shutting the second-year man out on the two passes into his coverage, he allowed just two 6-yard receptions against the rest of the Bengals’ passing attack. Particularly impressive was his ability to keep Green at bay in press coverage, stifling him all game with contact within the first 5 yards. Green may have finished the game with 111 yards, with three plays of 19 yards or more, but none of them came against Huff.
Cincinnati – Three Performances of Note
Geno, Geno, Geno!
While everyone is talking Denver’s Von Miller and Houston’s J.J. Watt as battling for the Defensive Player of the Year award, isn’t it time Bengals’ defensive tackle Geno Atkins started to get more of a mention there too? No defensive tackle in the league wreaks as much havoc as Atkins does as a pass rusher and, with a sack, a hit and eight hurries on Sunday, he now has 51 quarterback disruptions on the season. He started as he meant to go on against the Raiders, beating right guard Mike Brisiel for a sack on 1st-and-10 with 13:36 left in the first quarter. Seeing just 11 snaps against the run he didn’t have the same opportunities to be as disruptive as he was as a pass rusher, but he still finished the game with two tackles against the run, with both resulting in defensive stops. It’s no wonder our own Khaled Elsayed penned this piece.
Bengals Running Game
Judging by the 221 yards and 6.5 yards per carry they racked up on the ground, it’s safe to say that the Bengals had no problem running the ball against Oakland. While the praise will be handed to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who totalled 129 yards on the day, the game also highlighted the play of Cedric Peerman, who continues to impress on limited carries. That’s not to say Green-Ellis played poorly, as he showed good cuts and a nice burst to get into the Raiders’ secondary on both his big runs. Forcing no missed tackles, though, and with an average of just 1.84 yards after contact, he had an Elusive Rating of 0.0. Peerman, on the other hand, had an Elusive Rating of 306.3, with four missed tackles and an average of 6.13 yards after contact on just eight carries. The three long runs highlighted a big problem for the Raiders defense in that, once you get by the defensive line, the linebackers and secondary are, at best, inconsistent in terms of limiting plays that break through the first level of the defense.
Dalton Doesn’t Inspire
A look at Andy Dalton’s basic stats from Sunday would have you questioning his grade for this game, completing 17 of his 28 “aimed” passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. When you dig a little deeper into the performance, however, there just wasn’t much to get excited about. Completing just 3-of-10 on passes 10 yards downfield or further. Dalton had the most success on short passes, with all three of his touchdowns coming on passes aimed no further than 7 yards. Like Green-Ellis, he certainly wasn’t awful, with just the one really poor throw which should have been picked off by Matt Giordano on 2nd-and-9 with 14:20 left in the third quarter, but he just didn’t do much bar take advantage of the Raiders’ defense. Will that kind of performance be enough against the top teams in the AFC should they make the playoffs?
– Raiders safeties Matt Giordano and Tyvon Branch combined to miss seven tackles on the day.
– While he was ejected from the game, Bengals’ left tackle Andrew Whitworth was perfect in pass protection.
– Dalton had a quarterback rating of 105.8 on the 10 passes thrown towards rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.
It’s becoming almost as obvious as the weekly J.J. Watt praise, but Geno Atkins is playing as well as any defensive player in the league right now.