CIN-BAL Grades: Bengals d-line, Dalton shine in AFC North tilt
Here are the top takeaways from Sunday’s Cincinnati-Baltimore game, including the highest-graded players for each team:
— Had the Bengals lost this game, QB Andy Dalton’s fumble which was returned for a touchdown and his interception thrown in the end zone would have overshadowed an otherwise impressive game from the quarterback. Dalton quickly bounced back after the fumble to finish the game 5 of 6 for 160 yards and two touchdowns with 73 yards coming in the air. On passes targeted 20-plus yards downfield, he completed 5 of 7 for 221 yards and a touchdown. Maybe most impressive, though, was his performance against the blitz. He completed 11 of 18 passes when blitzed for 277 yards, three touchdowns and a +5.7 pass grade.
— There was no question that DE Michael Johnson struggled with the Buccaneers in 2014, and through the first two weeks we still hadn’t seen the player from 2013 that finished with the fourth-highest overall grade among 4-3 defensive ends. But Johnson performed closer to that level on Sunday with a +4.3 overall grade. Part of that may have been going against Ravens LT James Hurst, but Johnson still picked up five pressures and his highest overall grade (+4.3) since Week 3 of 2013.
— TE Tyler Eifert had a great start to the year as he ranked third at the position entering the weekend. However, little went right for the third-year player on Sunday. He struggled in pass protection, allowing a hit and the sack that led to Dalton’s fumble, and earned a negative grade as a run blocker. Add in a dropped pass and a false start penalty, and Eifert earned the lowest overall grade of his career at -5.8.
QB Andy Dalton (+5.8)
DE Michael Johnson (+4.3)
WR A.J. Green (+2.8)
LT Andrew Whitworth (+2.8)
DT Geno Atkins (+2.6)
CB Adam Jones (+2.6)
— Because NT Brandon Williams isn’t much of a pass rusher, you won’t hear his name mentioned among the top interior defensive linemen, but he has really blossomed into a dominant run defender. Williams controlled Bengals’ C Russell Bodine (-8.4) throughout the game, continually getting penetration into the Cincinnati backfield or disrupting the intended point of attack. Williams picked up a whopping seven defensive run stops on just 21 run plays for a +6.7 run defense grade.
— WR Steve Smith is retiring after this season, but he still looks like he’s at the top of his game. Thirteen receptions for 186 yards, including two touchdowns and three missed tackles forced, led to a +4.8 receiving grade for Smith—his highest receiving grade since 2008. He continues to prove he’s the ageless one with the fourth-highest overall grade among wide receivers through the first three weeks of the season.
— The Ravens’ offensive tackles continue to be a major liability for the offense. After RT Ricky Wagner and LT James Hurst combined for a -19.5 overall grade in Week 1, they nearly reached the same level again two weeks later. The duo combined for 10 total pressures allowed and a -16.4 overall grade with Hurst laying claim to the lowest single-game grade for a tackle this season at -11.2.
NT Brandon Williams (+7.6)
OLB Elvis Dumervil (+6.9)
WR Steve Smith (+3.9)
RG Marshal Yanda (+3.1)
DE Timmy Jernigan (+3.1)