CIN-CLE GRADES: Atkins, Hill star in dominant win
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Bengals’ 37-3 win over the Browns:
– With the game being decided by the third quarter, the Bengals did not need to heavily rely on quarterback Andy Dalton (+3.2). Nevertheless, Dalton excelled in his limited role yesterday and exploited the weaknesses of the Cleveland defense throughout the afternoon. Dalton completed 14 of his 18 aimed passes for an accuracy percentage of 77.8%. However, what was even more impressive was Dalton’s accuracy on deep passes. On passes going 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage, Dalton went 4-for-4 for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Cleveland blitzed the quarterback six times, and they might regret not going after Dalton more often as he was really unstoppable when not blitzed. On these plays Dalton put on a clinic and completed 12 of his 14 pass attempts for 189 yards and two touchdowns resulting in a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
– Dalton was not the only Cincinnati offensive player who was unstoppable. Although, Jeremy Hill (+3.2) ran for only 98 yards on 22 attempts yesterday, it seemed like he was always good for five yards when the Bengals called his number. Hill has never been an elusive, shifty running back like Giovani Bernard (+0.7), but rather a tough downhill runner and this was on full display yesterday. While he only forced one missed tackle on his 22 carries, he did gain an average of 3.6 yards after the contact, which is a really impressive feat.
– Defensive tackle Geno Atkins (+7.7) continued his dominant stretch after going through a bit of a midseason slump around the team’s bye week. Atkins, in fact, recorded his highest grade this season and it came mainly from his work in rushing the passer. While he took advantage of Cleveland guard Joel Bitonio going down and being replaced by rookie Cameron Erving, he had success against other interior offensive linemen of Cleveland too, including center Alex Mack. The Browns had no answer for Atkins’ dominant bullrush, as he picked up two quarterback hits and 11 quarterback hurries on 35 pass rushing snaps.
DT Geno Atkins (+7.7)
LT Andrew Whitworth (+3.5)
QB Andy Dalton (+3.2)
RB Jeremy Hill (+2.9)
RG Kevin Zeitler (+2.7)
– We have been saying for most part of the season that while the number of sacks may not show it, the Cleveland offensive line has been playing well and were let down by the blocking of fullbacks and tight ends. However, that was not the case yesterday as the Cincinnati front proved to be too much for the Browns offensive line. It could be argued that Joel Bitonio (-1.3) going down after six snaps had an impact on the line’s performance, but even he gave up a pressure on one of his three pass block snaps. Things did get worse when Bitonio had to leave the field, though. Unfortunately for Browns fans, rookie Cameron Erving (-7.5) showed yet again that, although he has potential, he is not ready for NFL action yet, especially not going against Geno Atkins. Erving allowed one sack, one quarterback hit and five hurries before being benched in the fourth quarter. Joe Thomas (+4.0) turned out to be the only bright spot for this unit, who was the only offensive lineman to not allow a single pressure.
– One of the interesting storylines of the game was the Browns starting Austin Davis (+1.7) over Johnny Manziel, but Davis showed yesterday why the coaching staff can trust him. While he was not phenomenal, Davis proved to be a very competent game manager for Cleveland, in the good sense of the term. He constantly tried to take what the defense gave him and not force things, which is shown by the four passes he threw away after not finding anyone open downfield. While his yards per attempt was significantly lower than Dalton’s, his accuracy percentage of 81.8% was actually higher. In addition, Davis was not rattled by the pressure coming from Cincinnati’s defense and this was especially important because he was under pressure on 53.5% of his dropbacks. On these plays he completed 11 of his 16 aimed passes for 104 yards and earned a PFF grade of +1.9. Although, he did have an interception and a fumble as well, he can hardly be blamed for either of them since the former came as a result of miscommunication and the latter was an incomplete lateral pass being picked up by Cincinnati.
– While cornerback Tramon Williams (-3.1) has had an up-and-down season so far, he could rarely be mentioned among the bigger problems of the Cleveland Browns. This was however the case yesterday as Williams earned the lowest grade of his season and it all came in coverage. Williams had to follow Bengals star wide receiver A.J. Green throughout the game and Green got the better of the cornerback. Williams was targeted four times yesterday, all attempts going towards Green, and allowed a reception on all four of them. This completion percentage combined with the facts that the passes went for 122 yards and included a touchdown resulted in Williams allowing a perfect passer rating of 158.3 against the Bengals.
LT Joe Thomas (+4.0)
QB Austin David (+1.7)
RB Isaiah Crowell (+1.4)
WR Brian Hartline (+0.9)
NT Jamie Meder (+0.9)
FS Tashaun Gipson (+0.8)