ReFo: Broncos @ Bengals, Week 16
Last night the Cincinnati Bengals may have done more than clinch a fourth straight playoff berth, they may just have given themselves the belief that this could be a successful foray into the postseason after falling at the first hurdle up to this point.
Though they sit at 10-4-1 their season has lacked a real quality win to this point with heavy defeats against New England and Indianapolis on the road offering plenty of doubt as to their ability to compete in the postseason. Yet last night’s gutsy win, responding when the Broncos looked like they would surge past them in the third quarter, could be the boost this team needs to clinch the AFC North next week and kick on in the playoffs.
For the Broncos, this defeat means that, barring a defeat for New England, they will have to go on the road if they are to return to the Super Bowl and must win next week in Oakland to ensure a bye for the wildcard round.
Denver Broncos – Performances of Note
Peyton Manning, QB, -2.2
Breakdown: The downturn in Manning’s form over the second half of the season has been startling and at this point has to be a genuine concern. There were still some excellent throws mixed in here, particularly in the third quarter where he and his receivers picked on Terence Newman, but they were outweighed by some dreadful attempts at key moments with Manning uncharacteristically poor on short throws, in particular outside the numbers.
Signature Stat: In the first eight weeks of the season Manning was our sixth-highest graded QB, with a +13.2 overall grade. Since then he ranks tied for 20th (with Mark Sanchez, -6.1) and has only two positively-graded games in that spell.
Aqib Talib, CB, +3.9 and Chris Harris Jr., CB, +2.9
Breakdown: While Manning struggles, the Broncos’ defense is still playing good football especially at cornerback where once again Talib and Harris shone, surrendering only two catches for 14 yards on eight combined targets. The Bengals steered well clear of Harris (only one target) but Talib was able to capitalize on a wayward Dalton throw for his pick-six less than five minutes into the game, holding an injured A.J. Green without a catch on four targets.
Signature Stat: Since the Broncos previous defeat in St. Louis back in Week 11, Talib and Harris have allowed a combined 246 yards on 53 targets (29 completions) and only two catches of 20 yards or more. In the same period, 18 corners have allowed more than that individually, all on fewer targets.
T.J. Ward, S, +2.4
Breakdown: Just like his teammates at cornerback, Ward is in a fine vein of form making it all the more disappointing for Broncos fans to have seen him leave the game early after one of his season-high seven stops. Ward was active against the run but also added a trio of stops in the passing game surrendering only 13 yards on five targets split between Jermaine Gresham and Giovani Bernard, the longest completion he allowed went for only 4 yards.
Signature Play: Not just picking up his stops as an extra defender in the box Ward picked up a stop at Q1 0:46 remaining, working off a block from Andrew Whitworth at the second level to take down Jeremy Hill for a 2-yard gain.
Cincinnati Bengals – Performances of Note
Wallace Gilberry, DE, +4.5
Breakdown: While Carlos Dunlap made the big plays late in the game when set loose on Louis Vasquez, it was Gilberry who provided the Bengals with consistent pressure and plays against the run throughout the game. Working against an underperforming Ryan Clady, Gilberry generated pressure inside and out, drawing two holds from the Broncos’ left tackle in the process.
Signature Stat: A performance out of the blue this was Gilberry’s first positively-graded performance since Week 7 and his highest game grade since 2010 (+5.3 at St Louis).
Terence Newman, CB, -4.6
Breakdown: A rough third quarter for Newman who exited the game almost immediately after giving up a 46-yard gain to Demaryius Thomas late in the third quarter and didn’t return. Newman surrendered 130 yards on five catches last night 109 of those yards coming in the third quarter along with a pass interference penalty on the goal line that served only to delay the Broncos getting on the board by a solitary play.
Signature Stat: This has been an up-and-down season for Newman in coverage, he has graded +1.9 or above in coverage four times and surrendered less than 50 yards six times but last night was his fifth coverage grade this season of -1.4 or worse.
Andrew Whitworth, LT +4.9 and Eric Winston, RT, +1.9
Breakdown: The nature of the Bengals’ passing game with speedy releases certainly played its part but any time a pair of tackles can limit DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller to a combined three quarterback hurries you have to tip your cap to them. Since joining the Bengals Winston has yet to surrender a pressure (this was his first start having played 44 snaps in the last two games) while Whitworth was a driving force in the Bengals’ ground attack (+4.0), complementing his work in pass protection.
Signature Stat: There are few linemen more consistent than Whitworth who has only graded negatively four times in the last three seasons.
PFF Game Ball
After Newman struggled in the third quarter Dre’ Kirkpatrick came in and stole the show with two pivotal interceptions as the Bengals’ defense turned the tide in the fourth quarter.
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