It wasn’t always pretty, but the Cincinnati Bengals left Lincoln Field with a convincing victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last night. With the aid of five turnovers–four fumbles and an interception–the Bengals scored 34 points and dominated the second half of the game to limit the Eagles to just 13 points. Outside of the second quarter, when the Eagles scored all of their points and the Bengals didn’t score at all, the Bengals were always on top.
However, the game itself wasn’t that easy. Defensively the Bengals showed up for four quarters, but quarterback Andy Dalton undoubtedly struggled, while the offensive line had it’s worst game of the season and only one of his receivers caught a pass all game long. Those struggles were irrelevant in the first quarter, when the offense started at the Philadelphia 44 yard line and the Philadelphia 11 after a forced fumble and blocked punt.
Having already given up a touchdown to Riley Cooper after a big play to Jeremy Maclin down the field, two fumbles from Dalton in the pocket gifted the Eagles six more points. The second-year quarterback showed off poor pocket presence, but he hasn’t been used to dealing with this much pressure all season long. That was because the Bengals’ offensive line struggled throughout the game with the Eagles’ talented pass rushers. It was the offensive line’s worst performance of the season by some margin. Dalton was sacked six times and was consistently under pressure passing the football. Even though they won this game convincingly in the end, the Bengals actually entered the third quarter losing 13-10.
Resolve. Resiliency. The Eagles’ futility as a football team. Whatever it was, the Bengals pulled out a victory when very little appeared to be going their way. It’s clear that this team is a defensive-led group who should focus on running the ball on offense. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had another big day running the ball, with multiple untouched runs into the secondary helping him to 106 yards. It wasn’t Green-Ellis who kickstarted this victory, instead it was a defense who came out from the half-time break, when their backs were against the wall and their playoff spots in jeopardy, to dominate the Eagles’ offense.
Leon Hall had a relatively easy interception, but was in good coverage initially and showed good awareness to react to the football in the air. That interception set up a touchdown run for Dalton, before the Bengals’ defensive line reminded everyone of why they were expected to dominate this game with a strip-sack for a Wallace Gilberry touchdown. Even though the Eagles played a prominent role in helping the Bengals run up the score, with a terrible turnover in the backfield between Bryce Brown and Nick Foles as well as a muffed fair catch on a kickoff from a defensive lineman, the two key plays of the game were forced by the Bengals’ defense.
That is very important, because if the Bengals are to make the playoffs they will need to beat better teams than the Eagles. If they don’t want to be one and done in the playoffs, they need to be playing proactive football and forcing the game against their opposition. On a short week, traveling to another team’s soil, losing at the half(something that is made even more difficult to overcome on a short week), the Bengals really earned this victory and showed off the resiliency of champions. It’s still too early to consider them Super Bowl contenders, and they won’t be if the offense continues to play this way, but you at least to have that resiliency to be a respectable team at the top of this league.