Rapid Reaction: Cincinnati Bengals
December, 8, 2013
By Coley Harvey | ESPN.com
CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 42-28 victory against the Indianapolis Colts.
What it means: The Bengals are finally showing the football world that they are who many of us in the preseason thought they would be. Now that the end of regular season is almost here, the Bengals are preparing for a postseason run by flexing their muscles against teams they have to beat. Following last week's seven-point win on the road at San Diego, this weekend's dismantling of a division leader proves that they ought to be taken seriously during the postseason. One good thing Cincinnati has going for it in January is that it won't have to travel to Houston. The Texans, who own first-round wins over the Bengals the past two years, have been mathematically eliminated from the postseason.
Stock watch: Andy Dalton -- rising. The Bengals quarterback turned in his best performance since Halloween, when he threw for 338 yards in an overtime loss at Miami. While he didn't break the 300-yard mark Sunday, Dalton's 275 still were the most he has thrown since the Dolphins game. He also didn't throw an interception, marking the first time in six games that he hasn't been picked off. This was only the third game all season that he had without throwing an interception. Dalton also looked sharp. Often during the game, he put passes precisely where they needed to be. He zipped the ball into soft zones in coverage that were caught and led receivers just far enough on others. Marvin Jones' diving first-half touchdown reception was the product of being led to just right spot by Dalton.
Balanced attack: The Bengals picked up where they left off against the Chargers and showcased another balanced offensive attack. For the second straight game and fourth time this year, they had more than 150 yards rushing as a team. They totaled 155 thanks to rookie Giovani Bernard's 99 yards -- averaging 8.2 per carry. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 48. Coupled with the passing game, the ground attack made for a wide-open offensive scheme. The Bengals are now 9-1 in games when their running backs have hit the 150-yard rushing plateau.
What's next? Cincinnati heads to Pittsburgh on Sunday night for a key AFC North contest against the Steelers. It is the second of the two annual meetings between the division foes. The Bengals won the first contest 20-10 in a "Monday Night Football" game at Paul Brown Stadium. With a win over the Steelers, Cincinnati could clinch the division title outright.