Cincinnati Bengals: Giovani Bernard

CINCINNATI -- While A.J. Green made it back out on the practice fields Wednesday, several of his Cincinnati Bengals teammates did not.

In all, eight Bengals didn't practice, with second-year running back Giovani Bernard atop the list. He left in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-24 win over Baltimore with a right hip injury. It was one of two injuries Bernard was listed with on Wednesday's injury report. He also has an injury to his clavicle.

Bernard was one of three Bengals who didn't even make it on the practice fields.

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap also was absent as he fights through an illness. Veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth wasn't present as he spent time with his wife Melissa after she gave birth early Wednesday morning to the couple's fourth child. Whitworth was at Paul Brown Stadium earlier in the day and said he planned to play Sunday against the Jaguars.

As far as the players who did practice, Green participated in a limited capacity, as did cornerback Terence Newman (back) and offensive tackle Andre Smith (knee). Linebacker Jayson DiManche and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson participated in full capacity. It's the first time Thompson has gone fully in a practice since before the Week 2 game in which he suffered a serious knee injury. It appears he will play Sunday.

Linebacker Rey Maualuga and offensive guard Kevin Zeitler were both at practice, but spent their time rehabbing in the conditioning area.

LB Vontaze Burfict (knee)

CB Darqueze Dennard (hamstring)
OG Kevin Zeitler (calf)
DT Domata Peko (toe)
OT Andrew Whitworth (birth of daughter)
OL Mike Pollak (knee)
RB Giovani Benard (hip/clavicle)
DE Carlos Dunlap (illness)

WR A.J. Green (toe)
CB Terence Newman (back)
OT Andre Smith (knee)

DT Brandon Thompson (knee)
LB Jayson Dimanche (shoulder)
CINCINNATI -- A.J. Green participated in the Cincinnati Bengals' practice Wednesday afternoon, fulfilling comments he made to ESPN's Bob Holtzman after Sunday's game.

It was the first time the Pro Bowler practiced in nearly a month.

"I feel good," Green said after practice. "We're going to do a little bit [Thursday] and see how it goes."

It appears more promising he will play Sunday. If he does, don't expect Green to cut short any snap opportunities this week against Jacksonville in favor of getting more healthy for next Thursday's quick turnaround against Cleveland.

"I'm not going to take any kind of approach," Green said. "I'm just going to play as hard as I can and see what happens."

During the open portion of Wednesday's workouts, Green went through position-specific drills with other receivers and went through a series of routes. He didn't seem to favor the right big toe injury that has bugged him since the season opener.

His last Wednesday workout didn't go well. Minutes after the Bengals stopped stretching in their first practice the week Carolina visited in Week 6, he threw down his helmet and slammed his right shoe to the turf before getting on a cart and riding back into the stadium. He had aggravated the toe injury.

A day later, Green saw a foot specialist in Cincinnati who prescribed him to avoid playing for two weeks. Seven days after that evaluation, he traveled to North Carolina to another foot specialist who told him the same thing.

As a result, Green has missed the last three games. In his place, third-year wideout Mohamed Sanu has emerged. The player who was slated to be Cincinnati's third receiver entering the season has caught 21 passes for 383 yards and a touchdown in the three-plus games Green has missed. In addition to the three recent contests he didn't play, Green also was sidelined for all but six plays of the Bengals' Week 2 win over Atlanta.

Green has been told to expect playing with a measure of pain the rest of the season. At this point, it's about managing that pain and figuring out ways to protect his foot to give him adequate relief while playing through the ailment.

With respect to stabilizing the toe when he plays, Green said he wasn't changing anything. He said trainers may tape his foot up a little different, but otherwise he wasn't going to wear different shoes or place inserts in his shoes for additional cushioning. A report last week indicated he might be getting new specially made cleats from Nike.

It's been a difficult few weeks waiting for the effects of the injury to subside. Green has been wanting to get back on the field from the moment he left practice four Wednesdays ago.

"In the back of my mind it's like that, but I've got to take care of my body," he said. "I've got a long career ahead of me and I don't want anything lingering on and be something serious when I could have just rested and made it feel better."

In addition to Green, injured right offensive guard Kevin Zeitler (calf) and linebacker Rey Maualuga didn't practice but were part of rehab and conditioning drills on the side of the Bengals' practice fields. It's the first time Maualuga has been able to work out during practice since suffering a nasty left hamstring injury in the fourth quarter of the tie with the Panthers three weeks ago.

Tight end Tyler Eifert also didn't practice, although he is eligible after ending his stint on the short-term injured reserve last week. He dislocated his right elbow diving for extra yards in the season opener. Running back Giovani Bernard wasn't even at practice after suffering a right hip injury Sunday.
CINCINNATI -- At this still relatively early stage in the season, it appears Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has been coming through on one of his top offseason objectives.

[+] EnlargeGiovani Bernard
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThrough seven games, Giovani Bernard leads the Bengals in rushing yards with 446 and TDs with 5.
The Bengals, statistics show, are indeed putting more of an emphasis on the running game than what they may have placed upon it in recent seasons.

Given the current perception of the Bengals' rushing offense, it might be difficult to believe that's the case. It might also be difficult to believe, but the Bengals are running the ball slightly more effectively through seven games than they did at the same stage the past two seasons.

Cincinnati's most significant rushing improvement has come with the volume of rushing touchdowns it has had. Already this season, the Bengals have 10 rushing scores. They had five through seven games last year, and four at this same point two seasons ago. This season, Giovani Bernard has five, rookie Jeremy Hill has three, and quarterback Andy Dalton added two more Sunday when he dove into the end zone on a pair of 1-yard quarterback sneaks.

If you look at the 10 scoring plays, you'll see that all but one of them came in goal-to-go situations. Bernard's 89-yard touchdown run against Carolina three weeks ago was the lone outlier.

Aside from the touchdowns, the Bengals have run for more yards, slightly better than average, and with cleaner play than they had in 2012 and 2013. After seven games, they lost two fumbles in each season. This season, the Bengals haven't been credited with a fumble in the rushing game, although Dalton did lose a fumble Sunday when he was chased down while trying to get out of the pocket on a passing play that went negatively.

It may not seem like the Bengals have been running the ball better than in the past because it always seems like ball carriers aren't getting much of an opportunity to get going. Defensive players have been all over the backfield this season, none more than the Indianapolis Colts who were mainstays back there two weeks ago. On six of the Bengals' eight first-half rushes in that game, their running backs were first hit either at or behind the line of scrimmage.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bengals this season are averaging just 1.95 yards before contact. That's the worst average they've had through eight weeks since 2006, the year the statistic was first tracked. As a result, the Bengals' 2.01 yards after contact this year is the highest figure they have had in that category since the same season.

With respect to the 3.96 rushing average the Bengals currently have, that's their highest per-carry mark after eight weeks since 2009, when they averaged 4.34 yards a carry. Only two other Marvin Lewis-coached Bengals teams (2005, 2009) have had higher rushing averages through eight weeks.

It's actually quite amazing the 2014 Bengals rushers have accomplished what they have on the ground considering how comparatively bad the blocking has been for them. Part of the reason so many defenders have lived in the backfield this season is because the Bengals have, for the most part, been porous up front in run-blocking. Pro Football Focus has given this season's Bengals their worst run-blocking grade since 2007, the year it started tracking the advanced stat.

They are currently at a minus-4.3 run-blocking grade from PFF. For a frame of reference, they were at plus-32.6 at the end of last season. That was the 10th-best in the league.

This is all to suggest that the Bengals' running game really isn't performing as badly as it is perceived to. Still, this also all shows just how far that phase of the offense still has yet to go.
CINCINNATI -- After being on the field for more than 80 plays in their previous three games, the Cincinnati Bengals' defensive players received a slight reprieve in in Sunday's 27-24 win against the Baltimore Ravens, who kept them out for just 67 plays.

For a defense licking its wounds and beginning to get players back from injuries, it was a welcome relief.

One of the players returning from injury, linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, played all 67 snaps. Lamur missed last week's loss against Indianapolis after suffering a shoulder injury at the very end of regulation during the Bengals' tie against Carolina. In one of his best games of the season, Lamur recorded five tackles and had a key second-half interception that led to a score against the Ravens.

Along with getting some players back into the rotation, the Bengals also had one of their more balanced running back rotations of the season. Giovani Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill had almost an even split of carries.

One reason was an injury to Bernard late in the fourth quarter, but even before that happened Hill had shared snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, Bernard was part of 38 of the Bengals' 70 offensive snaps, and Hill was in on 31. The last time their snap counts were that balanced was in Week 2 against Atlanta, when Bernard was in for 46 plays, and Hill for 33.

Here, with help from our friends at PFF and the NFL's Game Statistics and Information System, are this week's complete Bengals play counts:

OFFENSE (70 plays)*
OG Clint Boling (70), C Russell Bodine (70), OT Andrew Whitworth (70), OT Andre Smith (70), QB Andy Dalton (70), TE Jermaine Gresham (70), WR Mohamed Sanu (65), OG Kevin Zeitler (53), WR Brandon Tate (50), RB Giovani Bernard (38), H-back Ryan Hewitt (34), RB Jeremy Hill (31), WR Greg Little (30), OG Mike Pollak (17), WR James Wright (8), WR Dane Sanzenbacher (5), TE Kevin Brock (5), OT Marshall Newhouse (5), FB/DT Domata Peko (5, offensive snaps), RB Cedric Peerman (3).

DEFENSE (67 plays)*
LB Emmanuel Lamur (67), S Reggie Nelson (65), S George Iloka (65), CB Leon Hall (65), DE Carlos Dunlap (62), LB Vontaze Burfict (62), CB Terence Newman (61), DE Wallace Gilberry (50), DT Domata Peko (46), DT Geno Atkins (45), LB Vincent Rey (37), DE Robert Geathers (35), CB Adam Jones (35), DT Devon Still (25), DE Margus Hunt (7), LB Marquis Flowers (3), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (3), LB Nico Johnson (2), S Shawn Williams (2).

SPECIAL TEAMS (26 plays)**
Williams (20), Johnson (16), Flowers (16), Peerman (16), S Taylor Mays (16), Hunt (14), Wright (13), CB Darqueze Dennard (13), K Mike Nugent (11), LB Jayson DiManche (11), Hewitt (11), Nelson (10), Rey (10), Kirkpatrick (10), Peko (9), LS Clark Harris (8), P Kevin Huber (8), Brock (6), Whitworth (5), Smith (5), Gresham (5), Pollak (5), Dunlap (5), Jones (5), Newhouse (5), Still (4), Hall (4), Zeitler (4), Tate (2), Gilberry (2), Lamur (2), Burfict (1), Newman (1), Hill (1), Bodine (1).

Note: *Counts come from PFF. **Counts come from NFL's GSIS.
CINCINNATI -- Hindsight is definitely 20/20, but the question in the headline above -- and the one below that inspired it -- is a good one to ask.

What type of impact might Andrew Hawkins have actually had if he were still playing for the Cincinnati Bengals this season, given the team's issues with keeping receivers healthy?

If you ask coaches and even some of Hawkins' former teammates, they'll perhaps smartly respond by saying they have who they have right now and can't think about the past. They can't focus on the coulda, shoulda, woulda -- particularly now that they are in the middle of a winless streak they hope to end Sunday when the Ravens come to Paul Brown Stadium.

While they might not answer that question, that doesn't mean I can't. The Hawkins question is where we begin with this second installment of our weekend mailbag:

@ColeyHarvey. Jarrett, it's safe to say now that we are in the middle of the season and we know that A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert are dealing with serious injuries, the possible addition of Hawkins to the rotation would be immense. More than anything, he would have given a calming, veteran voice to have in meetings and on the sidelines during this sudden offensive downturn. He also would have been another key, speedy weapon to line up in the slot, put in motion for a jet sweep or be used as a decoy on some plays. If you'll recall, I was one of the more adamant voices in saying the Bengals should have tried to re-sign him in free agency by offering a higher-round tender than the low-round compensation they did in fact extend him. For an extra $700,000 more, no other team was going to touch him. But of course, the Browns did when they saw how cheap the Bengals were thinking of paying him.

Hawkins left in the offseason and has become the star of a suspension- and age-affected Browns receiving corps. Things happen for a reason, but it's hard not to imagine the Bengals having a little extra stability with Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Tate, Dane Sanzenbacher and James Wright right now if Hawkins were part of their crew. Come to think of it, if Hawkins were still here, Wright probably wouldn't be a Bengal.

@ColeyHarvey. I see where you're going, Nick, and I have to pause you right there. Teams are no more paranoid about injuries now than they have been at any other point in the history of the sport. There's always been a little week-to-week gamesmanship that goes on when placing players under various injury-report designations. Teams aren't trying to tip their hand too much, but they also want to be sure their player is physically, without-a-doubt unable to play. I'm imagining this question is in part a response to the Bengals listing Green as doubtful for Sunday on the same day coach Marvin Lewis lauded his rehab sessions. Jones ending up questionable on the injury report two weeks ago -- one week before being put on season-ending injured reserve -- also was strange. I'll say this, though. The only change I've seen regarding injuries is that Lewis doesn't use the weather-related injury updates as much as he used to. That's a bummer.

@ColeyHarvey. That's something I touched on in my W2W4 blog Saturday afternoon. It's possible. The Bengals certainly would have chances Sunday to send an extra linebacker that they wouldn't have before, but they have to be careful not to overdo it on the blitzing because Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk could suddenly become more of an option to beat the blitz in the screen-passing game. Screens, of course, are great blitz beaters. Overall, not having having to see Owen Daniels and Dennis Pitta could be quite a significant development for a Bengals defense that has struggled the last three weeks with tight ends. Since losing at New England, the Bengals have allowed 24 catches for 363 yards and four touchdowns to tight ends.

@ColeyHarvey. Good question, David. Honestly, to me, it goes a little deeper than the up-front blocking. It goes to the downfield blocking and to the running backs' ability to make defenders miss. To me, it seems like the backs have been almost a little too patient at times and have been waiting a little long for holes to develop before they close. It seems like Giovani Bernard has been doing that more than Jeremy Hill, based on my film study and evaluation, but remember, I'm no football coach. You're not going to see a team, especially this one, change it's run-blocking scheme wholesale in the middle of the season. The Bengals like the setup, it's just the execution that has been problematic. And again, the execution falls on the running backs to run through tackle attempts and to burst through holes a little quicker. 
CINCINNATI -- About a half hour before the Cincinnati Bengals released their injury report Friday afternoon, coach Marvin Lewis sounded more optimistic about A.J. Green playing this weekend than he had the last three weeks.

According to Lewis, Green (toe) has "looked better and better" during his rehab all this week. He peaked Friday, when he "looked like football form," Lewis said.

But despite that optimism, there is some pessimism about whether Green really will be able to help the Bengals this weekend when the Baltimore Ravens come to town.

That's because Green was listed as doubtful on the Bengals' injury report. That means, in a probability sense, the Bengals believe he has a 25 percent chance of participating in Sunday's game.

Along with Green, defensive tackle Brandon Thompson, who returned to practice in a limited capacity this week, was listed as questionable. Thompson might still be about a week away as he finishes recovering from a knee injury that has had him out since Week 2. Cincinnati will welcome the reserve lineman back with open arms when he makes his return, because he should give them a much-needed jolt in run-stopping situations.

Here's the Bengals' full injury report:

LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring)

WR A.J. Green (toe)

DT Brandon Thompson (knee)

RB Giovani Bernard (ribs)
CB Leon Hall (back)
TE Kevin Brock (neck)
LB Vontaze Burfict (neck)
DE Wallace Gilberry (eye)
LB Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder)
OT Marshall Newhouse (back)
OL Mike Pollak (knee)
OT Andre Smith (shoulder)
DE Robert Geathers (toe)

When the season ends, this Sunday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals could be viewed as the turning point for both teams, as well as the AFC North race.

If the Ravens win, it will be the kind of feather-in-their-cap victory that can allow them to not only put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the division, but prove they can win on the road in an always difficult place to play. If the Bengals win and start rattling off a string of subsequent victories, this game could be viewed as the linchpin moment to their season. It would be the week their string of disappointment ended, and the victories returned.

So this isn't any ordinary midseason showdown. This is a high-stakes Week 8 game that could have many playoff implications riding on it.

ESPN's Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley and Bengals reporter Coley Harvey are here to help you get ready for Sunday in this week's preview:

Coley Harvey: How are the Ravens viewing this game, Jamison? What type of message could they send the rest of the division if they jump out to a 6-2 start with a win in Cincy?

Jamison Hensley: In many ways, this is a statement game for the Ravens. They've been dominant in recent weeks, winning by an average margin of 27 points in their past three victories. But they've roughed up teams in the weak NFC South. The Ravens will officially declare themselves the team to beat in the AFC North if they can knock off the defending division champions on their home field. There is also the payback factor for the Ravens. Quarterback Joe Flacco has already talked about the team having something to prove against the Bengals. Not only did the Ravens lose to the Bengals in the season opener, but they have repeatedly struggled in Paul Brown Stadium. Flacco has a career 2-4 mark in Cincinnati, and the Ravens haven't won there since 2011. So, a victory would erase some bad memories for the Ravens as well as deliver another crushing blow to a reeling division rival.

Coley, the Bengals haven't won a game in a month, but the season hasn't reached the halfway point yet. Is it too dramatic to classify this as a "must win" for Cincinnati?

Harvey: Not at all, Jamison. I'd argue this is a must-win game. You mentioned it yourself: right now, the Bengals are reeling. After having so much success the past three regular seasons -- not to mention the success they had winning the first three games this season -- they're having trouble comprehending what the past three weeks means about their team. They have two losses to two really good teams (New England and Indianapolis), but earned that tie in a game against one of those NFC South foes you mentioned earlier (Carolina). To redefine themselves, the Bengals "must" earn a win. Also, there's the division race at stake. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap was quick to point that out as motivation following the 27-0 blowout at Indianapolis on Sunday. The Bengals want to be in first place again. Also, they want to extend their 12-game streak of being undefeated at home.

Flacco was under a lot of duress in this year's first meeting between these teams, particularly in the final minutes. What type of pressure is on the Ravens' offensive line to protect better in this game, particularly on the left edge, where Eugene Monroe might end up missing more time?

Hensley: The big question for the Ravens is whether the left side of their offensive line returns. Monroe, the left tackle, and left guard Kelechi Osemele, both of whom are dealing with knee injuries, haven't been on the field together since Week 3. That being said, one of the biggest improvements this season has been their pass protection. Since getting sacked three times by the Bengals, Flacco has been sacked only five times in the past six games. That's a major turnaround from last season, when Flacco was sacked a career-worst 48 times. Under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, Flacco has gotten rid of the ball quicker and the receivers have done a good job of getting better separation. Still, it all starts with the offensive line, and the Ravens have had some breakdowns with rookies James Hurst and John Urschel filling in on the left side. They need Osemele and Monroe when facing a Bengals defense that has 14 sacks in the teams' past five meetings.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens' pass rush is hitting its stride right now. The Ravens have recorded 10 sacks and 24 quarterback hits over the past two games. Can the Bengals slow down the likes of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil? And how has Andy Dalton handled pressure this season?

Harvey: Dalton actually has handled pressure, at least in the form of blitzes, fairly well this season, so I'll say yes, the Bengals can slow down Dumervil and Suggs. Dalton's best career numbers versus the blitz have come this season in the form of his career-high 62.5 QBR when teams send additional rushers from the upper levels. While he has only three touchdown passes against the blitz, including the pivotal go-ahead, 77-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green in the fourth quarter of the season opener at Baltimore, he most notably has just one interception. That pickoff happened after his arm was hit by a blitzing linebacker as he threw, causing the deep pass to flutter right into a defensive back's hands. In last week's game against the Colts, Dalton handled the blitz OK, but he had Colts linemen in his face all afternoon. With his receivers struggling to get separation, he was unable to set up quick enough passes. For the first time, he looked awful against standard pressure.

Jamison, if you had to put your finger on one reason as to why the Ravens have been able to play so well since losing the opener, what would you pick?

Hensley: It's the Ravens' ability to get off to fast starts. In their past five wins, they have outscored teams 96-17 in the first half. In their two losses, they've been outscored 21-3 before halftime. It was a sluggish start that caused the Ravens to drop that season opener against Cincinnati. The Ravens trailed 15-0 after two quarters and were shut out for the first 42 minutes, 40 seconds. When the Ravens trail early, they tend to get out of their balanced attack and throw the ball more than they would like. When the Ravens get a lead, this is a team that can protect it because of a strong running game and the stingiest defense in the NFL. It's certainly a proven formula. The Ravens are 49-10 when scoring first in John Harbaugh's seven years as head coach.

Another area where the Ravens have improved is their run game. The Bengals have gone the opposite direction, going from the fifth best run defense to No. 30. Will the Bengals be able to slow down the ground game Sunday?

Harvey: That's a question you, me, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and thousands of Bengals fans would like to know the answer to. It's hard to say there's been any one reason as to why the Bengals have struggled defending the run lately. Early in the season, they were gashed by occasional long carries from quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Jake Locker, but those had minimal impact on the outcome of those games. A week after the Bengals' bye, though, Patriots running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen rushed for 203 combined yards to pace a 220-yard rushing attack. The next week, it was quarterback Cam Newton who picked up 107 yards, mostly off the read-option. This past week, the Colts' Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson, of all running backs, made the Bengals pay with a 177-yard total performance. Cincinnati's biggest issues of late have involved knowing rush-lane assignments, having an inordinate amount of missed tackles (29 the past three games, per Pro Football Focus) and being without linebacker Vontaze Burfict consistently. He's finished only one game this season.

CINCINNATI -- As we start putting the proverbial bow on the Cincinnati Bengals' sixth game of the season, here is a by-the-numbers look at the 27-0 shutout loss to the Indianapolis Colts:

135: Number of yards the Bengals' offense amassed the entire afternoon.

8: Percentage of third downs the Bengals converted (1 of 13).

38: Percentage of third downs the Colts converted (5 of 13).

1,524: Number of yards the Bengals' defense has given up the last three weeks, an average of 508 yards per game.

2.5: Number of yards the Bengals gained per play against the Colts' defense.

7.6: Number of yards the Colts gained per passing play.

47.7: Average number of net yards on Bengals punter Kevin Huber's career-high 11 punts.

11: Total number of carries running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill had.

32: Number of yards the two backs rushed for combined.

7.9: Total QBR rating for quarterback Andy Dalton, the second-lowest single-game QBR of his career.

3.9: Total QBR rating for Dalton on third downs.

10: Number of receptions for tight end Jermaine Gresham. With Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green missing the last two games with injury, Gresham has more targets in the last two games (20) than he had through the first four (13).

2: Number of kickoff returns cornerback Adam Jones had. His longest was for 38 yards.

48:34: Time elapsed in Sunday's game before the Bengals crossed the 50-yard line.

9: Drives it took the Bengals to get a first down. They went three-and-out on their first eight series. According to Elias, the last team to go that many drives without a first down to start a game was Baltimore in 2011. The Ravens did it Week 7 of that year, going nine drives without getting a first down to start the game. They, too, lost.

9: Number of first downs the Colts had before the end of the first quarter.

9: Number pass breakups Colts defenders had, tied for second-most in an NFL game this season.

16: Number of tackles for Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey. That led all defensive players.

3.5: Number of yards the Bengals averaged on first down. Eight times they either didn't gain a yard or lost yards on first down.

1.0: Average yards Bengals backs gained before contact per rush. They were hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on six of eight first-half rushes.

Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this report.
CINCINNATI -- To the relief the Cincinnati Bengals, the Indianapolis Colts are now in their rearview mirror. But before we completely move on from Sunday afternoon's game, let's take a quick peek at some of the ways our friends at Pro Football Focus analyzed and examined Cincinnati's Week 7 game.

As always, take the grades and notes you see below with a certain grain of salt because they can end up being amended. Bad grades also can sometimes simply be the product of particular schemes, coverage or formations a team happens to employ in a respective week based upon the opponent. (Although, virtually all of the bad grades following this week's shutout are probably indisputable)

Here are a few Bengals grades and notes following Sunday's 27-0 loss:

  • At full health for the first time since the start of Week 2, the Bengals' offensive line had good reason to perform well Sunday. But like the rest of their unit, the line didn't play well overall, as Indianapolis' constant pressure caused them all kinds of headaches. Using PFF's grades, the two worst-graded linemen were right tackle Andre Smith and left guard Clint Boling. Smith had a minus-4.9 overall grade and a minus-2.3 run block grade. Smith's run-block grade matched a season-low and was an indication of how much trouble he had sustaining blocks in the little-used run game. He also had two penalties in the game, including a false start in the red zone. Boling had a minus-1.8 overall grade.
  • While those two struggled, rookie Russell Bodine has continued to impress. He allowed just one quarterback disruption this week, a hurry.
  • With receiver A.J. Green out the last two games and Marvin Jones now done for the year, the Bengals are increasingly turning to backup receiver Dane Sanzenbacher for help in the passing game. According to PFF, his 92 snaps across the last two games -- he had 51 on Sunday -- are more than he played all of last year on offense. In those two games, he has only been targeted five times.
  • Of the 41 passes quarterback Andy Dalton attempted, only seven of them traveled in the air more than nine yards. The Bengals were committed to using screens and other short-range passes.
  • Indianapolis sent 12 blitzes, according to PFF. As he has much of the season, Dalton managed them fairly well, completing six passes on the 12 rushes.
  • As mentioned earlier, the Bengals barely ran. They had 12 carries total, including one from Dalton. Running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill had a season-low 11 hand-offs. For the first time this year, Bernard also was unable to force a tackle.
  • Cornerback Adam Jones had the highest PFF grade on the day, claiming a plus-4.3 score. He was targeted six times, allowing just two catches for eight yards.
  • As you'd imagine with two of their starting linebackers out for the afternoon, and a third making a quick exit due to injury, the Bengals' all-reserve linebacker corps was targeted often. Rookie Marquis Flowers and second-year backup Jayson DiManche appeared on 56 percent of the defensive snaps, and made all but six of the Cincinnati's special teams plays. Flowers was targeted seven times and allowed four catches for 41 yards, according to PFF. Another reserve who saw significant action, Vincent Rey, was targeted four times and allowed catches each time for 70 yards. A lot of the yardage on those catches came from Flowers' and Rey's three missed tackles.
  • Defensive tackle Geno Atkins recorded only his second negative overall grade in the last three seasons with his minus-1.8 mark. He didn't record any official stats.
  • Defensive end Carlos Dunlap had his best game as a rusher, disrupting five of the 26 passing attempts he could factor into.
CINCINNATI -- During a nearly 20-minute interview session with reporters Monday, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson outlined a series of issues his side of the ball has to fix following the 27-0 loss to the Colts.

Here are a few highlights of the fixes he wants addressed ahead of Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens:
  • More carries. Jackson said with the benefit of hindsight, he would have liked to run the ball more instead of sprinkling in the few runs he did call. The Bengals rushed 12 times for 32 yards. No, they weren't very effective with the run, but he believes had he run it more, something would have opened.
    Quote: "Sometimes you just have to be stubborn enough to do it. You've got to give guys an opportunity."
  • Time of possession assistance. One byproduct of the lack of running, particularly at the start of drives, was that it contributed to short possessions for the Bengals' offense, which turned into even longer drives for their defense. Jackson emphasized it might be time the Bengals start gearing their game plan toward helping the defense stay off the field.
    Quote: "This is a team and we'll do whatever we think it's going to help our football team. There's no question: I looked from where I was and I was pissed. I was pissed for our defense because we left them out there quite a bit. And you look out there, we were three-and-out I don't know how many times [10 times on 14 drives]. It seemed like every time you turned around, it was three-and-out and here comes the defense back out there. That's not how you play as a team."
  • No injury excuses. Jackson also refused to say injuries factored into the offense's inadequacies. The unit has been without A.J. Green the last two weeks, although there is hope he might return this weekend. In addition to missing Green, it also hasn't had receiver Marvin Jones all season, and tight end Tyler Eifert still is recovering from a Week 1 dislocated elbow.
    Quote: "Can't do it. Won't do it. I don't think that's really the direction to go," Jackson said, responding to a question about how the key injuries may be affecting the offense. "Regardless who is out there playing, I get paid to coach, our players get paid to play. We get paid to win. At the end of the day, we have to figure out how to win with who we have. When we get any of those other guys back, we get them back. There are no excuses in this league. Teams are not going to feel sorry for you because you don't have certain guys."
  • Make the difficult play. Jackson also touched on the Bengals' inability to pull off big plays. He wasn't seeing many broken tackles, highlight-reel worthy catches or critical blocks. That's where the Bengals' lacking execution was most apparent.
    Quote: "We have to make contested catches, we have to make contested throws," Jackson said, responding to a question about quarterback Andy Dalton. "We have to make game-changing blocks. That's how the National Football League was formed. That's what it's built on. Blocking, catching, running all that stuff. We have to do it better than the other team for three hours. We didn't do it better than the other team. At the end of the day, they won. So the message to [Dalton] is, 'Let's get better because this is the way it's going to be. This is the tough of the tough. We've seen it before and handled it before. We have to go do it better.'"
CINCINNATI -- It came as little surprise, but the Cincinnati Bengals were once again without Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green when practice resumed Wednesday.

The fourth-year wideout didn't even make it on the field during the open portion of the day's workout.

He was spotted briefly walking through the Bengals' locker room, though, where he made a beeline for the training room. In the few seconds he was in the locker room, he wasn't seen wearing the black boot on his right foot that he had previously worn. He was wearing the boot before Sunday's game against Carolina and had it on last Friday, one day after seeing an area foot specialist.

Green has been dealing with an injury to his right big toe since the first week of the season, but he aggravated it last Wednesday as the Bengals practiced for the first time for the Panthers. He barely made it out of the stretching period before getting carted off the practice fields and back into the stadium for evaluation. As a result, he didn't play against the Panthers. Mohamed Sanu took his place, catching 10 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.

Just after Sunday's game, ESPN's Bob Holtzman reported that Green told him he didn't anticipate playing this Sunday when the Bengals travel to Indianapolis. He had been told to expect to be off his foot for two weeks.

Along with Green, the Bengals also were without linebackers Rey Maualuga and Emmanuel Lamur, who suffered serious injuries in the 37-37 overtime tie. Maualuga has a left hamstring injury that was so bad he needed to be carted off the sideline in the fourth quarter Sunday. It's likely he will miss multiple weeks.

Lamur also left the game in the fourth quarter after picking up a left shoulder injury. He had worn a sling Sunday and Monday, but he wasn't wearing one Wednesday when both the locker room and practice were open.

The Bengals did see two previously injured players practice fully Wednesday. Running back Giovani Bernard, who had a right shoulder issue following a hard shot from Luke Kuechly that forced him briefly out of Sunday's game, practiced without limitation. Bernard was apparently so healthy that he didn't even end up on the injury report. Also practicing fully was right guard Kevin Zeitler. The starting lineman was hurt in Week 2 but appears poised to make a return this week depending on how his leg holds up in practices.

Here's Cincinnati's full injury report:

WR Marvin Jones (ankle -- went on IR Tuesday)

WR A.J. Green (toe)
LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring)
LB Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder)
DT Brandon Thompson (knee)
OT Andrew Whitworth (veteran's day off)
OL Mike Pollak (knee)
DE Wallace Gilberry (eye)

S George Iloka (groin)
OT Andre Smith (shoulder)

OG Kevin Zeitler (calf)
CINCINNATI -- If the Cincinnati Bengals could hop in a time machine and set it to July 23, knowing what they know now, they would.

Why that date? Because it was one day before training camp began.

Back then, the injury drama the Bengals had to deal with was minimal. Only receiver Marvin Jones entered camp with an injury that only now we know was more serious than it appeared at the time. We only now know it was more serious because in the more than two months since he has experienced two events involving his lower legs in the area of tweaks and broken bones that have completely set him back. He has been set so far back that, without playing a down of football this season, Jones was shipped Tuesday to the season-ending injured reserve.

It's tough to project these kinds of things, but the Bengals are waking up this Wednesday morning wishing they could have that time machine.

With their bye already long gone, the Bengals enter Week 7 with a full training room of injured players and one serious question: Can they fight through this rash of injuries long term?

The optimist will say they can. The pragmatist may not be so sure, primarily because the Bengals have been hit by the injury bug at key positions.

Along with Jones, the Bengals have four others on season-ending IR, although he is the biggest contributor on that list. They also have been without Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict for parts of four games. He has finished only one game this season and hasn't even started two others because of head injuries. Fellow Pro Bowler A.J. Green didn't play in last week's game against the Panthers and may not make it for Sunday's matchup with the Colts because of a nagging toe issue that will be with him all season.

In addition to those two, the Bengals could be facing a short-term future without the likes of linebackers Rey Maualuga and Emmanuel Lamur, who picked up relatively serious injuries last week. Lamur's left shoulder is hurt, and Maualuga's left hamstring is ailing him. Maualuga appears the most serious of the two, dealing with an injury some around Paul Brown Stadium are concerned could take him out of the rotation for multiple weeks.

Amid all this disheartening Bengals injury news, there could soon be signs of hope.

Right guard Kevin Zeitler has progressed from his right calf injury and could be back in the offensive line rotation soon. He was limited in practice one day last week and should give it more of a go this week. Depending upon how he progresses, Zeitler might return this weekend.

The prognosis might not be as favorable on defensive tackle Brandon Thompson, but like Zeitler, he did spend this week rehabbing from a knee injury that has sidelined him since Week 2. Thompson's return should be close too.

Tight end Tyler Eifert might be back practicing soon, as his stint on the short-term IR will start winding down. Running back Giovani Bernard took a hard shot in last week's game, but he returned, giving hope that he won't have to miss any time.

As bad as it might appear for the Bengals on the injury front and as badly as they might want to get into that time machine, they have made it this far with them. Besides, they are a made 36-yard field goal away from being 4-1. Hope is not, and should not, be lost -- at least not yet.

They will be challenged to fight through injuries, especially if others arise. But at this point, fight is all they can do.
CINCINNATI -- It was easy to assume after taking a quick look at the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive stat line Sunday that A.J. Green probably could have had a near-career day, or that Tyler Eifert might have hauled in a series of deep downfield catches, or that Kevin Zeitler had continued what began as a Pro Bowl-type of year as a pass protector.

 But if you assumed any of that, you were grossly mistaken.

None of those players took a single snap in the Bengals' 37-37 tie with the Panthers, one that saw the Bengals generate 513 yards of total offense, their most since 2007 when they had 531 against the Browns. (Yes, it bears mentioning that 103 of Sunday's yards came in overtime.)

How, then, did offensive coordinator Hue Jackson explain his unit being able to do all of that without the likes of former first-rounders Green, Eifert and Zeitler and red-zone savvy receiver Marvin Jones? By acknowledging that the rest of his players simply did their jobs.

"We are supposed to [do that]," Jackson said. "We have good players here. I am not going to tip my hat because we had 513 yards."

While he didn't take off his cap for the entire offense, he was quick to credit individual players like tight end Jermaine Gresham, quarterback Andy Dalton, receiver Mohamed Sanu and running back Giovani Bernard for playing the way he expected them to.

Each contributed significantly in the draw.

Gresham, who was told all week by Jackson and Dalton that their faith in him never wavered even after a couple head-scratching miscues the week before, had his most productive game since Week 2 of last year. He caught six passes for 68 yards. He also had a pair of drive-stalling penalties, but when the ball came his way, he caught it.

Dalton continued his strong start to the season, despite his two interceptions Sunday. One of the turnovers came after his throwing elbow was hit from his blind side on his follow through, causing the ball to float into the hands of a Panthers defensive back. Otherwise, he had a 76.7 percent completion rating, finding Sanu 10 times for 120 yards and a touchdown.

Bernard had 137 yards on 18 carries, powered primarily by his second-quarter 89-yard touchdown run.

While Bernard and Dalton certainly can be classified as Bengals stars, Sanu wasn't before the season began, and Gresham believes fans and media view him as a team villain.

"Again, the process we put our players through every week of how we go about installing, how we go about practice, how we go about openers for games, how we go about adjustments that are made," Jackson began, "it's the right process."

In Zeitler's place, veteran backup Mike Pollak was solid at right guard. The running game may not have gotten the push it needed overall, but Bernard's long run was a sign that the improved blocking and execution is coming. When it came to pass protection, only one sack got through, and Pro Football Focus credited it to a rush that got by right offensive tackle Andre Smith.

Although Jackson said "there's no silver lining" in having a tie, he did acknowledge that he liked the diversity his offense was able to show.

Six players had at least four catches. Four different pass-catchers converted third downs on the Bengals' opening drive. Both running backs, Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill, had double-digit touches.

"That's the way it should be," Jackson said. "We are a multiple-formation team. So there's a lot of different guys [who] can touch the ball. That keeps us with the ability to not have the offense come to a screeching halt."

That just goes to show, the Bengals are confident in their offense, even when their best players get hurt.

PFF reviews the Bengals' Week 6 tie

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
CINCINNATI -- The Carolina Panthers, for better or worse, are now in the Cincinnati Bengals' rearview mirror. But before we completely move on from Sunday afternoon's game, let's take a quick peek at some of the ways our friends at Pro Football Focus analyzed and examined Cincinnati's Week 6 game.

As always, take the grades and notes you see below with a certain grain of salt because they can end up being amended. Bad grades also can sometimes simply be the product of particular schemes, coverages or formations a team happens to employ in a respective week based upon the opponent.

Here are a few Bengals grades and notes following Sunday's 37-37 tie:

  • The Bengals' offensive line had a strong performance against the Panthers' defense, PFF found. That was particularly the case with the left side of the unit earning the highest grades of all the linemen on the team. Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth held his own against Carolina's rush, providing clean pass protection all game. He earned a plus-2.2 overall grade, including a plus-3.0 mark in pass blocking. Only rookie center Russell Bodine at plus-2.3, had a higher overall grade from PFF. Left guard Clint Boling also was in positive territory, netting a plus-1.6 grade.
  • Right guard Mike Pollak, playing for the injured Kevin Zeitler, and right tackle Andre Smith had minus-0.4 and minus-0.3 grades, respectively.
  • There were eight positive grades awarded from PFF to offensive players, including the team high plus-4.0 that receiver Mohamed Sanu earned. He had one drop but caught a deflected pass, went up over a corner on another that ended in the end zone, and had a key block that opened a lane on the first Bengals touchdown. He played well in relief of injured Pro Bowler A.J. Green, appearing on all but one of the plays the Bengals' offense was on the field for.
  • Despite his 89-yard touchdown run, and his four carries for 21 yards that came after taking a hard shot that injured his right shoulder, Giovani Bernard still graded poorly by PFF. He was given a minus-2.1 grade. Bernard also saw 58 snaps compared with fellow running back Jeremy Hill's 27. Hill had just 12 snaps the week before at New England.
  • Against the blitz, PFF found that quarterback Andy Dalton was 11-for-16 for 121 yards and two touchdowns and an interception.
  • Cincinnati still is having issues generating a pass rush, according to PFF. Only one Bengals defensive player had a positive grade rushing the passer, tackle Geno Atkins. The Pro Bowler had four quarterback hurries and one hit as he tried to chase after the elusive Cam Newton.
  • Linebacker Vontaze Burfict had trouble in pass defense. PFF found that he gave up all six of the passes that were thrown in his area, and that he also missed one tackle. He finished with 10 total stops.
  • Defensive end Margus Hunt was only on the field for 15 snaps. That was his lowest snap total of the season. He also logged his third negative overall grade of the year.
  • Safety George Iloka has been stingy in coverage this season for the Bengals, allowing just 27 yards on two catches all season. On one of PFF's signature stats -- yards per cover snap -- Iloka ranks among the league's best safeties, allowing just 0.11 yards.

Bengals' Week 6 tie by the numbers

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
CINCINNATI -- As we start putting the proverbial bow on the Cincinnati Bengals' fifth ballgame of the year, here is a by-the-numbers look at the 37-37 tie with the Carolina Panthers:

29: Number of first downs each team had Sunday.

63: Percentage of third downs the Bengals converted, going 10-for-16 in the game.

513: Number of total yards Cincinnati's offense collected.

6.8: Number of yards the Bengals' offense averaged per play.

5.4: Number of yards the Panthers' offense averaged per play.

4: Number of third or fourth downs the Panthers converted thanks to a Bengals penalty. The lone fourth down conversion came on a field goal attempt when defensive end Carlos Dunlap was flagged for defensive holding after performing a move that referees unfairly gave a teammate a clear path to the kicker.

53: Percentage of combined third and fourth downs the Panthers converted on the Bengals' defense and special teams.

119: Number of yards the Bengals were penalized for.

13: Number of penalties the Bengals were charged with Sunday. It was the first time they had 13 penalties in a game since Week 2 of the 2009 season. They have now had nine games with double-digit penalties since the start of the 2009 season.

5: Minutes the Bengals trailed the Panthers in time of possession. Cincinnati won the time of possession battle in the third quarter and overtime.

4:40: Minutes the Bengals onto the ball in the fourth quarter.

9:15: Minutes the Panthers had the football on the game's opening drive.

107: Number of yards Carolina quarterback Cam Newton rushed for, shattering his rushing totals from earlier this year. That's the second-highest total of his career.

7.6: Number of yards per carry for Bengals running back Giovani Bernard, who picked up 89 on one second-quarter play alone.

88: Number of yards the Panthers combined for when they returned Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's two interceptions.

22: Average starting field position for Carolina off its seven kickoff returns.

74: Number of points the Bengals and Panthers combined for. That's the most scored in a tie game in the history of overtime games (since 1974), and the most points in a tie since 1964.

13: The last time the Bengals hosted an overtime game, they tied the Eagles when both teams scored 13.

1: This was the first tie in Panthers history. It was the third in Bengals history.

22: Number of games the Bengals had gone without having a 100-yard rusher before Giovani Bernard ripped off 137 yards.

36: Number of yards on kicker Mike Nugent's missed field goal as time expired in overtime. It was the shortest missed field goal since Garrett Hartley missed a 29-yarder in a 27-24 Saints loss to the Falcons in 2010.

Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this report.