The Cincinnati Bengals finally, as Chris Berman would say, “got off the schneid” in week 13 with a dominating 32-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bengals opened up a 29-point lead, the defense forced three turnovers, and the defending AFC North champions finally put together a complete game.
Here are three game balls from the Bengals’ first win in 41 days.
1.) LB, Vontaze Burfict
The coveted piece of Paul Guenther‘s defensive puzzle matched his second-highest tackle total with 15 combined. Lost in Cincinnati’s four-game drought was Burfict’s 47 combined tackles (40 solo) and one sack in that span.
On Sunday against Philadelphia, however, the undrafted WILL backer heard his name called early and often. On top of his season-best tackle total, Burfict snagged two of Cincinnati’s three interceptions of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and added a pair of pass deflections.
A fumble by offensive tackle Jake Fisher kept hopes alive for the Eagles to pull off a near impossible comeback in the fourth quarter with the Bengals up 15. With 4:03 to go in the game, Philly faced fourth and short from the Cincinnati 31. Wentz looked for a quick drag route to tight end Zach Ertz to move the chains, but instead threw it right between the fives on Burfict’s jersey.
He added a 47-yard return — the longest by a Bengal since Adam Jones in 2013 — that set up a game-sealing field goal.
Burfict now has five picks in his last 13 games dating back to last season.
2.) QB, Andy Dalton
The Bengals put up their highest point total since December 6th of last season against Cleveland in the victory over Philadelphia. Offensively, it’s hard to give a game ball to one specific person except the quarterback that shared the wealth all afternoon.
Andy Dalton, who improved his non-conference record to 16-6-2 on Sunday, completed 23 of 31 passes for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 97.5 QBR was the second-highest mark of his career and the top grade for any quarterback in the NFL in week 13.
The Red Rifle completed passes to nine different receivers, leading the Bengals to six consecutive scoring possessions to start the game. Leading 13-0 with 3:14 left in the first half, Dalton orchestrated a 12-play scoring march, completing eight of nine passes for 79 yards and a 13-yard touchdown to Tyler Eifert with seven seconds left in the half.
Cincinnati stretched its lead to 26 when Dalton hit Brandon LaFell for an 8-yard score to cap off a 77-yard drive to open the second half.
On the Bengals’ first six possessions, Dalton went nine of 10 for 179 yards on third down, with four passes resulting in a gain of 10 or more yards, including LaFell’s 44-yard snag and Cody Core‘s first professional reception, which went for 50 yards and set up a Jeremy Hill touchdown.
The offensive line did not allow a sack for the first time since last year’s win over the Rams, with Dalton only getting hit twice, one of which resulted in a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Eagles’ defensive end Brandon Graham.
3.) K, Mike Nugent
Despite missing a fifth extra point in as many games, Centerville, Ohio-native Mike Nugent converted all four of his field goal tries and accounted for 14 total points.
He received a great cheer from the Paul Brown Stadium crowd when he opened the game’s scoring with a 32-yard field goal with 10:22 left in the first quarter. However, the boo birds came out when he pushed an extra point wide right near the end of the first half.
Nevertheless, Nugent was 4 for 4 on his field goal tries. The first three were all equal to or shorter than extra-point distance. His 38-yarder was more interesting, though. After Burfict’s second interception all but put the game away, it was up to the collegiate National Champion to ultimately put the Bengals up by three possessions and put a lid on a fourth win of 2016.
Similar to his game-winner against the Seahawks last season, Nugent banked home his kick off the left upright and behind the right one, resulting in three more points and an 18-point advantage for the hometown Bengals.
Nugent has now missed as many PATs (five) as he has field goals this season. The 7th-year Bengal is actually on pace for 117 total points this season, which would match his career-high point tally from 2014 & 15.
Photo: News Day